Imagine a father rushing up to you, cradling his sick or injured child. You want to help, but he is screaming in a language you don’t understand. That scene has become all too familiar for Soldiers serving throughout Afghanistan.
“Many times (during the brigade’s last deployment), we needed to bring in (interpreters) and we would be rushing, trying to treat our patients,” said Spc. John Wells, a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, who spent most of 2009 in Afghanistan with the brigade.
With the need to be able to communicate with the local populace while deployed becoming increasingly important for both kinetic and humanitarian purposes, in January, the Department of the Army supplied the means for three divisions, including 10th Mountain Division (LI), to test a new program that would teach Dari to line Soldiers.
“The class came about from the need to be able to communicate at all levels,” said Capt. Maryanne Luther, 3rd BCT Command Language Program manager.
On Friday, 55 Soldiers became the first graduates from the Mountain Language Academy, Fort Drum’s academy created as part of the pilot program.
“The ability to communicate, to have empathy, is just as important as the ability to pull that trigger and hit that target,” said Steven Collins, dean of field support for the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif.
Although they have not yet been able to test their new skills in the field, many of the course’s graduates feel confident in their ability to use them when necessary.
“I don’t know all of the medical terminology (in Dari) yet, but (after the course), I’m confident in my ability to get basic information from a patient before an interpreter can be found,” Wells said.
“Each of our Spartan Brigade Soldiers who received (their graduation certificate) should feel extremely proud of their accomplishments,” said Col. Patrick Frank, commander of the 3rd BCT “Spartans.”
Their accomplishments have not gone unnoticed by leadership throughout the brigade.
“As you now return to the Spartan (Brigade) after 16 weeks of focused Dari training, the senior leaders in your battalions and companies will be assigning you to critical positions in which your new language skills will be put to the test. Spartan Brigade’s success in counterinsurgency and stability operations will be directly linked to your language contributions,” Frank said to the new graduates after they had received their certificates.
“You are all 10th Mountain Light Fighters, and each of you accepted the mission to learn Dari, just as you would conduct the task to enter and clear a building. You reflect our Warrior Ethos. You ‘Always place the mission first,’ and you will ‘never accept defeat,’” Frank said.