New Efforts to Train DoD on Culture and Language
The Pentagon’s efforts to provide language and culture training and education continued to expand. Both language and cultural training are routinely included in exercise scenarios and pre-deployment training for wider cohorts of individuals and units, and are enabling missions in information warfare. At the same time, technology is increasingly used to deliver learning content.
When Interviewed for MST Magazine, George M. Dallas, the director of the Marine Corps’ Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL), said his service “understands that the LREC [language, regional expertise, and culture] capability... increases adaptiveness and therefore the likelihood of mission success.” The LREC Training Program is structured to provide “just-in-time”’ knowledge skills delivered during the pre-deployment cycle to teach Marines about the area of operations they will visit. The RCLF education program provides a foundational level of LREC over a period of time based on regional assignments. The Center also provides cultural advisers to units when they deploy.
Navy Leaders also recognize LREC capabilities as force multipliers. According to LCDR Jessica Anderson, Chief of Naval Personnel spokesperson “From pre-deployment training for all sailors to advanced degrees for specialists, Navy provides LREC competencies matched to support its responsibilities to meet both enduring and emerging challenges to our nation. Navy balances language, regional expertise and culture, to deliver focused, tailored training and education to Sailors in order to develop the LREC knowledge they require to execute their responsibilities and contribute to mission success.” The Navy has two occupational specialties where personnel are required to maintain regional knowledge and language skills: the Cryptologic Technician Interpretive rating, an enlisted community, and the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) community. Members of both communities attend Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California to acquire necessary language skills. Other instances of individuals requiring this training may include enlisted personnel and officers participating in the Personnel Exchange Program who receive foreign language training at the Defense Language Institute, if required for assignment. Additionally, Navy personnel are provided language and cultural training before participating as Olmsted Scholars or studying at foreign war colleges. Navy’s Center for Language, Regional Expertise, and Culture (CLREC) plays the central role in providing LREC products, tools, and services to Navy personnel so they can effectively carry out their missions. The Pensacola, Florida based command supplies pre-deployment cultural orientation training in a variety of forms, including: group instruction facilitated by mobile training teams; semi-automated group presentations enabled by a member of the command being trained; individual instruction using automated and non-automated presentations; and one-on-one language tutoring for flag officers who will soon take an assignment in which language training would be beneficial.
At the Defense Department-level, the Afghanistan-Pakistan Hands Program was launched by DoD in September 2009 to develop a cadre of experts specializing in the complexities of Afghanistan and Pakistan including the language, culture, processes, and challenges. At the service level, the US government’s increased focus on the Asia-Pacific region, was one impetus for the Navy’s Asia Pacific (APAC) Hands program. Technology Enablers Learners across the department are benefiting from insertions of technology in language and culture curricula. AFCLC’s Ward highlighted one technology application used at his Center. “One exciting piece of distance learning education is our synchronous online language education that we call eMentor. It’s delivered as a means of linguistic sustainment for our Language Enabled Airman Program (or LEAP) and has been a way for participants around the Air Force to remain operational within their primary jobs, and connect with a language tutor, on their scheduled off hours. This is just one way that our course participants are supporting future visions of our senior leaders and revitalizing squadrons by maintaining fighting capabilities in sync with training requirements.” Language isn't AFCLC’s only modality of education. Indeed, what helps the Center stay ahead of requirements in this sector, is its culture general-level courses, provided free as Community College of the Air Force classes and Advanced Distributed Learning Services, for those deploying anywhere. “They get a general sense of cross-culture competence before stepping off the ramp in a foreign country,” Ward concluded.
The Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC) hosts an annual Language Regional Expertise and Culture Symposium around March.