Language action: military translators interpreters

Language action: military translators interpreters

Peter A. Shaver

The information in this article will briefly provide the background, present status, and foreseeable future of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) military occupational specialty (MOS) 09L (Translator Aide). The U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca (USAIC&FH), and specifically the Office of the Chief, Military Intelligence (OCMI), is the current proponent for 09L with the responsibility of developing the career path, regulatory guidance, and training development through the Training Development and Support Directorate (TD&S), of the Futures Development Integration Center (FDIC). The Concepts and Doctrine Divisions will be responsible for concept and doctrine development and other related matters for 09L.

Due to the current operational environment and the critical requirement for Arabic and other Middle Eastern language translators and interpreters, on 10 April 2003, the Principal Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles S. Abell approved the Army G1 concept to establish MOS 09L. Following Mr. Abell’s approval, the Army G1 assigned USAIC&FH as branch proponent for 09L.

Although MOS 97L (Translator/Interpreter) already existed, it did not meet the force structure requirements of a tactical-level translator/interpreter. In addition, as a Reserve-only MOS, the U.S. Army National Guard (ARNG) and U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) were eliminating MOS 97L due to unrealistic personnel and career-path development requirements.

Formally established as an IRR pool of Arabic, Dari, Pashto, and other linguists (to include Arabic dialects) to support the Active Component (AC) during peacetime and war, MOS 09L may expand to include other critical languages in the future as determined by the Army Foreign Language Proponency Office (AFLPO) at the Department of Army G2. As it is currently a pilot program, its future will be determined through validated analysis, which the Defense Language Institute (DLI) is conducting through interviews, surveys, and feedback from 09Ls and their commanders and supervisors.

The current objective is to recruit 250 09Ls per year until 700 are in the force, and then attempt to maintain that number. As Branch Proponent, USAIC&FH is responsible for developing and managing concepts; doctrine; training; tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs); organizational designs; requirements and authorizations; personnel proponency; and lifecycle functions.

The current training path includes a requirement for MOS 09L recruits to score a minimum of 80 on the English Language Comprehension Test (ECLT) for basic combat training (BCT) and advanced individual training (AIT) eligibility. If they score less than 80, the recruits will go to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where they will attend English training until they reach the minimum standard. BCT and AIT for the 09L recruits will be at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, supervised by the 4th Training Brigade. DLI native-speaker instructors and military language instructors conduct a four-week AIT, where they teach basic translation and interpretation skills with an emphasis on escort interpreting and operationally relevant vocabulary. Under a new six-week AIT, which will begin in November, there will be an Arabic refresher course taught to dialect speakers and military jargon and vocabulary to those with other languages.

As of today, 14 09L soldiers have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. The current class of 25 will graduate 19 August and will also deploy to support other operations. It is too early to judge the effectiveness of this program and its usefulness to the combatant commander. One impediment may be the lack of a security clearance.

I have personally observed 09L training and visited with each MOS 09L student. The loyalty and professionalism of the soldiers who graduate from the program is exemplary. They are enthusiastic, patriotic Americans of Middle Eastern descent whose only desire is to voluntarily serve their country.

Pete Shaver is the Director, MI Foreign Language Training Center at USAIC&FH and the 09L Translator-Interpreter Course Manager. Readers can reach him via E-mail at and telephonically at (520) 538-1042 or DSN 879-1042.

COPYRIGHT 2004 U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School

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