By Pfc. Andrew Ingram
1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Through 14 weeks of intensive training, 63 Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, learned the basics of the Arabic language at Fort Carson.
Instructors from Arabic speaking countries guided the “Raiders” through the complex process of learning a new language June 18-Oct. 4, to prepare them to interact with local nationals during deployments to Arabic-speaking nations.
“This was the first time general-purpose Soldiers received training like this,” said Dr. John Holeman, academic specialist, Fort Carson Language Training Detachment. “We have provided training in a few other languages, but never anything this comprehensive in Arabic.”
Starting a brand new training program gave the Fort Carson LTD staff the opportunity to shape the curriculum to best fit the needs of the average Soldier on the ground in an Arab-speaking country, explained Holeman.
“I was very impressed with the attitude of these Soldiers,” he said. “Arabic is classified as a level four language. It is very difficult, but these Soldiers were very serious in their approach to learning.”
The Soldiers spent the first few weeks focusing on learning the basics of Arabic sentence structure and basic communication before using the bulk of the course to learn the language skills most needed during deployment.
“We learned a lot that could help us build rapport with local nationals, but we also learned more military-specific language like how to conduct vehicle searches or deal with a medical situation,” said Staff Sgt. John Ellzey, Company A, 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st BCT. “I feel confident I could make myself understood in almost any situation.”
Ellzey said that putting Soldiers with a basic understanding of the local language on the front lines could be a huge benefit for the Army.
“I’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in both situations a good understanding of the language would have been invaluable,” he said. “We work closely with civilian populations, and first impressions are always the strongest. Being able to greet them in their native language and build that initial rapport makes all the difference in the world. It shows the people that we aren’t just there to do a job; it shows them that we care and we are there to help them.”
The course culminated in a field training exercise and a language proficiency test to gauge the student’s ability to understand and communicate in Arabic.
“I was really impressed with the instructor’s level of intensity,” said Pfc. Armando de Leon, Troop C, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st BCT. “They pushed us really hard, but, by the end, I think we were all confident that we could use our language skills to our unit’s benefit in the field.”
De Leon said he looks forward to practicing his new language skills.
“I feel confident that by speaking with the role-players in Arabic we can get useful intelligence and help the brigade’s mission out at (the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.)” de Leon said. “Between my training and the practice we will get at NTC, I believe we will be great assets for our units downrange.”