Marines

Marine Corps responds to demand for Arabic linguists

5 May 2005 | Pfc. Drew W. Barker

With continuing operations in Iraq and other Arabic speaking countries of the Middle East, the need for properly trained linguists and translators is greater than ever, which is why Headquarters Marine Corps has approved an Arabic linguist re-enlistment incentive program.

“When locals encounter Marines who have taken the time to learn their language and culture they become much more receptive and cooperative,” said Master Sgt. Bruce Meloy, assistant foreign languages officer with Headquarters Marine Corps Intelligence Operations and Personnel. “It is a great advantage in the field. It makes you more aware of what’s going on, especially during patrols when proper communication can be a matter of life or death.”

Meloy hosted an Arabic linguist re-enlistment incentive brief May 5, at the base theater. The brief was focused on clarifying the incentive program and explaining what it has to offer qualified Marines who are planning to re-enlist.

“We are trying to equip the Marine Corps with culturally aware and language enabled Marines at all levels in the chain of command,” said Meloy. “We simply do not have the resources to send a translator out on patrol with every unit. We are suffering from a severe shortage of personnel, which can create a very dangerous environment for Marines in the field.”

In an effort to enhance unit capabilities in the Global War on Terrorism, the Marine Corps is offering qualified Marines training to become an Arabic translator as a secondary military occupational specialty during fiscal year 2005.

Prerequisites for eligibility in the program include having a minimum general technical score of 105 and a score of at least 100 on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery. Also, re-enlisting Marines are required to have at least 36 months of active service remaining on their contract after the anticipated date of graduation from the course at the Defense Language Institute, according to Meloy.

Marines will receive approximately six hours of training everyday during the 63-week course of instruction, in which they will be submersed in the standard written and spoken dialect, history, culture and government structure of the Arabic community in the Middle East. Upon completion of the course, Marines will be assigned to the Fleet Marine Forces based on their primary MOS, therefore putting language enabled Marines in a variety of units throughout the Marine Corps

In order to be effective during any overseas operations, Marines, especially linguists and translators, must be culturally in tune with the customs and traditions of the region to which they are deploying. They should also have a good understanding of the history of the area and it’s people, and posses some degree of fluency in the foreign language, said Meloy.

The classes, which will be held at the Defense Language Institute at the Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif., are equivalent to approximately 36 semester hours at most accredited colleges and universities, according to Meloy.

After the completion of a few core classes at Monterey Peninsula College, graduates of the basic translator course are awarded an Associate of Arts degree in the language studied.

For Marines who already hold the secondary MOS of Arabic translator the re-enlistment incentives are of a monetary nature with a service reenlistment bonus of five, which is five times the Marine’s base pay multiplied by the number of additional years the Marine re-enlists for. The only requirement for these Marines to qualify for the bonus is being deployed for at least 179 days within the next two years following their re-enlistment.

Although there are several benefits to re-enlisting with this secondary MOS, there are also many opportunities for individuals with training as an Arabic translator in the civilian sector and with government agencies, according to Meloy.

Lance Corporal Charles Becker, a machine gunner with 1 Battalion, 8 Marines, who is considering the program said, “If or when I get out of the Corps, I want to become a teacher at a university and the training I will receive through this program can make that possible. Having experience with the Arabic language will also give me a number of opportunities in the CIA and FBI.”

The demand for more Arabic linguists grows as the Global War on Terror presses forward. The skills brought to the battleground by trained linguists are critical to the success of the mission and should not be underestimated.

“Our skills as translators are absolutely critical in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Lance Cpl. Tariq Dahdal, a military policeman with a secondary MOS of Arabic translator.
Dahdal, who served 13 months in Iraq as a translator said, “Understanding Arabic, as well as English, gives us the ability to convey ideas, as opposed to just words, and that is an invaluable gift during combat operations. Without translators we could not accomplish the mission.”