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New site prepares interpreters for BCT

Sep 16, 2009

By STEVE REEVES, Fort Jackson Leader

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- A new initiative gives Soldiers aiming to be interpreters/translators a head start on learning military skills before they arrive at Basic Combat Training.

Fort Jackson's Company D, 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept. 9 for its new training site designed to reduce the language barrier experienced by many Soldiers who join the Army and learn English as a second language before shipping to BCT.

The new program tests and evaluates Soldiers who enter the Army to be Arabic interpreters/translators on tasks such as reacting to indirect fire and evaluating a casualty.
Soldiers are assigned to the 120th for as long as six months as they learn English as a second language. They are then assigned to a BCT battalion and, after they graduate, attend Advanced Individual Training for their military occupational specialty, 09L.

Capt. Dwayne Wade, commander of Company D, 120th, said the training site will give Soldiers a solid hands-on familiarization with military tasks and help them overcome the language barrier that many Soldiers who learned English as a second language often encounter.

"This training site is designed to reduce or even eliminate the language barrier they might encounter with drill sergeants at BCT," Wade said. "They can see now what they are going to be asked to do at BCT and ask questions so they are on the same page as other Soldiers entering BCT from traditional processing."

A group of Soldiers gave a demonstration of the training site, which is a converted PT field, after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Soldiers were given the task of conducting a foot patrol, during which they came under "enemy" fire and retrieved and treated an injured Soldier.

The Soldiers completed tasks such as movement drills, reacting to direct fire, throwing hand grenades and having a casualty evacuated.

Before the training site opened, the Soldiers' training on the tasks they will be asked to perform at BCT consisted primarily of lectures. Wade said the hands-on, practical military skills training, coupled with the English language training, will give the Soldiers a huge boost once they arrive at BCT.

"They will learn at the same pace, or maybe even a greater pace, as any other BCT Soldier," Wade said. "Their training is more practical and parallels what they will go through at BCT."

The Soldiers heading to BCT won't be the only ones to benefit from the training, said Staff Sgt. Frederick Harris, a drill sergeant with Company D, 120th.

"It gives a breath of fresh air to the drill sergeants at BCT," Harris said. "Now we're sending an 09L to BCT who is not only confident and proficient, but who has a vision of the core Army values and what is expected of (him)."

More than 90 percent of Soldiers who have gone through the training program since it was first implemented three months ago have graduated from BCT and gone on to 09L training.

Col. Karl Reed, commander of the 171st Infantry Brigade, praised the new training initiative and the Soldiers of the 120th who made it happen.
"This is a great initiative by the 120th that gives a Soldier who speaks another language a better fighting chance to graduate from BCT and contribute to our Army," Reed said.

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