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Interpreter program moves to Arizona

Dec 10, 2009

By SHARONDA PEARSON, Fort Jackson Leader

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Army has recently decided to relocate the 09L interpreter and translator program from Fort Jackson to Fort Huachuca, Ariz. - a move that officials said will improve the program.

"The move will enable the Soldiers to progress in rank and create synergy in training this MOS," said Col. Karl Reed, commander of 171st Infantry Brigade.

1st Lt. Burton Milnor, acting commander of Company E, 187th Ordnance Battalion, agreed that the move would be beneficial.

"The move will make the program better. By going to Fort Huachuca (the Soldiers) will be at the home of military intelligence, and have the utmost support from the military intelligence community," he said.

Fort Jackson was originally selected to pilot the program because the installation is the Army's largest Basic Combat Training base. The BCT Soldiers attend the normal 10-week course, and are fully integrated with other Soldiers prior to attending Advanced Individual Training.

"It was important for the translators to become Soldiers first," Reed said.
The program, which was created in 2004, began because Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were having problems communicating with the local population.

"After (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and the war in Afghanistan, the Army began to think about warfare differently. We realized that part of being a Soldier and winning our fight is to be able to communicate with the native people," Reed said.

As a result, the Army began to recruit native and heritage speakers of Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi, Dari and Pashtu.

"We went out to find Americans, and people who wanted to become Americans, who spoke a Middle Eastern dialect to become translators and interpreters for the Army," Reed said. "Their primary mission is to work hand-in-hand with commanders in combat zones to help them better meet the needs of that particular population."

Milnor said that the program has become indispensable to the Army since its inception.

"The program is invaluable to the Army. The interpreters provide language capabilities, but more importantly, cultural advice to their units of assignment in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Reed agreed.

"The program has become so instrumental that most commanders (in combat zones) have interpreters wherever they go. They help the commander create a bond of trust with local leaders from the country the commander is operating in."

He also said that he is proud of Fort Jackson's role in the development of the program.

"For the last five years, we have stood up and institutionalized a new program for the United States Army, a program that is critical to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army really couldn't live without this capability now," he said.

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