24th MEU conducts Survival Language Training

26 Feb 2004 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon

After activating one week ago and kicking their Pre-deployment Training Program into high gear, Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are preparing themselves for the many types of missions they may face on their upcoming deployment overseas.

One way the Marines are readying themselves is by conducting language training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 23-26.

The purpose of the training is to provide the Marines with basic language skills that will allow them to facilitate situational awareness, conduct intelligence operations and civil affairs programs, and make it easier to interact with coalition forces and local populations.

"I am trying to focus on language training. Every Marine is assigned a different language, not to become an expert in that language but to give them familiarization so that they can at least get the cursory commands down in that language," said Col. Ronald Johnson, 24th MEU commanding officer. "For example, if we do a Visit Board Search and Seizure and we have to take down a [suspect] ship, we'll be able to give the [appropriate] commands."

With that in mind, the 24th MEU has set up four locations aboard Camp Lejeune where the Marines will take a four-hour course in their designated language. The four languages focused on this week were Arabic, French, Pashto and Urdu.

During their classes, the Marines are given a packet of learning materials that contains an audiocassette, a language book, and a key-phrase card. They use these materials to go over proper pronunciation of words and phrases. They also learn gestures that will help emphasize what they are trying to communicate. The techniques are designed to help them in combat situations as well as provide some basic greetings and conversational phrases.

The commands Marines are learning include "stop," "put down your weapon," "hands up" and "turn around." But since not everyone they will encounter is hostile, they are being taught how to say things like "hello," "thank you" and "we are Americans." How to ask for directions is another area covered during the course.

The Marines are also taught a bit of history about some of the cultures associated with the different languages they are being taught. On the walls of the classrooms are maps, country flags and pictures to familiarize the Marines with the relevant areas of the world.

"So far our language training participation is going well," said Gunnery Sgt. Cody L. Heaps, one of the Marines responsible for putting the training together. "The students seem to be enjoying the training."

According to Heaps, each instructor offers the Marines a unique style of teaching. The French instructors are engaging and humorous. The Urdu instructor has some of her students put on Pakistani Dress. The Arabic instructors are focusing on the dos and don'ts and let the students practice with each other. The Pashto instructor is very good. He cares about the subject and the Marines seem to like him.

Once the Marines are finished with the course, they will keep their learning materials. This will allow them to continue to study the language or refresh their memories, as their language skills will come in to play later on in the pre-deployment training or during the deployment.