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Dan
12-27-2007, 08:20
Unit “translates” hard work into success

By Staff Sgt. Andrew Kosterman
1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs Office

FORT LEWIS, WA. (Courtesy of UNS-CI, Dec. 20, 2007) – A few years ago, there was a Special Forces recruiting ad that ran in several editions of Soldiers’ Magazine. It showed a Special Forces Soldier with his hands out at his sides and an equally perplexed Latin-American. The expression on the Soldier’s face equaled the recruiting message: In situations like this, you don’t have time to wait for a translator.

“Rapport is one of the most important tools we have - speaking the language and understanding the culture of the locals that we are operating with are weapons systems in Special Forces,” said Col. Eric P. Wendt, commander of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). “That’s why we need and have superb language administrators, instructors and program.”

That facility was recognized as the best in the Department of Defense as the best command language program Dec. 4.
In a Pentagon memo signed by Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, the 1st SFG (A) program’s accomplishments “are impressive, especially given the difficulty and diversity of the unit’s mission and high (operational tempo) faced by the Group’s Soldiers.”

Those Soldiers, many of whom are required to learn a foreign language for their job, are learning one of the 18 languages taught at the facility.
“1st (Special Forces) Group is deployed globally with a regional focus on the Pacific,” Wendt said. “So it’s vitally important that we can communicate in a number of different languages. We have received tremendous support for our language program from Mrs. Yvonne M. Pawelek (Foundry Manager/Budget Officer, I Corps, G-2) and the entire First Corps leadership and staff. This really is a Team Lewis effort."

Sgt. 1st Class Todd J. Amis, 1st SFG (A) Command Language Program Manager, said there are no secrets to the facility’s success.

“Hard work, determination, can do attitude and a practical new approach to learning languages,” are what make the program work said Amis.
“Excellent command emphasis and policies supporting all facets of language training also help tremendously,” Amis added.

Amis added that languages taught at the lab make winning the award a difficult task.

“Some of the languages, like Chinese and Tagalog, are considered by many to be the hardest languages to learn,” said Amis. “So it’s no small accomplishment for the Soldiers coming in here to learn. Our dedicated and intelligent staff is able to understand the students’ needs and adapt to maximize their learning potential.”
Mark Getzin, one of the judges for the Army-level competition, said the difference between the 1st SFG (A) program and others was its continuity and that it “maintained contact with Soldiers in the program that weren’t necessarily located at Fort Lewis.”

One of the ways the facility helps students learn is through multilingual crossword puzzles in its monthly newsletter.

“Learning a new language is hard and that’s just a way for us to keep it fun while helping the student learn,” explained Amis.

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