The Village View

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

U.S. Army helps officers learn Arabic, international business

I think this is a great idea, but am frankly surprised that it's part of a "pilot program." I'm refering primarily to the language component. The Army says its goal is to develop officers "who are culturally aware and have some language capability." Great, but why only 21 officers in the pilot program? Why not 2100? I understand that the military has other programs and schools, but it also appears that there are not enough folks that speak Arabic (or Pashto, Urdu etc for that matter): "his unit had one Arabic translator for more than 400 soldiers."
I'm not a military man, but it's logical that the more people on the ground you have speaking the language, the easier it is going to be to get intelligence, avoid misunderstandings and generally win "hearts and minds." I hope our guys/gals can get the language training they need to make their jobs easier (and safer).

Two further points:
- I don't think lack of language skills is a problem endemic to the US military (or gov't). When I lived in Argentina, I was shocked by the number of Americans who did business (and lived) in Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima with little or no Spanish. Unbelievable.
- Think the idea of sending military folks to business school can be a learning experience both for the officers and for the civilians. One of my closet friends in b school, and a guy I learned a lot from, was educated at a US military academy and currently serves in his nation's armed forces. His views certainly enhanced our classroom experience and I'm sure the education and academic environment benefits him (and his gov't).

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