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It Ain't Just Killin' Applying influence, working with civil and private agencies, dealing with non-combatants.

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Old 07-25-2009   #21
Uboat509
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I suspect that part of the reason that the military does not have more terps in house is that the military takes a long view of the whole thing. Sure, we need a lot of Pashto speakers now but, eventually, we will leave there. In today's contentious political climate you never know if that might not be sooner rather than later. If that does happen, what do you do with all the extra Pashto speakers? That's why the military likes contractors for a lot of things. If we don't need them tomorrow, we just don't renew their contracts. Whereas if we fill those needs in house and the requirement goes away or at least gets reduced a lot then we still have all those bodies that we can't just get rid of. Now we have to either retrain them, which after all the resources spent on training them in the first place is not particularly attractive option, or we have a draw-down, which is also expensive.

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Old 07-25-2009   #22
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They did considerably up the language proficiency pay, although not nearly as much as you suggest, Carl. The max is far less than that figure, although nothing to sneeze at, but in order to get the max, you have to be professionally proficient, or nearly so, in three testable languages. Add to the problem the fact that the Defense Language Proficiency Test has nothing to do with your ability to rap with someone in Dari, Pashtu, or Arabic, but has everything to do with whether you can read newspaper and magazine passages and listen to Syrian soap operas and al-Jazeera and then answer questions meant more to stump the chump than to test your comprehension. So our metrics are off because they do not test the skills we need to employ operationally. For those who might think this sounds like sour grapes, I get 3/3 on the Arabic test, so I'm not mad that I can't pass it. I'm mad that the system is so broke and no matter how hard you try, the arrogant "academics" at DLI and the inertia of the bureaucracy there stymie all efforts.

That's where, as you said pretty much, "can do" runs into a brick wall. For a number of reasons, from the agencies where DLI's money comes from, to the cultural factors that affect how the native instructors want to teach their languages, to the fact that they're trying to teach last year's high school grads how to understand passages in a foreign language that cover college level topics (for instance an article about pegged and floating currencies... it made no sense to them, even once translated), the ship there has a broken rudder. And even when they have forums to try to get input, responses range from defensive counters to every point to DoD officials telling students and instructors who try to bring up valid points that they are out of line because they're not saying that DLI is doing great. Eight years and really all they've done beyond some curriculum reorganziation and cramming an extra semester in on the students' backs is to hand out iPods, and I think now laptops, to every stud. As is typical anymore, technology money rains freely down, but if you try to suggest substantive improvements it is too hard or off base.
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Old 07-25-2009   #23
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An anecdote, FWIW

We had great interpreters in Baghdad in 2003. They were individuals whom we recruited ourselves off the street. I worked with several terps who were fluent in as many as six languages. One was a former Iraqi General who spoke 6 languages and knew Tariq Aziz. Another was an ex-pat who returned to Iraq from the UK, relieved that Saddam was gone. He, too, spoke 6 languages. We had several who grew up in Iraq and went to college in the UK. Another was the son of a doctor who went to medical school in California. His English was indistinguishable from that of my Soldiers, to include slang and profanity. I could go on.

We HAD great interpreters. Some worked for free, at first, because we had no means to pay them. Then their pay was eventually upped to something ridiculous, like $3 a day (which barely covered the taxi rides to and from our patrol base). But then the situation deteriorated and they were too scared to continue working with us, so in later deployments we relied on whomever Titan could recruit. That is why in OIF III I once spent 20 minutes struggling through a conversation with an Iraqi Colonel. Finally, in frustration, he started talking to me in English, pointing out that, "your interpreter is incompetent. He doesn't understand English or Arabic."

We once received an interpreter with one leg who was on crutches. You can't make this up. Here we were, an Infantry Company in a patrol base that was covered in 3 feet of dust (I mean, literally, it was like walking through a fresh snowfall) and they send us a guy on LOGPAC who can't even exit the HMMWV without someone helping him. We sent him back on the same LOGPAC. We received another "interpreter" whom we couldn't even communicate with. I don't know what languages he spoke, but English apparently wasn't one of them. I mean, he couldn't even tell us what his name was. Talking to him was more difficult than talking to an Iraqi.
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Old 07-25-2009   #24
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for 'efficiency' and to preclude 'fraud, waste and abuse.' Effectiveness goes down the tube. The end result is almost invariably greater expense through hidden costs and unintended consequences. Plus it tends to get people killed unnecessarily...

It amazes me that Congress -- the real culprits -- are willing to trust the Schmedlaps to take the sons and daughters of their voters into combat but do not believe they can be trusted to hire interpreters, pay informers or pay for minor projects.

Actually, it isn't amazing, it's just pathetic.

My son's platoon in Iraq had a good interpreter for their whole tour. That, too was before the 'system' took over...
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Old 07-25-2009   #25
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You guys are saying that we can't adequately hire, train, and retain our own translators. At the same time, the AP is reporting--as is IntelTrooper--that troops in the field say the contractors can't provide satisfactory interpreters, either.

This means we can't do COIN.
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Not so. Just means it isn't easy and you have to work harder and get frustrated more often.
Ken, how exactly would soldiers and marines conduct COIN without competent interpreters?

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We had great interpreters in Baghdad in 2003. They were individuals whom we recruited ourselves off the street. I worked with several terps who were fluent in as many as six languages. One was a former Iraqi General who spoke 6 languages and knew Tariq Aziz. Another was an ex-pat who returned to Iraq from the UK, relieved that Saddam was gone. He, too, spoke 6 languages. We had several who grew up in Iraq and went to college in the UK. Another was the son of a doctor who went to medical school in California. His English was indistinguishable from that of my Soldiers, to include slang and profanity. I could go on.

We HAD great interpreters. Some worked for free, at first, because we had no means to pay them. Then their pay was eventually upped to something ridiculous, like $3 a day (which barely covered the taxi rides to and from our patrol base). But then the situation deteriorated and they were too scared to continue working with us, so in later deployments we relied on whomever Titan could recruit.
Do we know each other? We started hiring guys off the street that April for $5 a day with cash out of our own pockets. When we left Baghdad and headed north in May, eight or nine of them came with us after we agreed to up their pay to $10 a day. But, like you said, a few would’ve accompanied us for free. By mid-summer, these guys we’d once picked up off the street in Baghdad were no longer “locals” or “Iraqis.” They were members of the unit.

As ####ed up as things were back then, it’s depressing to look back now and think those were the “good ol’ days.”
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Old 07-25-2009   #26
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It amazes me that Congress -- the real culprits -- are willing to trust the Schmedlaps to take the sons and daughters of their voters into combat but do not believe they can be trusted to hire interpreters, pay informers or pay for minor projects.
Oh, I was trusted to pay them... with my own money.

Thanks to our dicked up priorities in April 2003, the powers-that-were ensured that BIAP had a Burger King and PX and that each BDE was able to dole out casual pay by the end of April ($200/month, max). Casual pay was to OIF I what CERP money is to operations today - except there was significantly less paperwork involved.

At first, I thought it was pretty stupid that we had the ability to draw casual pay (and even drive to the airport and stand in line for a Whopper) when we had no system to resupply us with such trivialities as AA batteries or potable water. But then I saw the brilliance of this. By drawing casual pay, I could buy my platoon's supplies on the local economy and do other things like pay interpreters. OIF I only cost me about $1400. It probably would have cost Uncle Sam 100 times that, due to the inefficiencies of the bureaucracy. The only downside was that batteries that you buy in Iraq are garbage. They will power your NVDs for about 30 minutes. I think they contained mercury, too.

I often blamed the mercury in the batteries when thinks didn't make sense (which was pretty much everyday). For example, our Bradleys were rolling around with track pads worn down to the metal and we were cannibalizing vehicles due to a lack of parts because the parts flow from Kuwait was cut off on the assumption that the war was over. But we could get Whoppers and DVDs if we drove to BIAP. That was just too stupid to be believed. So I would always rationalize that "we can't be that stupid. I must simply be going crazy due to exposure to the mercury in these cheapass Hajj batteries." Same thing when we were ordered to send our Bradleys back to Kuwait in May. They were racing to turn the AO into a garrison wonderland, oblivious to our continuous drumbeat of intel from the locals that "bad people are gathering in Fallujah" and "Ali Baba says that he will kill me if I talk to you" and "please stop coming to my store - I'm being threatened." I thought, "boy, the intel guys can't possibly be this thick-skulled to ignore this avalanche of corroborated, multi-sourced intel. I must be going crazy. Maybe I should stop being so cheap and pony up the extra dough for the imitation Duracells."
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Old 07-25-2009   #27
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Oh, I was trusted to pay them... with my own money.

Thanks to our dicked up priorities in April 2003, the powers-that-were ensured that BIAP had a Burger King and PX and that each BDE was able to dole out casual pay by the end of April ($200/month, max). Casual pay was to OIF I what CERP money is to operations today - except there was significantly less paperwork involved.

At first, I thought it was pretty stupid that we had the ability to draw casual pay (and even drive to the airport and stand in line for a Whopper) when we had no system to resupply us with such trivialities as AA batteries or potable water. But then I saw the brilliance of this. By drawing casual pay, I could buy my platoon's supplies on the local economy and do other things like pay interpreters. OIF I only cost me about $1400. It probably would have cost Uncle Sam 100 times that, due to the inefficiencies of the bureaucracy. The only downside was that batteries that you buy in Iraq are garbage. They will power your NVDs for about 30 minutes. I think they contained mercury, too.

I often blamed the mercury in the batteries when thinks didn't make sense (which was pretty much everyday). For example, our Bradleys were rolling around with track pads worn down to the metal and we were cannibalizing vehicles due to a lack of parts because the parts flow from Kuwait was cut off on the assumption that the war was over. But we could get Whoppers and DVDs if we drove to BIAP. That was just too stupid to be believed. So I would always rationalize that "we can't be that stupid. I must simply be going crazy due to exposure to the mercury in these cheapass Hajj batteries." Same thing when we were ordered to send our Bradleys back to Kuwait in May. They were racing to turn the AO into a garrison wonderland, oblivious to our continuous drumbeat of intel from the locals that "bad people are gathering in Fallujah" and "Ali Baba says that he will kill me if I talk to you" and "please stop coming to my store - I'm being threatened." I thought, "boy, the intel guys can't possibly be this thick-skulled to ignore this avalanche of corroborated, multi-sourced intel. I must be going crazy. Maybe I should stop being so cheap and pony up the extra dough for the imitation Duracells."
Here's a horror story, Schmedlap: As contractors were ferrying in Burger King, etc. to the Green Zone in late summer 2003, my guys were wearing out their boots in northwest Iraq. As XO, I was working all the time trying to come up with replacements for nearly an entire infantry company. When my supply sergeant and I finally scored a delivery of several dozen boxes of desert boots, we were thrilled. Except when we opened them up for inspection, about a quarter of the boxes contained old, used pairs that had belonged to the slugs down at the BSB who'd swapped out the new ones for their old ones before sending them our way.

I can't remember exactly, but I think that was the day I decided the Army wasn't for me anymore. Thanks for helping me dredge up all these awesome memories.
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Old 07-25-2009   #28
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Ken, how exactly would soldiers and marines conduct COIN without competent interpreters?
you smart, better educated guys do it today but I can ask for beer and cigarettes in seven languages. I can get rudimentary military points across in in Hangul, Spanish and Viet Namese. Used to be able to do it in Mandarin and Farsi (the latter being the only one school trained). The ones I recall a bit of were combat related, the other two were not. Now that I have my smart ass answer to your smart ass question out of the way, I will ascend to a sensible and reasonably proper answer.

They would do it with difficulty. That's not the answer, that's a step on the ascension I promised and something I mentioned earlier.

You make (do not suggest, make) your troops learn and use a few words by attempting to converse with locals until you meet one that wants to practice English in return for teaching you the local vernacular -- then you test what he / she says with others to insure you aren't being told that Po ji in Hangul or Coño in Spanish means "Thank You" and not something else. This is how I found out that Salope in French does not mean thank you. Then you counsel any 'teacher' who steers you incorrectly. As I said, not impossible, just makes it more difficult.

Soldiers and Marines generally will do what their leaders do and /or tell them to do. They do not need extensive training to "conduct COIN" (weird phrase, that), they just need competent, capable well trained leaders willing to train them all day every day, in combat and out -- more and harder in combat (they'll bitch but they also know what's needed and they know who's supposed to make them do what's needed...). If the kids have that, they'll do okay no matter what the mission.

I would, as an aside, point out that Soldiers and Marines do not 'conduct' COIN and that as the US has no insurgents at this time, the Army and Marines are not doing COIN work. They are doing FID and SFA work and to do that, one need host nation support or accompaniment. If the host nation is not able to provide such support (as was true in OIF 1 and part of 2) then good units will just cope and hire the best interpreters they can if there is a need -- as you and Schemdlap apparently did.

Perhaps I don't understand the problem. I know I don't see one.

Question for you: What did you do to rectify the problem with the boot substitution? i.e. whose rear echelon tail was properly put in a sling over the swapping occurring due to lack of leadership and supervision?

Last edited by Ken White; 07-25-2009 at 08:52 PM.
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Old 07-25-2009   #29
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but something akin to the Urban Dictionary (e.g., "salope", which you won't find in my pocket Larousse, but in my pocket Cousin briefly), would seem useful for key words and phrases. Stan could be more intelligent on this than I.
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Old 07-26-2009   #30
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Another thing about DLI... The regular classes refuse to teach any slang or dirty words because they say that the kids will use them in class, which is true. One of the Iraqi teachers, however, came up with a great list of insults and slang for a class to teach other Arabs to be translators in Iraq.

Why are slang and insults useful? Then you know when people are talking sh** to you and know that the situation is going south. I was walking in a crowded Arab city with a female officer, who had been to DLI. Two guys in a storefront said something about her "bzaz" (####) and turned to follow us. When I looked at them and they saw that I recognized what they were saying, they turned around. Only reason why I knew bzaz was because I had learned it from an Arab soldier after I left DLI.
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Old 07-26-2009   #31
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When my supply sergeant and I finally scored a delivery of several dozen boxes of desert boots, we were thrilled. Except when we opened them up for inspection, about a quarter of the boxes contained old, used pairs that had belonged to the slugs down at the BSB who'd swapped out the new ones for their old ones before sending them our way.
We went a month without potable water. We literally lived off of the land - accepting any water from locals that was offered to us, buying water and ice thanks to the casual pay advances, sometimes driving to BIAP to steal from Division (they had not only water, but freezers, gatorade, etc). We kept griping to battalion about it. Battalion pointed out that if the FSB didn't push it, then there was nothing to give us. One day we visited the FSB. And we found our water. They were using it to do their laundry, to make water balloons, to bathe, and to clean their HMMWVs. We were black on water for nearly a month and they were using bottled water to wash their vehicles. With most of us experiencing frequent diarrhea from tainted water that seemingly no amount of chlorine or iodine could purify, I can't fully explain how angry we were upon discovering this. We asserted ownership of a pallet of bottled water and began loading it into our vehicles. A few FSB personnel - shirts still wet from a water balloon fight - protested and some unpleasantries were exchanged. My NCOs, about ready to explode, literally drew down on them with locked and loaded M4s. I jumped in between them - honestly thinking that my NCOs were going to shoot them. It was ugly.
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Old 07-26-2009   #32
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Another thing about DLI... The regular classes refuse to teach any slang or dirty words...
I would also add that it is useful because most people do not speak with textbook perfect grammar. I recall a team leader telling an interpreter to "tell that a-hole to get the f out of my face and start singing. We know this s*** is here. He can show us or we can turn the f-ing s-hole upside-down."

If English is not your first language, then you might have difficulty understanding what that means, especially if it is a tense situation and you're a little flustered.
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Old 07-26-2009   #33
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you smart, better educated guys do it today but I can ask for beer and cigarettes in seven languages. I can get rudimentary military points across in in Hangul, Spanish and Viet Namese. Used to be able to do it in Mandarin and Farsi (the latter being the only one school trained). The ones I recall a bit of were combat related, the other two were not. Now that I have my smart ass answer to your smart ass question out of the way, I will ascend to a sensible and reasonably proper answer.

They would do it with difficulty. That's not the answer, that's a step on the ascension I promised and something I mentioned earlier.

You make (do not suggest, make) your troops learn and use a few words by attempting to converse with locals until you meet one that wants to practice English in return for teaching you the local vernacular -- then you test what he / she says with others to insure you aren't being told that Po ji in Hangul or Coño in Spanish means "Thank You" and not something else. This is how I found out that Salope in French does not mean thank you. Then you counsel any 'teacher' who steers you incorrectly. As I said, not impossible, just makes it more difficult.
Ken, I'm not trying to smartass you, but what you're describing isn't realistic at all in Afghanistan. Getting "rudimentary military points across" is not enough. This isn't about being able to say "hello," "stop," or "thank you for the chai." Troops can already do that. It's about being able to sit down with a village leader in a man-to-man setting in order to get things straight. At those times, clear, detailed communication between U.S. troops and locals is an absolutely vital requirement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And that's not something you can get from simply meeting people and learning some basic phrases like "what is your name" or "how much does this cost."

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Question for you: What did you do to rectify the problem with the boot substitution? i.e. whose rear echelon tail was properly put in a sling over the swapping occurring due to lack of leadership and supervision?
Because it was during a period in which a lot of stuff was happening, I don't remember a whole lot about that episode, other than that I became nearly apoplectic when we opened the boxes. I showed the CO, who was similarly infuriated and we (this part is fuzzy now) got word of it to the battalion commander who made some calls. All I know is that a few days later we got some new boots. I would've gone down to the BSB personally, but we were located at a remote CP at Ayn Zalah when it happened (about 50 road miles northeast of the nearest brigade support units at the Tal Afar airfield).
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Old 07-26-2009   #34
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as it should. You shouldn't have to do that and I have to wonder with the boots and the water, what the NCOs and Officers of the units responsible were doing -- obviously not watching what their troops were doing....

Happens in every war, though. My dad was a USN Supply officer in WW II, one day he was sitting in his Quonset on Guam when three Marines walked in with a requisition for something; a little Storekeeper 3d started giving them static and one of the Marines cranked back the bolt on his M1. Storekeeper; "Sir, he's threatening me!" Dad; "Probably ought to give him what he wants and in future avoid smarting off to armed Marines."

Not being an Officer and thus constrained, I've backed down an Ordnance Battalion XO in one war and a COSCOM 1LT and CSM in another with an implicit but not certainly not voiced threat of unseemly and inelegant firearms use in a rear area. So if it's happened in the current wars, it seems to me a permanent affliction. My solution to the problem is to eliminate those kinds of Commands. Note that both I mentioned are gone.

My plan is working. Now, for Sustainment Brigades...
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Old 07-26-2009   #35
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We went a month without potable water. We literally lived off of the land - accepting any water from locals that was offered to us, buying water and ice thanks to the casual pay advances, sometimes driving to BIAP to steal from Division (they had not only water, but freezers, gatorade, etc). We kept griping to battalion about it. Battalion pointed out that if the FSB didn't push it, then there was nothing to give us. One day we visited the FSB. And we found our water. They were using it to do their laundry, to make water balloons, to bathe, and to clean their HMMWVs. We were black on water for nearly a month and they were using bottled water to wash their vehicles. With most of us experiencing frequent diarrhea from tainted water that seemingly no amount of chlorine or iodine could purify, I can't fully explain how angry we were upon discovering this. We asserted ownership of a pallet of bottled water and began loading it into our vehicles. A few FSB personnel - shirts still wet from a water balloon fight - protested and some unpleasantries were exchanged. My NCOs, about ready to explode, literally drew down on them with locked and loaded M4s. I jumped in between them - honestly thinking that my NCOs were going to shoot them. It was ugly.
For he today who fought the FSB for supplies with me
Shall be my brother;


I have walked in your shoes, dude. My first platoon had to steal water from the Air Force in Jacobabad, Pakistan. When my battalion failed to secure cots for my company at Camp New Jersey, my second platoon had to tactically acquire unused cots from Camp Doha (during a planned raid) to take with us into Iraq. And, as XO, I distinctly remember restraining myself from buttstroking a 626 FSB captain when he told me that my company couldn't be re-supplied (with things like water, etc.) because his guys didn't "work on Saturdays." It never ended. Those are just a few examples that I'm sure you can match or beat. Good fun.
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Old 07-26-2009   #36
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Ken, I'm not trying to smartass you, but what you're describing isn't realistic at all in Afghanistan.
It wasn't realistic in Viet Nam either. One does what one has to do. My son has two Infantry tours in Afghanistan, he doesn't seem to see it as a major problem.
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At those times, clear, detailed communication between U.S. troops and locals is an absolutely vital requirement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And that's not something you can get from simply meeting people and learning some basic phrases like "what is your name" or "how much does this cost."
In reverse order, the basic phrase bit was in response to your comment:
Quote:
"Ken, how exactly would soldiers and marines conduct COIN without competent interpreters?"
You said Soldiers and Marines and I responded at that level.

Had I known you really meant "how can Companies and Battalions effectively communicate with the village Maliks or elders," I would've responded differently. That is indeed a different Ball game. My son had no big problems with interpreters at that level in either Afghanistan or in Iraq. I had and saw no problems at that level in Viet Nam as an Interpreter was made available or we could borrow one from the nearest SF Camp. While 'terp quality can certainly vary, I find it hard to believe that a Battalion cannot get a couple of really good ones and send them where needed. Ideally, we'd have US nationals, in the service, who are good enough but that is never going to happen in your lifetime, not in adequate numbers or with the educational system in the US.

In any event, after a couple of years in the ME, I'll note that whatever gets said by the folks in the village during those meetings is highly likely to be nonoperative as soon as you leave.

But, then, you know that -- and, seriously, I know it doesn't mean you don't have to try.
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I showed the CO, who was similarly infuriated and we (this part is fuzzy now) got word of it to the battalion commander who made some calls...All I know is that a few days later we got some new boots.
I figured as much; so something got done about it which was the important thing. Whether the Support unit fixed their internal problem can never be known; we can only hope...

My solution to that problem is to transfer the poor performers in the rear to a line unit for a while. Actually, not mine, a Regimental Commander in the 1st MarDiv -- it really worked; after about three of those; support improved by several orders of magnitude. That also has been done recently in Iraq on a back scratching deal between two Colonel commanders from different branches...
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Old 07-26-2009   #37
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One does what one has to do. My son has two Infantry tours in Afghanistan, he doesn't seem to see it as a major problem.
We're not succeeding there, either. We'd be doing much better if we could communicate more effectively.

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In reverse order, the basic phrase bit was in response to your comment:You said Soldiers and Marines and I responded at that level.

Had I known you really meant "how can Companies and Battalions effectively communicate with the village Maliks or elders," I would've responded differently. That is indeed a different Ball game. My son had no big problems with interpreters at that level in either Afghanistan or in Iraq. I had and saw no problems at that level in Viet Nam as an Interpreter was made available or we could borrow one from the nearest SF Camp. While 'terp quality can certainly vary, I find it hard to believe that a Battalion cannot get a couple of really good ones and send them where needed.
Ken, these meetings with village elders aren't necessarily taking place at the company or battalion level. Much (if not most) of the day-to-day coordinations/check-ins/negotiations with locals are done at the platoon level. Companies and battalions are spread over vast areas and platoons often have their own CPs (like at Wanat). I was out of Afghanistan before it was set up like that there, but in Iraq, my battalion was responsible for covering a 600 square-mile area (20 miles X 30 miles). As I mentioned above, at one point, my 100-man company was responsible for a rural 100 square-mile sector. We had one platoon--along with the company CP--at Ayn Zalah, we had another platoon located in the village of Bardiyah, and a third platoon in the town of Zumar--all miles apart. These platoons patrolled, met with local leaders, and, most importantly, cultivated relationships daily. Each platoon had one interpreter--the ones we'd hired and brought along from Baghdad earlier in the year--and it still wasn't enough. And the reason it wasn't enough was because patrolling squads needed an interpreter, while at the same time, the platoon CP needed one to deal with locals who approached with issues. I don't imagine it's much different from that today in Afghanistan.
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Old 07-26-2009   #38
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Default We can agree that more and better is highly desirable

As it always is. Unfortunately, I doubt there will be much improvement for a host of reasons, some good and some not. I understand the dispersion factor in Iraq and know, as you do, that the two theaters are very different. The Son was in a Rifle Platoon and had an interpreter; they worked away from the company more often than not.

However, on this, re: Afghanistan:
Quote:
We're not succeeding there, either. We'd be doing much better if we could communicate more effectively.
I'm not sure on the 'succeeding' and I suspect that is very much dependent on one's perception of how success in Afghanistan will look. I also believe that it'll take a few months to determine how well or how badly we're doing.

My personal belief -- and that of a few recent returnees and some there now or on the way back -- is that better communication in the sense you mean would make little real or long term difference though I acknowledge short term gains might be had. In the long term, we are highly unlikely to get some of the things all can agree would be nice and that we claim to be working toward. The Afghans from any of the ethnic or language groups with whom one converses with will be polite and very accommodating -- and really just want us and the the sagerdan gone. Both. With all allies. Next month. Today would be better...

Good COIN technique is not a ticket to success; lack of it is bad, no question, and we certainly need to know more, train better and work at it a bit -- but the best practitioner in the world is not going to beat a stacked deck. Iraq just had a couple of Jokers in there -- the 'Stan is a stacked deck.

In any event, we aren't going to solve the problem and I acknowledge the issue is problematic and also agree it should be less a problem.
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Old 08-04-2009   #39
goesh
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Default - been meaning to ask

"It's about being able to sit down with a village leader in a man-to-man setting in order to get things straight." Brandon Friedman

Do any of these sit-downs ever occur in their mosques? If not, why not?
Do A-ghans ever invite us into their mosques for talks? Do we ever ask to talk with them in their mosques? It can be an edge - off with the boots, tell
'em there is but 1 god for all and there must be truth spoken in a holy place between men, of course they will know fast if one is a serious agnostic or simply not a believer, can't fake this with them
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Old 08-04-2009   #40
Tukhachevskii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjmunson View Post
With regard to Arabic, a major stumbling block is that despite the pleas of operational linguists, highly experienced military language instructors, some native instructors that worked as terps or in their own militaries, and even language academics at other premier institutions, DLI institutionally refuses to move away from the complete Modern Standard Arabic model they've run for years and move toward what many call "Educated Spoken Arabic." Basically, all literate Arabs know how to read MSA and understand it spoken, so it is the language of the press, official forums, etc. If you can speak MSA, almost anyone will understand you. Problem is, most people will respond to you in some mix of dialect. DLI says we can't teach all the dialects, so we won't try at all. However, other schools and agencies recognize that there is a core of common words that a lot of the dialects share and that you can teach a "standard dialect." DLI will have none of it. So, if a DLI grad from the Arabic basic course is stellar and attains a 3/3, which is on the order of less than 10% of the graduating population, from my limited experience, they still won't understand when an Arab in any city says "What are you doing here" because all the words in that sentence differ from MSA to dialect, but they are relatively common between dialects. To give an indication of the problem, the words that vary between MSA and dialect are basic, critical words: to do, to see, to look, to go, question words, negation, now, today, tomorrow, left, go straight, man, woman, etc. If one learns the standard dialect, Arabs will still be able to go deeper into their local dialect and not be understood, but if they want to communicate with you, they will be able to. Not all Arabs can easily speak to you in MSA though, or will try to.

I agree with the above comments 100%. I went to Yemen back in 2007 because, apparently, the MSA taught their was the clearest to understand (and classes were cheaper than Egypt). I soent nigh on 9 months comming to grips with Arabic and, thanks more to my tutor than to planning, picking up valuable Yemeni dialect as we wen on our travels. Yet, for all that study (I grapled my way to upper intermediate before I had to leave) I remember travelling to the Hadramout region in the South Eastern portion of Yemen with a German friend of mine who had served in the NVA (East German/DDR) only to arrive and not undertsand ONE word that was spoken there. Often described as Yemen's "Wild West" (and that's saying something) we found ourselves dumbstruck. Even the healthy dose of dialect we had picked up only turned out to be Sana'anian dialect which is essentially "city-speak". In fact, even travelling to the next governorate found our usefully deployable vocabulary drop by fifteen percent. A one week holiday in Lebanon found me similarly at a loss when I encountered what sounded like Arabic spoken in French accents by people who wondered who the hell the village yokel was attempting to communicate with them (Yemeni, it turns out, is about a desirable an accent to have as gonnorehea).
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