Infantry Letters


INFANTRY MORTAR LEADERS

The Spring 2002 issue of Infantry includes an excellent article on mortar indirect distributive fires by Lieutenant Gerard Acosta and Sergeant First Class Christopher Menton (pages 11-12). What the authors did not mention was the effort required to get their training events resourced and executed. Any of the 360-degree shoots they describe required sole-use access to and closure of almost the entire Fort Lewis artillery impact area. Impossible? Not to leaders who bother to learn how the range scheduling system can work to their advantage.

Over a period of nearly three years, I was privileged to watch one of the best mortar platoon sergeants I have ever known-along with a series of bold and aggressive mortar platoon leaders, as they developed, briefed, gained support for, resourced, and executed a run of great mortar live fire training events.

Far too often, mortarmen in infantry battalions seem to be peripherals. But over the past several years in 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry, they have been as fully engaged as their 11B brothers in creative, tough, realistic, exhausting, and memorable dry and live-fire training events.

Kudos to these mortar leaders and their chain of command for making this outstanding training come to life. The payoff is immediate-in terms of trained and ready mortarmen-and long-term, as these 11C soldiers carry the memory and the message through their time in the Army. They did what they joined the Army to do, and they've seen what "right" looks like. I look forward to having some of them return as mortar platoon sergeants and platoon leaders, wanting to continue the fight.

As a Field Artilleryman, I'm trained to be suspicious of things that seem to work without numbers, but I always learn something from Infantry Magazine. Keep up the fire.

JOHN WELLER Fort Lewis Range Officer

MORE ON INTERPRETERS

Major Paul J. Schmitt's article "Effectively Using Interpreters" (Infantry, Spring 2002, pages 22-27) is an excellent summary of the proper employment of linguists for small-unit commanders, Commanders should know a bit more, however, about the options for military linguists available to them, since (as Major Schmitt notes) there are a number of problems associated with the use of civilians as interpreters.

First of all, there is no dedicated MOS for Military Interpreter. The two most common linguistic MOSs are 97E, Interrogator, and 98G, Voice Interceptor/Transcriber. Of these two, the 97Es might more easily cross-train to act as interpreters, as their MOS involves the use of speech in a target language. But both MOSs could be adapted for interpreter duties if properly trained.

Unless they are enlisted with linguistic capability, both 97E and 98G receive linguistic training through military language programs, usually at the Defense Language Institute and Foreign Language Center. While the DLIFLC is rightly lauded for swiftly developing reading and listening skills in target languages, speaking ability is tested only once in the initial Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT). Thereafter, annual DLPTs test only reading and listening comprehension ability. As a result, speaking is an under-trained skill in most military linguists, particularly in more difficult languages such as Mandarin Chinese or Arabic.

In addition, as Major Schmitt notes, a good interpreter needs access to current cultural training as well as target language training. There is not yet a standard way of providing cultural training to military linguists. While some linguists are fortunate enough to spend time in countries where the target language is spoken, cultural expertise is often rudimentary among military linguists.

These issues are beyond the scope of the small-unit commander, but he does have an opportunity to overcome these deficiencies by providing training within his own unit. All too often, linguists in tactical assignments are under-valued and receive just enough annual language training to pass the DLPT at the minimum 2/2 standard. …

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