CAMP LEJEUNE, NC – With an ever-ready and demanding tempo, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command operators must have the skills to communicate in every clime, place and language. Marine Raider Training Center’s Basic Language Course bridges language barriers between partner nations and MARSOC personnel through cultural immersion events.
BLC is a 125 day course designed to train critical skills operators, from ranks corporal to sergeant, in initial language acquisition as part of the entry level training pipeline. After graduating the Individual Training Course, every enlisted CSO is assigned a specific language for BLC that will be instrumental to their units’ success. The main focus of BLC is acquiring global skills to build rapport with partner nation forces.
“The first thing you want to do when you go down range is build rapport,” said the MRTC Language Branch staff noncommissioned officer in charge. “When you build that rapport, it’s not always telling someone how to reach a building or how to fast rope, it’s everyday conversations we have with each other back in the states; we want the students to feel comfortable doing that in their target language, whether that’s Arabic, Indonesian, Tagalog or French.”
Throughout the course, students are given different opportunities to advance their language skills, as well as practice rapport building with simulated partner nation forces in controlled environments using role players and instructors. The first practice opportunity is the Foreign Internal Defense (FID) event, which allows students to practice explaining military operations to their instructors and classmates. These topics include land navigation, military patrols, weapon nomenclature and safety, along with first-aid practices.
“We’ve merged language with the Special Operations Combatives Program, so if they go into an environment where there’s no English, they can still execute the mission using whatever language they need to,” said MRTC Language Branch SNCOIC. “Yes you’re learning a language, but at the end of the day you’re expected to deploy and execute these tasks that are given to you.”
The main purpose behind the FID event is for students to use their newly acquired language skills in a controlled environment, and practice mission-required objectives before being sent down range. This is a small component of their education and a lead-up to a week-long exercise, immersing students in first-hand experience in the Infantry Immersion Trainer on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., utilizing the cultural role play which exposes them to a much greater degree of language and culture.
During this period of training, the students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their current language proficiency by interacting with larger groups of role players in cultural specific settings. It is a constantly moving environment in these simulated deployed settings, so students are exposed to a multitude of situations and are engaged by the role players over various scenarios. After the week-long exercise, the instructors and students evaluate their skill level and proceed in their training from there.
“Language skills, however small, are a game changer,” said a BLC student, during the immersion exercise. “You go down range and when you know simple pleasantries you get leaps and bounds in rapport building and it opens all kinds of doors. The language course and role play exercises are a good building block and I think I’ll be better off down the road because of them.”
The courses of instruction are designed to provide lessons focused on everyday global skills, then adding mission-focused curriculum throughout the course. At the end of the courses, students are tested on their abilities to read, listen and speak in their target language, determining their final marks for the course.
Through immersion exercises, BLC eliminates the need for a translator during operations and allows CSOs to work directly with partner nation forces. This streamlines the interoperability, allowing units to engage with the local populace themselves and establish good working relationships.