MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Video and computer games continue to be a popular pastime, captivating many with visual graphics, dynamic settings and realistic gaming scenarios. The Marine Corps is capitalizing on this technology by training a younger generation who grew up with computer graphics rather than the foreign language books and flash cards of the past.
“Younger Marines are accustomed to gaming,” said Michael Mulcahy, simulations technician with Exercise and Simulation Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force. “Our software takes a gaming approach to self-paced training for Marines and sailors.”
The training software program is named Tactical Language and Culture Training System or Tactical Iraqi for short. Using computer and video game technology, ESD initiated a program to train Marines with the linguistic and cultural skills needed for missions in Iraq.
“I wish this was something we had three years ago,” said Cpl. Joshua W. Zeigler, terminal operator with ESD and a Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile system gunner who served in Iraq during that time. “This is a great tool. It doesn’t matter what your aptitude level is, you’re going to learn some proficiency in the (Arabic) language.”
The full course for Tactical Iraqi is nearly 80 hours long. Taken in two to four-hour increments, it is divided into three phases: Skill Builder Section, Arcade Game Section and Mission Game Section. Each phase increases with difficulty, with the second and third sections utilizing a first-person, cyber perspective during the scenarios and presenting tasks on the software.
“The best part is that it’s done at your own pace,” said Zeigler. “If you need to go back through a course or exam, you can do it again.”
Trainees use keyboard and computer screens to participate in the course. A headset connected to the computer is utilized for audio and verbal portions of the training, providing an essential learning tool to act upon and understand basic Iraqi Arabic and culture.
“Cultural sensibilities come into play as you move in a simulation attempting to accomplish a task,” said Zeigler.
The mission of the Corps has changed considerably since Operation Iraqi Freedom began during 2003. Combat missions then focused on destroying the enemy’s capability to fight.
Today the mission in Iraq requires a higher degree of linguistic knowledge and cultural diplomacy with the locals. What were once combat operations of destroying enemy forces is now securing, stabilizing and maintaining relations with communities and tribes in Iraq. Missions increasingly involve more civil affairs actions with locals, policing and working alongside Iraqi military and police, while maintaining vigilance against any threats.
“When you look at a pamphlet, you’re taking your attention from what’s going on around you,” said Cpl. Terry A. Reddinger, terminal operator, rifleman and Iraq veteran with ESD. “To be able to know some of the phrases without staring at a piece of paper helps you maintain situational awareness.”
Trainers believe Tactical Iraqi provides a good start with language and cultural training.
“You’re not going to be fluent in the language, but you will be able to communicate more effectively with people,” said Zeigler. “It’s basic stuff, but it’s all you need to communicate.”
Those at ESD hope more commanders and their Marines will take advantage of this learning tool, especially those deploying to Iraq soon. They note that units have the option of training in a classroom setting at one of their facilities, checking out a laptop with the software, or checking out the software itself, provided they have the necessary equipment for the program.
“I believe it is important that every Marine and sailor over there should know some aspects of Arabic phrases and Iraqi culture to be successful,” said Mulcahy.
For more information or to schedule training, contact Col. John Ledoux at 451-5436.