Photo Information

An Arabic linguist goes over simple Arabic commands with Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) during a class on the language aboard the USS Nassau, Nov. 10, 2005. The classes were an attempt to give the Marines a basic understanding of the language during their deployment as part of the landing force for Expeditionary Strike Group 8.

Photo by Cpl. Christopher S. Vega

Language skills add another tool to warriors' kitbags

18 Nov 2005 | - 22nd MEU (SOC)

With so many ongoing operations taking place in areas where Arabic is the prominent language, it is imperative that those on the front lines of the war on terror have at least a rudimentary understanding of the language.

To that end, two Arabic linguists joined the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) in its trans-Atlantic voyage aboard the amphibious assault ships of Expeditionary Strike Group 8.  Each day, Marines from throughout the MEU attended up to five hours of immersion-style Arabic to give them the basic linguistic skills required to support them during potential missions ashore.

“Courses like this help give Marines a sense of comfort in the event we do go into Iraq or other places they speak Arabic,” said Sgt. Todd Downing, of Lancaster, Penn., an infantryman with Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, the MEU’s ground combat element.  “I didn’t think it [language training] would help that much the first time I went into Iraq, but it did.”

While the 13 days of classes, no matter how intensive, couldn’t hope to give the Marines a complete understanding of the language, they did come away with knowledge that could spell the difference between success or failure in combat situations.

The Marines learned key phrases such as ‘stop,’ ‘raise your hands,’ and ‘put your weapon down.’  Other topics included numbers, military ranks, time, and days of the week.  Each Marine also received a language guide with the phonetic pronunciation of these and other phrases and words so they could continue their studies and pass the information on to their fellow Marines.

“I think it’s better they waited until we got on ship to teach this to us,” said Pfc. Adam Murray, a machine gunner from Washingtonship, Penn. “We have too much going on during the work ups to teach us then, but now that we’re on ship, we can focus on the classes.”

In addition to BLT 1/2, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced) and MEU Service Support Group 22.

For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC), visit the unit’s web site at
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit