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Feature Stories

NEWS | June 27, 2019

Utah linguists enhance Exercise Steppe Eagle 19

By Staff Sgt. Adrian Borunda U.S. Army Central

Role players manifesting as a crowd chanting, yelling, and screaming in anger rush Tajikistani troops during public order training at Exercise Steppe Eagle 19. Blended in the crowd, however, are individuals yelling in Russian, but that is not their native language.

Linguists from the Utah Army National Guard are spread amongst the local role players, their dual-language skills making them valuable assets to the trainers and realistic foes to the training audience of Kazakhstani, American, Tajikistani, Kyrgyzstani, and British soldiers.

These Guardsmen, along with U.S Army Central and Arizona Army National Guard Soldiers, are here to facilitate Steppe Eagle 19, an annual, multinational exercise meant to enhance coalition interoperability and operational readiness, promote regional security, and improve military cooperation in the Central and South Asia region. An important aspect of the exercise is getting past the language barrier among each participating nation.

“Participants in the exercise from the other countries are supposed to have some English skills, but it’s easier to have operations orders, PowerPoint presentations, and related materials translated to Russian,” said Mark Maloy, a U.S. Army Central contracted exercise planner for Steppe Eagle 19. “The [Kazakhstanis and Tajikistanis] appreciate it and get more understanding from it, and it has helped the exercise run more smoothly.”

While local, contracted interpreters were also available for the exercise, the Utah-based linguists brought not just their verbal skills to the exercise, but a shared military background that the participating soldiers found useful.

“We’ve been focusing on translation of mission orders and related materials, but also have had our soldiers out there on training lanes helping instruct and participate,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Hudson, Utah Army National Guard team leader for the five-person linguist team. “Our soldiers have had the opportunity to talk to native speakers, which we don’t always get to do, and it helps make them better linguists.”

Part of that field training included working with the soldiers from the Arizona Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment on basic infantry tactics and techniques.

“The team got to work on some warrior tasks and battle drills as well, which isn’t something that a [linguist] battalion always gets to works on, and they got some good training out of the riot control lane and had some fun,” Hudson said.

“Overseas deployment training events like these are invaluable,” Hudson said. “We have soldiers from our brigade all over the world executing missions like these, and it makes us better combat multipliers for the Army, and that’s a cool thing to be a part of.”

The team of five Utah Guardsmen helped train over 100 multinational soldiers by interpreting or participating in public order training, cordon and search scenarios, combat medical aid, and simulated media encounters on the battlefield.