Jewish World Review May 14, 2003 / 12 Iyar, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Consumer Reports


They won the battle, but lost the morale


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | NEAR THE SYRIAN BORDER, Iraq Specialist Aaron Molina is getting out of the Army to learn to be a chef. This represents a considerable loss for the Army, since it has invested about a million bucks in the 26-year-old Cleveland native.

Molina is a Russian linguist and a signals intelligence expert for the 66th Military Intelligence Company, which is part of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He has a degree in computer science from Ohio State University. Few in the military have received more, or more expensive, training than Molina and other linguists. After basic training, there is a year or more of language instruction at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. The instruction is all by native speakers. The method is total immersion. At no university in the United States is there better instruction.

Then there is training in their particular black art, conducted chiefly at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas.

And before the training begins, candidates must pass a thorough background check for the high security clearances Army linguists must have. This takes months and costs tens of thousands of dollars.

Molina likes his job and is very good at it. But he's getting out because, as a junior enlisted man, he spends more time sweeping the motor pool than he does doing his job.

If Molina's case were isolated, there would be no point to this column. But his case is more or less typical. The first-term retention rate among linguists is distressingly low. And it is low because these valuable assets are not being treated with the dignity they deserve.

It's understandable why Molina and the German and Spanish linguists in his unit are driving trucks and standing guard here, since their skills are not relevant in Iraq. The treatment of Sgt. Paul Olsen's wife, Kelly is less so.

Kelly is an Arab linguist, formerly part of the 66th MI Company. Paul and Kelly had a baby, Vivian, 11 months ago. Their families live far from the 3rd ACR's base of Fort Carson, Colo., so there was no relative close enough to care for Vivian if both were deployed. Kelly requested permission to remain at Fort Carson when the 3rd ACR deployed, so that she could take care of Vivian. Permission was denied. So Kelly applied for, and received, a humanitarian discharge. So instead of having Kelly at Fort Carson, where she could still perform valuable work, the Army is now another million bucks short.

The linguist retention problem could easily and inexpensively be ameliorated if a little common sense were applied. The Army, properly, offers large bonuses to young people who have the aptitude to become linguists. But it doesn't pay enough attention to the people it already has attracted, and is now turning off.

The Army can't offer Molina a bonus large enough to get him to re-enlist, as long as he thinks he'll still be treated like dirt. But no bonus would be required if he were treated with the respect he thinks he deserves.

Linguists need to enter the military as privates. They are, after all, soldiers, and there are certain skills to be acquired. The Army is not a suitable profession for lateral entry. But if linguists re-enlist, they should be made warrant officers. This would provide them with greater status, and exempt them from scut details.

Moreover, when the Army has new language needs to fill, it ought to look more toward teaching linguists it already has additional languages than to recruiting new people off the street. If a language like Russian has become less important, send someone like Molina back to Monterey to learn Arabic or Dari or Pashtu. He's already been through basic, got his security clearance and learned the intricacies of his secret craft. I've never met a former DLI student who didn't love the place. The prospect of going back there would in itself be a powerful incentive to re-enlist.

And a linguist who speaks two languages can be twice as valuable as one who speaks only one.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

05/12/03: Dispatches from the Desert: Cavalry scout's skills include coffee-making
05/08/03: Dispatches from the Desert: Ammo boxes in trucks get attention of soldiers
05/06/03: Syrian border diarist: Only trouble in Iraq seems to be news
04/28/03: Loser generals : They shot (off their mouths) and missed
04/25/03: A war we could lose
04/21/03: The "Collaborators' News Network"
04/14/03: Axis of Weasels is coming to its senses?
04/11/03: Peace will be a mess
04/08/03: It's a mad, mad (Arab) world
04/03/03: Ah, the life of a war correspondent this time around
04/02/03: The difference between hopes and expectations
03/31/03: Iraq is a steppingstone, not a final stop
03/24/03: European media and former 'human shields' are beginning to get it
03/20/03: Was getting the UN involved worth it?
03/18/03: South Koreans no longer behaving as if they were the French of Northeast Asia --- why?
03/11/03: Ultimatum's moment of truth
03/11/03: Thank you, Turkey, we needed that
03/07/03: The fight against Saddam isn't a distraction from the war on terror --- it's is the main event
03/04/03: Bioterror nightmare approaching --- how it could likely happen
02/27/03: Iranian student: Can America hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?
02/25/03: Yahoos on both the Left and the Right are trying to prevent government from maximizing technology in protecting us
02/20/03: Anti-war group gets it right about great humanitarian tragedy in last Gulf War
02/18/03: Iraqis: Why are these people marching for tyranny?
02/07/03: French kiss(ed)-off
02/05/03: Does the FBI have the ability to protect us from terrorists already here?
02/03/03: The "Axis of Weasels"
01/29/03: A bit of the jitters
01/27/03: The world's mediocre intelligence agency
01/21/03: By reaffirming GOP opposition to racism, president demonstrates willingness to confront liars
01/16/03: Why the United States should withdraw all of its military forces from South Korea as rapidly as we reasonably can
01/14/03: Federal incompetence driven by political correctness, not trampling of civil liberties, is what we should fear
01/09/03: Bag this boondoggle: The V-22 Osprey would hurt our national defense
01/07/03: Another Korean war?
01/02/03: Ostriches
12/26/02: Learning from Canada's economic suicide
12/24/02: A moral dilemma: Support a vicious fascist dictator or the poor and downtrodden?
12/20/02: Time to tell the truth: The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights
12/18/02: Nothing better illustrates Trent Lott's unfitness for the post of Senate Majority Leader than his desperate efforts to cling to it
12/16/02: Debunker mentality: It's hard work not seeing ties between Iraq and al-Qaida
12/12/02: GOP ideologues turning on Lott --- better sacrifice the leader than the party
12/06/02: Curing our democracy of afflictions
12/02/02: Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time
11/27/02: What Saddam faces
11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
11/19/02: A draft would harm the military
11/12/02: The 2002 elections and Nixon
11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly