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Marine Raiders, assigned to Marine Forces Special Operations Command, communicate with a “role-player” during the Culture Role-Play culminating event as part of the Basic Language Course on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 29, 2023. All critical skills operators attend the 16-week-long Basic Language Course after becoming CSOs. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Evan Jones)

Photo by Sgt. Evan Jones

War of the Words: MARSOC Language training with USASOC personnel

26 Sep 2023 | Cpl. Henry Rodriguez Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command

Upon successful completion of the Individual Training Course, a newly minted critical skills operator still has several sets of advanced training to accomplish before being mission ready. Language training is first on that list.

All new CSOs go through the Basic Language Course at the Marine Raider Training Center to receive formal education in one of several languages relevant to operational requirements. Students attend a rigorous 16-week program where their day is solely focused on learning to be as proficient as possible in another language.

All of this culminates with an exercise designed to test the student’s abilities in various mission-specific situations. That exercise, the Cultural Role-Play, takes students through common tasks such as exchanging money or giving directions and then onto more complex problems such as reporting an accident or interacting with key leaders. The four-day event is intended to ensure students have understood the requisite material to continue their training and have a solid grasp of the linguistic concepts in their target language.

“After spending a few months learning the dialect and the vocab, being in a live environment with native speakers is great,” said a CSO in the course. “When you are in these scenarios, you discover how much you actually know and hearing different accents and speech patterns beyond just the instructors develops your ear for the language.”

More recently, MARSOC and MRTC have begun working with their sister services to improve the efficacy and realism brought by the exercise. This year, students from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Special Warfare Training Group attended and participated in the training side-by-side with Marine Raiders.

“Being here with the MARSOC guys has been a benefit for us,” said a U.S. Army soldier from 2nd Special Warfare Training Group. “Getting out of the classroom and being able to work with a more joint force mindset prepares us better for future deployments. All our instructors were super excited to get us down to this training.”

The CSOs echoed the sentiment, “We’ve appreciated having [2nd SWTG] and their instructors down here. They have slightly different teaching methods, and some vocabulary is a little different between the two, so training and learning with them just makes us better.”

The realism that the program seeks to provide is designed to prepare for the multitude of interactions that a Marine Raider could experience on a deployment. Throughout the exercise, students are put in front of native speakers with widely ranging accents and dialects, all in an effort to improve the overall understanding the course offered and create the most proficient speaker possible.

“Even though there are linguistic differences wherever you go, getting a grasp of the cultural and behavior norms has been one of the most insightful pieces,” said a CSO. “If we can better understand their way of life, we can better work with a local population or partner force and improve our effectiveness while deployed.”

“At the end of the day, we give these students well over a year’s worth of information in four months and it can be a lot to take in,” said Todd Amis, the language program manager for MRTC. “Seeing them interact at a high level in this exercise is a testament to the dedication they put into being complete professionals and experts at everything they do.”

Editor’s Note: Critical skills operators, special operations officers, and special operations capabilities specialists are U.S. Marine special operations forces assigned within SOCOM.

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