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Army Hires Arabic-Speaking Role Players for West Point Training Exercises

7:24 AM, May 28, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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President Obama is delivering the commencement address at the Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday where he is expected to detail future plans for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. The president laid out the basic outline in a Rose Garden appearance on Tuesday which calls for an almost complete withdrawal of troops by the end of 2016, save for a "normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component," similar to Iraq. However, almost as soon as the president leaves West Point, the soldiers there will continue to train for duty in Arabic-speaking lands as revealed by documents recently posted online.

In April, the Army posted a solicitation for "English / Arabic Linguist Role Players" to act "as part of situational exercises and as interpreters as part of those exercises at the US Military Academy, West Point, NY for the period of 31 May 2014 thru 16 June 2014." This week, a contract for $147,896.23 was awarded to Lexicon Consulting of El Cajon, Cali. to provide forty-five individuals to participate in the two-and-a-half weeks of exercises.  While the contract does not spell out all of the details of the scenarios to be acted out, there are some clues in the accompanying documents about what will be involved, from basic interpreting to "physical searches, crowd control, or detention" simulations:

  • Linguists/role players will be used as part of situational training exercises (i.e. village elders) and as interpreters as a part of those exercises. They must also be able to talk to large groups of Cadets about their culture.
  • All linguists/role players must agree to incidental physical contact with trainees of the same sex, as this will occur in many of the scenarios. No less than 50% must agree to substantial physical contact as required by the scenario. This contact could occur as part of physical searches, crowd control, or detention.

Lest the participants be unduly concerned, the Army gives assurance that no harm will come to the role players:

  • Linguists/role players will never be physically harmed, threatened with physical harm, or put at risk.  No linguists/role players will be searched or detained by trainees of the opposite sex.

The contract calls for twelve of the forty-five participants to be female and notes that there will be "no 'traditional' attire associated with the scripted scenarios."The Army has conducted such exercises in the past, such as 2011 and 2008.  The descriptions provided for the 2008 gave significantly more detail about the scenarios planned at the time with role players portraying "Iraqi Police Service Chief", "Iraqi Judge," and the "Nahia Mayor," as well as Afghan roles, and participants were expected to "wear wardrobe, and use various props to portray different roles" in "Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) villages, and, mini-MOUT wooden hut towns."

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