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ASU, Utah train future military officers in critical languages, culture

October 05, 2011

Editor's Note: Arizona State will take on the University of Utah, Oct. 8, in its first ever Pac-12 road game.

Improving critical language skills, regional expertise and cultural awareness of future military officers is the aim of a U.S. Department of Defense initiative under way at Arizona State University and the University of Utah.

As part of “Project GO,” the global officer effort, ASU has been training ROTC cadets in Persian, Russian, Tatar and Uzbek, and sending them to Central Asia and Russia every summer since 2008. Utah trains cadets in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, Korean, Pashto and Russian, and has recently opened programs for them in Jordan, Morocco, Russia and China.

Arizona State and Utah are the only Pac-12 schools among 18 U.S. universities selected for participation in Project GO, sponsored by the National Security Education Program as a joint effort with the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine ROTC programs. Project GO programs focus exclusively on the languages and countries of the Middle East, Asia, Central Asia and Africa.

Most students at ASU participate in a hybrid program, receiving two months of intensive summer training in Persian, Russian, Tatar or Uzbek at the ASU Critical Languages Institute before traveling to Russia, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan for a month of first-hand experience in the culture.

ASU cadets who already are studying advanced levels of Russian language instead travel directly to the city of Kazan, a one-hour flight east of Moscow, on the Volga River, where they live for eight weeks with host families or in apartments with Russian roommates. They receive accelerated language and culture training at ASU’s training center in Kazan and participate in a rich program of excursions and cultural activities.

More than 100 ROTC cadets and midshipmen at ASU have participated in the program since 2008. In Utah, 112 ROTC students have participated since 2008.

"This program is about changing the way the U.S. engages with the world," said Kathleen Evans-Romaine, director of ASU’s Critical Languages Institute.

"Four years ago, you could count on one hand the number of future officers with in-depth experience in the languages and cultures of Eurasia or Sub-Saharan Africa. Today, close to 1,000 cadets and midshipmen from across the U.S. have studied those languages, have visited those countries, and, most importantly, have learned to cross cultural boundaries. They have gained skills that will serve them well in their careers, no matter where they go,” she said.

Additional information about Project GO at ASU:

Written by Sarah Auffret