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Training goes beyond military exercises to linguistics

CHAMPION MAIN, KUWAIT—Sgt. Christian Hood, a 27-year-old Texan without the accent, instructed soldiers on Arabic phrases they may soon find useful: "La TEH-tuh HARR-eck."

In English: "Don't move!"

Paratroops in the 82nd Airborne Division, camped in the Kuwaiti desert, continue to train every day for an invasion of Iraq, but they also are preparing for when the bombing and shooting stop.

Linguists, such as Hood of the 313th Military Intelligence Battalion, are helping to familiarize small groups of troopers in some basic words and a dose of cultural sensitivity. They've passed out Arabic flash cards that include helpful phrases such as "Where are you injured?" and a mix of words that can conclude the question "Where is the . . . " such as "sniper" and "rocket launcher."

"There are two types of jihad," or holy war, instructed Sgt. Sam Walker, one of Hood's colleagues from the 313th. "One is to take up arms and destroy the infidel—that would be us." The other is the "jihad in your heart," a more benign allegiance to Allah, he said.

Military operations usually have four phases: buildup of forces, deployment into position, combat and restoring order. The line between the last two is expected to blur this time, because of the possibility of lingering urban fighting and the coalition's eagerness to restore calm.

"Even while you have combat ops going on," said Sgt. Eric Foltz, a public affairs officer with the 82nd, "you will have stability operations starting up."

Coalition forces hope to stabilize Iraq as quickly as possible and aid the transition to a new government. They want occupying troops to maintain order without inciting civilian backlash.

Civil affairs officers and military police units have plotted law-and-order strategies for when Saddam Hussein's government is toppled. For instance, psychological operations soldiers began testing crowd-control equipment Tuesday.

Two Humvees were rigged with large loudspeakers. Other "psy ops" soldiers hoisted a loudspeaker backpack that can be trotted out to a location, dropped in the sand and operated by remote control with the help of an Arab linguist.

"I envision us using it for public safety stuff: `Stay away from coalition forces,' " said Sgt. Kevin Scott, 34, a soft-spoken Los Angeles cop with the 301st Psychological Operations Battalion. His reserve unit was activated the day after Christmas. "We try to minimize casualties, especially civilians, by letting them know to stay out of harm's way."

The speakers also can be used on the battlefield to encourage Iraqi troops to give up.

"Every soldier we get to surrender," Scott said, "is one less rifle pointed in our direction."


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): linguists