A Saturday afternoon ceremony at the State Capitol signaled the creation of the U.S. Army National Guard's only linguistics brigade a 600-member unit with expertise in 29 foreign languages that will have headquarters in Draper.
The 300th Military Intelligence (Linguistics) Brigade was organized during an activation ceremony in the Capitol rotunda, when the 142nd Battalion was divided to form a second battalion, the 141st.The creation of the brigade is indicative of the effectiveness and expansion of the linguistics program in Utah, Maj. Gen. John L. Matthews said in addressing the guardsmen and their families.
Gov. Norm Bangerter, who serves as commanding officer of the Utah National Guard, said at the ceremony that he recognizes the unique talents and abilities of the linguistics brigade's members. In today's world, where global communication is instantaneous, national security depends on the ability to rapidly translate foreign languages, he said.
Lt. Col. Douglas C. Borba, who will head the brigade, said Utah represents a rich linguistic pool because of the large number of men who have served international missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, thereby gaining proficiency in foreign languages. Borba added that 90 to 95 percent of the brigade members had served LDS missions.
By using returned LDS missionaries, the Army saves thousands of dollars. Guard members who wish to work in a linguistics unit, but who lack prior language training, must attend the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. But those already fluent, including the former LDS missionaries, can forgo the training.
In addition to the recognition the linguistics brigade brings to the state, Bangerter said Utah will benefit economically. He explained that the formation of the brigade could result in as many as 500 part-time and 50 full-time jobs.
The brigade will also generate revenue for the state by sponsoring three two-week language training courses each year at Brigham Young University. That is equivalent to a 700- or 800-person convention, Col. Dennis Johnson said.
The governor also said the fact that Utah houses the country's only linguistics brigade points to the excellent language training available at the state's three universities.
Bangerter thanked the citizen soldiers for their dedication and said, "As you travel around the world translating for various groups, it's a great sacrifice for your families." He also advised the reservists to be exemplary representatives of Utah and the National Guard.
Members of the linguist unit average about 150 assignments each year. They are involved in translating activities, and in the event of war, they would work with prisoners of war and intelligence operations, Borba said.
As part of the Reserve system, members of the brigade spend one weekend every month, as well as two weeks each summer, in training refreshing language and military skills.
"They have to be able to do both," Johnson said.
The brigade is expected to expand to several battalions, including units outside of Utah, eventually reaching a membership of 3,000.