Language Survival Kits get disaster testing in Japan

Dino Pick, Commandant, Defense Language Institute

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

“Help is on the way.” – (Kyoo jowaa kocheeraanee mukaatey maasu)

“It started,” explained Col. Dino Pick, Commandant for the Defense Language Institute, “with our understanding that a significant and terrible earthquake had occurred early in the morning of Friday, March 11 our time on the west coast at Presidio Monterey. Soon after, within an hour, our technology integration team contacted our operations folks to see if they could leverage our Japanese instructor resources here on the Presidio to quickly move ahead with the production of Language Survival Kits in Japanese language.”

Pick explained to Federal News Radio, “by 8 am that same day, subject matter experts and graphic designers were at work creating the Language Survival Kits for our U.S. military members and the aid workers that would respond, potentially, to this natural disaster. By Monday morning, the Japanese materials were ready to be sent to our print plant for reproduction and they were also posted to DLIFLC’s product page.”

The Navy downloaded the kits with the USS Ronald Reagan being the first U.S. naval vessel to download that Language Survival Kit and put it to use.

“So our technology team, basically in 100 hours responded from understanding there was a natural disaster in Japan, leveraging resources we had at the Presidio Monterey, and quickly turning a product that could be used by DoD elements and aid workers alike.”

“We are Americans.” – (Waareywaareywaa aamerkeekaa jeendehs)

Pick explained the Defense Language Institute knew there would be an immediate demand.

“Our experience in the past here at DLI is that there is a rapid and significant demand for very basic language capability in large scale humanitarian disasters and their associated relief operations. For example, during the Haitian earthquake in January 2010, DLI produced nearly 65,000 Haitian LSKs, and distributed those LSKs, Language Survival Kits, to elements of Southern Command involved in the relief operations in Haiti.”

They also knew, said Pick, the Kits would be needed by more than then military.

“This is for anyone that needs a very, very basic and very rapid capability to use phrases and words in a foreign language and understand the very basics of the communication necessary to bring relief to the victims of a natural disaster.”

The Kits contain greetings, basic phrases like “yes” and “no”, key nouns and action words. “Then there are domain specific or subject matter specific books,” said Pick.” “For example medical books with terminology for various medical terms that would be necessary to provide first-aid, determine what is wrong with someone, that sort of thing, and an aircrew specific handbook, in this case, which we developed for the natural disaster in Japan, which would just give you the very basic words necessary to communicate concerning air operations and aircraft.”

“We are here to help you.” – (Aanaa taa-o taasukehnee keemaasheetaa)

His team really hustled to get the Kits out in 100 hours, but Pick didn’t sound surprised they were able to accomplish the task in that short a time.

“Well, it’s a terrific, dedicated team of professionals, mostly civilian with some military, that really respond quickly to the demands from the field. Our technology integration team with our supporting instructors, who of course are Japanese instructors with their families in the effected region, making their response all the more poignant and critical.”

To learn more about what’s in the kits, and other examples of kits produced, listen to the entire interview at the top of this page.

This story is part of Federal News Radio’s daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.