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TVC class trains soldiers on Arabic customs and culture

Submitted by Scott McCrea
Phone: 455-2857


Fairbanks, Alaska--If soldiers from Fort Wainwright are deployed to Iraq this year, they will be taking with them the essential skills and training they acquired while in the military. And thanks to the Tanana Valley Campus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, they will also be taking with them a potentially life-saving knowledge and understanding of Arabic customs, culture and language.

TVC is offering an Arabic Customs and Culture class to soldiers at Fort Wainwright who are potentially being deployed to Iraq this year. The three-credit class covers important topics such as building relationships with civilians, greetings and courtesy expressions, dealing with angry crowds, giving orders and warnings in case of danger, and how to converse with the enemy if captured.

"If and when we deploy in support of the war on terrorism, this training will be vital in preparing our soldiers for the situations they may encounter," said Major Richard Somers of the 172 Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT). Somers, who helped coordinate the course with TVC, said that the training will help the soldiers communicate and better understand the culture of the people they are dealing with.

"We try to train and prepare our soldiers the best way we can, and this course just makes sense," he said.

Hassab-Elrasoul Yousif Ali, a foreign language adjunct instructor at TVC, developed the curriculum for the course and is teaching a class at TVC as well as co-teaching a second class at Fort Wainwright. Originally from Sudan, Ali said that teaching this subject to American soldiers has tremendous meaning to him.

"Personally, I believe that American tax payers have been contributing with tremendous generosity and a 'big smile' to other cultures, including my own," said Ali. "So for me, I thought this was a good chance to start paying back to them and I wish they will accept my first payment."

Ali attended college at the University of Poona, India, where he received his master's degree in petroleum technology. He moved to the U.S. in 2001 to obtain his master's degree in international peace studies at the University of Notre Dame, and came to Fairbanks in January 2004 to pursue his master's degree in petroleum engineering at UAF. He began teaching an Arabic language class for TVC during the fall 2004 semester.

The course being offered at TVC started February 14 and runs through April 6, with a total of 30 soldiers. A second class consisting of 50 soldiers will be held at Fort Wainwright beginning Feb. 24. Ali will be co-teaching the class at Fort Wainwright with Sara Harriger, a 2004 UAF foreign language/anthropology graduate.

Somers estimates that approximately 3,800 soliders from Fort Wainwright could be deployed to Iraq this year.

TVC Interim Director Rick Caulfield said that offering a class like this is perfectly in line with TVC's mission.

"TVC is all about responding to community needs, and this is clearly important to the well-being of our troops and their families," said Caulfield. "We're proud to be part of this partnership between a talented TVC instructor and our troops at Fort Wainwright."

CONTACT: TVC Marketing Coordinator Scott McCrea at 455-2857 or fnsjm@uaf.edu, or Major Richard Somers at 353-6778 or e-mail somersb@wainwright.army.smil.mil

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