Valentine’s Day Special: Fellow teachers meet and fall in love at DLI

Valentine’s Day Special: Fellow teachers meet and fall in love at DLI

By Tammy Cario They say life happens when you make plans. In the case of Michel Ashi and Marah Al-Masri, life happened when they didn’t make plans. “We both lived in Los Angeles,” Marah said, Michel next to her at the table. “We never crossed paths. Never met at all.” That is, they didn’t meet until 2016 when Michel got a job as a teacher at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, working in the same building as Marah, who is also a foreign language teacher. On Michel’s first day, Marah had just come back from LA after a weekend spent celebrating her birthday and was telling the story to everyone in the room. “I was listening and I cracked a joke,” Michel said. “She laughed and I felt like ‘Oh she laughs at my jokes so that’s a good sign.’” Marah said, “He cracked joke and I got it. I was the only one who actually laughed in the room.” They both chuckled at the memory. “We hit it off from there. We became close friends.” With the two of them coming from similar a background – both originally from Syria – they became good friends who weren’t dating each other. In large part because Michel didn’t want to get married. “I was very stubborn about being a bachelor,” Michel said. “Just because I lived very well. I didn’t care whether I was going to get married or not.” Fortunately for them both, Michel changed his mind after a year of them getting to know each other. “She was the right girl at the right time in the right place,”...
Life after a Ph.D.

Life after a Ph.D.

By Tammy Cario With fluency in two foreign languages, a Ph.D. in music arts and a possible Officer Training School appointment in his future, you might think that Airman 1st Class Toan Tran likes to learn. “That’s what my mom says,” laughed Tran. You and his mother would be right. “I think I do like learning. It’s always been a comfort,” he said. It’s what brought him to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in the first place. After finishing his Ph.D. in music arts, Tran discovered finding work was tougher than he’d thought. “I was at the end of the doctorate, a terminal degree. There was literally no more school. So I bided my time for as long as I could but the [job] market did not improve. In fact, it got worse. At least in terms of music jobs.” Fortunately, he had a high school friend who directed him toward becoming a linguist with the Air Force. “DLI really peaked my interest,” explained Tran. “It seemed so impossible for them to teach you to be functional in a language in a year and a half and expect you to go out there with work that could have actual implication in people’s lives and national security.” A Ph.D. is one of the highest degrees you can get. And then he joined the military to go to one of the longest training tracks offered. All told, civilian college included, Tran will have been in school for more than 10 years by the time he gets to his first duty station. On top of his Ph.D., Tran also had...
A friendship reconnected at DLIFLC

A friendship reconnected at DLIFLC

By Tammy Cario “You started 50 years ago last week,” Jerry Spivey said to Vincent “Vinnie” Zinck who was sitting across a classroom full of students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Jan. 14, “and I started September or October of ‘68.” Despite both attending the then Defense Language Institute West Coast Branch at the same time during the late 1960s, the two didn’t meet until they were stationed in Taiwan during the Vietnam War. “We lived in the same neighborhood in Taiwan right outside of Taipei. We just reconnected on a new thing called Facebook,” explained Jerry, a native of Georgia. The two had lost touch after going their separate ways, only to reunite, first on Facebook and then face to face in San Francisco where Vinnie and his wife live, over 40 years later. The pair decided they wanted to revisit their days at DLIFLC, the foundation of where their shared past began. The tour started with a visit to the Chinese school, a language they both learned when they joined. “Most of us who had graduated from college were afraid of getting drafted and getting sent to Vietnam in the infantry. So we figured the odds were better if we enlisted,” Vinnie explained to the students. “Back in the stone age when Jerry and I were here, there were two courses [for Chinese]. One was 39 weeks and one was 47 weeks. Jerry had the 47 week and I had the 39 week course.” Now the Chinese course has expanded to 64 weeks. And that isn’t the only thing that has changed since they...
Top Army attaché to China gives advice to FAOs

Top Army attaché to China gives advice to FAOs

By Natela Cutter The U.S. Army’s senior defense attaché at the American Embassy in Beijing, China had a few things to share with newly-minted Foreign Area Officers who are attending a week-long joint FAO course hosted by the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Jan. 14-18. “It is important to understand that what you do now will set the tone for your entire career,” said Brig. Gen. Robert “Brian” Davis, the key note speaker Jan. 15 at the Presidio of Monterey. The event was attended by nearly 150 FAOs from all four branches of the service and their spouses. The week-long course is designed to offer general orientation to the FAO profession for young captains and majors who just began their new career field. The course consists of workshops with guest lecturers who are experts in the field of foreign affairs and specialize in regional political topics, operations, and security cooperation. “It is important for you to know where you are in the world, which is completely different than it was 20 years ago,” when the global balance of power was roughly divided into two spheres, between Western democracies and the former communist Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc nations. “This is a period of increasing risk, of the return of Great Power competition…” he continued, stating that the job of FAOs is even more crucial today with the continuous changing of political and economic alliances. Davis speaks from 16 years of experience, having served in China, Thailand and Taiwan. He graduated from the Chinese Mandarin Basic course at DLIFLC 23 years ago and surprised his old instructors with his...
Spc. Lingo retires from DLIFLC, embarks on new mission

Spc. Lingo retires from DLIFLC, embarks on new mission

By Natela Cutter Spc. Lingo retired from the Army Dec. 6, after three years of faithful service to the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center as the institute’s mascot. On the day of his retirement, Lingo received a certificate that officially absolved him of his duties, acknowledging him for his “exemplary leadership, dedication to excellence in participating in command runs, sporadic deer chasing, and devouring treats … while keeping with the finest traditions of military service…” “I am going to miss Lingo greatly. He is such a joy to have at work, especially when you need a break,” said Theresa Bowker, a staff member at DLIFLC, who regularly walked Lingo. “Lingo has been a fantastic dog for DLI,” said DLIFLC Commandant, Col. Gary Hausman. “I joke that he is more like a cat than a large dog … until you bring out that leash and his eyes get big because he is ready to go outside,” he said. “In the mornings, he sings! He walks around the front office and howls, and it’s fun to hear because it does come across as if he is singing.” According to Hausman, Lingo’s routine included walking around to ‘say hello’ to all the staff members as they arrived in the morning. When important visitors came, Lingo would be the first to greet them at the door and promptly follow them into the commandant’s office with either a bone or toy in jaw. “When I came to work in the mornings, he would enter my office to see me and give me a nudge. And not a simple nudge! He gives you a...
Brazilian Army Language Center officers visit DLIFLC

Brazilian Army Language Center officers visit DLIFLC

By Natela Cutter Two members of the Brazilian Army Language Center visited the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Oct. 22-26, to gain knowledge about the inner workings of one of the largest foreign language schools in the nation. Lt. Col. Sergio Avelar Tinoco, commander of the school, and Capt. Carlos Henrique Souza Vilas Boas, head of the English Department, spent a week in Monterey, speaking with their DLIFLC counterparts, program managers, instructors and students at the Presidio of Monterey and at DLIFLC instructional facilities. “Our language school is located in Rio de Janeiro near the famous Copa Cabana Sidewalk,” said Vilas Boas, “We provide intensive English courses for officers and NCOs who are assigned to work at Brazilian Embassies abroad and also instructors….who are going to teach at foreign military schools,” he explained, adding that unlike at DLIFLC, language teachers must join the military in order to be an instructor. “All of our teachers are Brazilians. They have (foreign language) college degrees and then they join the military. After that they have nine months of military training so they can work with the Army as language teachers,” explained Vilas Boas, pointing out the contrast to DLIFLC instructors who are mainly native-born. One of the key differences the visitors pointed out is that their language school does not have enlisted members in contrast to DLIFLC, where the majority of the students are enlisted and are normally first-time learners of the foreign language being taught. “Our process is different than yours. So, to go to our school one has to be already accredited in the language skills. He has to...
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