By Natela Cutter
DLIFLC Public Affairs
MONTEREY, Calif. – Imagine being a private in the U.S. Army at the Defense Language Institute in 1969 learning Russian. Then imagine using a two-track reel-to-reel tape recorder weighing about 20 pounds, along with another 20 to 30 pounds of books.
Now fast forward, and imagine being a vice president for one of Procter & Gamble’s first manufacturing plants and newest subsidiary in Eastern Europe. If you are a DLI graduate, this could be your destiny.
“Graduating from the Russian Program at DLI was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” said Bill Harter, who graduated from Columbia University Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor degree in Slavic Languages in 1975.
Three months later, Harter got a job with P&G which led him to traveling around the world, to promote some of the products our lives would be impossible to imagine without: Ivory soap, Pampers, Mr. Clean, etc. “I traveled throughout Central Europe, Turkey, the Balkans, Central Asia, and picked up a few more languages such as German and some Dutch,” said Harter.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West Germany, Harter found himself jettisoned once again into Eastern Europe, right in the middle of the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution in late 1989, when most Eastern European nations were freeing themselves of the then Soviet Union’s oppressive control.
“I am very proud of the Rakona manufacturing plant acquisition. We negotiated with the then Czechoslovak government for about 18 months and P&G became the first company to acquire 100 percent of a government owned business…via special legislation passed by the Czechoslovak government,” Harter explained.
Today there are 570 employees including 110 engineers working at Rakona, which is the biggest detergent plant in Europe and one of the 10 largest of the 140 P&G plants worldwide.
Harter retired in 1997, after 22 years with P&G. He visited the Institute in late March, taking the opportunity to share some of his life experiences with the next generation of linguists in a Russian language classroom.
DLIFLC provides resident instruction in 17 languages at the Presidio of Monterey, California, with the capacity to instruct another 65 languages in Washington, D.C., graduating more than 220,000 linguists since 1941.
In addition, multiple language training detachments exists at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea spanning all the U.S. geographic combatant commands in support of the total force.
Posted Date: 5 April 2017