Yet again, real-world examples pop up on the importance and value of ethnic recruitment efforts. Slowly but surely, more attention is being paid to specialized markets, but many times, multicultural outreach gets placed on the backburner and its need only gets recognized in reaction to a crisis or with remaining budgets.
I came across an article a little over a week ago about a specific U.S. Army program, Mavni (Military Accessions Vital to National Interest), that enlists immigrants here on temporary visas. Those who are promising recruits can become citizens in as short as a month—extremely favorable compared to the potential decade-or-more wait the old fashioned way.
Mavni recruits are desired for their language and medical skills. The language component especially is extremely critical for those regions in which you can find the U.S. forces. That means immigrants skilled in Arabic, Urdu and Pashto are a hot commodity.
Naomi Verdugo, an Army recruiting official, spoke about the “extraordinarily high” proficiency of these immigrants recruited for their language skills. “We send people to language school, but it is tough to get a non-native speaker to the level of these folks,” she said.
Many immigrants, even those who already have their U.S. citizenship, have this level of proficiency. Even immigrants who have been here for years do not lose the language knowledge they brought from overseas. Their heritage, culture, and speech make up an identity rarely lost to acclimation; and these groups value when outreach efforts acknowledge that.
The Mavni program, although wildly successful, is on hold for a required Pentagon review. With all the positive feedback, I’m sure this review is a matter of formality and the program will be up and running again shortly. However, the article alludes to the fact that this block may have been “slowed by the top-to-bottom examination of security procedures after the shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, Texas, in which an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, has been charged.”
Such reasoning for blocking this program may offend or confuse the audience they actually intend to attract. It brings up the point that cultural awareness, sensitivity and savvy are critical for intra-government workings as well as outside efforts.
The Mavni program’s immigrant recruitment should be recognized across all government sectors. These recruits clearly have language expertise and, in light of continuing events post 9/11, their cultural understanding is needed and cherished. And if citizenship is a hiring criteria, (which is the case for most government jobs) second or third generation ethnic groups similarly perform at this high level. And whether they’re immigrants or children of immigrants, most have an innate sense of civic duty and a unique appreciation for the U.S.—this goes for immigrants all over the globe.
The take-away is this: Just as we learn that such recruits are so valuable, the government should learn that efforts are advantageous. Multicultural and ethnic outreach should stop being reactive and instead be proactive—having the correct workforce now will eliminate the scramble if problems arise.
The work of translators and interpreters in Afghanistan is critical to the mission. The art of translation is a bridge, a link, a path – but also a mirror between two individuals, groups, communities, and governments. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the important mission of the U.S. Army was to destroy the Al-Qaeda network, eliminate terrorist elements, and create an atmosphere conducive to peace and democracy. Translators and interpreters aide the U.S. Army: it is an attempt to bring opportunity to the Afghan people and pave the way for a better future for the war-stricken nation.
The U.S. Army and NATO allies have had to work close with the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan. Thus, there has been a stated need to recruit Afghans for different positions. Some of the contracted companies have recruited people unable to communicate with the Afghan locals in their own language and have had trouble relaying culturally sensitive issues to the U.S. Army.
Many contracted companies have not distributed important messages to proper community members on the various levels. Increased cultural knowledge, including important events and holidays is needed. This has been my experience in Afghanistan. Here in the U.S., I have attempted to distinguish some of the cultural nuance and the language of the community of Afghanistan in order to reinforce the mission of the U.S. military. In my current work at Allied Media Corporation, I emphasize this same message of cooperation and understanding with the different cultures, languages and people of Afghanistan.
Abdul R Reshtin was born in Afghanistan. He has worked as both a cultural advisor and a Pashto/Dari instructor here in the United States. Abdul spent six years in Afghanistan working with the Afghan government and the Coalition forces in rebuilding and improving security efforts. Abdul Reshtin is fluent in Pashto, Dari, Farsi, Urdu, and English. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
During the month of Ramadan (August 21 – September 19), the U.S. Army 1st Brigade has launched a poster distribution campaign to recruit Arabic translators. For effective results and with a focused effort, the U.S. Army chose to disregard traditional ad placements and take a more personal route. The posters are in Arabic and even include a traditional Ramadan greeting.
You will find posters in the windows of local shops while walking the streets of Paterson, NJ; Brooklyn, NY; Fairfax, VA and other locales densely populated with Arab Americans. These ethnic stores are an integral part of the community; a place to see familiar faces and buy cultural cuisine. It’s great that the U.S. Army 1st Brigade recognizes the importance of these communities and the heavy presence of these retail shops.
Such a distribution campaign is a perfect way to reach out to ethnic communities. There are alternative ways, such as inserting flyers in the in-language newspapers, but hanging a poster in the store is noticeable, attractive and personal. Many of these ethnic communities are concentrated in or near cities, so it’s also likely a customer seeing the poster in one store will see it again in another nearby shop—creating more exposure, higher readership, and a longer-lived message.
Allied Media Corp. provides this service across many ethnic communities including Arab-Americans, Polish-Americans and Russian-Americans. If you’d like to know more about distribution campaigns or ethnic communications in general, check out: www.allied-media.com
If you have interest in becoming a translator for the U.S. Army, visit the website: www. GoArmy.com/translate
Remember: advertising, outreach and recruitment to minorities is most successful when you incorporate a cultural awareness of your audience!