With worldwide military deployments now happening regularly, National Guard units are stepping up efforts to ensure that soldiers are properly trained for the deployments, including intensive language instruction. The Utah National Guard's 300th MI brigade, Linguistics Division has set up a flexible system for language training and proficiency testing.
In the Utah National Guard's St. George and Logan locations, multi-channel training systems have been set up using a Bosch Integrus 16-channel Digital Infrared transmission system, sold exclusively in the U.S. by Listen Technologies in Salt Lake City, UT. Listen worked with dealer General Communications, also of Salt Lake City, to supply the two National Guard locations with systems that would meet their needs. Daryl Wright of General Communications explained, "We used the Listen IR system in these installations because we needed a secure system as it's a security risk for any signals to leave the room. Sound quality was also important for trainees to catch the nuances of the languages, and with this system being both stereo and digital, the audio was impressive."
The Integrus 16-channel IR at each facility is composed of a transmitter, radiators and individual receivers. The LBB 4502/16 transmitter accepts analog or digital input, modulates the audio signals onto infrared carrier waves and transmits the carrier waves to radiators located in the room. The radiators ensure full-room coverage and consistent pickup of the signals by the receivers. Because the system uses infrared transmission, signals are confined to the training room.
General Communications installed systems at each location along with commercial grade DVD/CD players. Individual receivers and headphones are provided. A language is fed into each channel from a DVD/CD player; trainees listen to the audio channels and are taught interpretation skills using the selected language(s). Each National Guard location is currently using 12 of the 16 available channels, leaving room for future expansion.
The National Guard is using the systems for Defense Language Proficiency Testing (DLPT) as well as general language training. SFC Tamara L. Sower of the Guard's St. George, UT facility said the system has made it much easier to work with multiple languages. "We're training up to 39 people on 16 different languages and with the IR system, we can test on up to 10 different languages at once," SFC Sower said. "This system makes it very easy for us. We give them just a little component (the IR receiver) along with a pair of soundproof headphones, and they are good to go."
"It's easy to use the Integrus system," said Russ Gentner, president of Listen. "The trainees plug in their headphones and select the channel for the language they are learning. When they unplug their headphones, the receivers automatically turn off to conserve battery life. In addition, the receivers are self-programmable from the main transmitter."
"The Listen solution seemed like a perfect fit for what the Guard is trying to accomplish," Wright said. "No one interferes with each other, there's no restriction on the number of trainees using a particular channel, and everyone can have a comfortable listening level in their headphones."
Wright noted that a major advantage of a wireless system in this type of installation is the lack of cabling around the room. "Flexibility is critical. Rooms are frequently reconfigured for various uses. With the wireless IR system, the National Guard can move tables and chairs around as desired and there's no concern about unplugging something or losing channels of audio," Wright said.
Also in use at the St. George location is a SMART Technologies SMART Board interactive white board, which, according to SFC Sower, simplifies training using computer or online materials. "If we are learning a computer program, we can hook up a laptop to the SMART Board and then have touch capability to highlight or stress particular parts of the program," she says. "In some sessions, we download translations or text from the Internet, bring the information up on the SMART Board and have the trainees all translate the same piece."
SFC Sower stresses that the language training is only part of the 300th MI brigade's function. "We are soldiers first, then we do all the extras," she says.