By Maj. Janine Smith
Learning a different language is no easy undertaking; sustaining it is even harder. One way to retain this perishable skill is to continuously use it with native speakers.
For U.S. Army Cpl. Jasmine McCarthy, a signals intelligence analyst and an Arabic linguist with the Utah National Guard, using her multilingual skill repertoire came as a critical asset to mission success in the humanitarian civic assistance portion of exercise African Lion 2019, March 25-April 3, 2019, Tata, Morocco.
The U.S. Armed Forces conducting the humanitarian civic assistance portion of the exercise brought medical capabilities such as surgery, dentistry, optometry, gynecology, cardiology, internal medicine, pharmacy, radiology, and general public health. Patient care was a focus for medical personnel conducting surgical and dental care, and optometry exams with the issuance of eyeglasses to approximately 7,000 patients.
For McCarthy, coming to Morocco to assist as a translator during African Lion 2019 was a mission she never thought she would undertake.
McCarthy grew up in Korea, with a Korean mother and American father, she left her family shortly after celebrating her 18th birthday and graduating high school. Seeking opportunity, she joined the Utah Army National Guard to pursue language opportunities and a career in the intelligence community. McCarthy grew up with Korean and English simultaneously but chose Arabic through the Defense Language Institute, because she felt passionate about Middle East and North African affairs.
“I wanted to pursue a route with foreign affairs or diplomatic relations,” said McCarthy. “But after I saw what [opportunities] Utah has with Morocco, it encouraged me to broaden my opportunities.”
Living in Utah and working as a full-time civilian, serving as a National Guardsman, and pursuing an international politics degree from Pennsylvania State University, McCarthy had little time to improve her language skills. But African Lion 2019 was the first time she was able to use her language abroad and in a medical environment. Her enthusiasm for the mission and her linguist capabilities ensured the success of African Lion 2019.
African Lion 2019 allowed the exercise participants to provide support and training for other African partner nations in the region, while increasing awareness among Moroccan audiences regarding U.S. commitment to the surrounding area.
“This short deployment has opened my eyes to all the different opportunities to use my language,” said McCarthy. “I believe that me being an Arabic-speaking service member, helps facilitate many things here, and I think Morocco is a perfect place to show my abilities on how I could connect with the culture.”
The biggest lesson McCarthy learned was how the exercise contributions are leaving long-lasting effects for the patients we are seeing. Partnership events like this are only possible with the commitment of the U. S. Armed Forces working alongside the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces to increase awareness among Moroccan audiences regarding U.S. commitment to the region and continuing the strong U.S. partnership with Morocco. African Lion 2019 is an annually-scheduled, combined-multilateral exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nations’ tactics, techniques, and procedures while demonstrating the strong bond between the nations’ militaries.
“My passion is to help women, but mostly I want to help the overall picture, help facilitate better relations to show that we Americans, and especially the military, are more than what people perceive in the media,” McCarthy said. “Being the only female Arabic-speaking linguist, highlighted the need for multilingual females when serving a very conservative predominantly Muslim population.”
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