NEWS | Feb. 11, 2023

Utah National Guard hosts world’s largest Polyglot Games at the MI Language Conference

By Master Sgt. Samantha Xanthos 300th Military Intelligence Brigade

Competitors from multiple organizations came from across the country to participate in this year’s Polyglot games, hosted by the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade. More than 140 participants from 25 different organizations came together to make this the largest Polyglot Games ever held.


“The Polyglot Games are incredible because they bring together active, reserve, and civilian linguists from across various branches to compete and learn from each other,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sheldon Holgreen, 300th MI BDE Command Language Program manager in charge of overseeing the event.


The games, which were held in conjunction with the 34th annual Language Conference, marked a return to in-person competition after COVID made the last two years virtual. This return gave the gamemaster Sgt. Curtis Starr the opportunity to update requirements and create new challenges for the participants.


“Not only do this year’s Polyglot Games test participants language abilities, they also test their abilities as a language professional. The dramatic shift in the U.S. National Defense Strategy towards Large Scale Combat Operations against a peer or near-peer adversary is a clear indication that as language professionals, we can no longer afford to be ‘good enough’,” said Starr.


Participants competed in a group of seven individuals, each speaking a different language. They used these language skills to follow every step of the intelligence cycle, from the Operations Order to a final Commander’s Brief. They translated battlefield recordings and news reports, exploited documents to identify and destroy enemy equipment, and assessed possible enemy courses of action.


“It is the ultimate test of the intel linguist professional,” said Spc. Cody Booher, a French speaking competitor from Alpha Company, 142nd MI Battalion. “As a first-time competitor, it was an amazing opportunity to use the language and to use MOS skills in a team setting.”


“My favorite part was the DOMEX (Document and Media Exploitation),” Spc. Booher continued. “I was able to go in and use my language, there were no proficiency problems—it was all mental. It was about what information here in this document is important and what’s going to help my team.”


While the Polyglot Games were hosted by the Army, they attracted teams from all different organizations. Multiple Air Force teams, the Marines, NSA, even a team from Utah State University came; as well as Active Duty, Reserves and National Guard teams from states such as Maryland and Georgia.


Many different organizations were also represented when the winning teams and individuals were announced at the closing ceremony for the Polyglot Games and Language Conference.


The team from 16th Airforce Cyber Team from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, came in first place, the team from Headquarters United States Marine Corp from Washington D.C. took second, and the 169th Intelligence Squadron from the Utah Air National Guard placed third.


The top three individuals for each language were also recognized at the closing ceremony for their hard work in this challenging competition.


“The competition at this year’s Polyglot Games was intense and the participation at the Language Conference was outstanding,” said Col. Cody Strong, 300th Military Intelligence Brigade commander. “We will build on this fantastic momentum moving forward and will continue to ensure these events are not only the best in the Army, but the premier language events in the Department of Defense.”

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