I have read Forest L. Marion’s commentary entitled “Air Force ‘Diversity’ of Languages: A Strategic Concern” twice in stunning disbelief. His criticism about the Air Force’s recent elimination of the Combat Aviation Advisors (CAAs) or 6th Special Operations Squadron (6SOS), whom I suspect are mostly enlisted airmen and considered professionally expendable, is 100% spot-on.
The Air Force is figuratively shooting itself in the foot. On second thought, the Air Force may be shooting itself in both feet. That is primarily because totalitarian Communist China is determined to gain military and economic hegemony over most of the entire Indo-Pacific region. That would also include much of Africa, especially its natural resources, by 2049, which is the centenary of Communist China.
Beijing’s goals are simple, which is the “mirroring [of] Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere of the 1930s-to-World-War-Two period, with China now having swapped roles with Japan.” However, unlike Tojo’s Japan, Communist China has future aspirations to extend their military and economic foothold througout both the Indian Ocean and Africa.
Speaking the language of a host country not only builds rapport, but it more importantly builds friendship, which can last for more than one generation, and lead to genuine military, diplomatic and political influence. If friendship is not possible, at least a Combat Aviation Advisor would have the basic ability to read the local newspaper, understand a restaurant menu or go shopping in order to have a better understanding of the local culture, thus leading to future friendship.
Speaking the language of a host country can also lead to more effective communication and the prevention of needless tragic air crashes or serious mishaps and the expensive replacement of pilots, which can cost millions of dollars in training.
The Air Force needs to follow the example of the Army’s Green Berets, who are often highly trained in foreign languages, whether they are either enlisted soldiers or officers.
Learning the basics of a foreign language, especially such rudimentary phrases as “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” “thank you very much,” “your food is delicious” along with other salutations, valedictions and compliments are highly appreciated by most third world countries if not all of them.
That includes myself.
English may be the lingua franca of the world, but not all of the world speaks English with 773 billion adults on the planet being illiterate and most likely innumerate according to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). In Sub-Saharan Africa the illiteracy rate is an incredible 34.7% while in South Asia it is 27.1%.
To make matters worse the percentage of adults and children worldwide, who are functionally illiterate or reading below a sixth-grade level, is much higher. In the U.S. the rate is an unbelievable and embarrassing 39.4% (130/330) in 2022. I suspect that the rate is much higher in Central and South America, Africa and in south Asia.
Semi-fluency or near fluency of a foreign language in an Asian or African country would be greatly appreciated and ingratiating. This would also include such first world or European countries as Germany and France along with such quasi-first world countries as Poland and Estonia. By the way, all four of these nations belong to NATO.
The linguistic ability to make small talk, sharing humorous stories and jokes can go a long way in establishing both rapport and genuine friendship between any allied and foreign military personnel.
Knowing the language of a host country cannot only build friendship, but it can also lead to lucrative future defense contracts. The financial and diplomatic payoff can be enormous and very profitable. Just ask both Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Knowing the language of a host country. reminds me of the old salesman’s maxim that “if you like me, you are more likely to buy from me in the future.” Plus, knowledge of a foreign language helps establish both goodwill and loyalty Knowing the language of a host country also dispels the myth of the ugly American and the dangerous potential perception of being arrogant, which can easily be a deal or morale killer worldwide.
Relying upon handheld, software-generated, audible and written machine translations of a foreign language, for example, in Equatorial Guinea may be good for a three-day military exercise, but it is not going to cut it when training a technician or pilot. This is especially true with foreign military personnel, who often speak neither semi-fluent or fluent English, when instructing them how to repair and maintain an expensive state-of-the-art jet engine or fly a Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jet. The latter recently sold to Bulgaria can cost $209,125,000 ($1.673 billion/8) per jet.
Not even partially speaking or understanding the language of a host country, in my opinion, is frankly beyond stupid and extremely myopic.
I would bet with almost near certainty that any future Chinese air force advisors regardless of their rank will know how to fully speak the language of their host country. This would include such countries as Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and any other country in either Africa or Asia.
This would be especially true concerning all the countries along China’s trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, which will be “reminiscent of the Silk Road” and “eleven  times the size of the U.S. Marshall Plan that reconstructed Europe after World War II.” times I would also bet with near certainty that some of these advisors will also include extremely attractive Chinese female officers and airwomen. Think Miss Universe China 2021 and a Chinese actress beautiful for starters. This is how the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force rolls or flies.
The general(s), the Secretary of the Air Force or whoever made this asinine decision to eliminate the CAAs should be either demoted or replaced as soon as possible. Talk about the assassination or suicidal droning of common sense.
Is the Pentagon listening? I sincerely doubt it. They need to wake up because they are obviously asleep at the wheel or should I say in the cockpit or flight deck?
– Robert L. Maronic