US Navy: More language bonuses offered to sailors

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Mar 23 13:11:57 UTC 2007

More language bonuses offered to sailors

By Andrew Scutro - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 23, 2007 6:41:07 EDT

Sailors who use their foreign language skills as part of their service are
now eligible for higher monthly pay under an expansion of the Navy's
Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus Program, announced Monday. Before the
change, bonuses were restricted to those serving in specific billets, such
as cryptology, which rely on language skills. Now sailors who can prove
proficiency and use certain languages on Navy missions are also eligible
for bonus money.

The new policy means language-savvy sailors can be reassigned and deployed
if they avail themselves of the extra cash. But it also provides added pay
to skilled sailors assigned to special warfare, expeditionary combat,
Fleet Marine Force and medical units including individual augmentees with
even minimum skill levels. The new policy also provides bonuses to those
who use their skills in contingency situations regardless of assignment.
For example, use of a common language like Spanish during a humanitarian
assistance mission in Latin America can trigger the bonus.

The new rules also provide bonus money to graduates of the Defense
Language Institute who maintain proficiency levels and as well as higher
bonuses if they improve, according to Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician
(Interpretive) David Baker. He manages the Navy Foreign Language Program
Office responsible for the new policy. In an example of the expansion of
the policy he said a sailor using even a basic level of language, like
speaking French on a deployment to western Africa, may now collect bonus

We want to make sure those sailors weren't disadvantaged, Baker said. In
the past, language pay policy was geared specifically for professional
linguists at certain required proficiency levels. The new rules are spread
across the force. What the old policy did is it left out a whole group of
sailors, said CTIC Robert Medley, also of the foreign language office.
Bonuses are determined using a matrix of proficiency and the demand for
the language. The higher the skill and the higher the need for the
language means a higher bonus. At the maximum, a sailor who can speak
Arabic and Farsi like a native for example, could collect $500 a month for
each language.

Sailors fluent in non-dominant in the force languages such as Arabic, can
collect the bonus year-round regardless of assignment, Baker said. Other
use of languages in shorter contingencies would trigger a monthly bonus
based on the duration of the mission, but even two weeks would trigger one
month of bonus pay, Baker said. Of course, those who collect the bonus
money are also on a short list for mission-tasking and reassignment. If
the needs of the Navy are Hey, we need you to use your language here, the
Navy can send you there, Medley said.

The push for language competency comes from the Defense Department as part
of its war on terror initiatives. Realizing that the military has a
serious weakness understanding potential friends and foes alike, the
Pentagon has made foreign language proficiency a high priority. In October
2006, the Navy conducted a language survey throughout the force and the
results were surprising. Some 274 different languages and dialects are
spoken among the 138,000 foreign language-speakers in the fleet, from
Swahili, spoken in east Africa, to Uighur, which is spoken by the Muslim
population in western China.

The breadth of all the languages readily available in the force, it wasn't
just mainstream languages, some if these are down in the weeds, Baker
said. Baker and Medley encouraged sailors with skills to take the Defense
Language Proficiency Test to establish eligibility, to consult Navy
Knowledge Online and contact the language program manager or educational
services officer in his or her command. Its good for the Navy and this is
a great leap forward in language transformation in the Navy, Medley said.

A sailor who can prove they've used their skills on a deployment for
example, but hasn't taken the proficiency test, gets a 90-day grace period
upon return from deployment. But beyond being eligible, the test offers an
incentive to improve and hone language ability, as bonus amounts are
linked to skill. It's important for these sailors to go out and test,
Baker said. If they're already tested, and they improve, its better for
the Navy and the sailor.


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