Alpine Summit

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Best and Brightest

I've always been of the opinion that the members of our armed services, from the lowly (or venerated) cook all the way to the 4 star generals, have been the best and brightest our nation has to offer with few exceptions. Well now it seems that that isn't just true about those in the military, but also those joining the military. Awesome.

It was love, not desperation or a lack of prospects, that propelled honor student and all-state vocalist Caity Swanson into the Army: love of language. As a junior, Caity's 3.9 GPA qualified her for the National Honor Society, while A's in Spanish earned her acceptance into the Spanish National Honor Society. She realized she wanted to pursue foreign-language translation as a vocation, and she began exploring colleges that offered a major in linguistics. But though her parents earn a good living—dad Chuck works in the pharmaceutical industry and mom Andria is an R.N.—good programs were too expensive.

Then as a senior, Caity, like thousands of American high-school students, took the military entrance exam. An Army recruiter saw her score—93 out of 99—and called her last December. That's when she learned about her dream school: The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) in Monterey, Calif., the largest foreign language school in the world.

After careful discussion with her parents, Caity enlisted. She's now looking forward to learning a new language by immersion, packing two weeks of traditional college instruction into each day during the year-long course, and learning from native speakers. "The way they teach a foreign language is the way I want to learn it," she said.

She doesn't know which language yet—the military assigns that based on a student's ability and the government's need. But it's likely to be a tough one: Caity blew away the Defense Language Battery, qualifying her to learn any language the Institute offers, including those considered most difficult, like Chinese or Arabic.

Still rolling out patriotic Americans after 230 years!