CORONADO, CALIF. – The U.S. Special Operations Command recognized 3rd Special Forces Group’s (Airborne) Harriman Language Lab as the Language Program of the Year during a ceremony at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California, Aug. 19.  

Each year, USSOCOM recognizes an outstanding special operations forces unit for its ability to narrate and demonstrate success in maintaining Soldiers’ language proficiency and program effectiveness.

“A program’s success is a result of good command support,” said John Donnelly, director of the SOF Language Office. “Language programs cannot be successful unless a program connects with the Soldiers and remains effective with the SOF training and duty-hour restraints.”

The 3rd SFG (A) lab consistently out performs other programs by producing higher rates of language proficiency in less time. Its three-month program out performs what other similar programs achieve in a six-month period.

The group’s Language Program manager, Master Sgt. Robert Castaneda said he does not achieve excellence alone. He credits his team and his students for the success of the program.

“Soldiers take pride in our program and own their experience here,” he said. “Harriman could not be successful if students were not doing what it takes to achieve results.”

 Castaneda’s team of instructors and managers focus on the quality of instruction and foster a comfortable atmosphere for students to learn a foreign language in a short period of time.

A critical part of his team, Program of Instruction Analyst Bahya Victor, ensures individuals and units achieve language proficiency in time for deployments. As an African native with English as her sixth learned language, her experience and dedication enhances the program.

“I’m always here for my students,” said Victor.

Victor regularly translates documents and provides language resources to Soldiers even after they conclude their language studies at Harriman. The language lab houses resources for 88 common languages and 55 uncommon languages. Within the 2015 fiscal year, Victor scheduled 2,088 Soldiers and more than 15,192 hours of training in preparation for deployments to the Middle East and Africa.  

While speaking of his group’s language program, Col. Robert Wilson, commander, 3rd SFG (A), praised its accomplishments.

“It showcases the hard work and dedication of our language lab personnel,” he said.

Wilson also spoke of the importance of the unit’s language lab calling it a critical resource that enables mission accomplishment.

It is the ability to speak to people in their native language that sets Special Forces Soldiers apart.

Castaneda said he is thankful for the support from the higher command, but says the real success of the program is a result of students doing the work to learn the languages.