That was the scenario many U.S. forces were faced with as they began to work with local citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan trying to provide assistance, gain intelligence and a situational awareness for force protection with few ways to communicate accurately especially with a shortage of qualified linguists.
The earliest devices that were used to bridge the gap had pre-scripted words and phrases that would include simple phrases such as: "Get out of the car. What is your brother's name? Do you have a bomb?" A Soldier would touch that phrase and it would come out in the other language letting the native speaker now what you wanted them to do.
"Unfortunately there aren't enough linguists to go around and not all of them can put on a rucksack and go up and down mountains in Afghanistan and follow troops around, so we have to fill that capability gap with these devices," said Mike Beaulieu, product director Machine Foreign Language Translation Systems, know as PD MFLTS.
The list of QRCs that were fielded includes the Foreign Media Monitoring System, or FMM, which offers a real-time automatic machine translation, search, and alerting capability across multiple media and languages providing rapid insight into emerging events. FMM allows for the correlation of open source information and development of intelligence products for strategic or tactical use.
PD MFLTS also fielded a 2-way Speech to Speech, referred to as 2WS2S, Translator Laptop System that provides a two-way speech-to-speech machine translation capability as well as the Voice Response Translator, which provides hands free, eyes free and voice activated one-way phrase based machine translation capability. Additionally the organization fielded the Phraselator P2, which provides voice and touch activated one-way phrase based machine translation capability.