November 1, 2012

Military Seeking Immigrants


Pentagon reopens program for those with special skills
by Julia Preston
October 28, 2012

Thousands of immigrants were so eager to enlist in the U.S. military during the past two years, despite the strong odds that they could be sent to combat zones, that they signed a petition on Facebook asking the Pentagon to let them join.

Now, they’ll have the chance. Late last month, the Pentagon reopened a program to recruit legal immigrants with special language and medical skills, which was active for a year in 2009 but was suspended in January 2010.

The program will enlist a total of 1,500 recruits each year for two years, mainly in the Army. But military officials said the yearlong pilot program brought an unusually well-educated and skilled cohort of immigrants into the armed services.

Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the program was intended to fill “some of our most critical readiness needs.” This time around, the Army is looking for dentists and surgeons, and for psychology professionals to help with the emotional strains soldiers have undergone in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Officials are also looking for native speakers of 44 languages, including Azerbaijani, Cambodian-Khmer, Hausa and Igbo (both spoken in West Africa), Persian Dari (spoken in Afghanistan), Portuguese and Tamil (spoken in South Asia).

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