Have you ever wondered how the military can gather information, even top-secret ones, from other countries and use them for our nation’s defense? That’s because of cryptologic linguists.

What do cryptologic linguists do?

Cryptologic linguists, or crypto linguists, provide the military with information from foreign communications like news, radio transmissions, cell phones, even overheard street conversations. They do so by identifying and intercepting communications sent through magnetic waves using signals equipment. They transcribe and translate these messages so they can evaluate intentions, predict actions so they can act accordingly based on the information gathered. 

How do you become a cryptologic linguist?

Sgt. Miguel Iles, an Asia-Pacific cryptologic linguist with 3rd Radio Battalion, reads a traditional Chinese legend in his office on Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

Our nation’s defense in no small way relies on the information provided by cryptologic linguists. That is why the training to become one is pretty intense. If we can read the mail of a potential adversary we have quite an advantage over him. Additionally, the fear that we can read their communications can cause an adversary to go to extraordinary lengths to try and hide those intentions, greatly complicating their mission planning for operational security.  They might transmit five different mission plans to a unit, to try and conceal which is the actual mission and objectives.

Step 1: Applicants are screened thoroughly using a testing process to ensure that only the most qualified ones will get to the next step. One of them is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test which assesses skills and qualifications for a military career. They need to have the aptitude for learning other languages, be good at reading patterns, and be very much willing to learn. They should also have great technical skills as they will be using equipment to intercept signals, as mentioned earlier.  Crypto guys tend to be in the highest percentile scores on the ASVAB