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NEWS | April 22, 2024

Soldier Teaches Sign Language to Deployed Troops

By Staff Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh, 34th Red Bull Infantry Division

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - In the heart of the U.S. Central Command area of operations, where the focus is often on mission readiness and combat preparedness, one service member has taken a unique approach to foster camaraderie and understanding among troops.

U.S. Army Sgt. Ashley Brown, who grew up in a family with deaf parents, recently introduced an American Sign Language class to deployed Soldiers, offering them an opportunity to learn a new skill while gaining insights into deaf culture.

“Growing up with deaf parents was normal for me,” said Brown, a geospatial imagery analyst serving with the 34th Infantry Division, a Minnesota National Guard unit that is part of Task Force Spartan. “I didn’t realize there was something different about my family until I visited other kids’ homes.”

Brown, who has served in the Minnesota National Guard for over 10 years, is on her first deployment. After arriving, she approached the Education Center and discovered they sought volunteers to teach several language classes. She proposed offering ASL classes to fellow service members. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with classes quickly filling up and Soldiers eager to learn.

“After the first class that I did, I feel like maybe it was a test,” added Brown. “The coordinator, she walked in and she said, ‘I heard great things. I’m keeping you on for as long as you’re here.’”

Despite the challenges of balancing teaching with her military duties, Brown remains committed to her mission. 

“I am inspired and happy,” she said. “Knowing that I was able to teach them.”

Brown plans to expand her ASL classes and certify as a professional interpreter. Her goal is to continue promoting understanding and inclusivity while advocating for greater awareness of deaf culture and the importance of communication accessibility.

In a military environment where communication is key, Brown’s initiative exemplifies innovation and inclusion. 

Outside of ASL classes, Brown has taken on several leadership roles in the Army. In 2019, she began a cadre role in the Stillwater Recruit Sustainment Program, a National Guard initiative to prepare new service members for basic training. She says a highlight of serving is seeing Soldiers at the beginning of their careers and watching them grow and gain confidence.

Originally from the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion, Brown volunteered to deploy with the “Red Bulls,” hoping to get hands-on experience in the intel community. At home, she works as a behavior therapist for children with autism spectrum disorder diagnoses. 

“It’s like putting the puzzle pieces together in their cognitive abilities and comprehension for skill development,” she said. “Knowing that I was able to teach and inform them.”

 

 

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