Sunday, September 30, 2012

Here's How This US NAVAL OFFICER Uses German

Lieutenant Commander Risa Simon • United States Navy

Education and Qualifications:
• A native of Miami, Florida
• 1994:  Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honors in Modern European Studies, Vanderbilt University
• 1997: Master of Arts degree in Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies, Univ. of Michigan.
•  LCDR Simon has conducted study abroad programs in the native languages of several overseas universities including:
-- The American University in Cairo, Egypt (1997);
-- Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (1995);
-- University of Regensburg, Germany (1993); and
-- University of London (1992).
She speaks German, Arabic, and Hebrew, and is currently studying Persian/Farsi.

• 1998:  LCDR Simon earned her commission from Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida
• thereafter, she reported to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE, Detachment Misawa, Japan
• where she qualified as a Naval Aviation Observer while providing in-flight support to deployed air crews.

• LCDR Simon’s subsequent tours of duty include
-- service with Naval Special Warfare Unit THREE in Manama, Bahrain from 2000 – 2003;
-- US Southern Command Headquarters in Miami, FL from 2003 – 2006; and
-- the Joint IED Defeat Organization in Baghdad, Iraq from 2006 – 2007.

LCDR Simon’s personal awards include:
• the Bronze Star Medal,
• the Joint Service Commendation Medal,
• the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal,
• the Joint Service Achievement Medal (2), and
• the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

I’ve used my German in the following ways:
• Communicating with German (and even Polish) coalition forces.  Since 2001, we operate a lot with our European allies.
• Studying Middle Eastern history (for my MA) – you’d be surprised how many important texts on the Middle East are written in German.
• Studying other languages – my background in German has been instrumental to studying other languages, especially Persian/Farsi, which surprisingly has a lot in common with German!
• Traveling through Europe and the world …
--I toured the Valley of the Kings in Luxor Egypt with a 6’7″ German guy I met at Karnak Temple;  --I’ve buddied up with German divers during dive cruises in the Similan Islands off of Thailand; the Great Barrier Reef; and the Red Sea!
• Not to mention how useful it is knowing German while traveling through most of Europe.
-- I remember this one time helping some German tourists in Spain communicate with the police … they told me their story in German, I translated it to English for my friend, who in turn translated the English into Spanish for the Police!  How ’bout that for fun!


  1. I think this is so inspiring! I'd love to do something like this, but in a nonmilitary track. Especially traveling, my main goal in life!

  2. German is a very useful language, it seems.