Emily Dowdell
Army logo Enlisted


Emily Dowdell

Cryptologic Linguist—Command Language Program Manager

Sgt. Emily Dowdell knew she had a knack for speaking other languages and majored in Spanish education in college. After working for a few years as a teacher, she decided she was looking for something more. “I wanted another adventure before I settled down,” she says. So, Emily decided to take her skills to the Army. “I wanted to be a linguist,” she says. “I love languages, and I wanted to join because I wanted to learn more.”

"The Army Reserve gave me all the training and tools I needed to succeed in learning a new language, and what I learned only enhanced my skills in my civilian career."

Emily Dowdell

Sergeant | Army Reserve

Emily enlisted and, after completing Basic Training, she began her training at the Army’s rigorous Defense Language Institute to learn Pashto. “The grammar is completely different than English and Spanish,” she says. “Just completely different than anything that I had ever studied before. You’re in the classroom Monday through Friday, learning the language, and you have homework every night.” After months of studying and hard work, Emily completed her training. “You could drop me off in Afghanistan [and] I could have a basic conversation with someone.”

Being a Military Linguist

After a few years of serving on active duty, Emily decided to transition into a role in the Army Reserve. As a reserve member, Emily has monthly service obligations called “drills” and a two-week annual training called “AT.”

“I serve as the command language program manager of my unit,” Emily says as she describes her current duties. “I am tasked with assisting military linguist personnel in maintaining their language capabilities."

The Army has exceptionally high standards when it comes to language proficiency, so Emily and her team must constantly hone their language skills. However, keeping your language skills sharp is easy when you’re doing something you love. “I find translating something from a different language very interesting,” she says. “Just learning the nuances of other languages, different words and slang for things. It’s just something I enjoy learning about.”

Soldiers who serve as linguists might speak one other language, or they might speak several. In fact, linguists get additional pay for each language they speak. “The Military is definitely the most diverse organization that I’ve ever been a part of,” Emily admits. “It isn’t one size fits all...there are so many different paths you can take. Whatever you’re interested in. There are a lot of opportunities to learn new skills.”