News / USA

US Marines Being Trained for Cultural Sensitivity Before Deployment

US Marines attending a cultural training class in Quantico, Virginia
US Marines attending a cultural training class in Quantico, Virginia

Multimedia

The U.S. military is expected to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. But thousands of U.S. Marines will still deploy there within the next year to support the war.

To prepare them, the Defense Department has introduced culture training programs at several military bases around the United States. One such program is being conducted at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia - about 58 kilometers from Washington, D.C.

Marine Corps Captain Josh Parish, a civil affairs officer, will deploy to Afghanistan in 2011. His job will be to work with local tribes to build wells, roads and schools. But he will also work on understanding the sources of insurgency and how the Marines can win the trust of the local population. To get ready for his deployment he is attending a civil affairs class.

"There is a huge push right now towards winning the hearts and minds and the way I see it you know is, if we're able to drive a wedge between the Taliban and the local population than as a civil affairs guy that's when I can come in and using my tools, using my knowledge of their culture, I am able to figure out what are the areas of instability, what are the things that they need," Parish said.

The Marines started their culture learning programs in the aftermath of the Iraq war -- when experience on the ground showed US servicemen did not understand the customs of the country they were fighting in.  In 2005, the Marine Corps started a flagship program to teach deploying troops some Arabic, Dari and Pashto, along with the religions, economies and social issues in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Marines truly understand that the people are important to winning, they're important to stabilizing, they're important to the security of that region and because of that, because they understand and respect that, they're accepted better," said George Dallas, the director of the program known as the Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning.

Other branches of the US military have had similar training programs for their special forces or intelligence units. But the Marines' program is the first to give all deploying troops wide access to language and culture training.

Dr. Paula Holmes-Eber, an anthropologist who teaches in the program, says in the beginning, culture was a strange concept for a military used to conventional warfare.

"If you take a Marine who's grown up in Iowa, 19-years-old, never left the US, he will see hese things and not understand them at all. So the hope is that by giving them a framework to think about, there will not be this gut reaction, 'oh, these are strange and awful people' but 'yes, it's different but I can do something about that and I can help them,'" she said. Holmes-Eber says the progress in Iraq's Anbar province provides the best example of how cultural understanding and working with local people turned around the country's most violent province.

To prepare them for future deployments, the Marine Corps now trains its troops about all areas of the world so they are ready for crises, like Haiti, or small conflicts anywhere. "The Marine Corps has a long history of being involved in small wars that range back to early in our history. Since we never really know what the next war is going to be, the next conflict or affected area, making sure that we have this capability of adapting to a population is really critical to our overall success," said Major Jonathan Kenney, an academic planner at the expeditionary warfare school in Quantico, Virginia.

So far, the impact of the Marines' program is hard to measure. But as the 2014 withdrawal deadline gets closer, the Marine Corps believes it will achieve not only the long-term strategy of stability and peace but a better understanding of a culture that until a few years ago was foreign to the troops being sent there.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid