155th ABCT Learns about Culture
Story by 2nd Lt. William Hill II
Approximately 80 members of the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team participated in security force advisor training near Camp McGregor, N.M., April 28, 2018. The event lasted eight days with training consisting of language, culture, foreign weapons, and use of a translator.
“The first three days was cultural awareness where we were learning basic Arabic language skills, culture, customs, and religion,” said 1st Lt. Nathan Smith, a health services administrator, with Company C,106th Support Battalion.
The Soldiers learned different things about the nation that they are preparing to go into such as accepting tea when it is offered.
“In their culture if you are offered tea you have to drink it, if you don’t it’s a sign of disrespect,” said Staff Sgt. Troy Cherry, an observer/controller, with 3rd Battalion, 353rd Armored Regiment.
Soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 353rd Armored Regiment, an active duty component based out of Fort Polk, Louisiana, are tasked with conducting security force advisor training.
“Some of the highlights that we are learning are when you’re offered something take it, don’t spit, and be generous when accepting their gifts,” said Staff Sgt. John Brewer, a human resources specialist, with Headquarters Company, 106th Support Battalion.
During the event the Guardsmen were also given a block of instruction on the weapons used by foreign militaries such as the AK-47, RPK, and PKM machine guns.
“We went over some foreign weapons training,” said Smith. “…how to break them down and put them back together.”
“It’s very important that we understand these weapons,” said Brewer.
“Hopefully we never get put into a scenario where we have to pick up one of those weapons and use it,” said Brewer, “but if we are, at least we have familiarization with them so that we know how to do a malfunction check, clear it, or load the weapon and fire it if we have to.”
It also helps the Soldiers to better advise their counterparts if they understand the equipment that they are using, said Cherry.
This training helps Soldiers better understand their job as they prepare for this deployment.
“The mission is to actually advise, so we can help them to better utilize what they have and to teach them,” said Cherry. “We are there to help these countries take what they have and utilize it to the best of their abilities.”
Building trust with the citizens and foreign military is vital to cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship.
“It’s more than a job, you have to build a relationship with those counterparts,” said Cherry.
Communication is vital when building partnership and developing trust. The Soldiers went through nearly six hours of instruction to learn some of the basics of the Arabic language.
“To go over there and be able to speak a little bit of their language, instead of totally relying on the interpreter, shows that we care,” said Smith.
“It helps to build a rapport if I show that I’m willing to learn some of their language and respect their culture,” said Brewer. “It will help to open them up to us a little bit more.”
Despite learning some of the language they also had a lesson on how to use an interpreter.
“It can be very difficult speaking when you have two different languages at the table,” said Smith. “As a leader I have very little experience using an interpreter and talking to foreign nationals, so it actually opened my eyes to help me understand.”
This helped prepare the Soldiers for their key leader engagements.
“The teams are placed in engagements and experience what they might actually go through when they are advising their counterparts overseas,” said Cherry.
“We meet with our role players and we’re trying to establish a plan for security and intelligence to root out some ISIS fighters that were left behind,” said Brewer.
Each team has a certain counterpart that they work with over the course of the training, and the Soldier must be able to help them with any issues that arise and guide them on how to use their equipment and Soldiers.
This training can be very beneficial for these Soldiers and their upcoming mission to the Middle East. It helps prepare them for what may lie ahead.
“As a brigade this training is going to help us to be able to talk to our counterparts overseas when we’re put in certain situations,” said Smith. “It’s going to set us up for success to build rapport with them and help us to be better advisors.”
“It gives us a good tidbit of information before we go, as far as the culture and knowledge, to fall back on,” said Brewer.
Training events like these help prepare the Soldiers of the 155th ABCT to effectively advise their counterparts and build relationships with them.
The 155th continues to strive for success and equip themselves with the knowledge and resources needed to complete their mission and return home to their families.