How Does a Marine Develop Rapport?
Marines participate in pre-deployment training that includes rapport-building exercises at Camp Lejeune, N.C. For units deploying to Afghanistan to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Army and Police, these exercises give them an opportunity to work with Afghan role players at a simulated forward operating base.
Photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins
Marines must first learn how to interact positively with their Afghan counterparts to be successful in their respective missions. “They’re practicing social perspective taking, cross-culture communication, and how to employ interpreters,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Stanley, an advisor skills instructor with Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group. “Marines get a lot of training on how to do their jobs… but they don’t get a lot of opportunities to practice using an interpreter and practice building relationships with people from a different culture. This is a perfect opportunity.” Stanley, who has deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, says he didn't consider culture part of his planning process in the past. “It would have made my job a lot easier, and probably would have helped me be more successful if I had been aware of what I am now. Culture is a huge piece, and if you don’t consider that, it’s going to make your job a lot harder to do.”
Getting face-to-face interaction with the role players prepares the Marines for the social nuances they must understand before training the Afghans. “This helps to provide us experience before we get there because it lets us garner an understanding of [cultural norms],” says Maj. Michael Young, an advisor with Task Force Southwest. “When we get over there, we’ll have some of the mechanics down, so when we’re in a room with our counterparts, we can focus on cultivating rapport, and also be able to advise and assist them with their military functions.”
“Rapport is the basis for everything we do. Starting with the relationship is very important in the Afghan culture,” said Stanley. “They have to build that relationship in order to accomplish anything.”
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