CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Approximately 30 Marines with Task Force Southwest continued their pre-deployment training through a rapport-building exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 2-3, 2017.
The unit, which is scheduled to deploy to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in the Spring, will train, advise and assist the Afghan National Army 215th Corps and 505th Zone National Police.
The exercise gave the Marines an opportunity to work with Afghan role players at a simulated forward operating base. 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.”
Task Force Southwest is comprised of approximately 300 Marines, and will be completely immersed in Afghan culture during their nine-month deployment. Stanley, who has deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, said he had never considered culture as part of his planning process.
“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,” said Stanley.
Over the last couple of months, the Marines have conducted medical training, live-fire ranges, and received a plethora of classes to maximize their readiness. Getting face-to-face interaction with the role players is preparing 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],” said 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.”
The Marines of Task Force Southwest will spend the next several weeks continuing their training, culminating with a full mission rehearsal which will be the final test of their knowledge and skills prior to deploying.
“We need to take past lessons learned, we need to take past experiences, and formulate a methodology and strategy of how we conduct our engagements, and that will propel [the Afghans] toward greater efficacy,” said Young. “I have absolute confidence that this team will be ready.”