Corps to have mandatory cultural training
Marines to be assigned area of specialization
By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Sep 13, 2010 16:44:27 EDT
Fighting in any clime or place means Marines often come into close contact with people of all nationalities and cultures. An intimate understanding of those cultures can make the difference between mission success and mission failure. Thats why the Marine Corps is now rolling out mandatory cultural training that will assign most Marine a specific region of specialization that they will study for the duration of their career.
The program, which will include reservists, will begin in late August with first and second lieutenants, but eventually be expanded to all enlisted Marines ranked sergeant and above, and all officers up to colonel.
The Regional, Culture, and Language Familiarization Program was created by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational and Cultural Learning at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Eventually, officers and enlisted Marines will be assigned to one of 17 global regions of study, which they will focus on for the duration of their careers, according to Marine Administrative Message 468/10.
When you get turned to the south or diverted to the west, you need to have people that are organic to your staff that understand the region, said retired Col. George Dallas, the centers director.
For example: the recent humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti in response to Januarys earthquake. Marines who spoke Creole or French and understood Haitis culture were indispensable during those relief efforts, Dallas said.
The hope is to have at least one or two Marines in every unit who have a solid understanding of any region to which Marines could be called.
The program was prompted by goals set forth in the Commandants Planning Guidance, a 2006 report issued by Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, and the Marine Corps Service Campaign Plan for 2009-2015. Both emphasized the need to bolster the Corps expeditionary mission. In response, plans were made to carve up the globe into spheres of responsibility for each Marine Expeditionary Force, under the assumption that regionally focused forces are better at forging lasting partnerships with locals. The new training helps meet that mission.
Captains can expect to begin taking courses by November. Sergeants will follow in the spring. Dallas said he hopes all Marines will be studying their regions within a year and a half
We are not trying to add a lot of new requirements, Dallas said. We are trying to take existing things [Marines] have done, or will do, during their career and amplify the cultural, regional lessons tied to it.
That means Marines will be encouraged to adjust training and education to their geographic assignments. For example, analyzing books on the Commandants Reading List through a cultural lens.
Marines still will be required to take additional lessons online through MarineNet. They will complete short quizzes throughout their course of study and a 100-question final exam at the end of each study block.
There will be several blocks over a Marines career, each completed every few years, coinciding with career progression. Failure to complete a block could adversely affect a Marines career, although it is not a prerequisite for promotion.
When assigning regions, a Marines history will be taken into account. That includes prior education, native culture or birthplace. The number of available slots for each region will be determined by three variables: requests from combatant commanders, requests from unit commanders and Corps threat assessments. More Marines will be assigned to volatile regions, as it is where they are most likely to deploy.
Officers at The Basic School submit a wish list of their top three regions. Platoon commanders then work with them to find the right fit.
Once the program is in full swing, enlisted Marines will be assigned regions at random, based on demand, but they will be able to appeal their assignment.
Not everybody will get their first choice, but leaders will give prior knowledge strong consideration, for both officers and enlisted.
The program was made to span a Marines career to allow time to develop an in-depth understanding of an assigned region, Dallas said.
Understanding the culture, the region, the language to a limited degree, allows a commander to better and more effectively shape his battle space, Dallas said. It helps him understand the human dimension, anticipate human reactions. If you can do that, you can influence friends and manipulate enemies.
REGIONS OF STUDY
The 17 global regions Marines will be assigned to study under a new cultural education program, with examples of what each region includes:
Central Africa: Republic of the Congo, Angola, Cameroon.
Eastern Africa: Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia.
North Africa: Egypt, Libya, Morocco.
Sahel: A narrow band stretching across Africa, where the tropics meet the deserts.
Southern Africa: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa.
West Africa: Senegal, Nigeria, Liberia.
West South Africa: Namibia.
Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Northeast Asia: Japan, South Korea, North Korea.
South Asia: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh.
Southeast Asia: Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia.
Arabian Gulf: Iran, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates.
Levant: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Israel.
Balkans: Albania, Boznia and Herzegovina, Serbia.
Mexico, Caribbean, Central America.
South America: Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela.
Transcaucuses: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan.
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