Culture in Military Operations

This video describes the role and importance of culture in military operations and the need to have cross cultural competence.
Video Transcript

[Marc Robere Hill] You don't have to go to Bangladesh or Brazil or anywhere like that to think about cross-cultural competence. Look at the soldiers within your platoon and see that one person could be from Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and another could be from, from Sierra Vista, Arizona. Completely different.

[Charles C. Mink] You know, if you ask a group of guys from Boston, you know, why do you talk like that, they'll have no idea that they even speak with an accent until they go somewhere else, and that's the same thing with, with anything not, not only, you know, linguistically what comes out of your mouth but the way you view the world.

[Dr. Tim Kirk] And the best way to think about it is, were you traveling anywhere, if you're from the northeast and you travel to the south, there are certain things you're going to want to know before you get there.

[Caption: Preparing for a New Culture]

[LTC Remi Hajjar] If you go into a foreign context ill-prepared and not open to learning more about it, you're actually decreasing your unit's survivability, your ability to come home alive and well and not in a body bag and that of your peers. You're making that whole situation worse.

[Dr. Tim Kirk] And so the effective thing to do is to expand the conditioning of your mind to include the environment that you're going to, you know, understanding the broader social picture is really the first step and then once you get some insight into how you sound and how people perceive you, that's when you can start getting into some of the finer details.

[Charles C. Mink] Self-awareness is vital and it's a lot easier to obtain than we then we think.

[Dr. Tim Kirk] It's not mystery, it's not some kind of magic, it's something that any literate person can master with just a little bit of effort.

[LTC Remi Hajjar] So it's sort of understanding ourselves down to the individual level. What are our own cultural identities, what's our background about and where does that provide us both meaning in our life, as well as blind spots, areas where we might not be able to understand another person or a different culture as openly. Are we, are we cognizant of those differences?

[Dr. Tim Kirk] Talking with some one who's from that country can be helpful, reading books can be helpful, reading books about the history is particularly helpful in terms of understanding some of the key figures that may loom large in the minds of these people that you'll be working with.

[Charles C. Mink] Absolutely engage with as much literature about the area as you can.

[Marc Robere Hill] You have to know about their society and, you know, are they urban rural, you have to learn about the family, you have to learn about their belief system.

[Dr. Tim Kirk] Read, read, read. You talk to as many people as you can talk to and you seek to understand the, the particulars of that principle in that it doesn't matter what country you go to, whether it's Afghanistan or Indonesia or Canada, these principles are the same thing wherever you go.

[CW3 Joe Grano] So we draw on the folks that have been there or know the area and we ask them those exact questions: what should we not do, what can we do, what are the absolute no-nos in this country, what do we need to know, what are our immediate icebergs or non-negotiators that we need to avoid, things that will just completely cut off or sever communication.

[Charles C. Mink] If time is constrained and that's a big issue, then I would devote more time to learning pleasantries in the language and doing a good amount of homework in learning that, the history and the demographics of the region.

[LTC Remi Hajjar] So I'll summarize all those thoughts by saying I think cross-cultural competence is incredibly important for soldiers to learn about themselves, what it means to be an American, what it means to be a soldier, what my own blind spots might be, so that I might then bond and build trust and relationships with other people that are on my own team and that I meet in foreign cultures and contacts.