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Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Wollman, a corpsman with Police Mentor Team 2, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, based out of Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, stands watch at an entry control point March 16 at Combat Center Range 220. The team is expected to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Photo by Lance Cpl. M. C. Nerl

ATG trains Marines on Afghan customs, culture

26 Mar 2010 | Lance Cpl. M.C. Nerl

Instructors from the Combat Center’s Advisor Training Group are providing cultural awareness and language training to service members deploying to Afghanistan to help them accomplish their mission.

This training all comes together during the mission rehearsal exercise, said Capt. Jeremiah Root, an assessor with ATG, and a native of Paradise, Calif.

“The MRX is a chance for them to operate as a team with complete immersion,” Root said. “They’ve received plenty of language training and fundamental skills to help them build rapport and understand the culture they’ll be immersed in when they are deployed.

“Learning the language plays a huge role in understanding the culture,” he said. “It helps the individual Marine to speak and interact with the [Afghan National Police] and the [Afghan National Army].”

Breaking down the language and societal barrier gives those headed overseas vital reassurance in their skills. This is needed for them to do their jobs effectively when working or living with, and training local forces.

“I personally think its great training,” he said. “I went through the course and onto an [Embedded Training Team]. It was just in its infancy, but we learned quite a lot about the language,” he said. “The team as a whole is much stronger when the members are able to communicate at a certain level.”

Members of one of the five training teams who finished their cycle last week agreed with Root about the benefits of the training.

“Getting to know the people, and learning their customs and courtesies is an important part of winning their hearts and minds over there,” said 1st Lt. Sean Lacey, an infantry officer assigned to Police Mentor Team 2, from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, in Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. “If you don’t speak Pashtu, then you can’t even begin to understand how people live and work, because most importantly, you can’t understand them.”

The Mansfield, Texas, native said the Marines on his team have adapted quite well to the new language.

“It’s good to see and hear the Marines amongst themselves, but more importantly with the role players speaking Pashtu,” he said. “They’ve responded quite well, and I’m proud to have them working underneath me.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Wollman, a corpsman on PMT-2 team, said he knows from past experience how helpful learning a language can be when interacting with locals in a foreign country.

“I remember taking German back in high school,” said the Moses Lake, Wash., native. “We took a class trip to Germany as part of the exchange program before I left for Navy boot camp, and boy I thought I knew what I was doing before I left.

“Just being in Germany for three weeks really helped me get to know the language, and more importantly the people even more,” Wollman said. “I learned a lot more than I thought I even knew to begin with.”

PMT-2 and other training and mentor teams with 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, are slated to deploy in the coming months, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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