MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
The faces of Marines and sailors of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and 2nd Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment were filled with curiosity as they stepped into classroom where the desks were replaced by oriental rugs and the teachers spoke a different language then their own.
Two groups of about 50 Marines engaged in Cultural Immersion Training to learn more about the afghan culture and the people that they would be working with in Afghanistan while deployed, Aug. 13.
The dimly lit room served as a meeting place for a mock Shura which involved participating Marines and sailors to communicate with afghan role players using body language and interpreters, similar to what their mission will require while deployed, said Staff Sgt. Michael Pascalis the operations chief with the Advisor Training Group.
“The Marines receive cultural classes beforehand to offer a base,” he said. “When they get here, they test their knowledge through practical application, and the role players will tell them when something is wrong,” Pascalis said. “What we are doing here is essential to their mission over there.”
One group, the Police Mentor Team, spent their time with afghan role players posed as members of the Afghan National Police, while in a separate class room members of the Embedded Training Team interacted with role players posing as the Afghan National Army.
“It’s great getting to know each other,” Staff Sgt. Marvin Chee a platoon sergeant with 2nd battalion 3rd Marine Regiment with the Embedded Training team faction.
“In Afghanistan they take their culture very seriously. They stick to their roots, and some Marines that go over there don’t understand the culture, and sometimes without even knowing it come off disrespectful,” said the Iraq and Afghanistan veteran at the end of the hour and half training.
The two teams discussed culture, military customs and the upcoming mission with the Arabic speaking role players, with a ratio of nearly one interpreter for every 20 Marines.
“From training day one, it’s been all about getting the basics, becoming immersed in the culture, learning about religion, customs, and the structure and inner workings of the ANA,” said 1st Lt. Derek McVay with 2nd battalion 3rd Marines, “This provides a special opportunity to hone the skills that we are going to be implementing during our mission in Afghanistan.”
Throughout the interaction common ground was found, jokes were told and stories were exchanged, enforcing the belief that, although two cultures couldn’t be more different, a common goal and mission can be obtained.