Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
As a result of several comments regarding the recent events in Afghanistan, COL Lang asked me if I would be willing to do up a post about what the Army is doing in regard to culture in its professional military education (PME). While I have some idea of what the Marines and Air Force do, I am really not able to speak in depth about their programs and will stick to the Army's, which is what I know best.
The US Army formulated the Army Culture and Foreign Language Strategy (ACFLS) a little over three years ago in order to address the recognized shortfall of cultural capabilities within the general purpose force of the Army for its ongoing operations; not only for Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the Philippines and for potential future operations as well. The ACFLS designated the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) as the proponent and ordered it to establish an office to begin implementation - currently known as the Army Culture and Foreign Language Directorate. This included staffing of culture and foreign language advisors (CFLAs) and establishing a way forward for culture in Army PME.
TRADOC has oversight for Stages II, III, and IV of Army PME. This means the Centers of Excellence (COEs) for Fires, Signals, Manuever, Logistics, Aviation, and other Stage II schools including the Captain's Career Course, etc. TRADOC is also the higher headquarters for the Combined Arms Centers (CAC) and it is at the CAC that Stage III education takes place - specifically the intermediate leadership education at the Command and General Staff Schools (CGSS). Finally, the US Army War College (USAWC) falls under both TRADOC and the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) and it is at USAWC where Stage IV PME occurs (we also meet the requirements for Joint Professional Military Education/JPME level II). Stage I PME belongs to Initial Military Training (IMT) Command, which has some control for West Point, VMI, ROTC, etc. As a result of who owns what, the ACFLD has placed a CFLA at every Stage II location (with a search ongoing for the Intel COE), the CAC, and, of course, me at USAWC.
So here's what it all means. Culture has been incorporated in a variety of different ways in PME. For instance, what can be done with ROTC cadets, as well as the USMA Corps of Cadets and the students at places like VMI, because these are all at actual undergraduate universities, can be much more in depth. Students in ROTC, or at the Point or VMI, have access to courses and professors across the social and behavioral sciences, that affords the officers to be at these institutions opportunities not available to them again until much later in their careers. These opportunities begin to reappear at the CGSS and come to full fruition at USAWC where we have over 130 hours pertaining to culture in our core curriculum and up to another 600 more available in a wide assortment of electives (including my own entitled "culture for strategy, policy, and high operations").
The Army's Learning Concept, rooted in the Army Leadership Development Concept, discuss learning in terms of three supporting, reinforcing, and parallel lines of effort: training, education, and experience. I think this will be a useful way to explain what the Army is doing. Training is largely how the Army has approached the predeployment individual and unit PME for Iraq and Afghanistan. It has largely been done outside of TRADOC, which is why LTC Dickey, for instance and among others, is overseeing this stuff for folks headed to the Regional Commands (RCs) in Afghanistan. This PME, which is often not thought of as PME per se, has developed over the past decade for obvious reasons - where we are operating and what we are asked to do. Experience, which is the hardest part of all of this to nail down, for a variety of reasons, is something that one really can not formally educate to, but it is something that the ACFLD (my higher HQ) is trying to better understand so we can learn to educate from it. This leaves education, in this case what most people think of as Army PME. The whole point of standing up the ACFLD and getting CFLAs in place was to determine what each Branch, Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), and Functional Area (FA - and yes, I know this is also Field Artillery... I just speak this language, I didn't invent it!!!!) needs to know about culture and foreign language, as well as how this changes over the course of a career, and is different in regard to cohort. As my counterparts have all made it into their billets we have begun to get a clearer picture of these requirements. What has to happen next is to develop a common core curriculum, as well as specialized courses that account for what different Branches, MOSes, and FAs need. Once these are in place then we can tether them together from one stage of PME to the next. Finally, we are trying to figure out how approach this as adult education that is ongoing over the course of a career - no matter how long one lasts and regardless of cohort.
The other important thing that we, both the ACFLD and the Army, are trying to enable and support, is to establish better connections to those who are responsible for doing the predeployment training. This is important because we want the educational lines of effort between training and education to support each other better, even as we recognize that they are two very different types of education. While the planning and execution for this is ongoing, it is also beginning to happen in other ways. For instance, I have done predeployment training, by invitation, for the 101st ABN Division (in 2009) and I can gaurantee they received accurate information on Islam in general and in Afghanistan in specific, because I delivered that briefing! Similarly, largely because I encounter a lot of designated Brigade Combat Team (BCT) commanders, as well as division and corps personnel while they are at USAWC, I am either providing them with predeployment and then ongoing operational support, or have been asked to be prepared to do so. My counterparts at the COEs are also doing some similar work. For instance, my two counterparts down at Ft. Benning, attached to the Manuever Center of Excellence (MCOE), have developed a series of Afghan specific training aids dealing with culture, including religion, and a new one on cross-cultural engagement. As I have access to a lot of soon to be BCT CDRs and other Army senior leaders, I have been helping to get their excellent materials into the right hands so as to make sure that soldiers, in their predeployment prep, get accurate information in an easy to digest manner. Several of my other counterparts are also working with the ACFLD to provide support to the FORSCOM Training Brigade at Ft. Polk, which gives those folks some additional culture and foreign language support.
One of the other things we are trying to better understand for the Army, so that we can better work culture and foreign language into PME (across all three lines of effort: training, education, and experience) is to work out how to do this without a regionally aligned force. As COL Lang and TTG can, better than I, explain, Special Forces are regionally aligned in terms of culture and foreign language training. This does not always mean that they won't get pulled to go someplace else if the need is bad enough, but it does make the PME easier as it means that personnel are assigned a region and language group early on and they continually train and educate on them. While there are a number of current proposals about how to do something similar for the general purpose force, this is going to take time as adjusting Big Army is like turning the proverbial aircraft carrier on a dime!
* Adam L. Silverman is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of USAWC and/or the US Army.