Magazine article National Defense

Troops Learn from Foreign Role-Players

Magazine article National Defense

Troops Learn from Foreign Role-Players

Article excerpt

The Army is using role-players, replicated war zones and cultural education to prepare U.S. troops who will help the Iraqi and Afghan armies assume security duties in the war-ravaged countries.

Much of this training occurs at Ft. Polk, La.--a place where residents have become so familiar with the Army base's foreign-language drills that they know more Arabic and Pashtu "than 99.9 percent of the American population," says Bill David, whose company, Cubic Corp., provides support services there. Such training could be the key to achieving stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, military leaders say.

"We now operate inside a larger context," says Brig. Gen. Edward C. Cardon. "There's a cultural context, a language context. You have to understand your environment."

At Ft. Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center, soldiers put themselves in that environment. They've created the ultimate war-rehearsal facility: replicas of Iraqi and Afghan villages, complete with former residents of both countries. Soldiers perform mock missions in the 2-acre, roughly 10 building villages, and the role-players respond in the way they believe their counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan would.

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"It may not be 100 percent perfect, but it's of sufficient complexity," Cardon says. "They've done a great job replicating the operational environment that they're going into."

Cubic, a California-based defense and transportation company, recruits the center's thousands of role-players and cultural leaders--Afghans and Iraqis who immigrated to the United States and now help soldiers understand the nuances of their homelands.

"We try to improve the soldiers' skills on everything from culture up to the execution of the mission," says Raad Alsamarie, a former member of the Iraqi air force who moved to the United States 14 years ago. He works for one of Cubic's subcontractors, Mobius industries, and has helped train U.S. troops since the war in Iraq began. "We teach them how to collect information from the Iraqi people, how to approach them, how to get close to them without offending them."

Alsamarie believes that if the U.S. military had realized the importance of cultural education earlier, lives could have been saved. He tells a story he heard from a friend who still lives in Iraq: U. …

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