|By 1st LT. Jeffrey E. Gruidl, 181st Infantry Brigade
FORT MCCOY, Wis. — When someone thinks of a
location to replicate Iraq or Afghan culture, Fort McCoy might not be
the first place that would come to mind.
Thanks to Soldiers of the 1st, 340th Training Support Battalion,
civilian contracted foreign language speakers (FLS) and cultural role
players (CRP) managed by the 2nd, 411th Logistical Support Battalion,
Soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan are getting realistic
cultural training here.
Soldiers from the 724th Engineer
Battalion engage with “local Iraqi leaders” to discuss security
concerns during a training mission at Fort McCoy as part of
their pre-deployment training to Iraq.
Photo by Master Sgt. Timothy Grandy
Soldiers of the 1st, 340th work with mobilizing Soldiers providing
them with training on local language, phrases, culture, customs,
geography, religion, gender roles and interaction with the local
Sgt. Mouhsine Doufkir, an Army Linguist with the 1st, 340th who is
fluent in English and Arabic said, “Understanding cultural norms and
customs is vital to our mission and helps Soldiers avoid potentially
Classroom understanding is only one part of the training provided.
During the first day of the mobilizing unit’s situational training
exercise, 1st, 340th linguists are in the field putting Soldiers to the
test by forcing them to apply what they have learned.
Doufkir said, “It’s important to see how the Soldiers react to
real-world situations and help them understand the importance of proper
words and gestures.”
Providing additional real-world situational training is the job of the
FLS and CRP trainers. Their expertise in simulating Iraqi and Afghan
nationals adds an amount of realism to the training that is unique to
their background and experience.
The CRPs are people hired locally from the Tomah and Sparta areas who
role-play Iraq and Afghanistan national citizens.
They act out a variety of training scenarios that include being friendly
villagers, hostile villagers, farmers, prisoners of war for detainee
operations, and local police.
Many of the CRPs have been doing this job for years and have become well
versed in Iraqi and Afghan customs and traditions. Additionally, they
have acquired an understanding and ability to speak various dialects of
the Arabic language, which improves their ability to act the part of
Iraqi or Afghan citizens and gives Soldiers a more-realistic training
Many of the FLSs originally are from Iraq or Afghanistan and many have
prior experience at other mobilization sites throughout the United
States. Their background provides Soldiers with great insight into
customs and cultures. FLS trainers work alongside the CRPs, but, because
they are fluent in multiple languages, they are the ones who speak to
the training Soldiers. This allows FLS trainers to analyze the Soldiers’
reactions to them, their actions and their statements, and provide
feedback to the observer-controller-trainers on site. The training event
where the FLSs provide the biggest asset is during the units culminating
training exercise (CTE).
During the CTE, the FLSs ride in convoys and act as interpreters, which
in Iraq or Afghanistan would help Soldiers understand what to expect
when they are out on a mission. They also act as interpreters in local
villages or that of a village elder or councilman. To aid in training,
the FLSs know the training mission and observe actions of the Soldiers
in the vehicle.
Soldiers receive enhanced training by having an FLS as a village elder
because, unlike many real-world situations, they understand what the
English-speaking Soldiers are saying. The FLS also can have an impact on
getting Soldiers to understand how to use the services of an interpreter
and how to converse with the local populace.
(Master Sgt. Timothy Grandy contributed to this article.)