Information Papers

Changing the Culture - Every Soldier is a Sensor and Human Terrain Teams

What is it?
The complex interaction between populations, technology, governments, military forces, and external actors is underpinned by culture and the physical environment. “Every Soldier is a sensor” (ES2), cultural awareness and language training, human terrain teams (HTTs), and “red teaming” are wartime readiness imperatives and key to adapting traditional military processes and thinking to current and future complex operating environments.

What has the Army done?
The routine observation and reporting of patterns and changes in the operating environment through interaction with the local populace are ES2 tasks now incorporated in Army doctrine, all initial entry training, and collective training at Army combat training centers. The Army Intelligence Center and School has established a culture center and deploys mobile training teams to promote cultural awareness and training tailored to unit and mission needs. The Defense Language Institute and Foreign Language Center training programs and “outreach” initiatives include commercial language training technologies to sustain and enhance perishable language skills, mobile language training teams, language “survival kits” for deploying forces, and Web-based Global Language On-line Support System instruction in 12 target languages. The Combined Arms Center University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., runs a high-quality red-team training course to develop critical thinking and nontraditional analysis skills aimed at identifying dependencies, unintended effects, vulnerabilities, and mitigating strategies. The Army is fielding HTTs that include cultural anthropologists to deployed brigade combat teams (BCTs) in order to provide a broader and more diverse understanding of the local populations and tribal networks. The HTT team leader is an embedded cultural advisor who helps Commanders and staffs to understand the “human terrain” dimension of complex operating environments. HTTs provide three primary capabilities: (1) expert cultural advice based on a constantly updated, automated, user-friendly human terrain database on the BCT area of operations; (2) the ability to direct focused study on cultural issues of specific concern to the Commander; and (3) the ability to leverage academic and other experts through the Reach-back Research Center located at Fort Leavenworth.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army will continue to integrate cultural and language lessons learned and feedback from operational theaters into our institutions, home stations, and combat training centers. Red team capabilities are being incorporated into corps and division force structures; the Army is also considering embedding red team capabilities at the BCT level. Army HTT efforts are informing Under Secretary of Defense, Intelligence, and Defense Intelligence Agency planning to extend the HTT concept for Combatant Commander use.

Why is this important to the Army?
Success in stability and counterinsurgency operations requires a detailed understanding of complex cultural and historical “human dimension” dynamics. Ongoing Army programs capitalize on Soldier observations and reasoning skills and develop them for optimal battlefield effect.