Army partners with Air Force, Soldiers train at Air Advisor Academy
May 17, 2013
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Trainer/mentors assigned to the 174th Infantry Brigade, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. train deploying Airmen on Army Warrior Tasks routinely. Thanks to a new partnership with the Air Force, the roles are reversed. This past week, nearly 70 mobilized Reserve Component Soldiers preparing for advise and assist missions in Afghanistan trained at the United States Air Force Air Advisor Academy.
In line with the Army's Regionally Aligned Force Concept, leaders and Soldiers mobilized in support of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan received the core knowledge and skills portion of regional awareness training at the Air Advisor Academy. The five-day condensed academic portion of the program -- part of a three pillar construct including core knowledge and skills; language, region and cultural studies; and field craft -- supports the training and mobilization of general purpose advisors.
"Some misconstrue the 'Air' in Air Advisor Academy to mean little on-the-ground experience, but that can't be farther from the truth," assured Maj. Alex Richburg, chief of the Language, Region and Cultural Studies Division of the Air Advisor Academy. "We are staffed with dozens of geographical, subject-matter experts whose real-world expertise transcends 31 country curriculums."
"If you give us 30-days advance, we can provide a regionally-aligned education and training construct tailored specifically to the unique advisor mission," asserted Richberg. "The core skills classroom lecture and scenario-based practical exercises provide the fundamentals."
The mix of Soldiers from the 108th Training Command Detachment, 95th and 75th Division, and 479th Engineer Battalion trained on topics including religious familiarization, security cooperation, and interagency partnerships. Over the course of five days, the Soldiers focused primarily on operating in a cross-culture environment.
"Understanding the cultural intricacies is first and foremost. Building relationships is by far the most important key to mission success," said Col. Tony Morales, a former advisor in Iraq, and member of the 95th Division. "This training reminds leaders and soldiers alike how we should be thinking when we are over there."
While training Reserve Component Soldiers for deployment remains First Army's mission, Col. Timothy Newsome, First Army Division East's Chief of Operations, wholeheartedly endorses reaching beyond internal assets to ensure relevant training.
"Capitalizing on subject matter experts located near our training formations just makes good sense," Newsome stressed. "This past January, the Chief of Staff of the Army said one of his top priorities was to develop the force of the future, Army 2020, as part of Joint Force 2020, a versatile mix of capabilities, formations and equipment. You can't do that without building relationships and training together as we are now doing at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst. Sharing information and establishing lines of support here, prior to deployments, will strengthen that future joint force."
Morales volunteered to deploy in support of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. He said NTM-A is a great advisor opportunity, and he anticipates an assignment at the Ministry of Defense.
"My experience in Iraq taught me to be patient; not to expect concrete objectives and regimented schedules," he explained. "I understand that it is important to learn from our host nation partners, take that knowledge and apply it, rather than enforce our standards."
Spec. Walter Whitley, a chaplain's assistant from Oklahoma, reiterated Morales' point of view.
"This is more of a refresher; I can relate my experience in Iraq -- building relationships, showing respect for their culture and customs was so important," Whitley shared.
Central to cross-culture advising is being able to communicate and relate with host-nation counterparts. Interpreter support and advisor fundamentals were the focus of two morning sessions.
"The best training is first-hand, especially from the (former) interpreter," said Staff Sgt. James Snipes, Ohio. "Revisiting our culture -- things we take for granted may offend their customs -- not being overly-willing to share our personal life is a lesson to remember."
The NTM-A Soldiers complete more than 30 hours of language training. In subsequent training, Soldiers combine all language and advisor skills to participate in practical exercise scenarios overseen by 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East trainer/mentors. During the collective training operations lanes, Soldiers employ all newly-learned skills and past experiences to negotiate field problems related to the mission challenges they may face in theater.
"Our goal overall is for them to be better prepared to engage the advisor mission and improve the likelihood of success," said Richberg. "If they leave the Joint Base with a heightened sense of awareness of cultural differences and better prepared to build relationships, then the objective was met."