FA 30 students build cultural awareness
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - FA 30 Qualification Course student Maj. Dave Dement conducts a meeting with course seminar leader Maj. John Burns, portraying a religious leader, during a key leader engagement April 20 at the Battle Command Training Center.

FORT LEAVEENWORTH, Kan. (April 23, 2009) - An expert in cultural awareness spoke to students at the Functional Area 30 Qualification Course during their two-week multi-echelon exercise April 14-23 at the Battle Command Training Center.

"The whole exercise is very information intensive, it's a (counterinsurgency) operation," said Chris Poirier, a senior information operations analyst at BCTC and co-designer of the exercise.

He described it as a staff exercise focusing on planning and execution of information operations based on an Iraq scenario. The exercise is one of the final steps before the 30 active and Reserve Component students graduate from the 12-week course and become FA 30 information operations officers.

Poirier said the exercise is primarily geared toward Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and that this is the first time they have had external support for the cultural awareness piece.

Tim Baigent is the team leader for the Cultural Awareness Mobile Training Team based at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. He has lived and traveled extensively in the Middle East, studied in Beirut, Lebanon, and completed a master's degree studying Hezbollah. The State Department lists Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization.

The FA 30 students were divided into two brigade headquarters elements for the exercise, and Baigent spoke to each group about cultural awareness issues specific to the Middle East and supervised interactive role-playing exercises.

"The main thing that I want students to take away from our program are the tools that they can use to build the relationships that are going to make them successful - successful meaning mission accomplished and coming home safe," Baigent said.

He emphasized the importance of building relationships, and said the best way to do that was through patience, understanding and being able to respectfully interact with a power broker.
"If you have the relationships and know the people, you can do almost anything you want in the Middle East," Baigent said.

He said one of the most common mistakes Soldiers make in relationship building is rushing to get things done.

"The American culture is very 'get it done,' and the military culture exponentially emphasizes that," Baigent said.

He said the Cultural Awareness MTT was available to travel almost anywhere and could tailor a block of instruction to a unit's mission or area of operation. Baigent said his first trip to the FA 30 course was successful and he hopes it becomes a regular fixture in the course.

"I think this can be mutually beneficial relationship. I think we're able to add some value and some expertise," he said.

Maj. Noreen Keesey is a student in the FA 30 Qualification Course and member of the North Dakota Army National Guard preparing to deploy to Kosovo. She said the information operations fundamentals taught in the course, as well as Baigent's advice on relationship building and cultural awareness instruction, could be translated from OIF/OEF to other areas of operation.

"I think it's fascinating to be able to sit and listen to someone who has so much real-life experience," Keesey said of Baigent's presentation.

Lt. Col. Carol Hitchcock, commander of 3-124 Information Operations Training Battalion, Vermont Army National Guard, agreed that Baigent added value to the FA 30 course.

"His presentation was excellent. He put things into perspective, making it real at our level so that any Soldier on the ground can get it," she said.

The Reserve Component officers graduate from the course April 24, while the active-duy officers graduate May 15.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16