Lt. Gen. Caslen says cultural acumen is an important warfighting skill
April 6, 2010
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (Apr. 2, 2010) - Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., visited the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center April 1 and 2 to get an overview of DLIFLC's foreign language and culture teaching mission.
Caslen had an opportunity to talk with DLIFLC staff about the resident courses for professional linguists, distance learning used to support language learners worldwide, and discussed DLIFLC's role in the Campaign Continuity Language Training Detachment establishment, as well as the Pentagon's new Afghanistan/Pakistan Hands program. As part of his two-day tour, Caslen also visited classrooms and spoke to students.
"You have to be encouraged when you see how enthusiastic these young men and women are in learning these very complex languages," said Caslen, after visiting Institute's immersion facility and observing ongoing classes of students in Chinese, Korean and Farsi.
When asked what role foreign language and cultural awareness play on the battlefield, Caslen, having just returned from a deployment in Iraq as commander of the 25th Infantry Division, said, "Our best commanders were those who were culturally astute - they were the ones who could identify the network and the fabric of the society, all the different elements of it, whether it is economic, political [or] tribal."
Caslen noted that although U.S. forces have withdrawn from a majority of Iraqi cities and towns, they are still mandated to fulfill the same requirements of maintaining peace and setting the conditions for Iraqis to build their government. He said that this can be achieved only through building relationships.
"The best units are those units who did not have to fire a shot, because they could accomplish everything they needed to accomplish through the relationships and partnerships that were established," he said. "It is not all about control and power, but about influence as a result of a relationships and partnerships. That is why you have to have these type of skills, and these are the same skills that are being taught right here at DLI."