By 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat TeamSeptember 19, 2012
VICENZA, Italy -- Noncommissioned officers from the rear detachment of U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team shared deployment experiences and lessons learned with Italian military law enforcement officers during cultural awareness and information operations training here, Sept. 11.
The focus of the training was on exchanging best practices with the brigade's partners in the carabinieri -- the Italian MP force -- said rear detachment 1st Sgt. Timothy Jensen. Jensen and Staff Sgt. Bruce Cobbeldick of the brigade Public Affairs Office led and facilitated the session.
The Americans and Italians who participated in the training are all veterans of combat in Afghanistan, which created a bond among them and provided plenty of opportunities to exchange ideas, observations and best practices, Cobbeldick said.
The training examined how cultural awareness and information sharing can help to reduce tensions in the local population in a counterinsurgency environment and ensure positive mission success. Cobbeldick said the ultimate goal is to help coalition forces and local citizens to understand each others' norms, religions, languages and sensitivities.
Participants had a chance to share ideas and look at ways to approach things from some new angles, to encourage coalition forces in a counterinsurgency environment to focus on approaching missions in ways that help create positive impressions and shape positive outcomes. That awareness, coupled with good strategic communication programs, can influence local citizens in ways that lessen tensions, thwart confusion and assumptions, and -- most importantly -- reduce violence, Cobbeldick said.
Warrant Officer 3 Marco Tupini from the carabinieri's Training Evaluation and Lessons Learned Office said the training was meaningful and empowering. While it refreshed, reinforced and validated concepts the Italians already learn and apply in crisis management and reconstruction operations, he said, he particularly liked the session's emphasis on how important establishing and maintaining operational concepts and lines of effort are to an organization's success.
"I've learned that without considering the cultural awareness issues, there are strong possibilities of failure of our mission," said local carabinieri commander Lt. Col. Vito Camassa.
In Afghanistan, Cobbeldick said, strategic communication is important enough to be considered one of the 173rd's four main lines of effort. Class participants discussed how that boils down to sending the right messages to the enemy and local citizens, as well as helping our own forces understand the principles and goals of both sides of a conflict.
"A unit that succeeds in conveying its vision and mission purpose, right down to the squad and individual Soldiers, has a big advantage in the information war," he said. At the same time, allied forces must have a grasp of the ideology of their enemies if they want to "get to the root of an insurgency."
Camassa said he felt the training helped to better prepare the carabinieri for operations in a counterinsurgency environment by teaching concepts and strategies to reduce tension and violence, but added that the most important thing about it was enhancing the liaison between partners who operate together in the Afghan theater.