Thursday, December 01, 2005

It's Not Just That Simple

My amazement grows regularly, as people against having our troops in Iraq (read: Those who are against the war, but lack the courage to just say it) now have this "new" idea on our witrhdrawal. Interestingly enough, they say since there are about 90,000 Iraqi troops and police trained, then we should be able to pull out that many of our troops. It's not just that simple. Case in point: The culture of the Middle East is not that of ours. I know, that's a blinding flash of the obvious (BFO) for most everyone, and it's not just because "they" are mostly Islamic in their beliefs. In the early 80's the Saudi Navy was purchasing patrol gunboats from us. There were the PCGs and PGGs. The equipment fit for the combat system was like that of the O.H. PERRY (FFG-7) Class guided missile frigates wew were currently building and commissioning. I was in charge of the FFG-7 Combat Systems mockup trainer at the time. One of my instructors had transferred from us to the Saudi Navy Fleet Introduction Team (FIT) and had asked for trainer time for the Saudi crews, due to the similarities in systems. It was granted for the evenings. Here's what I observed: The training for a US Navy pre-commissioning crew was four weeks. The first two weeks were operator specific training for each of the watchstations. The last two weeks were simulated battle problems for the entire crew. While little teamwork was required in the first two weeks, some was, and the crews, many of whom had never met each other before reporting to our classroom, fell into the swing of the team coordination naturally. I lamented, more than once, that some of the sailors and officers seems to lack the passion for really immersing themselves in the details of the overall system, but they always inherently knew how to work within a team environment. The Saudi Navy crews were an altogether different breed. As individual operators of specific consoles or equipment, they were, for the most part, head and shoulders above about 85% of the US crew members. As team players, they just didn't get it....My instructors and I were baffled that after 2 solid weeks of drills in the mockups, these individually skilled operators could barely hold a candle to the performance of a day one crew of US sailors and officers. I believe, particularly after getting to know one of the officers quite well, the difference lies in how we are socialized in our society, versus theirs. Team sports, or cooperative activities are a foundation of our society. The men have generally all palyed some, if not a lot of team sports, in many cases, outside of any strucutre like leagues or schools. We learn how soon, then that skill translates to our later performance in the professional world. The culture of the Middle East generally teaches children to be suspicious of others and to watch your own back. Besides football (soccer), it just doesn't seem there is any societal investment in team activities. With that background, only learned by extensive travel and being in a profession that allowed me to interact with people all over the world, I can say it's just not a case of sign some people up, give them guns, body armor, armored vehicles and call them "ready." Our troops are having to "socialize" the Iraqi Army and Police in the skills of teamwork, a attribute that is lacking. It can be learned over time, and as the Army and Marines yield control of areas to the Iraqi security forces, the training takes over and we can then see them rising to the occasion, not out of a blind, ignorant of the methods, patriotism, but as a force that has been given tools to allow them to bring peace to their country. It is dangerous, in this case, to project our way of dealing with adversity, and other things as well, such as equality issues, onto the people of the Middle East. For those who can't conceive that there are these not subtle at all differences in the world, I'd suggest they (SU)3, and then come back and make their statements about how to handle the GWOT. Until then, if they get treated like background noise, it serves them right. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way.... This post is linked to A Brief History of a Long War (1990-2005) at Mudville Gazette. It's a detailed read on how we have gotten where we are.

No comments: