News: Marine police advisors learn culture to work with Afghan police
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
KAJAKI DISTRICT, Afghanistan – Marine advisors with Police Advisory Team 1, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, frequently visit the Afghan Uniformed Police district headquarters here. Before entering the compound, the Marines leave their body armor and helmets in the vehicles outside as a gesture of trust that the Afghan police secured the area, and the Marines would not need their body armor around their counterparts.
The Afghans and Marines greet each other with firm handshakes, smiles, and hugs. Shortly after the Marines arrive, the Afghans bring chai tea and sugar, insisting that each Marine sits down for a drink. Though they speak different languages, both the Marines and Afghans use basic phrases in English and also Pashto, the primary language in Helmand province.
Since first meeting with the AUP, the Marine advisors have practiced cultural awareness to build rapport with their counterparts and recognize the different ways the Afghan police do their job in Kajaki, said Chief Warrant Officer Jason G. Smith, the PAT 1 officer-in-charge with 1st Bn., 8th Marines. That includes being comfortable with touch.
“They give hugs… and it’s a huge sign of trust and friendship when they do something like that,” explained Smith, a 33-year-old native of Missoula, Mont.
Trust is essential to being a police advisor. The Marines exchange their tactics and techniques with the Afghans, as well as share leadership skills with the officers and noncommissioned officers.
The advisory team takes a more passive approach to working with Afghans. This passive approach stems from lessons learned by understanding the Afghan culture.
“As an advisor, I do a lot of listening,” Smith added. “Being culturally aware is paramount. If you go out of your way to learn their culture, they’ll love you for it. You have to treat them with respect… they appreciate small gestures, like greetings in Pashto.”
Part of cultural awareness is knowing that the Afghans in Kajaki have different but equally effective ways of policing the area, said Smith. The AUP here are not as assertive as law enforcement agencies in the United States. Afghans take much more care not to offend others, and because of that, the locals respect them for it.
The Marine advisors set a good example for the AUP NCOs by showing patience and respect for others, regardless of nationality, said AUP 2nd Sgt. Abdul Hari, the assistant training officer with the AUP in Kajaki. He said the Marines treat the AUP like their own men and are tireless when training them.
“If you ask me about my advisors, the Marines show a good attitude toward us and others,” said Hari. “I really like my advisors. I don’t care if they came from the U.S. I see them as my brothers. They left their country to help me, and I respect them for it.”