Cultural exchanges increase coalition strengths, capabilities

205th Infantry Brigade, First Army, Division East
Story by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey

Date: 04.19.2013
Posted: 04.23.2013 20:49
News ID: 105713
Cultural exchanges increase coalition strengths, capabilities

CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind. - In Afghanistan, Provincial Reconstruction Team members not only have to navigate the differences in acronyms between services like the U.S. Army, Navy, or Air Force, depending on what province they work, they may also have to navigate a cultural minefield beset with Australian, Polish, or Italian slang and customs.

To meet those challenges First Army Division East trainer-mentors added Foreign Liaison Officer engagements to the training they provide mobilizing sailors, Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers deploying as PRT members. This FLO engagement helps build a deeper understanding of coalition partners with whom they’ll work and provides a chance to exchange operational perspectives and experiences.

At a recent FLO engagement, Lt. Col. Matt Prior, Australian Army liaison officer at the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Lt. Col. Tomasz Kister, the assistant defense and military attaché’ at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., stressed their supportive relationships with the U.S.

“Australia has a track record second to none as a reliable ally, security partner and friend of the United States,” Prior told members of PRT Uruzgan. “The Australia-U.S. security partnership reflects our shared values and closely aligned strategic interests, and our mutual commitment to global security.”

PRTs are multi-component, joint and interagency teams that support reconstruction efforts and empower local governments in Afghanistan. The PRTs rely on the military members in their area for security and support.

“We do have quit a long history of working together,” Prior stressed.

The cultural discussions not only help the units preparing to deploy, they assist the First Army Division East soldiers who plan and train those units.

“Lieutenant Colonel Prior’s presentation was a valuable addition to the 4th Cavalry Brigade Single Integrated Training Plan and has further enhanced the information and training the Army can provide to soldiers and sailors prior to sending them into harm’s way,” said Col. John S. Prairie, commander of the 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East.

First Army Division East mobilizes, trains, validates and deploys Reserve Component units to support overseas military operations. Along with Reserve component units, the division’s trainer/mentors prepare and deploy sailors and airmen, along with selected members of the interagency and intergovernmental departments, to provide trained and ready forces across a full-spectrum of operations to regional combatant commanders worldwide.

“Australia is the only nation to have sent combat forces to fight alongside the United States in every major conflict during the 20th Century,” said Prior, a Royal Australian Engineer. “Following the terrorist attacks on the United States, the Australian government invoked the provisions of the ANZUS Treaty, the cornerstone of our alliance, for the first time since it was signed in 1951. Australia continues to contribute land and air assets to the NATO/ISAF led coalition military operation in Afghanistan, focusing particularly on stabilization, reconstruction, and mentoring tasks.”

Prior’s in-depth look into the Australian military history, culture, and its soldiers will only enhance PRT Uruzgan's capabilities during their upcoming combat deployment to Afghanistan, Prairie explained.

The PRTs will not only coexist with their Coalition counterparts, but they will rely on them as their mobile security force, said Prairie. Building a cultural baseline before the PRTs arrive in country will limit time wasted on miscommunication – saving time and lives.

Navy Lt. j.g Rory O’Boyle, a civil engineer with PRT Uruzgan, said he was surprised how Australian political and military concerns mirrored those in the U.S.

“It was interesting to hear about things from their perspective – politics, national security concerns, immigration,” said O’Boyle, from Gilbertsville, Pa. “It also was interesting to see the direction their military is taking with the drawdown in Afghanistan – it’s exciting to see them exploring amphibious capabilities and how they are restructuring their active and reserve components to meet operational needs.”

Although, the Australian military follows the British rank system, they do not fall under the “two beer” rule, Prior joked.

“We aren’t hiding a huge stockpile of beer in the [command post] from you,” Prior said with a laugh. “We are dry on operations partly out of respect for your being dry on operations,” he stressed.

Kister, the assistant defense and military attaché’ at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C., also emphasized Poland’s relationship with the United States military.

“We are very thankful to the U.S. for taking us to Iraq and Afghanistan; it’s the best thing that could have happened to our military. It’s not the same military of 10 years ago, that I joined. It’s better trained; it has more experience,” said Kister, a signal officer, told members of PRT Ghazni during a cultural brief.

Like many NATO countries, Poland transitioned to an all-volunteer force two years ago, added Kister, who attended his Basic Officers Leadership and Captain’s Career Course at the Signal School at Fort Gordon, Ga. Like the U.S., young people must register for military service in the event of a draft. Additionally, Poland has a Reserve force.

“We are funny sometimes, serious sometimes. The Polish military does not always stick to the book; it’s more flexible - ‘Semper Gumby’,” Kister joked.

“We are committed to what we are doing. We are motivated by developing our skills,” he added seriously,

The FLO engagements support First Army Division East’s mandate to ensure mobilization training is relevant, realistic and reflects the most current conditions soldiers will face in theater. First Army Division East directly supports the Chief of Staff of the Army’s priority of providing trained, equipped and ready forces to win the current fight, while maintaining responsiveness for unforeseen contingencies.