Navy Brings Culture To Training

December 1st, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Navy Brings Culture To Training

Newport News Daily Press
November 28, 2006
Pg. C2

Iraqi language skills are now taught to a squadron at Norfolk's amphibious base.
By Melissa Nelson, Associated Press
PENSACOLA, FLA. -- Boats and weapons are Lt. Joseph Michaels' priorities in getting his 53-man squadron ready to patrol Iraq's rivers. But a close second is something the Navy sailor hadn't given much thought to before now -- Iraqi language and culture.
Michaels and the men of Riverine Group 1 will head to Iraq in January from their training base in Little Creek Amphibious Base in Norfolk. While preparing to deploy, they are among the first sailors learning about the day-to-day lives of Iraqis.
Their Jordanian-American instructor, who spent years in Iraq, taught squadron leaders by speaking to them only in Arabic. He also had them greet one another every morning according to the customs of a traditional Iraqi family.
"There is a lot more holding hands and touching cheeks. It's more touchy-feely over there and it was really uncomfortable the first few days," said Michaels, who will oversee a detachment of four river boats patrolling the country's dangerous inland waterways.
"He taught us about as much language as you could learn in 30 days. I thought my head would explode," he said.
And Michaels said he was surprised to learn that even making extended eye contact with an Iraqi woman could cause the woman to be punished.
"The Iraqi men look down on a woman even if she is just looked at by an American man," he said.
The Navy developed the training as part of its expanding onshore role in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its new Expeditionary Combat Command at Little Creek opened this year. The command oversees about 40,000 sailors who work inland, including the Riverine squadron, Navy construction crews known as Seabees and explosive ordinance technicians. There are about 4,300 sailors currently in Iraq and 1,300 in Afghanistan.
Professor Jonathan Adelman of the University of Denver's Graduate School of International Studies said the Navy is doing something different by focusing on its inland capabilities with the new command.
"The army is overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and this is a chance for the Navy to expand its traditional role," said Adelman, a former defense department consultant and dissertation adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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