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Know your deployed environment


AFMC News Service Release 0119
Released Jan. 23, 2003

By Col. Gregory Brown
Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team Commander

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFMCNS) — As commander of the Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team here, I get to work with all branches of service. We work combat identification issues and our motto is “when friendly fire isn’t.”

With deployments increasing, I’d like to give you my perspective on serving with the other military branches. The military is increasingly joint and you’ll want to have the best experience possible in this environment.

My advice to you is to take the time to learn why the Army, Navy and Marines do things the way they do. Once you better understand this, you’ll better appreciate the fact that you’re all working toward a common goal.

Keep in mind, members from other services are not ignorant, obstinate or difficult, or at least seem that way, just to make your life miserable…they are operating under their warfighting doctrine and acting the way they have been trained to act. You have to understand the physical environment and weapons system environment they’re working within.

For example, in the context of a battle space, airmen work in relatively clean environments at a well-supplied fixed base normally situated around an airfield. “Air” is relatively unencumbered — there is no foliage or mud.

In contrast, ground soldiers live in tents, bunkers and tanks. They’re trained to survive and fight in the worst conditions. They must operate in an environment full of obstacles which can interfere with tactical communications, mobility and ingress or egress opportunities.

I could walk into a Marine hospital and lay down a bunch of weapons to go to battle, as I know each Marine working there is an infantryman and is taught how to use those weapons in a very deadly environment. This is true whether they are a medical technician or a physical therapist.

Most airmen however, get training for individual protection, but are not necessarily trained as a soldier. I see this as a major cultural difference.

An example of this can be seen in the emphasis other services, such as the Army and Marine Corps, put on physical training, and it’s important to understand why this is so. In the Air Force, our highly skilled technicians see themselves as just that, highly skilled avionics or engine specialists. In the Army or Marine Corps, that same highly specialized technician sees himself as a soldier or Marine first and therefore sees physical training as a necessary part of his or her profession.

So, if you’re in a situation where you have a Marine or Army officer in command, they’re more likely to demand group PT as they’ve been trained as soldiers first as well.

I can say that I have been guilty of this same cultural difference as I’m less likely to consider whether that same technical expert can do 20 push-ups or run a mile with an 80-pound rucksack if he can fix a targeting pod like no one else. So if you’re going to be assigned to a joint unit with an Army commander, don’t be surprised if you have a mandatory formation for physical training several times a week…it’s cultural.

I’ve also noticed soldiers, Marines and sailors have this same cultural mindset to watch out for the lives of their subordinates.

I’ve been on temporary duty in Washington D.C., where there is no war going on. When I check into lodging, I simply get my bags and tell the others to go feed themselves and I’ll see them at 7:30 the next day. I’m used to going TDY with other aviators and know they are capable of taking care of themselves.

Men and women from the Army and Marines on the other hand still operate as if in field conditions since it’s been drilled into them their whole lives. They make sure everybody has their bags, everybody has dinner plans and everybody has a place to sleep before they can relax…it’s simply the way they have been trained.

So the key to having a successful deployment and experience working with other branches of service, is to learn their cultural differences so you can appreciate why they think and act differently. In turn, as an airman, you need to know as much about yourself and your training and why you operate the way you do so you can educate your counterparts on why you think and act within the Air Force culture.

And last of all, have a good attitude, and you’ll have a good deployment.