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.”
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
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
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
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.