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Jordanian course preps soldiers on Arabic culture

By Pvt. Karima L. Mares

AMMAN, Jordan (Army News Service, Nov. 10, 2003) - Operation Continuing Freedom, Jordan's cultural awareness course for American soldiers, kicked off recently to prepare soldiers for Iraq.

The Peace Operations Training Center hosted more than 200 soldiers from Fort Hood's 1st Cavalry Division, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, 89th Military Police Brigade and 3rd Signal Brigade, as well as III Corps Artillery, out of Fort Sill, Okla., 1st Infantry Division soldiers out of Wurzberg, Germany and two soldiers from 231st Military Police Battalion Alabama's Army National Guard from Prattville, Ala. Those attending the course were to take the knowledge back home to prepare their units for deployment.

The week before soldiers arrived in Jordan, American and Jordanian instructors spent many late nights prepping and finalizing their classes to ensure the soldiers would leave POTC with a positive experience and enough valuable information to take back to their troops.

"We utilized the talents of the Jordanian Army to prepare 1st Cav., 3 Corps Artillery and 1st Infantry Division leaders to assume operations in Iraq," said Maj. Curt Beck, cultural awareness instructor and observer-controller. "We did this by giving them a look at Arabic culture and acquainting them with situations they might face, that way they can incorporate some of the lessons they learn here into training at their home stations before they deploy."

During the first week of training, more than 100 soldiers learned about the Arab culture first-hand from their Jordanian instructors, who covered everything from basic language to dealing with Arabian women during checkpoint inspections.

"It's important for us to work together to exchange thoughts and experiences, that way we get a better idea of how each side conducts training," said Maj. Thaer Athammeh, Jordanian Armored Brigade. "It's a good chance for both sides to get a better idea of each other's values, ideas and beliefs."

Beck said that the course curriculum was developed based off feedback from soldiers already deployed and that the classes taught during Operation Continuing Freedom were a direct result of what soldiers felt was necessary to know prior to deploying to Southwest Asia.

"This training was important for many reasons," said Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Amaro, Headquarters Battery, 3 Corps Artillery. "The most important, was that it assists us in what we do and if we go to Iraq, it will help defuse many situations that may arise because of culture."

During the second week, more than 100 soldiers arrived to participate in the situational training portion of Operation Continuing Freedom.

The soldiers had similar classroom sessions with the Jordanian instructors, but went a step further when they were broken down into teams and thrown into basic scenarios they might encounter during a deployment to the region.

"We were lucky we got to attend this training; because we were identified as a subordinate unit to the 89th MP Brigade, their brigade commander invited us to attend the training to better prepare the command to assume control in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Sgt. 1st Class Robert Kendall, 231st MP Bn. "We provide military police operations and security for OIF, so this training is tremendously valuable in allowing us to be introduced to the Arabic culture, specifically, Iraq."

Soldiers participated in a variety of hands-on training scenarios to ready them for the challenges they could face if deployed to support current operations.

From being fired on at checkpoints, to searching buildings for explosives, and dealing with angry residents, the soldiers continuously dealt with high-stress situations in order to fulfill their training.

"I think this course was a good experience because it gave me knowledge of the Arabic culture, which not only enhanced my military training, but it made me appreciate the culture as a human being," Amaro said. "I think it's important to continue this training and give other soldiers the same opportunity to learn."

Capt. James Lake, 231st MP Bn., said this type of training shows the troops their commands really care about their safety and success in any mission that may come their way.

(Editor's note: Karima L. Mares is a member of the 13th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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