Army creates “culture cards” for soldiers overseas

Katherine Lymn

The U.S. Army is employing “culture cards” to help soldiers better assimilate with and understand Islamic culture where they serve. By understanding the local culture, soldiers can reduce friction with nationals, avoid unintended consequences from actions and even detect and counter the “threat’s” propaganda, according to the cards.

The cards speak to the issues soldiers face on a day-to-day basis. Cultural competency, the packet says, can help soldiers understand the locals and their motivations. The cards prompt troops to ask what “green” (pro-U.S.), “amber” (neutral) and “red” (anti-U.S.) local nationals believe and why.

The cards include a rundown of life in Afghanistan, with lessons on tribal leadership and cultural marriage practices. Negotiation tactics also get some play, with advice for negotiating with “The Other Side” (“TOS”), including how to greet one another.

Designed to fit in pockets, the cards can be read between training sessions or other tasks. The cards were put together at the Army Maneuver Center for Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga.

“Characteristics of a culturally literate Soldier” include:

  • Understands that culture affects their behavior and beliefs and the behavior and beliefs of others.
  • Appreciates and generally accepts diverse beliefs, appearances and lifestyles.
  • Knows about the major historical events of the local culture and understands how such events impact beliefs, behaviors and relationships.
  • Understands the dangers of stereotyping and ethnocentricism.
  • Understands that cultural differences exist and need to be accounted for in planning and executing operations.
  • Is bilingual or working toward language proficiency.
  • Understands that soldiers are often stereotyped and that they will encounter prejudices and biases that need to be overcome by correct behavior and rapport-building.
  • Understands that culture gives meaning to acts that an outsider would find pointless. Therefore, to operate effectively in the ?War on Terror, one must understand Islamic and Jihadist cultures.