Since 2013, the U.S. forces' role in Afghanistan has transitioned from direct combat to primarily advising and assisting the Afghanistan National Security Forces. Therefore, training consistent with JRTC's slogan “Realistic, Rigorous and Relevant” is expedient.
FORT POLK — The Joint Readiness Training Center is renowned for its capacity to train rotational training units for combat, humanitarian assistance and other contingency missions.
“Bottom-line is that we’re focused on the infantry brigade combat team and all the enablers we’re able to bring to bear,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Shrader, Brigade Mission Command Senior Observer/Coach/Trainer. “Whether it’s special operations, Ranger forces, Department of State, USAID and all the interagency players; folks that they don’t have access to when they’re training at home-station — JRTC provides that environment,” he said.
Since 2013, the U.S. forces’ role in Afghanistan has transitioned from direct combat to primarily advising and assisting the Afghanistan National Security Forces. Therefore, training consistent with JRTC’s slogan “Realistic, Rigorous and Relevant” is expedient.
“The scenario needs to be designed in such a way that we sharpen the skills sets that will actually be applicable while we’re deployed,” said Maj. Brad Miller, operations officer of the 41st Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
The 2nd BCT, who has its fair share of experience in the advise and assist role, deployed to JRTC to conduct a Mission Readiness Exercise in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
“It starts off with the Security Force Assistance Academy that’s run by the (3rd Battalion, 353rd Regiment),” said Shrader. “It’s focused on addressing some of the cultural issues that they’ll be exposed to and it puts them in situations where they’ll have to work through dilemmas, whether it’s a moral dilemma or a cultural faux pas.”
There are several considerations that Soldier/advisors must think about, including dealing with language barriers. While they are not required to become fluent in the language of the region in which they may deploy, they are expected to learn how to use an interpreter to effectively communicate.
“Getting exposed to that here in a training environment where at the end of the session they turn around and say, ‘Hey this is what we did good. This is what we did bad,’ is good because nobody’s feelings are hurt,” said Shrader. “Here, we can always turn it around, start it over and reset, but downrange, you only get one try at it.” Col. David S. Doyle, 2nd BCT commander, is grateful for the training opportunity, especially the quality and quantity of the engagements that his leaders are getting at JRTC because of the positive implications it has on possible future missions.
“You build confidence through repetitions, and the repetitions build trust.
“And then that trust means you can go in without any inhibitions and say what you need to say,” Doyle said.
Because communicating through an interpreter can be rigorous, practice is necessary even for those Soldiers, like Miller, who have prior experience using them.
“It’s a skill that has to be developed and has to be practiced,” said Miller.
“It is not just as simple as sitting down and speaking and the interpreter, through magic, translates the message.”
Even when conversing with someone who speaks the same language, a miscommunication can easily occur for several reasons, so adding a third party only increases the complexity of the conversation.
“It makes it much more challenging because you’re not speaking directly to the individual with whom you’re engaging in conversation,” said Miller.
“It takes a little bit of finesse.”