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Iron Brigade prepares for deployment with cultural awareness training

Jan 11, 2010

By Pfc. Andrew Ingram

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- What is the most important thing American Soldiers need to know about the culture of the Islamic people?

"'Show respect to God'," said Al Azim, quoting the Jordanian Brig. Gen. Awrial Adwan.

Azim, the 4th Infantry Division Cultural and Political Adviser, said that Adwan was speaking about showing respect to the Islamic people's faith and way of life.

An American citizen, born in Egypt and raised in Kuwait, Azim sought to teach this concept to Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., during a class on Iraqi cultural sensitivity and history Oct. 7.

Soldiers from the six battalions of the "Iron" Brigade attended civil affairs training Oct. 6-9 at Alternate Escapes in preparation for an upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During the second day of the training, Azim taught Soldiers to be culturally conscious while working with the Iraqi people.

"Our job will be to encourage the Iraqi people to get involved with their government," said Capt. Erik Ringerberg, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. "They need to learn to trust their new government to take care of them without us."

Cultural awareness and sensitivity will assist Soldiers working with the Iraqi people and their government to accomplish their missions more efficiently, Azim explained.

Azim began with an in-depth study of the history of the region, laying the groundwork for the rest of the training.

He explained that the best way to understand the culture of the Iraqi people is to learn through the lens of history.

Building on information, Soldiers learned more mission specific information, such as the Arab family hierarchy; the functions of community leaders, and how to approach them respectfully; and how to deal with religious differences.

Azim also explained to the Soldiers about the close relationship between Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

"We are all more alike than different," said Azim. "Once you understand that our cultures have a common ground, we can begin to move forward with respect."

Azim said he will join 3rd BCT during their training rotation to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in November, to provide cultural training to Soldiers in a field training environment.

Lt. Col. Alan Bal, the 4th Inf. Div. Civil Affairs officer in charge explained that understanding the Iraqis is vital to the Iron Brigade's mission.

"It is more important than ever before that we build the trust of the people," he said. "As we are withdrawing our forces, we must rely on the Iraqi forces to protect their people."

Azim said his overall goal is to make cultural sensitivity training available to every Soldier in the 4th Inf. Div.

"Every Soldier needs this training," he said. "This training will help every Soldier understand Arab people and to do their jobs better."

Ringerberg said the 3rd BCT Soldiers will use this training and pass it to their commanders and fellow Soldiers to create a fighting force that is combat ready and prepared to work with the government and people of Iraq.

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