Story and photo by Seth Maggard, AFCLC
Maxwell AFB– Military missions are rooted in the ability to operate with nations around the globe. At the core of mission success lies the ability of each member to adapt to their surroundings and connect with any culture.
The top general for Alabama’s Air Force Reserve Command, Assistant Adjutant General Brig Gen Paul D. Jacobs, prioritized future culture education for his Airmen by visiting the Air Force Culture and Language Center here on June 17th. He is responsible for assisting Alabama’s Adjutant General by developing, implementing, and evaluating strategic planning and plans execution, as well as providing associated policy guidance to subordinate Wings, a Combat Communications Group and an Intelligence Squadron within the Alabama Air National Guard.
“I value culture education as one of the main ways that our service members are being so effective in any given country,” Jacobs said.
He met with Guardsmen who are currently assigned to the center in order to gain perspective on their experiences here. The Airmen enthusiastically discussed operations, shared anecdotes, and voiced the need for Alabama Guardsmen to maintain cultural expertise.
The AFCLC was set up by Air University in 2006 in response to a growing need for Airmen to be trained in cross-cultural competence. It was soon given the responsibility of providing the entire service and beyond with instruction on building international partnerships through acculturation.
The visit started with a roundtable discussion on a multi-faceted approach to preparing service members for cultural relationships. Members of the AFCLC outlined unique programs and products that allow its customers to stay ahead of the curve in building partnerships around the world.
“The future of Airpower depends on our ability to presently acculturate our Airmen,” said Col Howard Ward, the AFCLC’s director “if we can’t relate to other people, we will always be viewed as the away team in host nations.”
The AFCLC staff presented pocket field guides for over 39 countries, online course examples, language tutoring for its Language Enabled Airman Program, and academic research that provides the center with the most current methods of understanding international cultures and languages.
The attendees from nearby Air University were then given a first-hand look at a culture exercise with role players. They were first led to a room decorated as a Middle Eastern business office, complete with chai tea and background street ambience, where AFCLC staff engaged with them in a discussion that aims to show service members how to be sensitive to local customs during talks. Brig Gen Jacobs sat with a cup of chai tea and talked with a role player about family, life, and other pleasantries along with common social mannerisms, such as hand holding.
The local Alabama Air National Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing is currently training and exercising with Romanian pilots, and was a topic of discussion during the visit to the center, which provides all Airmen with cultural education for missions just like this on a daily basis.
“[The AFCLC] is doing great work with such a wide variety of programs” Jacobs remarked, “We will definitely be back for more.”
Update: Brig Gen Jacobs returned to visit the Culture and Language Center in September, inviting two other top brass officials, Brig Gen Jeffrey Cashman, Director, National Guard Bureau Manpower, Personnel and Services (NGB/A1), Joint Base Andrews, Maryland