FORT BRAGG, NC – “This is a landmark moment,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, during the first Cultural Support Team Training Course graduation ceremony Dec. 10 in Fort Bragg’s John F. Kennedy Auditorium.
The CST training course educates female officers, warrant officers and enlisted Soldiers in the basic capabilities required to access and interact with female and adolescent populations in foreign areas. These teams will accompany special-operations teams and units, including those which are all-male, and communicate and interact with individuals who may not be able to do so with male Soldiers for cultural reasons, such as female and adolescent civilians.
Special-operations Soldiers, both male and female, are taught to respect foreign populations’ cultures and beliefs; cultural support teams provide another mechanism with which Civil Affairs, Special Forces and Military Information Support Operations units may interact appropriately and respectfully with these populations.
This training focuses on the Soldiers’ individual mental and emotional endurance, as well as civil information management, teamwork and use of interpreters. Students are also educated on specific regions and cultures where they may operate.
“This is a significant step that is long overdue,” Mulholland said. While ad-hoc groups similar to CSTs have been formed in the past for particular situations, this course has set a new standard of excellence that will be examined and copied over and over, he said.
“It is my hope that CSTs becomes an enduring competency within the U.S. Army Special Operations Command,” Mulholland said.
The process of becoming an enduring competency starts at SWCS, which has been defining, designing and conducting the training.
Members of CSTs will accompany Army special-operations units on missions and operate alongside them. Their training prepares them to personally interview and communicate with females and adolescents in culturally sensitive ways.
“The course offers the skills necessary to better understand ourselves and others to maintain control in high-stress situations,” said Sgt. Anitra D. Carpenter-Rivas, a graduate of the CST training.
“Women have been performing this job in the field because it is necessary to the mission,” said Master Sgt. Lita J. Fraley, another CST training graduate. The CST course gives female Soldiers the training they need to bring new capabilities to special-operations teams.
Fraley understands that vital role of female contact, having been deployed in Iraq as an NCO in a civil affairs unit.
“Women have a larger understanding of the needs in their community. When the Army wants to understand the needs of an area, these women [in the communities] become a great source of information,” Fraley said.
Soldiers on CSTs will be able to interview females in foreign areas where it would be culturally inappropriate for them to interact directly with male Solders. With CSTs, special-operations teams gain an improved method of communicating with foreign communities while respecting their culture.
“If you can’t learn to understand how and why people behave, those people become a road block rather than an asset,” said Brenda Herrick, a CST course developer at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. “The CST course is designed to teach cultural awareness and critical-thinking capabilities to gain females’ perspectives in these communities.”
For more information on the CST program call 910-396-0545 (DSN 236)/910-432-6283 (DSN 239) or email email@example.com.