Cultural awareness: a key element to mission success

by Senior Master Sgt. Natalie Bell
86th Airlift Wing Equal Opportunity office

You have arrived to your first Africa Command assignment in the country of Nigeria.  “Sannu,” or hello, says a local resident in Hausa, one of five dominant native languages. 

Surrounded by more than 356,000 square miles of terrain, 250 ethnic groups, various religions and a fledgling government, your first reaction may be to feel overwhelmed. Background knowledge on your new surroundings could prove crucial to personnel safety and mission success.
To maximize readiness, a good understanding of a foreign country’s geographic and cultural landscape, economic and military capabilities, as well as political and foreign relations climate can be vital information.

For instance, geographic and cultural knowledge is important to ensure unit members’ preparation for unfamiliar terrain and to strengthen military personnel’s ability to capitalize on cultural characteristics to achieve local resident support.  
Awareness of economic and military capabilities may provide information on weapon system threats and volatility of the region based on economic stress. Also, political and foreign relations knowledge can provide insight into the level of resistance or cooperation from local residents and governments. 

However, among all your pre-deployment requirements, how can you find the time to gain cultural awareness of your new location of assignment? Support is just a visit away. 

The 86th Airlift Wing Equal Opportunity office offers assistance in providing cultural awareness to Team Ramstein.  

In particular, EO maintains an extensive library of quick references suited for anyone deploying or to anyone wanting to learn about another country.
Whether you are headed to Afghanistan or Uzbekistan or the scores of countries in between like Nigeria, the EO office can provide you with a quick-read country reference portable enough to fit into a cargo pocket. 

The EO office has several copies of “Culture Smart Cards” and “Department of Defense-produced Country Handbooks” on more than 110 countries around the world, which are free to U.S. military and DOD civilians. 

To ensure availability for service members deploying, those interested in obtaining a reference for research or personal knowledge are able to check the books out and return them to EO.

Arm yourself with country and culture specific information by visiting the EO office to obtain a reference on the location you are headed to. Arrive at your deployed location culturally aware and mission ready.

The 86th AW Equal Opportunity office is located in Bldg. 2787 on Kapaun Air Station. The office may also be reached by calling 489-8534 or 0631-536-8534. Operating hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.