Perspective: Marines, Army intensify cultural training in Iraq war
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - A former Marine captain tells departing troops that it's OK to talk to an Iraqi girl, but not a woman. Never admonish an Iraqi man in front of his family. And don't be surprised if someone introduces himself with a 40-second handshake.
Those edicts, delivered one January morning in a classroom at this Marine base north of San Diego, are part of a new drive to increase troop exposure to Iraqi culture before they deploy. The Army is taking similar steps in an effort to avoid cultural missteps that plagued the military earlier and made it more difficult to win public support from Iraqis.
"Cultural understanding is a weapon," Edward Slavis, the former Marine captain, told about 150 Iraq-bound troops from the 1st Radio Battalion and 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. "You need to prepare for the war of ideas and beliefs through cultural learning and understanding."
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