449 AEG conducts small training with big impact

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Gabrielle Winn
  • 449th Air Expeditionary Group

Service members deployed to east Africa recently completed a virtual culture and language training course that is designed to help strengthen and leverage partnerships between United States military forces and host foreign nations.

The 449th Air Expeditionary Group at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, hosted an East African Culture training course for all Airmen and joint units currently deployed in the region Nov. 9-23, 2020.

The training, which consisted of six one-hour lessons, was conducted by the Air Force Culture and Language Center and Cadre of African Bridge Advisor representatives. They provided knowledge through language, regional, and cultural instruction as a Foreign Affairs Officers or as host-country nationals.

“[Our] service members in east Africa need to have a better understanding of the host nation military and civilians they interact with on a daily basis, on and off base,” said Chief Master Sgt. Rob Gerald, 449th AEG senior enlisted leader.

When deploying to an austere location, learning the customs and courtesies of the host nation can help shape future relations.

“Being able to appreciate the host nation’s language, regional effects, and culture play a pivotal role in how relationships are built and stand the test of time,” Gerald said.

Airmen who participated in the course found learning even the basics of another language beneficial.

“The training gave us a better explanation and understanding of the African culture,” said Master Sgt. Arjay Eaton, 449th AEG Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team chief. “The language portion of the class gave us tools we can use to start conversations with the locals in an effort to show respect to their culture and language.”
Having courses like this expands on the computer-based trainings required for pre-deployment in a more interactive way. Members can better interact withtheir host nation partners to ask about something that was said or done and find out what it actually meant, or how they should respond.

“The course helped lessen the cultural gap,” said Staff Sgt. Jan Rae Malig Santiago, 449th AEG PERSCO noncommissioned officer in charge. “In the end, it opened up more avenues for me to be able to communicate with the local populous.”

With being culturally aware of their surroundings, this shows our partners we are willing to learn the language and culture, providing a much better working relationship over time.

“The 449th AEG continues to strengthen the 435th Air Expeditionary Wing’s mission by continuing to cooperate with host nation partners to educate Airmen and fellow service members on the best ways to communicate and understand their host nation partners,” Gerald said.