"Here at the DCC (Directorate of Cultural Influence and Counterinsurgency) we focus on non-kinetic operations – cultural awareness, the influencing, the negotiating, the core building and COIN (counterinsurgency operations) – all the academic (affairs) and classroom instruction necessary to train combat advisers," Master Sgt. Eric Tucker said.
Tucker, who has been selected to attend the Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, is the DCC’s noncommissioned officer in charge of the 162nd Infantry Brigade’s directorate that trains combat advisers at Fort Polk, La. – resident course – and at off-site locations through the MB-SFA model – the Modular Brigade – Security Force Assistance program. (See related story on Page 11.)
The objective of the DCC course is to create a cadre of trainers capable of training, advising and assisting foreign nations’ security forces in support of their national policy objectives.
Reactivated at Fort Polk in May 2009 and commanded by Col. Mark Bertolini, the 162nd expanded the training mission established at Fort Riley, Kan., with the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Calling the role of the noncommissioned officer "absolutely critical" in the 162nd , Bertolini said NCO cadre members are the "heart of what we do" in training combat advisers for deployment.
"Within the brigade," Tucker said, "NCOs go from one end of the spectrum to the other. We teach students how to shoot their weapons, how to conduct convoy operations – all the combat skills they need to succeed in theater as combat advisers."
Adding, "Our NCOs are 100 percent combat vets. We have interacted with them [Iraqis and Afghans], so our NCO instructors add on to what our officer instructors are teaching. We bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with the Afghan military, with the Iraqi military."
In mid March, there were 552 personnel that had been trained by the 162nd in 26 resident classes since the brigade was stood up. Of that total, 270 were Army – active, National Guard and reserve – 180 Air Force and 102 Navy.
From the 26 resident classes, the personnel completing the training were sent to seven brigades deploying to Iraq, and 10 brigades to Afghanistan.
During March, there were 116 in training – 32 Army, 76 Air Force and 8 Navy.
The total course at Fort Polk, known as the Enhanced Combat Adviser Development Course, is 10 weeks – 60 days – long. It includes a two-week block of instruction from the Directorate of Cultural Influence and Counterinsurgency.
One of the challenges facing both officer and noncommissioned officer instructors is the learning process, according to Tucker.
"Here at the home station, we have Navy personnel and also Air Force personnel come through the course. So inter-service compatibility – how we [as instructors] deal with the different services and interact with each other and our different service cultures – is a challenge."
Adding, "We are truly a joint service organization."
Another challenge, in addition to dealing with different service cultures, is the diversity of the ranks of the students attending the course.
"There is a span that comes with the skill levels you are dealing with from [the rank of] specialist (E-4) all the way up to colonel (0-6)." Tucker said. "So, we have to have the ability to deal with the knowledge level that one may have and be able to go back and forth with them [during the period of instruction.]"
The DCC’s organization is made up of a lieutenant colonel, five majors, six captains, one master sergeant, three sergeants first class, two staff sergeants and one specialist.
There are also contract civilians in the DCC who focus on language, training, role playing, cultural instruction and counterinsurgency studies.
"We make sure," Tucker said, "That everyone understands we are on the same team. Then, after the students finish DCC training and the other training the other course requirements, they graduate – and it’s all one team."
The DCC’s intense two-week course demands 10 hours a day of classroom, lab, and leader engagement exercises.
"We use interactive training method as our training methodology," a DCC division chief said.
Lt. Col. Keith Purvis added, "We have an adult learning method with targeted language training, leader engagements and practical exercises. Our terminal learning objective – that we must achieve – is to train combat advisers who must operate by, with and through host nation security forces."
The adviser must have the combat skills such as weapons’ qualification, marksmanship – technical and tactical training, including communications, detainee operations, cordon and search operations – and force protection, focusing on personnel and vehicle search, checkpoint operations, unexploded ordnance, IED defeat and combat lifesaver.
Because of the operational environment in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the United States’ evolving mission in these two war zones, the adviser must balance these combat skills with other learned methodologies necessary to deal successfully with host nation personnel and their security forces.
The DCC’s concentration on developing and honing cultural skills – knowledge of diverse religions, customs and courtesies and familiarization with the country and its regions – are of prime importance.
Tied closely with this is the combat adviser’s familiarity with the fundamentals and application of counterinsurgency measures, and the "how to" dealing with interpreters, gaining influence, and establishing a rapport, communication and a partnership with the host nation security forces.
"The adviser must be totally adaptable because he is affected by the operational environment," Purvis said. "They get all the tools here [with the 162nd] they need to be adviser to the country they are going to."
An important aspect of the operational environment training – whether it is for Afghanistan or Iraq – are the leader engagement exercises, nine total – where students and role players along with interpreters and translators deal face-to-face with realistic ethical scenarios and dilemmas that could, in reality, upset the delicate balance between allied forces and host nation forces.
Leader engagement exercises are vital, according to Army officials, because they stress the interaction and rapport necessary with tribal leaders, and local town, province and municipal officials to have a successful outcome to potentially explosive issues that may negatively impact the mission and the allies’ relationship with the host nation.
All that was learned in the classroom and the labs comes into play when the students participate in a leader engagement exercise.
"These leader engagement exercises," Purvis said, "allow the students to make mistakes here and not down range" where it would be costly.
Col. Derrick Hirata is an Air Force lawyer with the Judge Advocate General’s Offfice, U.S. Northern Command, who previously served in the U.S. Special Operations Command, the Air Force Special Operations Command and the Air Force Intelligence Agency.
Having been deployed during his career to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, Hirata was selected for training as a combat adviser with the 162nd and, at the time of this interview with AUSA NEWS, he was the team leader of 10 students – nine Air Force, one Army – with a mix of officers and noncommissioned officers.
When the course is completed, "eight of us [including Hirata] are going to Afghanistan, two are going to Iraq," Hirata said.
As the team completed its first eight weeks of the 10-week resident course, Hirata said, "My impression of the training has been generally favorable. I think the Army has done a world class job in terms of life saving skills, … language and cultural training, that we have been given that is setting our people up for success way above [the training] I was given when I deployed to Bosnia."
That training, he said, "was pretty much like being air dropped [without a parachute]."
Hirata also appreciated the classes that dealt with the "cultural sensitivity" and the "language abilities that will allow us to do certain things" when communicating with allies in host nation countries.
This vital successful interaction between combat advisers and host nation allies, that results from the training these officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers receive from the cadre in the 162nd Infantry Brigade and is what the Army chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey, said when visiting Fort Polk, was "hugely important" and was "already making a difference" in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What is the validation for success: "When our brigade command says – ‘Yes, our guys are ready,’" Purvis said.