Jordanian Cultural Awareness

Story by Pvt. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

Members of the Jordanian Armed Forces Peace Operation Training Center conducted cultural awareness briefings for officers and non-commissioned officers at the Community Events Center here June 23.

The briefings, which were held in conjunction with other training courses, are meant to better prepare Soldiers for upcoming deployments, said Maj. Gina Anderson, country desk officer (Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq) with the 3rd U.S. Army stationed out of Ft. McPherson, Ga.

Officers and NCOs who participated in these briefings were then expected to share the information with Soldiers in their chain of command.

Cultural awareness briefings in particular are in place to educate Soldiers on the differences between American and Arabic cultures, said Col. Nicholas Zoeller, civil affairs officer for the 13th Corps Support Command.

Topics covered in the briefings include Arabic perception of common gestures, women in Iraqi society, tribal (society) influence on elections and basic Arabic language.

Lt. Col. Jaman Momani, who is in charge of peace-keeping training with the JAFPOTC, spoke on the pillars of Islam, the structure of power - which in Arab society actually means responsibility - and why women are seen as a symbol of honor to Arab families and how that perception is reflected by the treatment of women in society.

Zoeller underwent similar training by the Jordanians just over a year ago. After 33 years in the military, he learned things about Arabic cultures that he had not known before - even after two deployments to Iraq, he said.

For instance, promises are not taken lightly in Iraq. The Iraqi people believe that a person should not make a promise they cannot keep, said Zoeller.

"You've given your word," said Zoeller, and an Iraqi's word is sacred.

Sometimes, this can create problems between American Soldiers and Arabs. Americans tend to believe that if circumstances prevent the fulfillment of a promise, then it is understandable and cannot be helped. Arabs, on the other hand, take offense and feel they have been lied to. The solution, said Zoeller, is for Soldiers to state they will attempt to do something rather than making promises which may fall through.

"We don't want the Soldiers to be in any kind of conflict because they do not understand the culture," said Momani.

Another reason the training is important is that Soldiers must understand how to associate with Arabs in order to complete the Army's mission, said Anderson.

"Iraq is the target audience for the work we're doing with (Operation Iraqi Freedom). The people are the country," Anderson explained. "The most important part is the people."