Story and photos by Sgt. Laura Bonano
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Regional Command Southwest Task Force Belleau Wood held a cultural education symposium for coalition non-commissioned officers Jan. 23-25 at the II Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters office.
The purpose of the program was to educate enlisted coalition service members on the similarities, differences, responsibilities, programs and practices that contributes to a successful partnership between forces, said Marine Sgt. Maj. Craig D. Cressman, the sergeant major of RC (SW) Task Force Belleau Wood.
Enlisted service members from the U.S. Marines, U.S. Army, British forces, Bahrain forces, Afghan forces, and Royal Tonga Marines attended the seminar.
Attendees of the program divided into three groups to encourage cross talk and discussion. A facilitator led the focus on specific topics.
A student at the conference, Army Staff Sgt. Anthony D. Reaves, of the 594th Transportation Company, out of Fort Campbell, Ky., discussed with the group rank structure and the promotion process. The groups agreed more meetings and conversing with other services would enhance cultural knowledge.
“It created an understanding to how each counterpart works and what their piece of the pie is in supporting them,” said Reaves.
Many of the senior enlisted agreed non-commissioned officers of today have changed from the past, but for the better. They said junior enlisted service members have the capabilities to adapt to and embrace technology, during a question and answer session.
Army Sgt. Patrick Godfrey, the operations NCO for the 539th Transportation Company, attended the symposium and spoke of the importance of gathering together to learn about each other and different cultures.
Students took the opportunity to take pictures and exchange their contact information at a luncheon. They shared their experiences of being in the service.
The sergeant majors of the panel encouraged the students to take what they learned during the program back to their own troops. They urged service members to continue the discussions and continually strive to learn and work with their coalition partners.
Godfrey expressed by learning about other services, cultural misunderstandings would occur less and the chance of being upset lessens.
“If you’re a friend to someone, as opposed to just an ally, you’ll be more inclined to ‘turn the other cheek,’” Godfrey said.