ETC Sailors Learn Cultural Survival Skills for Africa Partnership Station Deployment

Story Number: NNS071026-07Release Date: 10/26/2007 3:06:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jen Smith, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors attached to Expeditionary Training Command (ETC) completed an intensive four-day regional orientation course taught by Old Dominion University's Military Distance Learning Program, in conjunction with security and stability defense contractor I.T.A. International, Oct. 19.

The Sailors recently deployed with USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) in support of the Naval Forces Europe-led Africa Partnership Station initiative, a component of Global Fleet Station the Navy's new maritime strategy designed to provide a way to increase maritime security throughout the world by cooperating with all branches of the U.S. armed forces, other U.S. agencies and foreign partners.

Much like shipboard briefs prior to port calls, the orientation course will help the ETC team know how to appropriately interact with the local community in order to effectively convey the knowledge they are trying to provide.

Most countries hosting the Navy have cultures, customs and traditions which are foreign to the Sailors who visit. For example, in Senegal, when with older people, it is disrespectful to look them directly in the eye.

"This course is teaching us survival skills, but not in terms of physical survival," said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Chafian, ETC's executive officer. "It's teaching us basic social skills and how to properly interact with other cultures."

Chief Warrant Officer Tom Peal said he often only received minimal training about the areas he would deploy to.

"This is the best training I've ever received prior to a deployment," said Peal, ETC training officer. "This will be very beneficial and help us avoid offending the populace."

The students in the course say the most important things they're learning are the cultural differences that could have a Sailor unintentionally offending someone.

"When you're in a foreign country, it's important to show a willingness to learn the native cultures because it will definitely open doors and make the job that much easier," said Chafian. "It's about blending our culture with theirs in order to build successful partnerships."

This particular group of nine Sailors is the first Navy Expeditionary Training Command team to head out for a seven-week deployment to West Africa.

This specific training for these Sailors is just a part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command's (NECC) overarching, and growing, culture and language training program. As part of that program NECC coordinates with ODU, Naval Post Graduate School and Navy's Center for Language Regional Expertise and Culture.

NECC is a global force provider of adaptive force packages of expeditionary capabilities to joint warfighting commanders. NECC serves as a single manning functional command to centrally manage the current and future readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of the Navy Expeditionary Force.

For more news from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, visit

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