PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- With a desire to increase cultural awareness among military and civilian staff members and students, the Chief of Naval Education and Training (CNET), Vice Adm. Alfred G. Harms Jr., recently hosted a seminar on understanding Islamic and Arab cultures.
Enlisting the help of InterLink Consulting Services, Inc., a West Palm Beach, Fla., based firm which employs over 200 internationally recognized industry authorities, authors, military figures and cultural experts, Harms invited participation from among Pensacola-area military commands, and was on hand to open the first day's training sessions.
"This training is very important, not only from the perspective of understanding current day events, but also because our Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families represent diverse cultures," said Harms. "Navy presence extends around the globe, and we need to ensure our people are aware of how other cultures differ from our own, and the difference between the practice of Islam and the actions of Muslim extremists."
"I found the training very interesting," said Petty Officer First Class Eli Garcia, a staff member at Naval Aviation Schools Command who attended the training. "I learned quite a bit about the Islamic culture. Some things were very similar to American culture, and others were very different. I believe the training was especially helpful for people preparing to travel abroad, and provided a good refresher course for those who have been before."
Dr. Thomas Connell, vice president of InterLink Consulting Services, Inc., and Laraine Mansfield, Ph.D. in Islamic Middle East studies and expert in Shi'a Islam and Islamic terrorism, spent two days at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Fla., providing an overview for military and civilian personnel, which stressed the importance of cultural awareness.
Connell, a retired military officer, formerly directed the only cross-cultural communications course in the Department of Defense.
Connell's first cultural competency rule is: The less you know about a culture, the more dependent you become on stereotypes, word-of-mouth and other ill-informed sources that only blur and confuse. "The training we provide is designed to help Americans work more effectively with internationals -- in or out of the United States," said Connell, whose organization also trains internationals about American culture.
Capt. Jerry McNabb, CNET Force Chaplain, coordinated the event. "The goal is for Navy and Marine Corps personnel to be as well-informed as possible about the cultures we interact with around the world," said McNabb. "Providing our personnel with factual information is key."
Numerous commands from NAS Pensacola, Saufley Field, NAS Whiting Field, and Naval Technical Training Center Corry Station participated, with approximately 2,700 people attending one of the four half-day sessions.
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