The Fatal Errors of Cross-Cultural Communication in United States Troops in Iraq

By Robin “Ann” O’Connor.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Throughout a human’s lifetime, social cognitive learning builds upon layers of experiences and social interactions that are constantly shaping and molding individuals and directly influencing interpersonal and intrapersonal communication. For United States military personnel deploying into an unfamiliar culture, undeveloped cross-cultural competency skills may render them ill-equipped to successfully manage the communication demands presented during a conflict management or mitigation setting. The placement of untrained personnel in hostile high face-saving environments, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, without adequate skills is proving to be a volatile combination, often with fatal results.

This paper sets out to demonstrate the need for ongoing cross-cultural competency training of United States military personnel deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan for combat and peacekeeping missions. Routine troop training facilitates a corps capable of managing social interactions within any cultural setting. For troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, such competencies contribute to increased joint trust and positive interactions, and the avoidance of counter-cleansing actions, as were seen in post Bosnia, Rwanda, and Somalia, or any other conflict zones (Duffey 2000). From these findings, it is intended to suggest that from adequate cross-cultural competency training, the United States military can develop appropriate communication skills to facilitate interactions with civilians during peacekeeping missions.

The author of this paper, who has extensive experience working in the Middle East, is a Middle East cultural consultant to the United States Defense Department and has nationally trained military units deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keywords: Cross-Cultural Competency, Military, Troop, Mortality, Peacekeeping, Conflict

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp.187-200. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.175MB).

Robin “Ann” O’Connor

Graduate Student, Organizational Communication, Department of Communication, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana, USA

From 1997-2000, Ms. O’Connor served as a consultant to the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices, Assir, Saudi Arabia, helping to resolve conflicts between the Arab community and Western workers living in the Assir region. She also worked with Prince Khalid Al Faisal’s Rosewood Hotel system, Abha Palace, to welcome the first tourist group to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In addition, Ms. O’Connor served five years as a director with Abha Private Hospital, in Saudi Arabia and two years as the director of International Environmental Group, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Currently, Ms. O’Connor is a Middle East cultural consultant to the United States Military, Global LT, Group, and other groups and organizations from around the United States. In January 2010, she will be starting graduate studies at Southeastern Louisiana University.

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