Years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan taught the U.S. military the importance of cross-cultural competence (3C). Current and future hybrid conflicts require an understanding of cultures different from our own for our military to excel across the full spectrum of operations. The “U.S. Navy Language Skills, Regional Expertise, and Cultural Awareness Strategy” states, “The number and variety of cultures and foreign languages the Navy faces in this new environment far and away exceeds the level faced in the Cold War.”1 Proficiency in irregular warfare and humanitarian aid/disaster relief requires leaders who are culturally competent.
The services have opted for region-specific cultural training instead of focusing on the broader perspective, or what anthropologists refer to as culture-general (tools to understand other cultures in a more general way, especially their different worldviews and beliefs). Current efforts are short sighted and temporary, highlighting the need for long-term, non-context-specific cultural training and education.