About the Cultural Support Program
What is the Cultural Support Program?
The Cultural Support Program is an important addition to the Army's special-operations community that allow specially selected and trained volunteers to serve alongside special-operations forces in a unique operating environment. Graduates of the training course are awarded a professional development skill identifier and the title of "cultural support specialist."
As a member of a Cultural Support Team, your primary task is to engage a host nation's female and adolescent population in support of ARSOF missions where their interaction with male service members may be deemed culturally inappropriate. You will work with special-operations forces performing missions such as medical outreach programs, civil-military operations, key leader engagements, and searches and seizures.
Cultural support training focuses on the duties of a cultural support specialist: engaging with the local nationals. The foundation of the Cultural Support Training Course is built upon providing an understanding of human behavior, an appreciation for Islamic and Afghan culture and the role and history of women in Afghanistan.Through interpersonal engagement, cultural support specialists enable trust, confidence and rapport to grow between the host-nation community and special-operations forces. Additionally, you will provide the supported commander an enhanced understanding of the female population in their operational area.
The Cultural Support Program is not the Army's Female Engagement Team program. A cultural support specialist differs because she is specifically assessed, selected, trained and educated based upon the ARSOF core attributes to support ARSOF-unique missions.
The Cultural Support Program is not Civil Affairs. Cultural support training provides the Soldier with the necessary skills and tools to complement the effects of civil-military operations within the special-operations environment. Cultural support specialists are not trained to identify, plan or conduct civil-military operations.
Step 1: Cultural Support Assessment and Selection (9 days)
The Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program includes five days of physical, mental and intellectual evaluations designed to determine a candidate's ability to maintain her composure, apply logic, communicate clearly and solve problems in demanding environments. Assessment is not a training course; it is an observation of behaviors that suggest suitability for attendance in the Cultural Support Training Course.
After in-processing, CS Assessment and Selection candidates are assessed by cadre members on their ability to write, solve problems, and perform physically and psychologically. During CS Assessment and Selection candidates are expected to skillfully manage simultaneous tasks and comprehend ambiguous instructions while working under varying degrees of uncertainty without feedback.
CS Assessment and Selection is as much a mental test as it is a physical test. Volunteers should arrive mentally prepared, physically fit and highly motivated. At the conclusion of assessment and selection, all candidates will be counseled on their performance and returned to their units.
Step 2: Cultural Support Training Course (approximately 6 weeks)
Select Soldiers will return to Fort Bragg to attend the Cultural Support Training Course. Course assignment is based on operational needs and course availability. The training period is approximately six weeks in length, which includes some weekends.
The average training day begins at 6:30 a.m. with physical training, and ends around 5:30 p.m. except during the culmination exercise. The training program features classroom instruction, and concludes with a comprehensive field-training exercise.
Soldiers attend training to become familiar with the M-4 carbine rifle and the M-9 pistol, as well as other Soldier skills. Cultural-support training focuses on personal interactions and engagements based on Soldiers' foundational skills and knowledge in human dynamics, general culture and regional culture. Current regional training focuses on Afghanistan.
Blocks of instruction include:
Soldier survivability: individual and team weapons familiarization, defensive battle drills, communication and vision equipment familiarization, and individual and team medical training.
Operational orientation: Cultural support purpose, missions and supported units; human performance; mental and interpersonal adaptive thinking.
General and regional culture, including history, religion and infrastructure.
Engagement: Use of interpreters, reporting requirements, face-to-face communication and civil reconnaissance.
Tactical information collection: questioning, and searches of individuals and areas.
Step 3: Assignment and deployment (approximately 9 months)
Following graduation and block leave, selected Soldiers will be attached to an Army special-operations unit in support of overseas contingency operations. The ensuing deployments will be physically and mentally demanding. Cultural support teams live with supported SOF units in austere environments.
Duties of cultural support specialists include communicating and working with Afghan women and children, providing support to medical outreach programs, physical searches of Afghan women and children and supporting civil-military operations.
While deplyed, CSTs may move by foot, vehicle or aircraft. Some missions may require foot patrols of 10 kilometers; other missions may require fast-rope insertion from a helicopter. CST members are not required to conduct airborne operations.
Female volunteers are encouraged to allow their hair to grow in length.
Total commitment to the Cultural Support Program will be approximately one year.