Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 123 LastLast
Results 21 to 40 of 41

Thread: Lost in Translation

  1. #21
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Posts
    1,127

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Cavguy, I didn't say that to be mean. But if he could literally see himself it might increase his awareness of how he is coming across to people. That is why his Platoon leader or Platoon Sgt. should do it with him as training not as a punishment and then let him go fix it.
    Slap,

    I didn't mean to imply otherwise. My bad. I simply was cautioning that it's a lot easier for me to critique from here in Leavenworth than it is to execute on the ground - I guess because at times I acted similarly to the population when frustrated and exhausted. I'm not proud of it, and looking back I realize my mistake in acting that way. I also know I was exhausted, frustrated, and upset at the casualties I was taking trying to protect a population that didn't seem to want to protect my guys.

    It wasn't until later I fully realized that until I could protect them fully and in the long term, they wouldn't help. They were more afraid of the insurgents than of me, because they couldn't trust me to stay. Once I solved that, the problem improved.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

  2. #22
    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Posts
    1,127

    Default Lost in Translation, embedded!

    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

  3. #23
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    Cavguy, I understand. Seeing yourself on video and how other people react to you can be a great training aid. I doubt if that Sergeant was aware that he was coming off that way.

  4. #24
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Rancho La Espada, Blanchard, OK
    Posts
    1,065

    Default Slap, Cavguy, and all the rest

    Slap is right that seeing how one is seen by others is a GREAT training/educational tool. But it must be used as such, not to ridicule a troop who is doing the best he can in horribly trying circumstances. That said, this video should be forwarded to COL John Agoglia at the Afghanistan COIN Academy. It certainly ought to be part of his curriculum. Would also be good to use at Fort Riley.

    On a side note, I have assigned viewing it and critiqueing the NCO's performance to my Small Wars class as extra credit. I have 4 guys who will be 2LTs within a year in the class and they got "extra" encouragement to do the extra credit assignment. I also passed it on to a new 2LT who just sent me his senior thesis from Wast Point - he interviewed me for it. Point is that this is a superb teaching video on several levels.

    Cheers

    JohnT

  5. #25
    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    CO
    Posts
    681

    Default

    There is an awful lot of negative commentary based on one short highly edited video. There's not much back story or context. We don't even see the whole exchange between the elder and the NCO much less any meaningful background on the situation. For all we know he spent an hour talking to the guy and got tired of going around in verbal circles with him. A number of people are imagining what it is like in the elder's shoes. Imagine what it is like for this NCO. Of course the "shoot them in the face" comment was unworkable but then what else could he have offered them? He has no control over what kind of security that village will or will not get. They have been getting shelled from that location for months now. In his mind if they just tell him where the Taliban are so that he can go kill them or, better yet, kill them themselves then it will solve everybody's problems. It's likely that he believes that that is what he would do in the elder's place.

    SFC W

  6. #26
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Default Yep. I'm far more worried about the sloppy TTP

    I saw on that patrol than I am about an edited for purpose translation difficulty demonstration. Interpreter problems are a fact of life, always have been and always will be -- and it's easy to cherry pick a film clip to show that.

    While proper application of COIN principles is helpful, it's not in this case a matter of certainty that other things were not said or done which might mitigate the apparent lapses.

    What is not questionable is that sloppy TTP will get you killed.

  7. #27
    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    CO
    Posts
    681

    Default

    I noticed that also but I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they had already cleared the village when that part of the video was taken.

    SFC

  8. #28
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Default Yeah but.. Hmph. Grumble, grumble...

    How many people have been shot with weapons that were 'already cleared?'

    Sloppy will get you killed...

    (Okay, so I'm a grumpy old no-slack Dude -- but I'm still here... and that's why...)

  9. #29
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    DeRidder LA
    Posts
    3,949

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    You know, even given this, the SFC leading the patrol is doing the best he knows how. In his defense, his unit is taking casualties and he can't find the insurgents, so he does what many poor counterinsurgents do - gets mad at the population instead. Which is part of what the insurgent wants anyway, because it generates further political support.

    It's tiring doing COIN like that, and over awhile you do callous things. 12-15 month tours are too long in that environment, IMO. Looking from here, it's egregious. Looking from A-Stan after 10-12 months, I would have argued that we're a bunch of REMF second guessers who have the comfort of criticizing from back home.

    It argues for more, and better COIN education, which TRADOC still has not mandated. (beat drum again)

    I sent it out with a suggestion that it was ideal for teaching at our engagement university, especially for street engagements

    Agree on the fatigue and behavior change aspects. Things that affected me in July 94 in Goma with 70K dead had no impact by April 95 in Kibeho with 2K dead. There were of course some 800K dead in between those dates. Even in Goma Stan and I had a very callous and equally dark sense of humor, that an outsider would have been shocked by had they bothered to listen. Even if you have to keep the 12-15 month tours you do need a cycle of decompression periods inside the tours.

    Tom

  10. #30
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Lansing, KS
    Posts
    361

    Default A point of clarification

    Uboat,

    Not that it is all that important whether people understand my comments, I wanted to clarify my "imagine being in the Afghan's shoes.."

    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    There is an awful lot of negative commentary based on one short highly edited video... A number of people are imagining what it is like in the elder's shoes. Imagine what it is like for this NCO. Of course the "shoot them in the face" comment was unworkable but then what else could he have offered them? He has no control over what kind of security that village will or will not get...

    SFC W

    I'm not overly concerned at the surface level whether this guy is offended etc. However, I am concerned over the downstream impacts. If I'm the elder, my thoughts are we can't work with these guys (the coalition). I'm risking my a$$ out here and I can't get through to these a$$ clowns (not my perception of the SGT from Leavenworth, but I'd hazard a guess its his). I doubt the Afghan Elder is all that simpathetic to the SGT's fatigue and frustration, no lack of either for anyone in that region. My point is simply that once rebuffed after making the overture of cooperation, I can't imagine another until a new crew moves in (its the cascading effect of the engagement that elicited the comment of imagine being in that guy's shoes). Of course its an over-editted piece of film, but it doesn't change the probablity that the piece we viewed likely were the gems that most impacted the other party's impression of the engagement.

    The degree of fear, frustration and fatigue may be mitigating factors when counseling the NCO on his perfomance, but they have no bearing on the outcome/effects of the engagement. We ought not loss sight of that, there is a difference between casting stones while living in a glass house, and honestly looking at an anecdotal event and assessing the impact (especially if it is a representative example).

    On a much lighter note, and in honor of the coming Thanksgiving Holiday season... From yesterday's Jim Rome Radio Show... The uninspired, unimaginative and unreadable text of the day

    "Just imagine... If the Indian's had give the pilgrams a donkey rather than a turkey to eat, we'd all be getting a piece of a$$ this Thanksgiving"

    Live well and row
    Hacksaw
    Say hello to my 2 x 4

  11. #31
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Default If that Elder were a westerner, I'd agree with that assessment.

    As he's not, I strongly suspect that his attitude differed a bit. More patience -- much more -- and a generally far greater knowledge and acceptance of human foibles has in my experience been a hallmark of folks from the ME and South Asia. They emphatically do not think as we do and they mostly perceive offensiveness in a different vein than we do. They are also more polite and charitable in addition to being more tolerant of error and youthful attitudes. I'd suggest those qualities are shown to an extent in that video.

    I think it's almost a certainty that the NCO in the video is far from the first western military representative that Afghan has talked to and that said Afghan knows and cheerfully accepts that SFC will not be the last...

    And I'm still more concerned about the lingering potential for harm to US forces by demonstrated sloppy TTP than I am about possible communication disconnects that can and will be -- and probably already have been as we write -- repaired.

  12. #32
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Rancho La Espada, Blanchard, OK
    Posts
    1,065

    Default Ken, my take on the video

    was that interpretation (or its lack) was symptomatic of a number of ills of operating in another culture. If you meant that the interpretation issue has been repaired, then I think there is a reasonable probaility you are right (but this is the US Army, remember, and we do know how to keep shooting ourselves in the foot).

    If, however, the issue is one of cross cultural communication with its attendant empathy aspects, then I doubt very much that an effective repair job has been accomplished. Like you, I am sure that the elder has dealt with many Westerners and is prepared to deal with many more. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that he can empathize pretty well with the SGT. That does not mean he likes or agrees with him but I'm pretty sure he understands to the point of predicting his behavior. One of the interesting questions is whether to take the elder at face value. Is he really indicating some desire to work with the Americans or is he only showing us how stupid we are? I'm not sure it matters in the short run because, regardless of why and his intent, their is a lot of intel value in his story. I tend to go back to the Reagan quip, "Trust, but verify." for the longer term.

    Cheers

    JohnT

  13. #33
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Default I agree with much of that, John.

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    ...If you meant that the interpretation issue has been repaired, then I think there is a reasonable probaility you are right (but this is the US Army, remember, and we do know how to keep shooting ourselves in the foot).
    Agree with both comments. It may have been repaired in that locale but it'll crop up elsewhere; Interpreters will always be a problem and while I think we should strive to better vet -- and train (when was the last time you saw a 'Terp training program?) -- them, one must accept that their use will always pose problems and harm efficiency and effectiveness. We also need to realize that we will absolutely not be able to get necessary or even minimally desired language skills embedded in the Force. Thus, interpretation will remain a problem and we will continually try to fix it...
    If, however, the issue is one of cross cultural communication with its attendant empathy aspects, then I doubt very much that an effective repair job has been accomplished.
    I'm not sure that is attainable or repairable. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to empathize with people you really do not understand -- and that applies both ways. There will always be a few on each side who can cross that chasm but most folks will not be able to do it at all well; that, as they say, is life. Kipling came to understand that. East is east and so forth...
    Like you, I am sure that the elder has dealt with many Westerners and is prepared to deal with many more. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that he can empathize pretty well with the SGT. That does not mean he likes or agrees with him but I'm pretty sure he understands to the point of predicting his behavior.
    Heh. I'd bet big money you're correct on that.
    One of the interesting questions is whether to take the elder at face value. Is he really indicating some desire to work with the Americans or is he only showing us how stupid we are? I'm not sure it matters in the short run because, regardless of why and his intent, their is a lot of intel value in his story. I tend to go back to the Reagan quip, "Trust, but verify." for the longer term.
    He may well be the local Talib honcho -- I've been surprised no one seems to have thought of that (except you and Ron). Or he could be the local poppy cake smuggling leader...

    Nothing in the ME / South Asia region is as it seems and a recipe for disaster is to take things at face value. We should never forget that.

    Simple things like "...that village was cleared yesterday, so don't waste time, hurry down there." are dangerous fallacies. Yesterday is not today, today's Farmer is tomorrow's Sniper. The benign village elder will slice your scrotum without a blink (and his wife will be meaner...) given the opportunity.

    Nope, we should never forget those things. Nor should we forget a great military truth about US unit operations. A lot depends on the attitude of the local US Commander; if he's COIN oriented, the Troops pick up on that and emulate it. If he's a "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out," and "...they're Ragheads..." type, then the Troops will pick up and operate on that. The Locals aren't stupid and they also pick up on the attitude and operate accordingly -- and they'll do that about as fast or faster than the Troops will...

    I'd like to say there are no bad Commanders or Units out there but I know better. Show me an NCO that isn't doing right and I'll show you a unit that probably has problems...

  14. #34
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Rancho La Espada, Blanchard, OK
    Posts
    1,065

    Default When you're wounded

    and left on Afghanistan's plain
    And the women go out to cut up what remains
    Jes roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
    An' go to your Gawd like a soljer!
    R. Kipling

    Agree with you on troubled units and who is responsible. But, sometimes, there is redemption! The Ray Odierno who commands MNFI is not the same Ray Odierno who commanded the 4th ID. Thank God people prove that they can learn and sometimes institutions do as well. Afghanistan is a particularly rough place to fight today as well as yesterday - as the the Brits and Soviets found out to their sorrow. Still, we can do better and (to bring this back where it started) we can begin by training our soldiers to work with interpreters. Starting with Wilf's rules (and modifying them to fit the circumstances) would be a good place to begin. Second, would be survival Pashto or Dari (depending where one is being assigned in country). It's never ceased to amaze me how much more receptive folk are if you say hello and how are you in their language. A touch higher level and you might even be able to figure out that your interpreter is not doing it straight.

    I've rambled enough.

    Cheers

    JohnT

  15. #35
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    8,060

    Default Ramble on -- I agree with every bit of that.

    Seen more than one mediocre commander get an epiphany from some source and turn out great; far, far more than go the other way. All things considered, the guys in Afghansitan are doing great. There's a learning curve on each rortation and that's to be expected, unavoidable and not terribly problematic. Some units go with little or no contact for a few weeks and get lazy; that's human nature and is always a problem in any COIN operation. Commanders just have to watch it and jack 'em up.

    We can do better on language training -- seems to me there is no central authority directing the program so there is no program -- there should be one and it should include a structured by echelon series of courses of increasingly large vocabularies. It would help if CentCom would stop trying to play mix and match on who goes where and return units to the same AO for the continuity factor. There's no need for a bunch of Mech in Afghanistan and there was little need for light infantry in Iraq. Then people could get a language program going instead of wondering which language they might need...

    There should also be a Theater/National (or Corps level at a minimum) training course for Interpreters...

  16. #36
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    1-I am probably more sensitive to this being LE (Rodney King Changed Us) but it would not cost much to video soldiers in training and let them see themselves! Self awareness is a difficult skill to acquire but it is worth the effort especially because of the Info Op, Propaganda war waged by the enemy.

    2-Also let Soldiers learn to fix their mistakes when possible. Everyone makes them but few learn how to repair them in a Human Relations sense, again this pays huge dividends.

  17. #37
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Rancho La Espada, Blanchard, OK
    Posts
    1,065

    Default Slap, you are right on the money!

    Video of oneself is a very useful technique. As long as one does not use it to punish or ridicule but only as a teaching/learning tool.

    During much of the 80s and 90s the Army used its ARTEP program to improve performance. Officers and NCOs were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. The AARs after an exercise were brutal but they were not punishments - officers and soldiers learned from their mistakes. In the 70s, however, we had a zero defects Army - make a mistake and get punished for it. Some of what I have heard of today's training suggests that we may have returned to something like that. If true, it is terribly counterproductive (understatement of the year).

    Cheers

    JohnT

  18. #38
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    4,818

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    In the 70s, however, we had a zero defects Army - make a mistake and get punished for it. (understatement of the year).

    Cheers

    JohnT
    That is very true, I was starting to see some of that in 75 when I got out. Before then, since the draft had ended, I think the Army was just glad to have some warm bodies around.

    As side note on punishment. One of the greatest officers (my Platoon leader) I ever had never punished anybody.... but you would learn....if it took all night(sometimes it did) and he was right there with us every step of the way. Of course he was Airborne

  19. #39
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    DeRidder LA
    Posts
    3,949

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    1-I am probably more sensitive to this being LE (Rodney King Changed Us) but it would not cost much to video soldiers in training and let them see themselves! Self awareness is a difficult skill to acquire but it is worth the effort especially because of the Info Op, Propaganda war waged by the enemy.

    2-Also let Soldiers learn to fix their mistakes when possible. Everyone makes them but few learn how to repair them in a Human Relations sense, again this pays huge dividends.
    We do that Slap

  20. #40
    Council Member jkm_101_fso's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Kabul
    Posts
    325

    Default tips on terps

    Unfortunately, very typical. I'd argue more common than not.

    Some TTPs I learned from having bad 'terps:

    1. The reality for most interpreters is that when they don't know what to translate, they make something up. To them, that is better than admitting to you (the Soldier) they cannot translate for the local. It's a pride thing. Convince your 'terps that it's OK if they don't know. They need to tell you when they don't and not just fabricate B.S. that you want to hear...like in the video: "everything is fine here", in regards to security.

    2. Watch out for biases, particularly with "CAT 1" local 'terps. They can skew a situation or flat-out lie when they don't like who they are interpreting for. I've caught it happening several times.

    3. If it's possible, take two 'terps with you. Preferably two that don't particularly like each other; rival tribes, different religion, ethnicity, personal grudges, etc. They will keep each other honest by making corrections during the engagement and "tattle" on each other after the engagement to you.

    4. Record conversations to take back and have other 'terps listen to and interpret. Match your conversation with the transcribed recordings. The 'terps and locals will both be suspicious of this. But if the 'terp knows that you are checking up on him with other 'terps, he will make a better effort.

    5. Leaders (SSG to CPT) MUST at least learn enough of the native language to pick out key words/phrases every now and then, to keep the 'terps honest. It takes extra time and is difficult for some people, I understand that. However, it's very gratifying to tell a 'terp, "that is NOT what he said", when he makes something up or misinterprets.

    6. The easiest thing is to create a 'terp OML. Figure out who are the strongest and rank them according to least bias and reliability. Unfortunately, the top performers get overworked and unmotivated. I tried to create incentives for them like small gifts to go out on extra missions.

    7. Put your worst 'terps on the ECPs or "high-traffic" places. For one main reason: they spend all day interpreting or talking to Soldiers manning the ECP. Either way, it's good practice for them. Encourage your Soldiers on the ECPs to converse with the 'terps, to make them more proficient. Tell your Soldiers to concentrate on military phrases, directions, colors, numbers, etc. I even had some of my Soldiers on the ECP make flashcards to help the poor-performing interpreters. It really helped and in a few months, some of the worst 'terps made huge improvements. Granted, they learned a lot of swear words, also
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

Similar Threads

  1. How Technology Almost Lost the War: In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social Not E
    By Rex Brynen in forum Catch-All, Military Art & Science
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 12-08-2007, 03:19 PM
  2. Replies: 34
    Last Post: 06-08-2007, 02:53 PM
  3. Vote: have we lost in Iraq?
    By Fabius Maximus in forum US Policy, Interest, and Endgame
    Replies: 48
    Last Post: 12-29-2006, 09:27 PM
  4. 'Dramatic Change of Direction' Coming for Iraq
    By SWJED in forum The Whole News
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 10-23-2006, 06:53 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •