Brig. Gen. William Mullen, president of Marine Corps University, recently signed an administrative message detailing cultural training requirements for new sergeants. The program requires Marines to meet certain education milestones to be eligible for promotions. (MIKE MORONES / STAFF)
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The Regional, Culture and Language Familiarization program carves the globe into 17 sections and assigns to new sergeants the cultures and languages associated with each. They must then complete between 12 and 16 hours of distance learning on their new assigned part of the world. Each new rank will come with similar assignments, up through master gunnery sergeant. Marines also will have 80 hours of language instruction to complete during the ranks of sergeant and staff sergeant, which they must finish to be considered PME-complete and eligible to make gunnery sergeant.
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — A newly promoted one-star, who served as a battalion commander during multiple deployments to Iraq, is driving home the importance of Marines picking up new cultural training that will be required to make their next rank.
Brig. Gen. William Mullen, president of Marine Corps University, signed a Marine administrative message that went out Oct. 24 and made official the new Regional, Culture and Language Familiarization program — or RCLF. Mullen said this type of knowledge has proved important in the latest conflicts and will continue to be important in missions around the world.
Marine Corps Times met the general Oct. 25 at Marine Corps University. Excerpts from the interview, edited for space and clarity:
Q. Why was it important to tie RCLF to professional military education requirements?
A. By putting this into a Marine Corps order and putting some teeth in the program, [we're] saying, "Here's how we're going to check to make sure you're doing what you're required to do." Because if it doesn't come out as a Marine Corps order, people might say, "There are so many other things going on, I'm just not going to do it. I can't get to it." But when you lay it out as a requirement and then you have enforcement mechanisms, you can make sure it actually gets done.
There are still just too many Marines out there that aren't doing everything that's required of being a Marine. … [T]his is not optional. It's not recommended that you take the PFT, it's not recommended that you learn one of these language series — it's what you're going to do.
Q. How do you get them to look beyond the requirement?
A. If you look back at all the years in Iraq and Afghanistan, how many Marines did we lose because we didn't have something like this?
When I was a battalion commander, culture is one of the things I explained. My battalion sergeant major and I did an information operations campaign on our entire battalion. We'd tell them to picture being at home and a military force from another country comes into your hometown to restore order and provide security. If they're acting stupid, what are you going to do? Are you going to say, "Oh, that's OK, they just don't understand?" No, you're going to get angry. And in some cases, you're going to take revenge.
But if somebody comes in and they understand, and they're trying to work with you and they understand your cultural norms to a degree and they're not offending you, are you more willing to work with them?
It's something as simple as that and getting them to understand that.
Q. What about a Marine's thought process while deployed do you hope to change with RCLF?
A. When somebody comes walking up to you while you're out on patrol and they want to tell you something because they've got some intelligence that they need to pass to you — I've seen instances where Marines don't understand the person who's approaching them, and they'll just say, "Get away from me." And what did we just lose?
In another case where a Marine kind of understood a little bit of the language and understood pretty clearly, "Hey, he wants to talk to us and he's got some information for us," and he got him to the right person.
Q. What about Marines who are grandfathered out of RCLF but might be interested in learning?
A. The MARADMIN just came out and we've got staff [noncommissioned officers] who are calling up and saying, "Hey, I know I'm not required to right now, but how do I get enrolled in this? How do I get my area assigned?" I think that's great, that's awesome. There's nothing to keep them from doing [it].