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Prepping for U.N. Missions: AFCLC Faculty Supports the U.S. Military Observer Group

Photo courtesy of Dr. Kristin Bashir, AFCLC’s Associate Professor of Regional and Cultural Studies (Middle East North Africa)

Photo courtesy of Dr. Kristin Bashir, AFCLC’s Associate Professor of Regional and Cultural Studies (Middle East North Africa)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

The United Nations peacekeeping missions are a staple worldwide promoting peacekeeping and stability, and the U.S. Military Observer Group is responsible for training American service members deploying to support those U.N. missions. USMOG is an ideal partner for the Air Force Culture and Language Center, founded at Air University in 2006 to address the Air Force Chief of Staff’s intention to improve Airmen’s cross-cultural competence.

Approximately twice a year, the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s faculty have participated as faculty in the pre-deployment training sessions for USMOG. In September 2020, they conducted their first sessions online via Microsoft Teams and repeated the classes for incoming USMOG personnel in March 2021.

In their lessons, faculty members presented information from the U.N. and USMOG curriculum, adding their expertise on working in African contexts and with multinational partners. Also, our faculty provided guidance on how intercultural competence and attention to women’s roles in advancing peace and security can improve mission outcomes. The sessions in March marked the fifth time AFCLC contributed to USMOG training. 

The groups usually represent every branch of the military and join U.N. peacekeeping missions primarily in African countries. When they arrive at the missions, they take on key staff officer positions, responsible for demonstrating U.S. commitment to, and enhancing the effectiveness of, U.N. peacekeeping operations — all of which require the ability to communicate and work with diverse, multinational teammates and stakeholders.

“Guarding against paternalism, practicing critical reflexivity and perspective-taking, and fostering mutual understanding and respect among personnel from African and other troop-contributing countries are all crucial to success in these complex contexts,” said Dr. Scott Edmondson, AFCLC’s Assistant Professor of Regional and Cultural Studies (Africa).

Dr. Edmondson is a member of the faculty team along with AFCLC’S Assistant Professor of Cross-Cultural Relations Dr. Patricia Fogarty, and AFCLC’s Associate Professor of Regional and Cultural Studies (Middle East North Africa) Dr. Kristin Bashir, who have all led virtual sessions for the group. Dr. Edmondson and Dr. Fogarty presented the lesson on Intercultural Competence and Respect for Diversity, Dr. Fogarty presented the lesson on Human Rights, and Dr. Bashir presented the lesson on Women, Peace, and Security. These sessions demonstrate how AFCLC continues to reach Airmen and joint partners who deploy worldwide and advance the U.S. military’s role in strengthening partnerships and stability in Africa.

Language Enabled Airman Program scholars Maj. Rodrigo Ocampo and Maj. Timothy Wright attended USMOG training with AFCLC’s faculty in 2020 to prepare for their deployments. Ocampo currently serves as a U.N. Peacekeeper in the Central African Republic. LEAP training and the USMOG training with AFCLC faculty helped Ocampo feel prepared when he arrived.

“LEAP training has been beneficial for me. I sought out this deployment mainly because it is a Francophone country, and I wanted to put my French to the test and improve upon it. Little did I know that my immediate supervisor in the mission would be a French Lieutenant Colonel. A good portion of my colleagues is also French-speaking, making interaction with them that much smoother. Also, the U.N. mission as a whole, MINUSCA, is largely run by French-speaking civilians, and in some of the meetings, I attend they would switch back and forth from English to French. Knowing French well has been incredibly useful in keeping up with the discussions in the meetings and getting the full picture for the orders and reports I later write. Another advantage of my LEAP training is that it has allowed me to go beyond the base and living quarters and interact with many humanitarian organizations and other people I wouldn’t have otherwise if I did not speak the language. I have also learned some of the local language, Sango, but the Sango classes are taught in French. So again, LEAP training was critical in this aspect of trying to learn [another] language using my LEAP language,” Ocampo said.