|Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the United States
has maintained a substantial, semi-permanent military presence in Southwest
Asia (SWA). At any given time approximately 20,000 men and women from all
branches of the U.S. armed services are deployed to the region, with more
than 100,000 deploying annually (USCENTCOM, 1998).
In addition to the usual hardships and stresses encountered during overseas deployments, (foreign language, austere living conditions, separation from family members, etc.), these people face the challenge of working in countries with vastly different cultures than Americaís. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the two countries where the majority of U.S. personnel in SWA are based, are Muslim nations with governments that enforce religious laws forbidding or limiting such things as alcohol consumption, freedom of religion and speech, womenís rights, and pornography (Appendix A). However, American military members are not adequately informed of the cultural reasons behind these rules (which they are required to obey) prior to deployment to these countries (USCENTCOM, 1998). According to the uncertainty reduction theory, this lack of information can cause anxiety and stress (Berger, 1979; Berger & Calabrese, 1975).
United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), the command organization responsible for all military personnel in SWA, directs each of the services to ensure their members are informed of the rules while deployed to the region. But since USCENTCOM does not provide a standardized pre-deployment briefing, each of the services has developed a variety of methods to inform their members of host nation sensitivities in SWA (Appendix B). The services focus on describing the rules, they donít address the cultural reasons Saudi Arabia and Kuwait restrict behaviors and activities (alcohol consumption, use of pornography, etc.) that are accepted in the United States. This study prescribes theoretically-based training to sensitize U.S. troops to the cultural differences they will experience in SWA, and, based on the uncertainty reduction theory, minimize associated stress and anxiety.
Intercultural training relies on the work of many theorists who have studied intercultural communication to help people overcome the cultural barriers that limit effective communication. A brief review of some of these theories proves useful in understanding the basis for developing intercultural training programs. Next
Introduction Background Theories Methods Conclusion