When members of the Air Force and other military personnel are deployed overseas, they often know little about the people and customs of the country where they will be stationed. Because they may be dispatched almost immediately to their new post, it’s important for them to get up to speed as quickly as possible.
The Culture Guide Mobile App, developed, updated and maintained by the Air Force Culture and Language Center (AFCLC), is meeting that need.
“In a world that moves quickly, we must move even faster in educating military members for the challenges they face,” said Howard Ward, director of the AFCLC at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. “We are working with many nations all over the world, and we need to understand their culture to be able to partner with them more effectively. Our vision at the AFCLC is to offer a global classroom. One way to do that is to put that global classroom in every airman’s pocket, so they can work with the people more effectively when they arrive in a new country.”
Ward added the information in the app, which is free and available to anyone, is also beneficial for the families of those who are sent overseas.
“When our airmen are deployed overseas, it can be stressful,” he said. “But this app allows them to quickly learn more about the place where they are going. Likewise, it brings peace of mind to their families because they can learn about the people and places where their family member is going.”
The app includes five certificate courses, a library with 40 on-demand videos and 72 Expeditionary Culture Field Guides featuring countries from around the world.
The most recent additions to the app are the courses and videos, which provide a deep dive into a country’s culture, history, climate, politics, customs and language.
“We are really excited about the courses and video content,” Ward said. “The app is allowing us the opportunity to provide shorter, more targeted content in a digestible format that is tailored for the airmen of today.”
Senior Master Sgt. Amy Wade, commandant, Airman Leadership School, 633rd Force Support Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, completed the Introduction to China and Introduction to Russia courses and said she learned a lot from the app.
“Culture is everywhere, but what happens if you haven’t had the opportunity to prep before leaving for a new assignment?” Wade asked. “This gives us something to help us represent ourselves appropriately. You can immerse yourself in the culture while on the go and see how you fit in at the moment. There’s a lot to like about this opportunity.”
Last summer, the app became an important tool for service members assisting Afghan refugees who fled their country following the Taliban takeover. After evacuation, refugees were first sent to military bases to help prepare them for their new home in other countries.
“These refugees were coming into the military bases with nothing but the clothes on their back,” said Lori Quiller, Outreach Division representative for the AFCLC. “The personnel on those bases were downloading the app, reading the guides and learning about the Afghan culture and how their families operate. They were learning how to speak a little bit of the language, how to greet someone and how to respond to these people who were coming into an environment where they had never been before.”
Ward added that the mobile field guides are being used by people in nations supporting refugees evacuating war-torn Ukraine.
The app has been downloaded more than 28,000 times by people all over the world since the courses and videos were added last October. In addition to service members, many others are taking advantage of the app. It’s an ideal source for families who are moving to another country or people who simply want to learn about other cultures, Ward said.
The app is used by organizations that specialize in educating service members. Recently, the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education began using the app as part of its enlisted professional military educational curricula.
The AFCLC is continually updating and expanding the app. It released a mobile field guide featuring Iran in June. By September, guides spotlighting Israel, Jordan and Persia will be posted.
The AFCLC is “modernizing education for today’s Air Force,” Ward said.
“With the rate of events happening in the world, we have to deliver content and courses at ‘accelerate-change-or-lose’ velocity,” he said. “We are putting the information in airmen’s pockets, so it is there waiting for them when they need to prepare for a global mission.”
The Culture Guide Mobile App is available to all military personnel, as well as anyone interested in learning about other countries. Download it by visiting the App Store or Google Play. For more information about the app, click here.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)