NPR Story

As I was driving through Itasca State Park on Friday, I heard a disturbing story on The World for NPR about the Marines in Afghanistan training Afghan soldiers. The Marines were joking about how they were unable to pronounce the names of their Afghan colleagues, so rather than trying to learn to pronounce the names the Marines gave them new names. These new names were various references to they way the Afghan soldiers looked or on United States movies. One Afghan soldier was given the nickname “Toothless” ¬†another was given the name “Pedro” because the Marine claims that the Afghan soldier looked Latino. The NPR story wasn’t about this terrible cultural insensitivity, but about how the Marines were having difficulty training and trusting the Afghan soldiers they were training. Sadly, I think NPR and the Marines missed a possible connection between the insulting nicknames and the difficulty in the collaborative process. I wonder how much training and education the Marines get on the collaborative process and building successful teams through support and respect rather than intimidation and mockery.