PEELKHANA, DHAKA, Bangladesh – It isn’t unusual for U.S. forces to travel to different countries teaching service members various military tactics in order to improve partner nation capabilities, but for some the best part of the training comes outside the classroom.
While Okinawa-based Marines and sailors traveled to Bangladesh to teach non-lethal weapons tactics as part of Non-Lethal Weapons Executive Seminar 2008, a bilateral training seminar headed by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and conducted by III Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training, their presence brought along a heightened understanding of U.S. and Marine Corps customs, culture and camaraderie. The U.S. service members also learned a lesson in foreign hospitality.
“Bangladeshi hospitality and eagerness to learn about our culture is just incredible,” said Capt. David Fenbert, the SOTG Detachment assistant officer-in-charge. “They are always making sure our needs are met, never stop asking about our culture and if there is something more they can do for us.”
Many of the Marines and sailors were awestruck by the kindness and generosity shown every day.
“They are a very generous people and I think it’s amazing,” said, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor M. Goodell, a hospital corpsman with SOTG. “They don’t have as much as we do, but they are always trying to give us more. They’re always worried about us and their happy to see us every day even through we’re putting them through some tough and demanding training.”
During every meal and break, the Marines were bombarded with questions, not just military-related, but personal as well.
“Most of the people in Bangladesh come from the same background and they think it’s the same in the U.S.,” said Lance Cpl. Jesus Colone, an armorer with III MEF Headquarters Group. “Most of their experience with Americans comes from watching the television so, they are interested in learning about all the different cultures we have in the U.S., that we aren’t just one group of people who all live the same way.”
NOLES 08 also helped bring the Bangladeshi service members together.
“Bangladesh Army, Navy and Air Force would not be engaged in training with our police or fire department,” said Bangladesh Air Force Flight Lt. Muzaffor Raahath, a student at the course. “This training has brought our services together. We would not have had this experience if the Marines had not come here to teach us.”
While the Marines have learned about Bangladeshi hospitality, the Bangladeshi’s took notes on Marine Corps discipline.
“I enjoy talking to the Marines about culture, family, camaraderie and their capacity for excellence,” said Bangladesh Army Maj. Shahed Minhazsiddiquei, a Bangladesh Army School of Infantry weapons instructor. “They maintain discipline everywhere they go; in the wash room, while eating, teaching. They call everyone sir even if they are not in the military. (They) speak very cordial.”
What impressed Minhazsiddiquei most was the trust and confidence Marine officers have in their enlisted troops.
“Marines introduced something new to us,” he said. “Marine (noncommissioned officers) are so capable and efficient. I want to take this back with me and make our commands as efficient.”
The Marines came to Bangladesh to teach non-lethal tactics, but what they accomplished was far more beneficial to both groups – a foundation of trust and respect to grow upon.