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Human Intelligence Trainees and the Struggle to Acculturate.

Introduction

Human intelligence (HUMINT) plays a critical role within the intelligence arena, helping outline foreign policy outcomes and protecting U.S. interests around the globe. This type of intelligence activity, conducted by trained HUMINT collectors, requires actual contact with humans and demands mental strength, resilience, and adaptability. As part of their job, HUMINT collectors are in frequent contact with other cultures, increasing the probability that an exchange will take place in which the two sides may or may not adapt behavior, language, values, and beliefs. HUMINT collectors are among the most rigorously trained military personnel. Our national security's critical dependence on HUMINT to deliver results demands that we identify tools and strategies to help HUMINT collectors manage cultural stressors and maintain their psychological health. This will result in maximized HUMINT collection efforts. (1)

What is Human Intelligence and Why is it so Central?

Tasks of the HUMINT collector can include:

* Interrogations.

* Source operations.

* Debriefings.

* Liaison with allied counterparts.

These tasks can take the HUMINT collector to a multitude of areas of operation around the globe. HUMINT collectors are well prepared to answer intelligence and information requirements through long and rigorous hours of training. They have strict guidelines to follow and consistently sharpen their skills through planning and preparation, research, and hands-on experience. Understanding cultural influence, such as history, politics, economics, religion, and geography, is a big part of their job as they develop language and interpersonal skills and sharpen critical character traits. Overall, HUMINT collectors are well-rounded, motivated, and intelligent individuals who require the utmost attention and support to accomplish a very challenging and complex mission. (2)

As HUMINT collectors encounter other cultures, the goal, generally, is to pursue a mutual understanding and negotiate a compromise, with an end goal in mind. According to John Berry, a renowned professor of psychology, this encounter results in acculturation, which is "the process of cultural change and psychological change that results following meeting between cultures." (3) In other words, acculturation is what happens when you live with French people for a while and start saying "ooh la la" and eating snails. On a more serious note, however, "As enculturation is used to describe the process of first-culture learning, acculturation can be thought of as second-culture learning." (4) HUMINT collectors may experience a less lasting and potent form called individual-level acculturation, especially if the mission is a short-term assignment. (5)

Cross-cultural psychology has been central in the study of this change in human behavior stemming from cultural contact between people. Much of the research findings concluded that there are large variations in how individuals acculturate and acclimate to this process. Research on inter-cultural contact has discovered that "there are relationships between how individuals acculturate and how well they adapt." (6) Stress is experienced during the acculturation process, and there are variations in psychological and sociocultural adaptation. (7) Therefore, having an acculturation strategy can be critical in reducing culture shock; but we should also take into consideration the fact that individuals are unique in their ability to cope.

When I was an instructor at the U.S. Army HUMINT collector course, I understood that each individual was unique in their ability to cope. I always tailored the one-on-one practice sessions to meet the needs of each student. The key, in my experience, was to portray and maintain a realistic role that would naturally trigger stressors necessary to create a beneficial encounter that ultimately resulted in self-awareness and personal growth.

Acculturation Explained

As we seek to adapt through acculturation, our ultimate goal is to find physical and psychological well-being and sociocultural balance when managing daily activity within this new reality. (8) Berry states, "Good psychological adaptation is predicted by personality variables, life changing events, and social support, whereas good sociocultural adaptation is predicted by cultural knowledge, degree of contact, and positive intergroup attitudes." (9)

The HUMINT instructor nurtures psychological adaptation by establishing a 5-month-long professional relationship based on trust and social support, thus helping to ease the arduous process of adaptation. On the other hand, every encounter or iteration triggers the sociocultural adaptation, transporting the student into a realistic scenario encompassing complex human interactions and stressful encounters. These repetitive but unique iterations allow students to develop a type of muscle memory, becoming more at ease with every encounter. This frees the mind to develop other areas of interest such as communication skills, rapport building skills, and approach strategies.

"The most widely researched...approach to acculturation has been John Berry's acculturation framework," (10) which has shown that two critical issues are debated before the acculturation process begins: Do we want to preserve our cultural heritage, and how willing are we to interact with this new culture? (11) People do not experience acculturation in the same way and usually seek out an acculturation strategy based on their attitudes and behaviors. (12) For a HUMINT collector, certain factors will be critical when answering the above questions, such as:

* Skill level.

* Age.

* Prior cultural exposure.

* Practical Life experience.

* Multilingual ability.

* Personality type.

* Motivation.

* Sincerity.

* Stress management skills.

* Self-understanding. (13)

Once we answer the acculturation framework questions, the next step is to decide on an acculturation strategy by choosing from one of the following four strategies:

Assimilation. The assimilation strategy is when one does not want to maintain a cultural identity but does want close contact with another culture, in essence adopting the cultural values and norms of the other. (14)

Separation. The separation strategy is when one wants to maintain a cultural identity but does not want close contact with another culture. (15)

Integration. The integration strategy is when one wants to maintain a cultural identity but also wants close contact with another culture, essentially seeking a middle ground. (16)

Marginalization. Finally, the marginalization strategy is when one does not want to maintain a cultural identity and does not want close contact with another culture. (17)

Each individual's unique culture and how they perceive it creates an imprint; therefore, "acculturation involves alterations in the individual's sense of self" (18) and "changes in a person's behavioral repertoire." (19)

As an instructor, I found it was important to identify each student's unique acculturation strategy early on in order to help nurture it. If an individual favors, for example, an assimilation strategy, instructors would tailor the training and provide the skills necessary. Ultimately, as students progressed, the ideal is to have HUMINT collectors who can adapt to all four acculturation strategies and are able to morph when necessary. A HUMINT collector who can adapt to any situation has a higher rate of return when it comes to collection efforts.

Strategies

We need to ask ourselves what changes take place during acculturation. We should question the nature of this relationship, and question whether control or common respect is its foundation. As a result of these inquiries, what observable changes have occurred as a result of these two-way interactions? Who am I and where do I belong?

As previously mentioned, an acculturation strategy is unique to each individual, with variation across the spectrum, depending on personal beliefs and perceptions of the host culture. (20) Because of that, one may choose, for example, to acculturate values or beliefs but not necessarily political ideology and vice versa. The compatibility of the two cultures' values, beliefs, behaviors, and norms requires analysis, as it is a critical component of the process of selecting a strategy. (21) Other changes that occur during acculturation are affective (stress/emotions), behavioral (social coping mechanisms), and cognitive (self-perception). (22)

Socrates said, "To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom." Self-knowledge is also a stepping-stone to acculturation. Students at the HUMINT course are confronted with their innermost fears during every iteration or practical exercise, allowing them to discover strengths and weaknesses and the opportunity to modify behavior before they actually face it on the battlefield.

One hurdle mentioned by George Kelly discusses personal constructs, such as stereotypes and prejudices, which have a tendency to manipulate our thinking and actions. (23) Niklas Luhmann debates the importance of what he calls double contingency, or personal expectations, as critical to creating mutual understanding through communication, openness, and sharing. The less we know about each other, the more arduous the road to inter-connectedness. (24) For this reason, a rigorous and constant barrage of cultural training and development has been at the core of all the HUMINT training.

Best Acculturation Strategy, Why Integration?

Researchers have found that selecting the right acculturation strategy will determine how well one adapts. The majority of research has discovered that integration results in the best psychological and sociocultural outcomes, while marginalization results in the least adaptability and is least favorable. (25) So how well do people acculturate? To answer this question, we need to look at long-term psychological and physical health, communication proficiency, self-awareness, stress management, emotional acceptance, and cultural awareness skills. (26) Adaptation is not tantamount to acculturation, but it can manifest itself as a result of change. (27)

As the debate continues, there has been a split in acculturation research between the unidimensional and the bidimensional views on acculturation. The major difference between the two models is "how they treat the relationship between the culture of birth or upbringing, referred to here as the heritage culture, and the predominant cultural environment, or mainstream culture." (28) The unidimensional approach theorizes that a shedding of attitudes, values, and behaviors takes place as the person acquires new ones from the mainstream culture. (29) The bidimensional approach is convinced that the heritage and mainstream cultures have equal share in reshaping attitudes, values, and behaviors, giving the individual a choice in adopting parts or wholes. (30) My personal observation is that both unidimensional and bidimensional approaches have been used successfully by students. The circumstances, personality traits, individuals involved, and selected approach strategy are the factors that determine the success rate. The students control the choice of acculturation strategy that fits the scenario, and they are encouraged to remain flexible throughout the process.

Regardless of how the process of acculturation takes place, there are factors that play a crucial role in the rate at which an individual begins to adapt. These components include but are not limited to "premigration exposure to the mainstream culture, residence in an ethnic neighborhood, willingness to seek language education, and frequency of contact with individuals from the mainstream culture." (31)

Acculturative Stress

When exposed to a new culture, people meet many obstacles such as language, values, beliefs, behaviors, and norms, resulting in a tremendous amount of trauma, also referred to as acculturative stress. Acculturative stress is a critical factor in mental health stability and a predictor of future psychological problems. Variables that have a tendency to affect the stress level include the extent to which the two cultures differ, the reason for contact between the two, and the degree of acceptance of the host culture. (32) Acculturative integration is least stressful, while marginalization is the most stressful. On the other hand, assimilation and separation approaches tend to alternate in the stress level, depending on the circumstances. (33)

When exposed to acculturative stress, individuals can undergo psychological changes such as behavioral alterations in speaking, dressing, and eating, accompanied by indecision, anxiety, and depression. (34) This type of major change is comparable to the stresses brought on by a major life event or events, which are usually accompanied by serious challenges. Examples of manifestation of acculturative stress in HUMINT collector trainees include complete shutdown, refusal to communicate, defensive posture, argumentative attitude, surrender to the other culture, focus on intelligence collection, and attempt to convert the host culture to their own worldview. When skilled HUMINT instructors notice these behaviors in students, the first step is to maintain the authenticity of the training by remaining in role. This guarantees that the stresses remain active; otherwise, the learning value is lost. The second step is to identify the behavior caused by stress and channel it through constructive means such as subtle in-role leads. The instructor should provide just enough assistance to prevent drowning, but the rest has to come from the student's own willingness to change course. For example, if a student takes a defensive posture, the instructor should intervene and mention, in role, that in their culture, a lack of eye contact is considered rude and offensive. Depending on the circumstance, the subtlety of the message will depend on the skill level of the student and severity of the problem. This quickly helps the student regain their composure and resume training, having now developed a strategy to help reduce stress in a future encounter of similar circumstances.

Conclusion

Acculturation theory is a revelation. It not only reveals the range of possible acculturation strategies, but it also provides an insight into possibilities that we might not have considered. For example, HUMINT collectors can acculturate to cultures that they may not necessarily like or that exist in a bicultural state, finding marginality to be a positive trait. The integrationist strategy of acculturation is the path of least resistance for a HUMINT collector. Berry said, "This may be an example of reciprocity in mutual attitudes: If immigrants experience rejection from the society of settlement, then they are more likely to reject them in return." (35) For a HUMINT collector, it especially rings true that showing humility and sincerity while extending an olive branch will most likely open doors and is a sign of strength and courage. On the other hand, Berry stresses, "discrimination is often the most powerful predictor of poor psychological and sociocultural adaptation. (36) Discrimination, as it applies to HUMINT, is the action of rejecting the other culture or lacking in motivation to acculturate.

As instructors, we also concluded that a link existed between acculturation strategies and adaptation. We now know, after much research, that acculturation is survivable. Acculturation does not weaken the individual, by any means; it is instead a rather empowering and enriching experience. This is especially relevant in our multicultural society where acculturation will become inevitable and essential not only for its inherent value but also in the benefit received from bridging the gap and maintaining a steady stream of diversity into the world. It is critical for HUMINT collectors to develop the skills to transition in and out of cultures with ease and simplicity in order to surmount stress and achieve success in their mission endeavors.

Endnotes

(1.) "Intelligence: Human Intelligence," Central Intelligence Agency, April 30, 2013, https://www.cia.gov/news-information/featured-story-archive/2010-featured-story-archive/intelligence-human-intelligence.html.

(2.) U.S. Army Field Manual (FM) 2-22.3, Human Intelligence Collector Operations (Washington DC: Government Publishing Office, 2006), 1-12,1-13.

(3.) David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 472, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(4.) Joseph Adebayo Awoyemi, Pre-Marital Counselling In a Multicultural Society (Morrisville, NC: Lulu Press, 2014), 213.

(5.) Ibid.

(6.) David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 472, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(7.) Ibid., 475.

(8.) Ibid., 476.

(9.) John W. Berry, "Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures," International Journal of Intercultural Relations 29, no. 6 (2005): 709.

(10.) Andrew G. Ryder, Lynn E. Alden, and Delroy L. Paulhus, "Is Acculturation Unidimensional or Bidimensional? A Head-to-Head Comparison in the Prediction of Personality, Self-Identity, and Adjust ment," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79, no. 1 (2000): 50.

(11.) David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 476, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(12.) John W. Berry, "Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures," International Journal of Intercultural Relations 29, no. 6 (2005): 702.

(13.) Magid Al-Araki, "Models of Intercultural Communication: Identities, Styles of Acculturation, and Premises for Enjoying the Company of One Another--Empirical Data From the Public Sector in Norway," SAGE Open 5, no. 2 (August 2015): 1, doi: 10.1177/2158244015577795.

(14.) David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 476, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(15.) Ibid.

(16.) Ibid.

(17.) Ibid.

(18.) Andrew G. Ryder, Lynn E. Alden, and Delroy L. Paulhus, "Is Acculturation Unidimensional or Bidimensional? A Head-to-Head Comparison in the Prediction of Personality, Self-Identity, and Adjustment," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79, no. 1 (2000): 49.

(19.) John W. Berry, "Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures," International Journal of Intercultural Relations 29, no. 6 (2005): 707.

(20.) Joseph Adebayo Awoyemi, Pre-Marital Counselling In a Multicultural Society (Morrisville, NC: Lulu Press, 2014), 213.

(21.) David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 473, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(22.) Ibid., 474-475.

(23.) Magid Al-Araki, "Models of Intercultural Communication: Identities, Styles of Acculturation, and Premises for Enjoying the Company of One Another--Empirical Data From the Public Sector in Norway," SAGE Open 5, no. 2 (August 2015): 2, doi: 10.1177/2158244015577795.

(24.) Ibid., 3.

(25.) John W. Berry, "Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures," International Journal of Intercultural Relations 29, no. 6 (2005): 708-709; Andrew G. Ryder, Lynn E. Alden, and Delroy L. Paulhus, "Is Acculturation Unidimensional or Bidimensional? A Head-to-Head Comparison in the Prediction of Personality, Self-Identity, and Adjustment," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79, no. 1 (2000): 53; David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 477, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(26.) John W. Berry, "Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures," International Journal of Intercultural Relations 29, no. 6 (2005): 709.

(27.) Ibid., 699, 706.

(28.) Andrew G. Ryder, Lynn E. Alden, and Delroy L. Paulhus, "Is Acculturation Unidimensional or Bidimensional? A Head-to-Head Comparison in the Prediction of Personality, Self-Identity, and Adjustment," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79, no. 1 (2000): 49.

(29.) Ibid., 49-50.

(30.) Ibid., 49-50.

(31.) Ibid., 50.

(32.) "John Wesley Powell," New World Encyclopedia, 9 September 2016, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=John_Wesley_Powell&oldid=999195.

(33.) John W. Berry, "Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures," International Journal of Intercultural Relations 29, no. 6 (2005): 708; David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 474, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(34.) John W. Berry, "Acculturation: Living Successfully in Two Cultures," International Journal of Intercultural Relations 29, no. 6 (2005): 702.

(35.) David L. Sam and John W. Berry, "Acculturation: When Individuals and Groups of Different Cultural Backgrounds Meet," Perspectives on Psychological Science 5, no. 4 (2010): 479, doi: 10.1177/1745691610373075.

(36.) Ibid.

References

New World Encyclopedia contributors. "Acculturation." New World Encyclopedia. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Acculturation&oldid=993879.

Trimble, Joseph, E. "Introduction: Social Change and Acculturation." In Acculturation: Advances in Theory, Measurement, and Applied Research. Edited by Kevin M. Chun, Pamela Balls Organista, and Geranrdo Marin. Washington, DC: American Psychology Association, 2003, https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joseph_Trimble/publication/236844501_lntroduction_Social_change_and_acculturation/links/54b6fll50cf2e68eb28002db/lntroduction-Social-change-and-acculturation.pdf.

U.S. Army. FM 3-24, "Culture" Chap. 3 in Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies. Washington DC: GPO, 2014.

U.S. Army. FM 3-24.2, Tactics in Counterinsurgency. Washington DC: GPO, 2009.

Van Dyne, L., Ang, S., and Livermore, D. "Cultural Intelligence: A Pathway for Leading in a Rapidly Globalizing World." In K.M. Hannum. B. McFeeters, and L. Booysen (Eds.), Leading Across Differences: Casebook. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

by Mr. Mounir Bouchareb

Mr. Mounir Bouchareb is a senior training development specialist and a master instructor at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Culture Center at Fort Huachuca, AZ. He completed a bachelor of arts in education in 2002 and a master of arts in political science in 2010. His interests have been in education and the study of foreign languages. Before joining the Culture Center, Mounir served multiple tours as a senior interrogator during Operation Iraqi Freedom and later as a training instructor at the human intelligence collector course, spanning a 16-year career in military intelligence
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Date:Jan 1, 2018
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