“Onslovia.” Say it out loud and it sounds like a remote third-world country, but for people local to the area of Eastern North Carolina, it only takes a few minutes to realize the fictional country’s name is derived from Onslow County.
MARINE CORPS AUXILIARY LANDING FIELD, BOGUE, N.C. -- The fictional country has its own language, named “Onslovan.” The language was formed from a list of 15 key phrases in Arabic and a random hodgepodge of syllables spouted off by role players acting as “Onslovians.”
Needless to say, this notional nation and its people served as the perfect setting for Marine Special Operations Advisor Course pipeline students going through their final exercise at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field, Bogue, N.C. July 29, to Aug 1.
The four-day field exercise concluded the seven-month MSOAC for pipeline students with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command’s Marine Special Operations Advisor Group.
The course gave the evaluators a chance to grade the future operators’ abilities to train foreign militaries, according to Maj. Dov Kawamoto, exercise coordinator, Standards and Training, MSOAG.
“The main focus is cross-cultural communication,” Kawamoto said. “We are here to train and teach people. This is a learning laboratory where the Marines are evaluated in all their areas.”
The pipeline students divided into teams and paired off with groups of “Onslovians” in the training. The students taught them a course curriculum encompassing an array of military fundamentals.
During the MSOAC, several weeks are spent in what is called the subject matter expert track. Each member of the team receives specialized training in one of several key areas, including intelligence, communications, logistics/demolitions and medical.
But as prepared as the pipeline students may have been for the final exercise, it was soon reinforced to them that training the “Onslovians” is not as simple as giving a group of Marines a class.
From the moment the future operators stepped foot in the fictional country, they encountered many of the challenges that go with training a non-English speaking foreign military.
The students had to teach the “Onslovian” troops by speaking through a translator, a contracted actor playing the part of a local civilian, and often had to modify their teaching techniques by using body language and objects.
“Something that may seem simple to you may seem complicated to them, and you just have to be patient with them,” one pipeline student said.
Aside from the language barrier, the Marines had to adjust to the “Onslovian culture.” Sometimes, they had to eat strange foods and deal with moral dilemmas caused by cultural differences.
“(The students) have to employ influence techniques,” Kawamoto said. “They want to do the right thing without offending the host nation.”
Many of the evaluators served as key role players to grade how well the Marines built rapport with the “Onslovians.” Those evaluators were staff noncommissioned officers and officers who have served as advisors.
In one scenario, a role player offered the Marines an unusual type of candy. How the Marines reacted to the role players’ generosity affected the role players’ attitude toward them, as well as their grade in the course.
The majority of the “Onslovians” consisted of Marine volunteers still enrolled in their respective military occupational specialty schools at Marine Corps Air Stations Cherry Point N.C. and New River N.C., and Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools at Camp Johnson.
According to Kawamoto, less experienced Marines were used as the bulk of the role players so the evaluators could better gauge how well the pipeline students trained the mock foreign military.
At the end of the training, each Marine received a score on their performance and received feedback in areas needing improvement, as well as areas where the students did well.
The Marines who graduated from the course will move on to join companies in MSOAG. There, they will be tasked with foreign internal defense missions to train foreign militaries and help build lasting bonds between the United States and nations around the globe.