K-State Libraries Connection
by Mindy Von Elling
One of the biggest things that the nation has undergone in recent years is the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet the majority of the countries' citizens and military still remain uneducated about each other and what a wartime bond could achieve.
Daryl Youngman, associate professor at Hale Library at Kansas State University is an advocate for counterinsurgency and developing bonds between U.S. and Afghanistan soldiers and citizens. Counterinsurgency involves the act of combating guerilla warfare and is more of a peace-making effort. K-State libraries and the Army Directorate of Cultural Influence and Counterinsurgency are partners in developing social relationships across military cultures and have set up training sessions both in Kansas and in Afghanistan.
"The Ft. Riley training mission, where the DCC (Directorate of Cultural Influence and Counterinsurgency) was centered, was responsible for training Americans who were going to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan and also to train Afghanistan forces who would be working with the American soldiers," Youngman said.
Those training missions exist not only at Ft. Riley, but in Afghanistan as well.
"This type of training has expanded to camp Julien in Afghanistan and camp Taji in Iraq," Youngman said. "In the beginning this whole concept of interaction to pursue counterinsurgency was not immediately accepted within the army, but now it has been proven as being doctrinally sound from their perspective and is widely accepted."
According to Youngman, one of the most basic principles of counterinsurgency is the conflict against warlike activities demonstrated by local people. Hale Library has conducted several activities in which American students and Afghanistan students can connect across cultures and bond in a social environment.
"Another thing we did were receptions at the Hemisphere Room in Hale Library," Youngman said. "We encouraged everyone to get along on strictly a social basis and that really allowed the Americans to see their Afghan counterparts working in a non-military function and it allowed American students and faculty to get acquainted with a different part of Afghanistan that we don't usually see on TV."
The same principle works the other way around. Youngman shared some secondary benefits that the library program generated, which is a deeper understanding of the U.S. army and what it does as a whole.
"Secondary benefits have been breaking a lot of stereotypes," Youngman said. "We've got quite a group of K-State libraries faculty and staff who have gained a lot better understanding of not only people from the Middle East and Southwest Asia but a lot better understanding of what the U.S. military is like."
Another advance was that the cultural students going to K-State have now learned more about what Hale Library has to offer them through the social workshops that have taken place and the library's persistence in meshing cultures and the military with education.
"At the beginning of this project we had military and military-dependent people from Ft. Riley who were actually registered K-State students taking a course or two, that didn't realize they could come and use the library," Youngman said.
But the overall goal that the collaboration has been working towards is a general better understanding and even kinship between citizens and soldiers of Afghanistan and the United States.
"The original objective was to learn more about each other's culture so that we could do university work and army work more effectively," Youngman said.
But it would appear that the initiative has reached even further than that. Not only have both sides learned more about each other's cultures, but there has been a social breakthrough that could be the beginning of more to come across the nation.
"There's a little team building that has gone on. We think that supports the efforts of building alliances," Youngman said. "I think what works best about it is that barriers have come down. The main objective of cultural understanding has really been well-served."