USA — Defense Department Launches ‘Lessons Learned’ Blog

WASHINGTON — For any­one who has served in the U.S. mil­i­tary, whether in uni­form or as a fam­i­ly mem­ber, the con­cept of shar­ing lessons learned is a famil­iar one. A new Defense Depart­ment blog that launch­es today seeks to bring those lessons to an acces­si­ble online plat­form.

Titled “In Their Own Words: Lessons Learned in Today’s Mil­i­tary,” the blog aims to pro­vide a plat­form for ser­vice­mem­bers, vet­er­ans and fam­i­lies to share their thoughts and expe­ri­ences on a vari­ety of top­ics. Each month, the blog will fea­ture a dif­fer­ent top­ic rang­ing from lessons from mul­ti­ple deploy­ments to lessons from the mil­i­tary fam­i­ly.

As a first top­ic, “In Their Own Words” fea­tures female ser­vice­mem­bers engaged in work that is unique to them. With the increas­ing preva­lence of “female engage­ment teams” in Afghanistan and the per­spec­tive of female ser­vice­mem­bers engaged in sim­i­lar work in Iraq, the land­scape is filled with lessons learned and expe­ri­ences to share.

The blog post­ings in August will not be lim­it­ed to Iraq and Afghanistan, how­ev­er. L. Tam­my Duck­worth, assis­tant sec­re­tary of vet­er­ans affairs for pub­lic and inter­gov­ern­men­tal affairs and a major in the Illi­nois Army Nation­al Guard, will share the lessons she has learned while work­ing to increase the resources avail­able for the grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of female vet­er­ans. A retired Navy cap­tain who forged what was a unique path at the time in the intel­li­gence field as a female offi­cer also will con­tribute a post­ing.

The series kicks off with a post­ing from Marine Corps Lt. Col. Diana Staneszews­ki, who serves as an “AfPak Hand” in Afghanistan. The AfPak Hand pro­gram works to build bet­ter, long-term rela­tion­ships with the Afghan and Pak­istani peo­ple. Staneszews­ki works at build­ing these rela­tion­ships face to face in the lan­guage of the peo­ple.

“As a West­ern woman who speaks Pash­to,” she writes, “I have blown more Afghan minds than you can imag­ine. I have been out­side the wire three times a week for the last four weeks.

Every­where I go, I am con­stant­ly invit­ed to have tea with the men, and the boys and girls flock to me. Here is an exam­ple. I walk out on patrol with the men. I see a group of men in a lit­tle store. They ignore the entire patrol. I walk up say, ‘Hel­lo, how are you? My name is “Moskaa” — my Pash­to name, which means “smile,” is writ­ten on my hel­met and is on my out­er tac­ti­cal vest on a patch — and then everyone’s jaws drop.”

Staneszews­ki shares her first-per­son expe­ri­ences with the peo­ple of Afghanistan in the blog.

“The first ques­tion I get is where did I learn my Pash­to?” she writes. “The sec­ond ques­tion is where am I from? I always joke and say I am Kan­da­hari, and then say I am jok­ing [and that] I am Amer­i­can. The Afghans get the joke and smile. Then I keep speak­ing, ask­ing and answer­ing ques­tions, and soon they tell me, ‘Yes, you are Kan­da­hari. You are not Amer­i­can.’ Now, I accom­plish all this with my min­i­mal Pash­to famil­iar­iza­tion, a smile, and a lit­tle per­son­al­i­ty.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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