Twentynine Palms, CA has hosted one of the Marine Corps’ most unique assets: battlefield foreign language specialist role players. Iraqis who play D&D? No, Iraqis who can help the Corps simulate life and cultural norms in Iraq. In recent days, the Marines have handed out over $400 million in contracts to keep that capability running – and extend it to Camp Lejeune. Characteristically, Alaskan firms have won both awards, just as they have taken a significant share of Special Operations Command’s foreign language PsyOps support contracts.
These role player awards seems like large but inconsequential outlays, a sort of upside-down Disneyworld for Marines. In fact, they are more critical to current military effectiveness on the front lines than just about any piece of equipment DID covers. An example of how critical this work is can be found in journalist Michael Totten’s reports from the front lines. “Builders of Nations” noted the contrast between prior military training, and the civil administration work that characterizes current deployments to Fallujah. Totten writes: