TAMPA, FL – Sources at United States Central Command revealed today that less than half of the officers assigned to the command could correctly identify ten or more of the twenty-two countries in the command’s area of responsibility.
“Of course we’re concerned about this,” said Colonel Albert Hawkins, CENTCOM’s Chief of Training. “I mean you can’t expect an officer to properly plan and execute an invasion of a foreign country if he can’t point to it on a map.”
The officers were given a map of the CENTCOM AOR with nothing but the national borders outlined and asked to fill in the names of the countries. While most did well in identifying Iraq (82%) and Afghanistan (81%) fewer were able to properly identify Iran, Qatar and Kuwait (77%, 73% and 69% respectively). Just over half the officers were able to identify the remainder of the Gulf nations except Oman, which a full third identified as “Brunei.”
“We’re OK with their knowledge of the Gulf region,” Hawkins stated, “even though we had to give a lot of them credit for labeling Qatar as Al Udeid. I mean Al Udeid Air Base is huge and it is out in the middle of nowhere. They may think the country is just the base.”
When asked if there was any other worrying data in the test results Hawkins pointed out that, “41% of our officers correctly labeled India on their maps. That should be a plus but unfortunately the test directions said to identify countries in the CENTCOM AOR and India is PACOM’s. And don’t get me started on the Stans.”
“The Stans” is CENTCOM jargon for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
“Unfortunately,” Hawkins admitted, “most of our officers simply wrote ‘The Stans’ over the whole area and didn’t identify any individual countries. The officers that did try to identify individual countries usually labeled them with something marginally racist and insulting like ‘Hajistan’, ‘Camelstan’, or ‘Muslimastan.’”
Colonel Stanley Rayburn, the Chief of International Engagement at CENTCOM, admitted he was one of the offenders.
“Yeah, I should know better,” he admitted, “but to be honest the only time we care about the Stans anymore is when Pakistan threatens to cut off our land supply routes. Then we take all the liaison officers from the Stans out to Hooters for some wings to show how important they are to our regional strategies. Pakistan backs down and we’re back to only seeing them at parties and photo opportunities for six months.”
Colonel Hawkins was confident that renewed emphasis on basic map knowledge of the AOR would be the first step in resolving the training deficiency. “This is a core competency we’re going to have to improve upon,” he admitted, licking Hooters wing sauce residue off his fingers.