They're called "Human Terrain Teams." They help give the U.S. military commanders insight into the culture of the civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. A Pennsylvania man helps prepare the 5-member teams at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Harry Pecote, a 49-year-old father of six from Erie, Pennsylvania is a Civil Affairs Officer in the army. He train officers, anthropologists and political scientists to be members of human terrain teams.
Pecote says the team members get to know civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to promote peace and reduce military and civilian deaths.
"We're not seeking ideally the local government official or police chief. We want to know what is the true mindset of the person in the street, what does the village really feel, what do they think. Often there is a disconnect between what the local government says and what the local population is truly thinking."
Pecote says during his trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, he's noticed that every region in each country is different....
"Village by village, it will vary and that's one of the problems we have as a military and as Americans in general. We look at people as Iraqis or Aghanis and that would be like saying someone from Western Pennsylvania is the same as someone from Eastern Pennsylvania whereas the people grew up with different cultures, different perspectives."
When he's not serving, he owns and operates an antique shop.
The program started in 2006. The teams typically consist of five members. Several hundred have been deployed since it started. Three have died.
It has been criticized by anthropology groups who see it as a way to weaponize anthropology.