Bullet Wisdom

I am an Active Duty Officer in the US Army. I am a Husband, father, writer, hunter, gamer, and SOLDIER. This blog is a forum for my many hobbies as well as my random musings.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mending Fences

The Army is not all Kevlar and testosterone. Over the years I have come to the realization that people, not tanks and helicopters, make the Army go. Of course, it's the same as in the civilian world. You have to work with people in order to accomplish your objectives.

Over the last week, we had two objectives. First, we had to get out into our battle space and find where we fit in the grand scheme of things. Just tackling the weekly rhythm alone was a daunting task. There were meetings scattered all over the calendar and the map.

We quickly realized was that with a small, geographically isolated team you could not get everywhere for every meeting. If we did, we would spend all our time on the road going to meetings rather than performing our primary duty: advising an Iraqi Infantry Brigade.

That process is still ongoing. We're whittling the large list of meetings down to a few. We're figuring out where we need to plug in to maximize our effects. It'll be another couple of weeks, but it should pay off for us in the long run. The important part is trying to find the right forum for connection our Iraqi and Coalition counterparts. That's the key to success and will require additional work.

Our other objective was to get out and work on relationships. Before coming here, we were told that our primary problem would be lack of support from coalition partners In other words, don't bother asking for help because none will come.

The reality we discovered was very different. Coalition units have bent over backwards to provide the support needed for us to execute our mission. The primary difference between what I'll categorize as 'then-and-now' is simply personalities. We've made it a point of emphasis to get out there and shake hands with units throughout our area of operations. Already, the payoff is huge.

It is yet another reminder that an e-mail is never as good as a phone call or a handshake. Oh, and that you get more with sugar than salt.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that summary of all your objectives. I just wanted to invite you, Ken, to share some more your 'war stories' on our Honoring the American Soldier tribute. We're working with the band Queensryche and asking everyone to dedicate songs and share stories in musical tribute to our servicemen and women.

Check it out at http://jamsbio.com/american-soldier

Anonymous said...

This is a true point like you said no matter where you are in the world. Although I have not served in Iraq or its neighboring theaters of operations I did come across these same problems while serving in Korea prior to OEF/OIF.

There we had to work hard at creating a collaborative relationship with our ROK Army counterparts, as well as maintain a good relationship with the local populace. Because the typical Soldier rotates through Korea every year it is hard to build these lasting relationships. It takes a while to develop a mutual trust between parties.

Two examples that spring to mind were 1) during a field exercise my Artillery Battery was firing from a commonly used firing point. Batteries roll in and out of there all the time as it was one of the few locations shooting into one of the only impact areas controlled by the Second Infantry Division. During this field exercise the elderly lady that lived in the house near the firing point came out to "complain" about the cannon fire. Well I thought she was complaining, it turned out that she was actually thanking us for being there and protecting her from the North Korean aggression. It turned out she was only telling my Senior Korean Soldier that her window had been broken in the past a different battery firing. We were able to get her window repaired for her by talking to our G5, for which she was eternally grateful.

The other story is in reference to how long it took to establish a relationship with our ROK Army counterparts. We had to integrate with them for our defense of South Korea exercises, but always found it hard to get information out of them for how we could train together. We realized early on that they typically do not share this information because we rotate through the country so often (once again, every year) that it was pointless to establish this rapport. Thanks to some longer tours by key individuals we were able to start conducting some joint training missions with other ROK batteries. These were probably the most exciting field training exercises that my Soldiers were able to participate in during my tenure there.

So I agree with you have to get out there and meet people face to face. It is the best way to establish a trusting relationship. Face to face meetings are the most successful will dealing with different cultures.

Major Guy Yelverton, student, Command and General Staff College, Ft. Belvoir, VA.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.