On the back of a GI Joe action figure there was a quote, pardon the paraphrase.
"There are two types of Green Berets, the kind that goes into the jungle and tries to impress the locals with advance technology and American know how, and the kind that bites the head off a snake, chugs down a local brew and says 'FOLLOW ME!'."
There is so much about leadership that simply cannot be taught in a classroom. The official leadership types are directive, delegative, and combination as well as situations where each type is appropriate. But the only way to hammer down your leadership style is to be put in a situation where you have to lead. If you succeed good, if you fail then you need to try something different. That is one of the good things about Ranger school, you will recycle until you get an effective leadership style hammered down.
This generation of soldiers is different from other generations, but really not so much. Captain Adolph Von Schell of the German Army wrote in the early 1930's that "American soldiers are always asking 'Why?'." Which is one of the biggest complaints that Army leaders have with the current crop of Soldiers.
The reason why Soldiers ask "Why?" is because they don't trust you. They want to know the reasoning behind an order. They do not trust us to have their best interest in mind. So you know that you have built an effective team when the "Why?" is only used in the After Action Review.
It is just the same with Iraqi or Afghani soldiers. Building trust is what builds a team. If you don't have a team you won't be effective. And quite a bit of the problem in both of those nations is that team building is very fricking difficult.
I wish that I could share here what I have learned from actual examples but I will not because the bad guys read blogs too. But I will say that the same dedication that we show our fellow warriors will win this thing. One of the reasons that Special Forces are so effective is that they immerse themselves into a culture and learn how to do things within that culture. Now it is the Big Army's time to learn that skillset.
Because we can go anywhere on Earth and try to impress the locals with advance technology and American know-how that win battles, but at the end of the day it is how we act that wins the hearts and minds. The stereotypical "Arrogant American" works against us in a culture that has experience 30 years of war. But when two men who have fought together, bled together, sit down over a wood fire and share a meal, it doesn't matter that one is 400 years behind the other. Trust can break through the language and literacy barrier because it is built on actions.
If a picture is worth a thousand words then actions are worth a thousand pictures. When are actions are right, just, and honorable by the standards of our allies, we will make more gains than building roads, wells, and schools.
Have faith, because part of this post isn't about explaining how to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi's and Afghani's, it is to win the hearts and minds of those who don't believe that we can win. We can win, not only because of our technology and know how, but because there are warriors out there who cannot settle for failure. They may look like young tattooed punks, or slow talking rednecks, but they are warriors who bridge the gap between cultures.