Hey, There Already *Is* A Rough Guide to Working With The US Military!

The Long March
U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. David N. Beckstrom

And it is pretty funny.


The other day I suggested that it would be good to have a reading list for allies on how to work with the U.S. military. Old @DarkLaughterTBD did me one better and pointed me toward a USAID guide to just that, in an appendix to their field operations manual. I just looked at it, and it is pretty good. I sensed it was informed by some hard experiences.

Here are some highlights about how to work with the U.S. military:

  • Expect meetings, lots of them. But if you go for consensus-based decisions at those meetings, the military officers will consider you “inefficient and lacking focus.”  (The guide hints that autonomous relief organizations will balk at getting orders. I smell trouble.)
  • They will want “in-depth” data about what you are doing. But they are sometimes reluctant to share their own info, citing “operational security.”
  • If you don’t have plans, the military will make them for you—and will do so from its own perspective. “The military will generally fill the void as it sees fit.”
  • Their top priority will be protecting their force, and that will affect your operations, “freedom of movement, security and logistics.”
  • None of the above applies to Special Operators, who are a different breed. “Some significant differences separate these units and individuals from the standard military profile.” In other words, the SOF guys are a bunch of hippies, “culturally aware” and “more flexible and creative and less rigid in their thoughts and ideas.”
  • Find the Joint Task Force commander’s chief of staff. Tell him who you are and what you are doing. He is, the guide tells us, the “gatekeeper.”
  • When working with data, the international relief organizations will use the metric system, but U.S. military will not, at least for things like amounts of potable water available. They just like gallons, OK? You got a problem with that? GTFO with your kiloliters.
  • If you depend on the military for housing, food, communications or transportation, you risk being seen as a “support requirement,” not an asset.  

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