In addition to learning how to shoot and pilot a helicopter, one military contractor is teaching U.S. troops headed for Afghanistan a skill that might be overlooked in the heat of battle – but is no less important for success: how to have a simple conversation.
The Washington Post reported yesterday on the big mission by military contractor Sloan Mann and his small company, Development Transformations, to improve communication skills for troops soon to deploy to Afghanistan.
It reveals the unnoticed side of modern warfare and counter-insurgency strategy that relies more on old-fashioned human interaction. And Mann’s attempts to teach troops rapport-building also shows the depth of specialties that outside contractors have expertise with, skills that the U.S. military and Pentagon are often in need of.
The article details the initial stilting conversation the troops had with Afghan actors posing as tribal leaders. The reporter for The Washington Post characterized the initial conversations he witnessed at a military base as akin to “bad first dates.”
But the military is taking the need to improve conversation skills seriously. The Post reported as evidence General David H. Petraeus’ issuing of list of necessary skills for troops that included knowing how to converse with locals.