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Tom Odom
09-20-2006, 04:33 PM
The Combat Studies Institute has several new GWOT Occasional papers available at http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/csi/index.asp

These include:


Advising Indigenous Forces: American Advisors in Korea, Vietnam, and El Salvador (OP 18) (http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/csi/OP18RamseyComplete.pdf)
by Robert Ramsey III

Advice for Advisors: Suggestions and Observations from Lawrence to the Present (OP 19) (http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/CAC/csi/OP%2019%20complete.pdf)
by Robert Ramsey III

I highly recommend Bob Ramsey's OPs 18 and 19 on Advisors. Bob was a LTC at CSI in 1985 and took a young CPT (me) under his wing. His OP 18 offers great historical insights of great applicability today. For anyone who has worked inside a foreign culture, OP 18 is worth the read.

Best

Tom

SWJED
10-05-2006, 02:08 AM
BTT - Just starting to go through this material Tom. Good stuff...

Tom Odom
10-24-2006, 01:23 PM
Another recent history lesson:


"In advisory and counterinsurgency efforts, Thomas Carlyle’s warning that “nothing is more terrible than activity without insight” is particularly appropriate. As a former MILGROUP commander wrote, “the problem is, and has always been, to get the analysis right before prescribing cures.”8 Analysis requires situational understanding, not awareness. Even in peace*time, under normal conditions, situational understanding can prove fleet*ing. In wartime, for an advisor in a foreign country, it is almost impossible. At a minimum, an advisor needs to understand the local language, the local culture and values, the local military institutional ethos and how it works, his counterpart as a person in that foreign culture and constrained by that military institution, the local capabilities and limitations, and the specific local situation to comprehend what is going on around him and to preclude misunderstandings. Then, it may be possible to offer advice suitable to the situation; acceptable both to his counterpart and to his US superiors; and feasible given time, resources, and the capabilities and limi*tations of host nation forces."
This history lesson deals with a topic that does not pop up on the screen when the subject of military history is "googled" on the web. Even inside US military circles, military advisors and advisory efforts is not a subject of common interest. That is rapidly changing, driven by operational needs.

For this lesson I offer the Combat Studies Institute's Occasional Paper # 18, Advising Indigenous Forces: American Advisors in Korea, Vietnam, and El Salvador, by Mr, Robert D. Ramsey, III. Bob Ramsey is a friend and colleague. He surveys three relatively high profile advisory efforts and measures their successes and failures as individual case studies. Most importantly, Ramsey draws the three examples together, extracting the salient lessons in his concluding chapter, entitled simply, "Observations." The following essay offers some of those conclusions and my own thoughts in introducing them to you.


"Advisory duty is a complex and difficult job, even more so in a counterinsurgency environment."

If you recognize that cultural awareness affects US tactical operations in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, consider the effects of cultural understanding on advising host nation forces. In US tactical operations, poor cultural awareness can and does serious have effects on the success of such operations; such effects--although serious--tend to be secondary. In advisory efforts, cultural misunderstanding produces immediate primary effects on the advisory program. Put another way, a cordon and search operation-- done without regard to local sentiments--may capture key insurgent leaders anyway. Its secondary effects, however, may actually replace those captured insurgents by alienating the population. In an advisory program, cultural misunderstanding can cause the effort to fail before it ever gets started.


"Careful selection and screening of advisory personnel is required. "

It requires a certain mindset, personality, and adaptability to operate as an advisor. Ramsey goes on to say, "Not everybody can or should do advisory duty. Former advisors acknowl*edge this; studies reinforce it. This means, “to have a valid set of selection criteria that works, the military has to formulate a hard set of required skills for advisor duty. It should . . . then test them to ensure some level of proficiency.”"

After a decade and a half as a Foreign Area Officer, I cannot suggest a list of hard skills that we could test applicants on as we do in the Expert Infantryman Badge process. Rather I would suggest that selection for advisory duty be more on the basis of traits. A problem solving course/psychiatric evaluation process might be more useful. Ramsey himself concludes, "Those soldiers considered the best and most experienced are not always well suited for advisory duty; often the normal approach is also not well suited," suggesting that we not solved this particular dilemma.


"Training and educational programs for advisory personnel should focus on the knowledge and skills necessary for understanding their advisory environment and for developing useful advice."

This goes back to the idea of cultural understanding versus cultural awareness. It also incorporates the need to define the role of advisors and then training them to fulfill such roles. If you are training advisors in basic military skills, you are at best wasting their time retraining them on something they already know. If they do not have those basic military skills before training starts, they are in the wrong place.


"The advisory effort should focus on how host nation organizations, institutions, systems, capabilities, and limitations-not US organizations, systems, procedures, and equipment-can be harnessed to address the host nation problems. "

Borrowing on Mike Meyer's movie character Dr. Evil, I refer to the tendency to recreate our own organizations as the "Mini-me" approach in advisory programs (or any foreign assistance effort). It is bar none the most often repeated mistake; it is also the most understandable because an organization like the US military sees itself as the best at what it does. We tend to recreate ourselves and just like Dr. Evil and his clone, the results are not the equal.

My own experience has taught me that host nation leaders can be equally guilty of seeking such an approach. A classic example of such assistance is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (formerly Zaire) where the United States, French, Belgians, Egyptians, and the Israelis all built "mini-Me" military formations of dubious military value beyond brutalizing the local populace.


"Longer, repetitive advisory tours increase the effectiveness of advisors."

Like any suggestion, there are benefits to this idea and there are risks. The benefits are self-evident; in a 10-year war like Vietnam, a Vietnamese commander probably had more than 10 advisors. Lengthening tours would help build better advisors and foster greater trust between counterparts. Repeat tours would compound those benefits. Aside from effects on morale --serious in their own right--longer and repetitive tours harbor the pitfalls of "going native." Truly effective advisors must guard against losing the perspective; they are advisors of indigenous forces, not members of the indigenous forces. Lawrence fell body and soul into that trap.


"Although leverage at lower advisory levels threatens rapport, leverage at the highest host nation and US military advisory group level can enhance rapport and effectiveness by establishing common standards and expectations for both advisors and their counterparts."

If you look at the advisors in an advisory program as the tactical effort, the strategic level is set by policy and set agreements as to what the US and the host nation seek to achieve. The strategic level provides the direction and guidance for the advisors and their host nation counterparts; the strategic level must set the conditions for tactical success. Otherwise programs lack direction or worse their goals stray from their nominal objectives. As Ramsey says, " The responsibility for working effectively together should not rest just on the American advisor. The host nation needs to step up and train its personnel to work with American advisors by focusing on the same sort of things that the advisors do-language, culture, capabilities, and limitations-to better understand things from the American military point of view. It is the responsibility of both the host nation and the senior US advisory team to create an environment in which an advisor can develop the rapport with his counterpart necessary to work effectively together."


"Rapport-that personal relationship of trust and confidence in one another’s competence, motivation, and honesty-is always critical at the lower advisory levels."

If I were to select anyone of Ramsey's concluding thoughts as most important, I would have to say it has to be the importance of rapport. Rapport trumps language skills in my experience. An advisor with prefect fluency who cannot achieve rapport with his counterpart is to my mind the worst possible scenario because he will alienate his counterparts and he will not be able to blame it on language. In contrast, a less than fluent advisor who can establish and maintain rapport with a host nation counterpart who is equally committed can overcome most if not all issues that may arise.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Ramsey concludes OP 18 with the unanswered question, is it time for the US military to establish proponency for advisory issues? He leaves the reader with that question, asking if the current Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (LCISFA), Foreign Security Force Training Center (FSFTC), and Military Transition Training (MiTT efforts are sufficient. I would add to that question an issue I have raised in counterinsurgency classes: are we as a military willing to invest the personnel talent necessary to make such an advisory program effective? I believe that we have no other choice.

I have attached OP 18 in PDF to this article and you may also download it at:
http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/csi.asp#global You may also download its companion, OP19 Advice for Advisors: Suggestions and Observations from Lawrence to the Present, at the same web page.

Best

tom

marct
10-24-2006, 02:17 PM
Hi Tom,

I think some reflections on training Anthroplogists may be useful here.


It requires a certain mindset, personality, and adaptability to operate as an advisor. Ramsey goes on to say, "Not everybody can or should do advisory duty. Former advisors acknowl*edge this; studies reinforce it. This means, to have a valid set of selection criteria that works, the military has to formulate a hard set of required skills for advisor duty. It should . . . then test them to ensure some level of proficiency."

After a decade and a half as a Foreign Area Officer, I cannot suggest a list of hard skills that we could test applicants on as we do in the Expert Infantryman Badge process. Rather I would suggest that selection for advisory duty be more on the basis of traits. A problem solving course/psychiatric evaluation process might be more useful. Ramsey himself concludes, "Those soldiers considered the best and most experienced are not always well suited for advisory duty; often the normal approach is also not well suited," suggesting that we not solved this particular dilemma.

Part of the problem is with the limits of precision on testing. For one thing, depending on the culture in which the advisor is working, the actual expectations of what the advisor will do will be different. Take, as a limited example, whether or not the advisor will be expected to go into combat and, if so, what their specific role will be. Since advisors will, inevitably, end up being required in places where they will have to prove their personal honour by fighting and others where they will not be allowed to fight, do you test / train for personal combat skills?

We have a similar problem when training Anthropologists to go into the field. Admittedly, we have built a reputation based on non-combat and we are not really expected to fight by anyone. On the other hand, we are generally expected to "stand up" for the people we are working with and studying and to become "involved" in the local community. The limits of this involvement are, at best, fuzzy, and all of our training reflects this.


This goes back to the idea of cultural understanding versus cultural awareness. It also incorporates the need to define the role of advisors and then training them to fulfill such roles. If you are training advisors in basic military skills, you are at best wasting their time retraining them on something they already know. If they do not have those basic military skills before training starts, they are in the wrong place.

Yup. Honestly, I wouldtry and break down the "cultural training" into two separate forms:

Training in "cultural recognition";
Training in a specific culture.


The first would be a general theoretical grounding in how cultures are built and maintained and, most importantly, how to recognize and organize these observations, while the second would be a grounding in the specifics of the culture where the individual advisor would be placed. The two must be organized and taught separately.


.... Lengthening tours would help build better advisors and foster greater trust between counterparts. Repeat tours would compound those benefits. Aside from effects on morale --serious in their own right--longer and repetitive tours harbor the pitfalls of "going native." Truly effective advisors must guard against losing the perspective; they are advisors of indigenous forces, not members of the indigenous forces. Lawrence fell body and soul into that trap.

Again, this is a problem we have faced for over a century. I'm not sure if we have chosen the best way to handle it, but we have evolved certain methodologies that allow us to stay sane.

First off, "going native" is a situation that will happen to anyone who is going to be a good advisor or Anthropologist - accept it and deal with it :D You have to "go native", to some degree, in order to a) understand the people you are working with and b) to be understandable to them in such a way that trust is established. For us, the problem is not really with "going native" but, rather, with maintaning a "self while native" and "returning from native". This is somethng we are taught informally (i.e. not in the classroom), as I realized when one of my students tackled me on it. My "solution" was to take him on a limited field placement so that he could get a feel for how to deal with field work while I was there as back-up and a counsellor.

This is certainly an option available in training advisors: make their graduating tests a field placement in an organization that is totally outside of their normal experience with a culture that is quite different from the military. Try placements in AIDS clinics or with Amnesty International or an animal rights organization. <evil grin>.


If I were to select anyone of Ramsey's concluding thoughts as most important, I would have to say it has to be the importance of rapport. Rapport trumps language skills in my experience. An advisor with prefect fluency who cannot achieve rapport with his counterpart is to my mind the worst possible scenario because he will alienate his counterparts and he will not be able to blame it on language. In contrast, a less than fluent advisor who can establish and maintain rapport with a host nation counterpart who is equally committed can overcome most if not all issues that may arise.

I would agree with this completely (see my comments about "going native" above). In fact, while an ability with languages is useful, knowing a specific language may be a limitation. Anthropologists have a long history of going into a field setting with the basics of a language and learning to speak the rest of it in the field. This actually helps to establish rapport by allowing the "native" to realize that they are superior to the "Great White ___", at least in some areas. What is really going on here is a way of cutting through stereotypes fairly quickly so that things can move to a personal level fairly quickly.


....I would add to that question an issue I have raised in counterinsurgency classes: are we as a military willing to invest the personnel talent necessary to make such an advisory program effective? I believe that we have no other choice.

Honestly, Tom, that is the $64,000,000 question.

Marc

Steve Blair
10-24-2006, 02:37 PM
Linking down to this thread (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=1381) I would question at least Gen Cody's willingness to invest the time in training suitable people for COIN.