I’ve decided to start a new series on SOFREP about foreign internal defense (FID)—a topic that touches upon subjects such as unconventional warfare (UW) and espionage as it is related to source handling and eliciting information. To make a long story short, FID is a mission in which Special Forces teams deploy to an allied nation, or at least one that doesn’t completely hate us, and then begin training their military and police units. Usually this consists of basic infantry training, but depending on how close we our with the host nation, we may train on more advanced subjects, such as sniper operations.

While conducting FID, the relationship you build with your host-nation counterparts is critical. In fact, some would argue that this relationship is the real goal of the entire mission, more so than training third-world soldiers how to fire an M16. That relationship is what allows you to work together, not just on this mission, but in the war none of us expect to happen five years from now. Sometimes I think Special Forces neglects the importance of these relationships and takes a rather short view, but the importance of rapport-building cannot be overemphasized. This is what really makes Special Forces a force multiplier for the U.S. Army.

Today, it isn’t just Special Forces that has a lot of experience with FID. As the mission in Afghanistan and Iraq turned from outright combat to nation building (let us not mince words here), more and more conventional Army units were called upon to conduct what would have been exclusively a Special Forces mission in the past. It wasn’t the job that the Army necessarily wanted or was trained for, but they manned up and did the job in a very difficult wartime environment. I think that passing on some of these hard-won FID experiences could prove invaluable to other soldiers, in order to prevent them from falling into the same traps and making the same mistakes that many of us did.

This first FID tip is about how your rapport is your security. This is never more true than when you are part of a small SOF team working with a large indigenous force. In military terms, security means a soldier and/or weapons system that is guarding your flanks and rear areas. The guards on perimeter security, scanning the night with their rifles so that the Taliban don’t cruise up into your position and kill your men? That is your security element. However, in Special Forces, you may not have the luxury of having hardcore, motivated, well-trained American soldiers and Marines to pull security for you.