I’d like to continue the FID tips series by writing about how your status as an American factors into how you engage with host-nation partners. Being a cheeseburger-eating, barrel-chested, freedom-fighting American has both pros and cons as you try to build a relationship with indigenous forces.

One of the major drawbacks is that you probably will not speak the language or understand the culture of the place you are working, and about the time you start to get the hang of things, you will be redeployed back home and a brand new team will have to pick up where you left off. It usually takes them months to catch up to where you were before. I think the members of the 7th Special Forces Group may be an exception. With many Latin Americans in the ranks, you have Green Berets who grew up speaking Spanish and living around immigrant communities. When these guys hit the ground in South or Central America, their rapport is a whole lot stronger than someone like me (white kid from the suburbs) trying to talk to Iraqis.

Why is this hard for someone like me? Well, first off, I suck at learning foreign languages. It’s one of my flaws, what can I say? Furthermore, in the Q-Course, we learned modern standard Arabic, but in Iraq they of course speak with an Iraqi dialect. That’s okay, because you can catch up as you spend time in-country and learn some of the differences between the two. But, oh no, guess what?  You’re going to a part of Iraq where they speak Turkmani, a language that basically has nothing to do with Arabic.

But as you fumble your way through foreign cultures, there are a few very strong upsides to being an American.