Special Forces troops and all Special Operations Forces for that matter are masters at relationship building with host nation forces that they live with, train, and fight alongside in the world today.

From the beginning of the OSS, the special operations forces had to earn the trust of their counterparts in occupied France before they could get the French Resistance to do operations that eventually tied up divisions of German troops behind the lines of Normandy. It carried over to the war in Vietnam where Special Forces A-Teams built camps all along the border of North Vietnam and recruited indigenous mountain tribesmen to create irregular defense groups.

Today the mission is no different although the area of the world has changed. And one of the best ways to earn the trust of the locals is to learn the language and customs. Sharing communal meals and hardships goes a long way with building rapport with host nation forces that Special Op’s troops will be embedded with.

Learning the language is paramount even if you’re not fluent, the act of trying to speak in host nation’s tongue is very important. Showing an effort that you want to learn the language, learning cultural nuances and customs shows respect for the local troops and people. And without the rapport with the locals, the mission is bound to fail.

In order to engage and earn the trust of a local population, you, the  SF operator—must be able to speak their language, both literally and figuratively. You must be able to recognize and use to your and their advantage the local needs and desires.

In 2009, the Commander of USSOCOM wrote about the ability of Special Operations troops to build a relationship with the local troops was of paramount importance.

The complexity of today’s and tomorrow’s strategic environments requires that our SOF operators maintain not only the highest levels of warfighting expertise but also cultural knowledge and diplomacy skills. We are developing “3-D operators”—members of a multidimensional force prepared to lay the groundwork in the myriad diplomatic, development, and defense activities that contribute to our Government’s pursuit of our vital national interests.

Every prospective Special Operations candidate should strive to learn a new language. While the training in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) will include language training, don’t wait for that, take the initiative and do it on your own. Just about every college and junior college have language programs that candidates can sign up for. Programs like “Rosetta Stone” offer, learn at home software that are fantastic learning tools.