Improvisation and language skills might be the warrior of the future’s greatest weapons. To emerge triumphant in an emergency situation, one must often improvise. To fuel the emotion of others to get things done requires a presence, emotional intelligence, and oratory skills. These can win battles. With them, an operator can rally proxy and partner forces in their native language, reinforcing our mutual objectives far better than printed money can. The world has become very polarized, and money will not suffice to win over a potentially indifferent party. We need to generate buy-in from our partners. When we learn a target language, we can also learn how to communicate and express ourselves to inspire others. 

We’ve become preoccupied with gunslinging and fighting, but it doesn’t seem like we’re asking how a war is won.

Some people can sell anything. The SOF operator is a kind of soldier-diplomat selling America. Again, this is something we’re not stressing. Bureaucracy may not be a place for entrepreneurs, but people with that DNA are open to the world. They welcome paradigm shifts. The world is changing right now, in more ways than one. Soldiers that want to influence others, as well as be a gunslinger, are the future. I’m not saying we recruit entrepreneurs; that wouldn’t make sense. But we should look at the attributes that make them successful and revisit our model for the future, not to amend the standard, but to add criteria for consideration.

A program in our unit language school designed to increase communication skills and proficiency sent students to an Arab country for a month or two. While there, they lived with host families and worked in a classroom setting daily. The idea is that immersion only works when there is a base of knowledge to be sharpened. Maybe more special operators should spend time abroad to learn and experience a culture as a person, not as a warfighter. It would bring an extra dimension to their knowledge, and would develop in them a strong sense of empathy. In unconventional warfare scenarios, that’s crucial.