There is something about American culture, we love high tech. I mean, we really love our gadgets. Tesla death rays that fry terrorists into Kentucky Fried Chicken? Sign us up! Americans love defense technology, from laser guided bombs, to night vision goggles, to more futuristic things like the so-called Iron Man suit. With the development of these technologies, the American soldier has been able to do things that no else can. We can see in the dark and fight at night, we can drop precision guided munitions, we have instantaneous communications systems, and get pin point accurate grid locations through GPS. While these high tech devices have made the US military more lethal, and more effective, I would argue that there is one unit in the Army that technology hurts just as much as it enables: Special Forces.
When a 12-man Special Forces ODA shows up in country, they bring with them some of the best kit that the United States can provide from night vision, to infrared lasers, to thermal imaging devices, and satellite communications systems. The local partner forces that these Special Forces men meet are no doubt impressed, even in awe, of the Americans and their futuristic weapons and equipment. Yet, they themselves are carrying dusty old AK-47’s, dry rotted canvas field gear, and have no idea what a map and compass even looks like. That’s no exaggeration, if you show the average person in Iraq or Afghanistan a topographical map (or overhead imagery) of their own hometown, they have absolutely no idea what they are looking at.
By comparison, the direct action mission carried out by Rangers, SEALs, and Delta Force is a relatively easy and straight forward. These units are equipped with the best weapons and gear which is standardized across the force. Tactics, techniques, and procedures are also standardized and common to every soldier assaulting the objective. This is not the case in an Unconventional Warfare environment.
Special Forces are intended to blend in with the local culture, working by, with, and through the indigenous people to fight a guerrilla war, or to stabilize a faltering government, in furtherance of US foreign policy objectives. As the Green Berets become more high tech the question becomes, how will they be able to relate to indigenous populations? Granted, Special Forces trains alongside and works with many host nation partners, not all of them are Afghan tribesmen. This huge gap in military and social culture does not exist when we work with the German, Colombian, or Israeli governments but is encountered when Special Forces engage in unconventional warfare in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.