I recently did a tour in Iraq as a military advisor to an Iraqi Army Unit in Baghdad. It was a rewarding but trying experience as cultural differences challenged us in every aspect of our mission. The difficulty mostly lie in the power of soft persuasion as we tried to encourage behavioral changes in the operational processes used by our Iraqi counterparts who were slow or hesitant on the uptake of new ideas.
My father also experienced these same issues when he was a MAC-V advisor in Vietnam and we often laugh on how things haven't changed much. The one advantage I have with today's modern technology, over my father's experience from 30 years ago, is the abiltiy to communicate via email with my Iraqi counterpart even after I have redeployed.
The ability to communicate with our Iraqi partners via email strengthens our strategic partnership over the years one friendship at a time. I encourage any soldiers who have deployed to Iraqi to maintain your friendships with your Iraqi partners (albeit keeping in mind Operational Security issues) because you never know when we may be called upon again to serve together.
I recently received word that my counterpart was promoted to Major General in the Iraqi Army and congratulated him on his recent promotion. I remain encouraged that he will do great things for his country and military. As an advisor, I know the measure of success from our military advising role is hard to ascertain but I remain confident that through continued friendship, determination, cultural respect, and persistence the seeds of my advising efforts will someday pay off resulting in a secure and stable Iraq and a long term strategic partner.