Going to another country on Uncle Sam’s dime can be amazing. It gives you an opportunity to travel and learn about a new culture in ways most civilians will never know.
As a service member, working with a foreign military is one of the most rewarding things you can do because you get to directly interact with a nation’s real population, not just the tourist-facing folk. But there’s a downside to everything — and this is no exception.
Here’s why working with another country’s military can be extremely disappointing.
1. Dog-and-pony shows
When working with a foreign force, the American military will try its best not to offend the host country. This doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t try to make the U.S. Military look better than everyone else at every opportunity. This leads to the ol’ dog-and-pony show where your command will not only make you look as pretty as possible, they’re also going to make you give up your free time to make themselves look good.
This may come in the form of Olympic-style fitness competitions, parades, or doing some extra cleaning around the barracks/ship/bivouac. Ultimately, the aim is to say (without saying), “here in the U.S. Military, we’re better than you — and we know it!”
2. Learning tactics
This can be cool if you’re working with a military that has plenty of experience and, therefore, employs tactics that are equally efficient as ours. But when you work with a host country whose military falls short in several areas, it can be less than stellar. American tactics are built around an individual’s ability to act, while other countries rely on squad leaders to make every decision.
When you learn that another country’s tactics are terribly inefficient, it becomes disappointing. You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re training with that country because you might have to work with them in the future.
3. Language barriers
It’s a given that when you travel to another country to work with their military, foreign troops are probably not going to speak English very well if at all. Even if they do, there are so many dialects across the United States that there may still be issues with translation. Some languages don’t have terms or phrases for things that Americans do, so communicate becomes difficult.
4. Cultural disconnect
Even if you’re working in a country with plenty of English speakers, there’s still a cultural disconnect. Hell, even within the United States, people still argue about whether it’s “pop” or “soda.” Humor may vary between countries, so jokes that Americans find funny may not translate — be warned.
Pay close attention to the culture briefs you get prior to deployment and do some of your own research to figure out how to keep making your foreign counterparts laugh.
5. Flexing American tactics
Your command will undoubtedly make you show off your tactics. This might not sound so bad, but try watching the light in a foreign troop’s face disappear when they realize Americans are considerably better warfighters and they’ll likely never stack up.
You can teach American tactics all you like, but they may not have the resources for proper training.
6. Gear thievery
Stealing is common everywhere you go, and the American military has no tolerance for such dishonorable activities. The problem here is that other countries may have service members who want your gear because theirs is trash (they’re in for a surprise). Make sure that your gear is secure to avoid losing an issued item.