A foreign military officer recently reported to the headquarters of a young military organization struggling in a bitter conflict against a well-armed, vicious foe. With the rag-tag unit struggling for its very survival against a foe that predated his by decades, its commander wondered what role this foreign officer would play in his fledgling organization. The adviser explained himself to the commander succinctly: “Sir, I have come not to teach, but to learn.”
I use the word recently in the context of the ageless contest of war. The above exchange occurred in 1777 at Moland House, outside Philadelphia. The foreign officer was the Marquis de Lafayette, and the struggling commander was George Washington.
Two centuries later, national roles have shifted and I find myself in a similar role to Lafayette, a foreign military officer assigned to an adolescent organization. I am a US Army officer serving on an Embedded Transition Team in the Afghan National Army.
I am new to this assignment, and assignments like these are new to our Army; we are literally writing the book for what we do as we go. But I think that for the prologue to this story, or at least the quotation on the opening page, I might borrow from Layfette’s initial report to Washington. I am here not to teach, but to learn.
May this blog be a useful tool in that endeavour.