When Parents Lead, Children Succeed

B2W Radio - Building Community - Military Style

B2W Radio - Building Community - Military Style

Elane V. Scott
Rick Stephens
Featured Guest:
Sergeant Mike Neu

Dear Valued Stakeholders,

In any conversation about the recent US military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is bound to be a certain amount of political tension infused in the conversation. The strategic questions related to the handling of the politics before and after the wars are never ending and hotly debated. The broader social questions, though, related to community building, infrastructure, and trust are rarely acknowledged.

In this Birth2Work program, co-host and US Marine Corps veteran Rick Stephens and I, sit down with Texas Army National Guardsman Mike Neu. Deployed for a one year tour in Iraq, he returned this summer a changed young man. Having grown up in a loving family in his Texas town, Mike had a certain base appreciation for the “American Way of Life” before leaving for Iraq. But nothing could have prepared him for his unique experience once arriving there. The basics of military life – thousands of people moving in and moving out constantly – meant order and rules had to be followed exactly in order for progress to be made. (Consider what happens in your own workplace when a new employee starts. Now consider that lives hinge on if that person is up to speed from minute one, day one. Changes your thinking a bit, right?). It also floored Mike to realize how unrelentingly behind the very basics of societal infrastructure were there. Pipelines for sewage, roads, schools, any kind of public greenery had been impacted by the war. And to a certain degree, the Iraqis, learning how to implement these things from the Americans, had nothing to go on but trust.

One society to another was/is attempting to teach the fundamentals of infrastructure that help keep people healthier, safer, and ultimately happier in the long run, but they had no way to do this except to be there working together side by side. Mike makes important note of how many times he saw his American cohorts come over from the States and go a bit nuts without the ability to communicate through cell phones, texts, and social media outlets the way they were used to at home. It was almost as if they had to re-learn how to communicate with people face to face – both Americans and Iraqis. And yet it was through this sharing of humanity that the Iraqis Mike worked with came to trust him. Is there any way Mike sending his group of Iraqi workers a text about how to set up a sewage pipeline would have been affective? Of course not.

Societies are made up of human engagement, trust, and actions. That many Americans today believe that they don’t need people and can handle everything in their lives on-line is a lie. In fact it’s a degradation of the societal and business constructs that brought digital technologies to life. And it’s not to say, of course, that digital media doesn’t have its place in civilian life or in the military. It does. But it’s the face to face contact and combined physical and mental laboring of peers that sets up any community, new or existing, for sustained success. The tools of the military have changed a thousand percent from the days of cannons and bayonets of the Civil War. And yet successful outcomes are still determined by the same things – buy-in of the local people and shared measures of success.

We invite you to reconfirm, through the eyes of a young soldier, what it takes to build community.

Elane V. Scott

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