Cross-Cultural Competence and Small Groups: Why SOF are the way SOF are

Authored by:
Jessica Glicken Turnley
Published on 3/1/2011

In this two-part work, Dr. Turnley addresses first the relationship between cultural competency and language, closing the first section with a look at how cross-cultural competency is measured and assessed. The discussion addresses the ability to operate cross-culturally--long been touted as one of the hallmarks of SOF general and Army Special Forces (SF) in particular--and explores if and how the various service special operations components select and assess candidates for their ability to operate cross-culturally. Among other things, this will consider the unequal distribution of this competency across the SOF service components. The second part of this monograph addresses current interest in developing and transmitting knowledge about human terrain within the Department of Defense. As culture and its importance as a component of successful warfighting has risen significantly, the defense community as a whole has embraced the tenants of irregular warfare. This section further addresses whether there is a difference between the ways in which the General Purpose Force (GPF) and SOF develop and use cultural knowledge and considers whether an increased focus on irregular warfare forced GPF to adopt a skill set long at work within SOF, or if SOF retain either a special type of knowledge or a special way to apply knowledge more broadly held.