So where are the similarities between IPB, MDMP and the conduct of UW and the startup battlespace? Required in all operations conducted by SF Regiment members, whether conducting UW, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Proliferation, Psychological Operations or Information Operations, are the critical skills of:
- Highly detailed situational awareness – know in depth your enemy, your friendlies, the movements within and across the battlespace, as well as available resources and allies, and most critically your team’s abilities before ever taking on a task
- Needs assessment – early identify the many Risk and Uncertainty factors and constraints which limit your ability to succeed and identify necessary resources and milestones critical to success
- Talent identification, development and leadership – early recognize talent, foster and shape that talent through hands-on, active teaching, mentoring and leadership and enable that talent to go on to leadership, to train 100 others to the same level of proficiency
- Execution and review – develop self-sufficient and sustainable assets, maintain and apply these assets, all the while conducting after action reviews in order to make necessary corrections rapidly as dictated by current reality not preconceived notions, and most critical of all,
- Successfully exit – realize the required, or in catastrophic environments, the maximal possible, ROI and move immediately to planning for and conducting of follow-on operations, investments.
And just like the startup world, all with minimal personnel, resources or guidance and often greatly outnumbered and in a denied area, otherwise known as hostile territory or the marketplace. Anyone who has been an entrepreneur or investor in same will tell you these are exactly the skills required in the startup environment of the entrepreneur and their investors, but which are far too often absent in startup teams which have not at least one startup success or failure behind them.
Identifying the training and direct experience derived skills of the SF Operator as critical to Silicon Valley and its analogs elsewhere is not a stretch of the imagination, as all of the SF mission types and operational requirements can be mapped directly to the complex and rapidly changing startup environment. An environment, just like a battlespace, which must be understood and mastered by the entrepreneur, individual team leaders and those who partner with and back them.
So what, we should recruit for SF more aggressively from the startup world, among seasoned entrepreneurs? Yes, actually. Though most entrepreneurs are far too occupied planning for or building their next company to take a minimum of two years, more realistically four to six years or more out, to become and serve as a Green Beret, despite the many advantages the entrepreneur would take from SF training and service.
Despite this, myself and a small number of others I have met during my brief time with the Regiment have done just this. Should SF dig into the entrepreneurial and entrepreneur investor world to find best business practices to augment and improve SF doctrine and expand operational capacity, particularly ROI concepts and practices? Absolutely, though unlikely due to the culture of what increasingly seems to becoming a doctrine bound and driven Regiment and corresponding battlespace.
More probable and beneficial would be for the entrepreneurial world, and more precisely, those who invest in such high-Risk and Uncertainty environments, to look to Special Forces for a deep body of talent, loyal, and heavily trained and battlefield and battlespace experienced in exactly the skill-sets of asset creation, team building and leadership and never quit, constantly innovate mind-set at the core of every Green Beret.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal 3 August 2015.
EM Burlingame is a Silicon Valley techpreneur and later Private Equity investor and Investment Banker with emphasis on very early-stage technology companies. Having recently completed active duty service with 1st BN 1st Special Forces Group, EM is now serving with 20th. EM is currently Founder of the Honos Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to empowering local entrepreneurship in violence repressed areas and Founder and Managing Director of Emerio Group, an early-stage investment advisory. Following a degree in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis at Norwich, EM is now pursuing PhD studies in Interdisciplinary Engineering, with an emphasis on Computational Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.