Terrific front-page story in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) titled In “Afghanistan, Getting to Know the Neighbors is Half the Battle” which describes the crucial role of combat troops in getting to know, and being able to work with, local leaders and tribal factions. It begins:
After 15 months in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Chris Kolenda figures he knows hundreds of village elders and leaders. He knows their names, their faces, their tribes, subtribes and clans. In many cases, he knows who stole whose water, who killed whose father, and who hates whom. A lengthy combat tour has left Lt. Col. Kolenda as much sociologist as soldier. That will make him a tough act to follow when he and his men, the First Squadron of the 91st Cavalry Regiment, pack their duffels and turn over their battlefield to another Army unit over the next week or so.
It goes on to discuss the importance and difficulty of attaining successful transition. What prompted me to post about the story was mention of one of the tools the Army uses to help new troops and commanders get up to speed–Wiki-Afghan. “It looks just like Wikipedia, except it’s all about Afghanistan and much of it is classified. There are upwards of 10,000 articles, and any authorized soldier can click on an entry and add new information.” I’ve often bashed Wikipedia but do think that wikis can be great tools. The returning troops have developed a wealth of knowledge that incoming troops can use to minimize repetition of mistakes and improve the chances of their mission’s success. A wiki is perfect for capturing and refining that knowledge.
Wikis should be used in more academic projects. They would fit well with the School of Management’s team-oriented curriculum.