Lt. Col. Joshua J. Potter is an Iraqi Army Division Stability-Transition Team (S-TT) chief with the 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, currently serving in Baghdad, Iraq. This is his fourth tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This is his sixth overall deployment and he previously was the Civil Affairs officer for the 1st Infantry Division G9 (Civil-Military officer) and course developer / chief instructor with the Directorate of Cultural Influence and Counterinsurgency training over 8,000 Transition Team members who are inbound in support of the Global War on Terrorism, in Cultural Influence, Counterinsurgency, and the role of the advisor.
Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York are trained to universally answer any question with one of four responses:
- Yes, sir.
- No, sir.
- No excuse, sir.
- Sir, I do not understand.
Four responses, that’s all. The purpose of drilling into your brain the simplicity of only four responses is to eliminate the desire to make an excuse or in-depth explanation when the bottom line is sufficient.
The beauty of knowing exactly what to say and when to say it helped guide our understanding of the challenges we faced and meet the challenges appropriately. Accordingly, these four responses have served us well over the past several decades and have been a hallmark of clarity in uncertain times.
We have served with distinction alongside our Iraqi brothers for several years and the people are weary of the violence and internal power struggles. As Operation New Dawn has begun, it occurred to us that our young leaders today need guidance on how to respond to the daily challenges they face while we remain in Iraq.
After serving multiple tours in Iraq, we have developed four more responses which are nearly universally applicable for the Advise and Assist Brigades (AABs).
- The Iraqi Security Forces are in charge; our job is to enhance their capabilities.
- We must look beyond tactical solutions to strategic challenges.
- In order to have enduring capabilities, we need enduring resources.
- Advising harder will not eliminate the labyrinth of operational decision-making.
Other simple responses spring to mind, but are rarely used, of course. By memorizing the above universal responses, any US Soldier should be able to appropriately address the questions he is faced with.
The themes and messages of how we are involved in setting the strategic relationships for the future of Iraq are important.
However, our youngest leader should be able to grasp that simple clarity for what he or she is doing in support of our current mission set.