The first "live" training I ever went through was in Fort Polk, Louisiana. I put the live in parenthesis because everything is real.....except the enemy.
We lived in FOBs, followed standard operating procedures and behaved like soldiers down range. It was good training. Especially since I had never really experienced how big Army operated as a whole.
Anyway, during one particular "live" mission we drove into a local village to deal with a protest.
Hats off to DOD for doing their best to get real Iraqis to play the villagers and mock protesters in the "town".
Driving into the scene was a little nerve racking. I knew it was fake, but I still wanted to make a good impression and not screw up.
As we drove into the fray a "villager" came up to the driver side window and stared at me with a look that only can be described as hatred.
I was taken aback for a moment and then not knowing what else to do gave this guy the biggest toothy grin I could muster.
Why a toothy grin?
I loved that guy as a kid and remember him explaining to someone in one of his movies that the best way to handle a Bear was to give him as big a toothy grin as you could which should distract him enough to give you time to escape or take him down.
So that's what I did it and I'll be damned if that guy went from shooting daggers out his eyes to smiling with embarrassment and walking away.
This experience stuck with me down range.
I learned early on that my body language had a huge impact on how Iraqis, especially kids treated me in sector.
The first couple of weeks, I got clowned. Kids annoyed me to no end. They treated me like I was a fool, even though I was carrying weapons and covered in body armor.
It took me some time to recognize this problem, but when I did I meticulously went over every aspect of my posture to remedy the type of energy I was giving off by the way I stood, made eye contact, shook hands and aplanted my feet.
I dissected every aspect of my body language I could and you know what? It paid off.
I noticed the effect first with the kids, where before I got clowned, now I controlled. This ability to influence just by the way I stood really became useful when I would find myself surrounded by dozens of Iraqis all yelling about this or that.
I got so good by the end of my deployment that I could control a crowd and have them mimicking my gestures before my interpreter finished translating what I had said.
This understanding of how I carried myself stood out even more when the new guys showed up.
To watch somebody fall for the same tricks that I fell for with the Iraqi kids was telling.
It made me think that there were some universal aspect to all us humans that will always trump culture.
The best way I can describe this universality is the language of emotion.
Bottom line, lah-de-dah, everybody can understand body language associated with fear, happiness and insecurity, to name a few.
But there is something more to it than just the physical image. There is some kinda difference in energy associated with body language and facial expressions.
For example: special forces guys seemed a little different than regular troopers. Like they possessed some type of energy that was intrinsically powerful.
(anybody got any good SF stories?)
During train up at Bragg an SF commo guy said flat out...."when I'm around comms, any type it .....doesn't matter.... they work for me".
And sure enough what-ever setting we screwed up he fixed with hardly an effort.
You every tried flashing someone a toothy grin? Your face changes, your jaw changes. It's not the same as a smile......nope, a toothy grin is a type of energy that's universal. I haven't fully tapped it yet, but I get glimpses of it here and there.
And you can be damn sure that if I ever find myself face to face with a Bear, I'm gonna go down grinning.
The Sixth Stanza of the Art of Peace is: