The authors of Save Your Ammo interviewed a large number of American military personnel with extensive experience working in different countries. They used the critical incident elicitation methodology and asked their interviewees to provide detailed accounts of their experiences and challenges. They then organized the skills, principles, and strategies that they collected into a model called Adaptive Readiness for Culture (ARC).
The ARC model is a collection of cross-cultural competencies that were deemed critical for success in situations where military servicepeople are living and or interacting with people from other cultures.
The authors’ access to a wide range of American military servicepeople is quite impressive. Save Your Ammo offers many insights, anecdotes, and stories told by a large number of current and former military personnel. The fact that the authors were able to build such a large network of very experienced military men and women who willingly shared stories about successes and challenges, is a testimony to their knowledge, experience, and credibility.
“The book is full of wonderful, informative, and enjoyable stories. Stories of real-life situations faced by military service people and how they tried to deal with them.”
Save Your Ammo is quite well written. It is easy to read and understand and the style is quite reader-friendly. The book offers many real-life actionable ideas, insights, and recommendations. Its starting point is that regardless of the nature of the mission in another country, its success depends on the ability of the American servicepeople to build strong and sustainable personal relationships with the multiple stakeholders involved. The authors emphasize that what it takes to build such a relationship with people from other cultures is very much influenced by the parties’ cultural backgrounds.
The book offers a clear, understandable, and action-oriented roadmap to help the military men and women be more effective in their dealings with non-Americans and experience less confusion, frustration, and pain. The first step in the roadmap is taking stock of one’s own cultural lens and reflect on one’s own cultural ways of doing things. This is extremely valuable advice because people typically take their cultural ways of doing things for granted, the same way that they take breathing for granted. The next key steps in the roadmap deal with learning about other cultures using multiple resources, including day today interactions with people of other cultures. The authors’ key message here is: be positive and curious, expect things to work differently from what you are used to, always keep in mind that you are there to accomplish a mission, and use every occasion, positive or negative, as a learning opportunity. In short, don’t make quick judgments and manage your emotions.
Another important contribution of Save Your Ammo is its caution that learning about a culture does not guarantee that you will know how and why everyone in that culture behaves. Individuals are not cultural robots. Many can think and act differently from their own cultural norms, due to such reasons as individual personality, background, and circumstances. Their message is: learn about cultures but be prepared for surprises. In other words, keep in mind that no matter how knowledgeable you are, you need to show flexibility to adapt to circumstances.
“The authors are to be congratulated for providing such a valuable and actionable tool to those who are currently engaged or are expected to be engaged in cross cultural situations”.
Another related and important point is that cultures are really complex and one should not expect to fully learn about them by reading several books, talking with several locals, attending several workshops, or visiting several websites. While all these activities are valuable and helpful, they do not cover all the bases. Their advice is quite valuable: learn a lot but be prepared for surprises. Don’t get frustrated or confused when unexpected things happen. Be open minded. To the extent possible, ask for feedback and reflect on every interaction. Compare your various interactions with people from diverse cultures. In other words, don’t view your real-life interactions as just rigid opportunities for applying what you have learned. View every interaction as a learning opportunity on its own. And when you are faced with puzzling situations, don’t make snap judgments. Dig deep to try to understand what is really going on. Ask questions and identify more than one potential explanation.
The book is full of wonderful, informative, and enjoyable stories. Stories of real-life situations faced by military service people and how they tried to deal with them. I found the stories extremely helpful. They help the reader better understand many abstract concepts. They also show the consequences of the actions taken. In fact, among all the cross-cultural books that I have read (and written), the number, detail, and value of the stories in this book are unique. The authors are to be congratulated for providing such a valuable and actionable tool to those who are currently engaged or are expected to be engaged in cross cultural situations.