Building the Blue Team: Using Conflict Management Concepts with Canadian Forces Personnel Overseas

Photo courtesy of DND-MDN Canada
Labour Relations

“Running a war seems to consist of making plans and then ensuring that all those destined to carry them out don’t quarrel with each other instead of the enemy.”
– Field Marshal Alan Francis Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke. KG, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO and Bar, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, 1941 to 1946

“We could handle being shot at by the enemy…that was to be expected. What we don’t accept is how we were being treated within our own unit and so much in-fighting.”
– Canadian soldier, Afghanistan Post-mission Decompression Interview, 2007

Introduction

This article will discuss how familiar private and public employment sector conflict management concepts, practices and training were applied and adapted by the Department of National Defence’s Conflict Management Program to prepare military units and individuals for the exigencies of overseas operations. In particular, it details the experience and level of success of implementing interest-based conflict management tools into teams deploying for overseas missions.

Meet the Blue Team and the Red Team

In war games, exercises and military operations, the contesting sides are often designated as the “Blue Team”, the friendly forces – our own and our Allies, and as the “Red Team”, the opposing forces or enemy.

The Blue Team does not derive its strength solely through the weight of numbers or through superior weapons and technology. The Team’s morale, cohesion and confidence in itself, each other member, and its leaders, are all key human dimensions factors which contribute to a decisive, and cost-effective, war-winning pre-condition: unquestioned mutual reliance or trust. When the Department of National Defence’s Conflict Management Program started, we believed that conflict management tools which supported the development and strengthening of trust within individuals and units comprising the Blue Team, would increase their level of mission success and reduce the human cost.

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