Organizational Culture and Creating Phase IV Competence

The below paper is a historical reflection on one of the factors I believe contributed to the success of post-conflict operations during and after World War II.  Obviously there is not a direct link to Phase IV operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  However, I think recognizing that a) the U.S. Army did a very good job with the post WWII occupation and military government missions, and 2) that it was no accident, but rather was largely a function of very smart army officers recognizing the requirement, understanding the scope and demensions of the task, and then putting resources, talent, and time toward mission accomplishment.  The paper doesn’t suggest how to conduct current Phase IV operations or how to ensure we address them adequently in the future.  However, by highlighting that WWII success was a function of operational expereince, professional military education, and mentoring, it suggests what preconditions might need to exist for the U.S. Army to better understand and execute Phase IV operations in the future.

Occupation Army:  Institutional Culture and Successful U.S. Occupation Operations in WWII

The successful post-World War II economic revitalization and political transformation of both Germany and Japan are virtually without precedent in the history of warfare.  However, almost no agreement exists regarding the credit for these successes.  The historiography assigns credit to a variety of factors ranging from the unique character of the German and Japanese people, to the brilliance of General MacArthur, to the magnanimous of the Marshall Plan.  This paper will argue that one of the major reasons for the success of post-conflict operations after World War II was an institutional culture within the U.S. Army that recognized and accepted the absolute criticality of effective post-combat operations to strategic success.  U.S. Army leaders understood that the measure of long-term battlefield success was the ability of the U.S. to shape a favorable post-conflict political environment, and that the army had a vital if not central role in that effort.  This understanding was the result of eighty years of institutional experience in which post-conflict operations and related tasks were an accepted mission.  The army’s history helped foster a culture wherein leaders like Marshall, MacArthur, and Eisenhower placed priority, devoted robust resources, and conducted detailed planning for the occupation of Germany and Japan.  .

The U.S. Army that entered World War II had a distinct culture, which the regular army officer corps most dramatically represented.  The army’s organizational culture evolved from several factors.  The army’s history was a strong influence on the culture.  Also, the interpersonal relationships between army officers and their mentors, friends, and family which ensured that the history was passed from generation to generation was a critical factor. Another factor that effected the culture was the professional education and operational experiences of army officers, particularly in the interwar years.  Examining the careers of three key figures in World War II military occupation operations, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower,  and Douglas MacArthur, demonstrates how the components of institutional culture combined to contribute to the success of Army occupation operations in Germany and Japan during and after World War II.

Read the Rest of the Paper Here.

Book review of two pretty good general works on the important general officers of the occupation era: “Not the President’s Men.”

Ender’s Game: Insights into Training Tactics, Strategy, and Critical and Creative Thinking

Just finished reading Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel, Ender’s Game.   It is a recognized sci-fi  classic and my intent here is not to review it.  There are over 2,000 positive reviews of it on Amazon (as well as over 60 negative reviews) and I encourage that all who are interested in the book graze over what the Amazon readers have opined.  Despite the few very critical reviews, I found the book a quick, easy, and interesting read.  I recommend it strongly to those interested in sci-fi in general, military sci-fi in particular, and training military leaders.

My interest in Ender’s Game is that it is a sci-fi novel that is mostly about training for battle.  The actual war is wrapped up in the last 30 pages of the book.    I think the important points that the book makes are about training; and the most important points about training that it makes are the importance of immersion in the training environment and the focus on creative solutions.  It also makes the point that it is absolutely critical to focus on the development of individual leading and thinking skills.  Acquiring knowledge, technical skills, and collective training are important but secondary educational requirements.  The leader is the single point of failure in military endeavors.  Knowledge, skill, and collective training mean little unless uniquely trained and exceptionally competent leaders employ soldiers and units correctly and most effectively.  Ender’s Game makes the point that leaders make two vital contributions to military success:  first, effective decision-making and second, maximizing the abilities and potential of subordinates.    

The most intriguing aspect of the book is the use of simulation and technology to train critical and creative thinking and decision-making.  Written in 1985, this book advocates many of the training characteristics I did in my article “Training Tactics in Virtual Reality” ten years later. 

What I think is still frustrating to me is that, though I believe the technology is there to support it, the military in general still has not made the leap to using technology to train individual thinking and decision making skills.  Much like my earlier comments regarding Star Trek, Ender’s Game demonstrates that military sci-fi can be a creative inspiration for how we should be thinking about and using technology to make our military more effective.

Click here to go to Orson Scott Card’s Website.

Get rid of West Point? I think not.

A small tempest has been stirred up by Tom Ricks in the Washington Post and on his blog when he wrote about the service academies.  The title of the Post article was “Why We Should Get Rid of West Point,” where he opined regarding the necessity of the service academies.

As my previous blog on West Point Founder’s Day indicates, I’m a grad and I obviously disagree with Tom on this issue.  I think the service academies, for all their faults (and over the years I have articulated many) are value added to the services, particularly West Point and the Army, with which I am familiar.  The great challenge at the service academies is to remember they are not just academic institutions, but rather, they are academic institutions whose purpose is to provide top quality leaders to our military.  Recent reforms at WP indicate to me that the WP leadership understands what the army needs for leaders, and WP is doing just that.

Others have taken on Ricks on the particulars of his arguement so I won’t do that.  I would like to point out, however, that WP is a tier one undergraduate college.  That’s not the Army’s ratings but how both Newsweek (#1 public liberal arts and #5 undergraduate engineering program) and the Forbes magazine (#6 overall) rate it.  It is a great quality education and produces talented individuals.  The difference between WP and other top tier colleges, is that WP’s mission requires its  alumni to use their talent as army officers in  service to the nation and taking care of soldiers.  I think WP, though not a perfect institution, does that well, and the Army, soldiers, and tax payers benefit because of that.

The U.S. Army General Staff:Where Is It in the Twenty-first Century?

A couple of years ago LTC Paul Yingling wrote an article entitled “A Failure in Generalship,” very critical of the U.S. Army general officer corps and also blaming the generals for what at the time was looking like a debacle in Iraq. 

Thinking about it, I wrote an article that, while not discounting the failures of many general officers in Iraq, took a different view:

A Myriad of problems plagued the U.S. army in the first few years of operations in Iraq.  At the eleventh hour General Petraeus is leading a new counterinsurgency doctrine inspired “surge” campaign that may save the entire war effort.  However, the question must be asked –why has the war effort of the most sophisticated army in the world come down to a final moment “Hail Mary” pass that is reliant on the genius of an individual commander for victory?  The answer is that the U.S. army has experienced a crisis of command.   Pundits have gradually come to the conclusion that the performance of U.S. generalship and senior leadership has been mediocre at best and at worst largely responsible for the problems associated with prosecuting the war in its initial years.  Recently army Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling wrote: “These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps.” Yingling’s analysis is echoed by military affairs analysts such as Ralph Peters and Douglas McGregor.  Even Chief of Staff of the Army, General George Casey allowed that “we don’t do as good a job as we need to training our senior leaders to operate at the national level.”  However, mediocre generalship alone does not account for the initial uninspired reactive prosecution of the war.  Also contributing to the inconsistent, and ineffectual prosecution of the war is the absence of a professional corps of general staff officers operating in support of the senior leadership.

Thanks to the Small Wars Journal for publishing this article!
See comments by best selling author and journalist Tom Ricks on the article here.

The General, Horses, and Leadership

enhs1019majoreisenhower1935General and President Dwight David Eisenhower is one of the famous leaders in American military history.  He is known for his compassion and calm in the face of adversity.  Eisenhower was an infantry officer but made his reputation as an exceptional staff officer and planner.  Few people know that “Ike” was also an more than average horseman.  Eisenhower, like all officers of his generation, had to learn to ride as part of his professional requirements, but he had a more than average affinity for animals.  Eisenhower’s abilities as a horseman and his ability to relate to the animal is described in his memoir At Ease:  Stories I tell Friends.  In this very readable autobiography of his personal and professional life Ike describes his military mount “Blackie” who he rode during his two year assignment in Panama.  Eisenhower trained the horse in what today would be called basic dressage movements as well as “tricks” such as following him on command whenever he dismounted.  Eisenhower believed that working with animals could teach leadership skills important to army officers.  He stated in his memoir that “in teaching skills, in developing self-confidence, the same sort of patience and kindness is needed with horses as with people.”  Some biographers believe that the horse “Blackie” taught Eisenhower as much as the officer taught the horse.  One author goes so far to assert that the horse was instrumental to helping Eisenhower to get over the death of his son the previous year and may have saved his marriage.  It is certain the horse “Blackie” was an exceptional part of Eisenhower’s life.  In his memoirs he writes about “Blackie” over six pages –more pages than he devotes to any single human, including all the heads of states and famous generals, he met in his long career.

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 4:03 am  Comments (2)  
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