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Culture of Military Organizations Conference
From Friday, September 29, 2017
To Saturday, September 30, 2017
Mershon Center for International Security Studies
1501 Neil Avenue, Room 120
Columbus, Ohio 43201

Peter Mansoor

The U.S. military has had a checkered record of success in wars waged since 1945. Part of the explanation behind the failures (Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan) lies in the failure of military organizations to adapt to the type of wars in which they found themselves engaged. Cultural predilection towards major combat operations shaped the mindset of the officer corps and stifled creativity, resulting in failed approaches to conflicts that refused to conform to established norms. The armed forces of other nations have experienced similar issues, sometimes resulting in catastrophic or near-catastrophic defeats (e.g., Egypt in the Six-Day War of 1967, Pakistan in 1971, Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan from 1979-1988, Iraq in the Gulf War of 1991 and again in 2003).

This project aims to explore the impact of the culture on the development of effective military organizations and therefore its impact on security from 1861 to the present. The effectiveness of military organizations is dependent on a number of components, among them organization, doctrine, training, weapons technology, leadership, morale, discipline and cohesion, endurance, and the ability to adapt to volatile and uncertain combat environments. Underlying these factors is organizational culture, a vital wellspring of the effectiveness of armies, navies, and air forces throughout history. Culture, commonly defined as the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a group, is the driving force behind how military organizations think about future war and therefore of how they prepare their members to embark on its conduct.

Military organizations clearly have some elements in common (rank structures, organization, discipline), but vary dramatically across time and space. The impact of culture is often hidden from those most affected by it. Cultural biases often result in unstated assumptions that have an enormous impact on the making of strategy, operational planning, doctrinal creation, and in the organization and training of armed forces. For good or ill, culture forms the lens through which civilian and military policy makers view national security and consider the utility of force in achieving strategic goals. The impact of culture on military affairs is often not well understood for years, if not decades, after the events affected by it. Organizational culture will determine how military organizations respond to the challenges confronting them today and which they will face in the years ahead. Yet organizational culture has been largely understudied as a component of military effectiveness. This project aims to fill that void.

If you are interested in attending this conference, please contact Steven Blalock at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Friday, September 29

8:15-8:20 a.m. Welcome and administrative announcements

Peter R. Mansoor, General Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History

8:20-9 a.m. “Culture and Military Organizations,” Leonard Wong, Strategic Studies Institute

9-10:30 a.m. Panel 1  The U.S. Civil War

Union Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865
Wayne Hsieh, U.S. Naval Academy

Army of Northern Virginia, 1862-1865
Mark Grimsley, The Ohio State University

10:30-10:50 a.m. Break

10:50 a.m.-12:20 p.m. Panel 2 – The German and Indian Armies

German Army, 1871-1945
Jorit Wintjes, Universität Würzburg

Indian Army, 1878-1947
Daniel Marston, Australian National University

12:20-1:30 p.m. Working Lunch – “Culture in the U.S. Marine Corps Today”
Brig. Gen. William Mullen III, USMC
Commanding General, MAGTF Training Command, Marine Corps Air-
Ground Combat Center

1:30-3 p.m. Panel 3 – The British Army

British Army, 1854-1913
Richard Hart Sinnreich, Independent Scholar

British Army, 1914-1945
Williamson Murray, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

3-3:20 p.m. Break

3:20-4:50 p.m. Panel 4 – The Red Army and the Imperial Japanese Army

Red Army, 1922-1945
Reina Pennington, Norwich University

Imperial Japanese Army, 1919-1945
David Hunter-Chester, Intelligent Decision Systems, Inc.

4:50-6:05 p.m. Panel 5 – The Israeli Defense Forces and the Iraqi Army

Israeli Defense Forces, 1948-2015
Gil-li Vardi, Stanford University

Iraqi Army, 1980-2003
Kevin Woods, Institute for Defense Analyses

Saturday, September 30

8:15-9:45 a.m. Panel 6 – Maritime Forces

Royal Navy, 1900-1945
Corbin Williamson, Air University

U.S. Navy, 1945-2015
John T. Kuehn, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

9:45-10 a.m. Break

10-11:30 a.m. Panel 7 – The U.S. Army and Marine Corps

U.S. Army, 1973-2015
Peter Mansoor, The Ohio State University

U.S. Marine Corps, 1973-2015
Allan Millett, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Working Lunch – “Strategic Culture”
David Kilcullen, Caerus Associates

12:30-2 p.m. Panel 8 – Aerospace Forces

Royal Air Force, 1918-2016
David Stubbs, Independent Scholar

U.S. Air Force, 1947-2015
Robert Farley, University of Kentucky

2-2:15 p.m. Conference Wrap-up


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