Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

International Experiences in the Operationalization of Culture for Military Operations - Field Research Results

Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

International Experiences in the Operationalization of Culture for Military Operations - Field Research Results

Article excerpt


The following article intends to summarize the conclusions and recommendations of research on the operationalization of culture for pre-deployment and operational training and activities. The results are based on research and interviews conducted by the author at Polish and foreign military institutions in the years 2009-2013, among others during study visits to international military institutions, US Army War College and multinational coalition forces representatives at US CENTCOM in 2012. This piece of research analyzes the solutions implemented in the preparation and conduct of operations by NATO (among others, Canada, the UK, Germany, Poland, and Turkey) and other armies (such as Australia, South Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, and Nepal).

Keywords: Operationalization of culture, cross-cultural competence, military operations, pre-deployment training.


The emergence of population-centric operations has drawn attention to the need to consider the cultural factors of the Area of Operation. However, the missing link between the awareness of the cultural aspects of threats and the development of operational plans that take these aspects into consideration has not yet been found and fully utilized in military planning and conduct of operations. Due to the wide spectrum of cultural and social factors influencing the operational environment, the aforementioned operations gave priority to non-kinetic military activities, such as psychological operations (PSYOPS), information operations (INFO OPS), or the significance of civil-military coopera-

tion components (CIMIC), which are based on a profound understanding of the cultural aspects of the reality in which they work.

Hence, contemporary operational success can be achieved only when the situational awareness of the operational environment is full and in-depth, as cultural awareness of the area of operation is a vital component of overall situational awareness. Therefore we face a need for the skill of operationalization of culture, understood as all the processes and skills involved in identifying the cultural features of any object of the activity (either the population in the Area of Operation [AOO], the Area of Responsibility [AOR], the "enemy," or Allied forces) vital to military activities paired with the integration of such knowledge and skills in planning, pre-deployment preparation, decision-making process, and general conduct of operations. It also includes the integration of universal cultural competence training into the overall career training development of officers. The general culture competence training has proven to be an optimal solution that enables the soldiers not only to adjust to the culturally "alien" operational environment, but also the more effective cooperation within multinational environments.

Thus, the aim of this article is to analyze the current status of the implementation of operationalization of culture in military operations in order to identify solutions, methods, and tools that can be used to design an improved model of operationalization of culture: one that would actually improve the efficiency of operations, as the analysis of American solutions demonstrated that not all serve their functions properly.1 Therefore, a critical review of guidelines and experiences in NATO and non-NATO countries was undertaken, including the experiences of Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Singapore, Romania, Thailand, Pakistan, Armenia, and Afghanistan.

NATO's "Cultural Turn"

Both the "cultural turn" of the U.S. Department of Defense and the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Afghanistan effected changes in NATO operational doctrines and solutions. They were summarized in the recommendations following Multinational Experiment 6 (MNE 6) that ended in 2010, particularly within goal 4.3, which focused on improving the efficiency of operations through the increase of cultural awareness of soldiers working in an operational environment that is "alien" in terms of traditions, social relations, way of life, and culture. …

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