Military Culture and the US Forces

The culture of any military comprises the ethos and professional attributes, derived from both experience and intellectual studies that contribute to organizations’ core, and a common understanding of the nature of war. Less easily studied than defined, is the influence of culture on military institutions. It is almost always the result of long-term factors rarely measurable and often obscure— obscure, that is, until a war begins. Military culture is shaped by the national culture of a country as well as factors such as geography and historical experience that help us construct a national military “style.

” The American military, for example, has always had to project its power over great distances. Even during the Civil War, which has exercised great influence over the military culture of the armed forces of the United States, Union forces waged a war on a continental scale. Germany, by comparison, was for centuries at the center of European wars, and consequently tended to neglect logistical problems. One should however note that military culture is not immutable.

Changes in leadership, professional military education, doctrinal preference, and technology all impact on the culture of military institutions. The effects on culture, however, may not be evident for years or even decades, and may in fact be unintended consequences of other shifts. (Murray, 1999). For the greater part of its history, US military culture has remained flexible and open to innovation. Between the two World Wars, there was an emphasis on intellectual preparation for future war. Professional military education, in particular, received not only high-level attention, but also respect.

The faculties of the services’ war colleges in the year’s immediately preceding American involvement in World War II included several officers who would later rise to top commands at the national level. In addition, the war colleges of the US Navy and Marine Corps were instrumental in developing the doctrines of amphibious warfare and carrier aviation that proved essential to success in the war. By comparison, the current American military culture demonstrates trends with some disturbing implications.

According to a House Armed Services Committee report of the late 1980s, professional military education has suffered a significant decline, and the major institutions have become profoundly anti-intellectual and ahistorical. In the present situation, particularly worrisome is the US military culture’s propensity to shut down debate. The current draft of Army Regulation 600-20 suggests that the senior leadership in the army wants to proscribe an officer from even holding certain views which contravene official policy, much less from espousing them.

On the other hand, the Navy and the Marines do appear to be encouraging debate within their officer corps: the navy because of its three very different subcultures (aviation, submarine, and surface), the marines simply because their culture appears to thrive on argument. The significance of understanding the military culture is particularly important when working with families. (Kaslow, 1993). The need to understand the culture is important as it affects the personal as well as interpersonal issues of the military families.

Military families live within the broader frame work of American society as well as the unique military society hence there is greater necessity to understand this culture. (Kaslow, 1993). The dimensions and scope of family life in a military is very vast. Life in the military for families in particular extends from children raised in military homes to veterans. Thus it is essential that civilian human service providers have a detailed knowledge of the working and practices of the military. (Martin. Rosen. Sparacino. Ed, 2000).