Combining Special Operations Forces: A Dutch Case Study


Special Operations Forces (SOF) constantly have to adjust to the reality of increasing demand and decreasing national defense budgets. Some units are able to expand because of increased demand while others may be forced to reduce their size because of budget decreases. The Royal Netherlands Marine Corps decided in 2009 to combine its two relatively small SOF units into one bigger unit to fulfil the increased demand for SOF operations while dealing with decreasing military budgets. This article describes how I was able to use research into organizational culture to help the Dutch Marines cope with the difficulties of trying to merge two SOF units with different histories and backgrounds into one. There is no one perfect solution for organizations facing these changes. My aim is to offer our lessons learned to other SOF units, in keeping with the sentiment that an experience not shared is an experience lost.

Forging the Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Forces

Until recently, the special operations capability of the Dutch Marines consisted of two separate units: the Maritime Special Operations Company (MSO) and the Unit Intervention Marines (UIM). The MSO was tasked with maritime special operations as well as amphibious shaping operations, while the UIM focused primarily on countering national terrorist threats. The fragmentation of these relatively small SOF units within the Dutch Marines left them in a weak position relative to their counterparts, the larger Dutch Army SOF (in Dutch, the KCT) and the national police's special intervention service (DSI). The commander of the MSO, a major, for example, had to discuss upcoming missions with the colonel in command of the KCT, a fundamental imbalance of power in favor of the KCT. More importantly however, with the most severe budget cuts in the the Dutch Defense Forces' history due to be implemented beginning in 2010, all services of the Dutch armed forces would be scrutinized for inefficiencies, and while the need for a special operations capability was undisputed, senior officers within the UIM and the MSO realized that something had to be done if they were to prevent their units from being absorbed by larger units. In 2009, these officers took the initiative, and convinced the Commandant of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps to combine their units into what would be called the Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Forces (NL MARSOF).

They envisioned this newly formed force to be a unique mixture of "traditional" maritime special operations and national counter-terrorism capabilities. The integration ensured more efficient management of scarce personnel, and also put maritime SOF in a more equitable position vis à vis the Dutch Army SOF and the national police, as they bid for appropriate tasks and missions. The simplified diagram in figure 1 illustrates the shift to the new organizational structure and the improved hierarchical position of NL MARSOF. It also illustrates that the creation of NL MARSOF was connected to a larger reorganization of the entire Royal Netherlands Navy.The first year of NL MARSOF's existence was marked by serious misunderstandings that led to friction concerning, for instance, how NL MARSOF should shape and develop the joint selection process of its new members. Aptitude testing via sleep deprivation, mental pressure through hazing, and arduous physical tests were traditionally more important for the initial selection and training of MSO members than for the less expeditionary UIM. The two units also had different standards for training. The MSO training philosophy emphasized physical fitness and the ability to operate in demanding environments like the Arctic, mountains, deserts, and jungle. This required long exercises that could add up to nine months away from home each year. In contrast, UIM operators were on constant readiness alert in the Netherlands for counterterrorism operations, such as hostage rescue missions, which precluded them from engaging in long exercises abroad. UIM personnel, therefore, predominantly focused on maintaining their shooting and close-quarter battle skills in short domestic exercises.

Differences in unit customs and traditions also gave rise to friction. For instance, the MSO frogmen used specific induction traditions to familiarize the new members with the norms and codes of conduct within the frogman community. The UIM did not have a similar rite of passage. In fact, new members of the UIM deliberately did not undergo any type of induction hazing because it was generally considered unprofessional. The leadership of the UIM also tended to be more hierarchical than the leadership of the MSO. One subtle expression of this difference was that members of the MSO were typically on a first-name basis with all other members. Within the more traditional UIM, members addressed each other by rank.

In short, everybody within NL MARSOF felt uncertain in the new situation, which led to disputes. To say NL MARSOF was in danger of becoming ineffective is an exaggeration, but internal bickering and quarrelling did hamper operational effectiveness. Thus, for the unit to function to its maximum potential, the MSO and UIM cultures and functions had to be unified in much more than just name, while personnel needed a clear understanding of the increased strategic utility of NL MARSOF.

Most of my military life, I've worked within the UIM and MSO. As a CT intervention specialist and frogman, I've gone on multiple deployments with both units. I was part of the UIM when the first steps were taken to merge the UIM and MSO into NL MARSOF, so I experienced the resulting disruptions firsthand. This background prepared me to be a mediator when NL MARSOF was stood up. Moreover, I was lucky enough to attend the special operations curriculum at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. This allowed me to step back from the fast-moving operational environment and dispassionately investigate the issues within NL MARSOF. After some intense discussions with NL MARSOF command, the Commander of the Dutch Marine Corps fighting units tasked me to identify the problem and simply "fix it."

Surviving in the Bureaucratic Jungle

In the 1970s, Eliot Cohen studied the birth and evolution of elite military units. He was primarily interested in the difficulties these new elite units face in their struggle with what he called "bureaucratic predators," and concluded that their survival depends heavily on their ability to quickly show their utility to military leaders and politicians.2 Elite units, therefore, sometimes have to undertake difficult missions to prove their worth to regular military and political sceptics. Since then, others have also pointed out the necessity for "bureaucratic guerrillas" who protect the interests of the SOF unit during its initial phase of existence. These analysts underscore the hard struggle new SOF units face in the "bureaucratic jungle," and highlight the vital importance of good performance during a unit's first operations.3

Nearly all nations have prioritized Special Operations Forces in the last few years, recognizing them to be an exceptionally cost- effective instrument of military action and national strategy.4 The expected decrease in military budgets in the next few years as a result of the strained global economy, however, makes burden sharing and restructuring of SOF capabilities more likely. U.S. Special Operations Commander Admiral William H. McRaven highlighted this concern in his 2012 posture statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee.5 His push towards a global SOF network will undoubtedly affect the way SOF units around the world conduct business in the future. In this constant state of change, the potential need for integration and the restructuring of national SOF capabilities is clear. Currently, NL MARSOF is facing political and organizational pressure similar to what Eliot Cohen described almost 35 years ago. Being the "new kid on the block"

puts the organization under a bureaucratic magnifying glass that will focus on any signs of weakness. In the current reality of increasing SOF demand and decreasing military budgets, NL MARSOF has to be at its strongest and most effective to survive its own modern-day bureaucratic predators.

Tactics to Create Wider Support

Research findings that are rejected by their intended audience are useless. Therefore, one of my main concerns was to ensure that my findings would receive support from the whole NL MARSOF community. Besides the required executive approval, I needed to convince most of the men in the unit of the value of the research, so they would commit to its findings. Without this buy-in, the implementation of any recommendations would be difficult. Recognizing this from the start enabled me to incorporate three important tactics into my research design, and gain the unit's commitment to implement change: the use of mixed methods of research; reliance on communication in person; and the application of a decent amount of tact. I realize that this sounds like common advice out of any management book, but for me these tactics worked extremely well.

SOF personnel are expected to take a critical view of every aspect of their job in order to excel in what they do. If I had used just one research method, that would have led to some hard questioning of my findings. By combining quantitative (survey) and qualitative (interview) data, mixed-methods research defuses potential criticism by providing more comprehensive evidence on which to base conclusions than would either method alone.6 In the case of NL MARSOF, I used a three-step combination of document analysis, surveys, and interviews to gather data. The document analysis covered policy documents, various existing studies, and official doctrine. The survey was to be taken by all members of NL MARSOF, followed up by interviews with selected members in order to probe their survey responses more deeply. The key to winning the participants' commitment to the outcome was for me to explain this research plan in detail, up front. When such research is seen to be credible, participants value the outcome more and thus are more willing to devote their time and effort to it.

Conducting this research was my main job for several months. For the members of NL MARSOF, however, anything they had to do for the research was in addition to their normal workload. Fighting units are constantly busy with exercises and deployments, and "down" time is a precious commodity. This is why the research goals had to be clear and compelling, not only to the people in charge, but also to those who would actually have to fill out the surveys and do the interviews. During the multiple briefings and meetings I held to explain the nuts and bolts of the three-step research plan, I repeatedly reinforced the goal of helping improve NL MARSOF's operational effectiveness. Knowing that SOF operators usually thrive on difficult assignments, I emphasized the challenge the unit faced in optimizing its performance. This was a time-consuming but necessary effort up front that likely improved my chances for success. Ultimately, more than ninety percent of NL MARSOF personnel volunteered to participate in the research, which is a very high percentage by normal polling standards.

Another method I found helpful for facilitating early commitment was the use of pre-testing. This involves discussing the proposed survey and interview questions with a carefully selected test group from the intended audience before carrying out the research work. Pre-testing is a common method used to make sure the survey population will understand and interpret the questions as the investigator intends. Another major benefit, however, is that this pre-test also initiated some early discussion of my research within NL MARSOF. After the pre-test, the participants talked with their team members and others about the upcoming survey and interviews, and the word spread throughout the rest of the community. I found that picking the right individuals for this pre-test was key to building early commitment.

Change, including organizational change, creates uncertainty and stirs up emotions that can lead to resistance. Under these circumstances, the challenge for the reform planner is to offer constructive feedback without offending anyone, so people won't lose their commitment to the result. The unwritten rule to "praise in public, but criticize in private" applies here. At the end of the day, it will be those same people who have to implement any measures developed from the findings. As it turned out for NL MARSOF, some of the findings were fairly harsh concerning specific members of the community. I always discussed sensitive outcomes first with the people involved before asking their permission to disclose the findings to the rest of the community. The fact that I came from the community was a strong advantage for me. It created a certain level of trust, but also helped me know when, and especially with whom, tact was needed.

I also made sure to show sensitive findings rather than just tell them, using visual tools such as diagrams that objectively summarized results. The diagrams helped convince senior members that I wasn't just expressing personal opinions, but was reflecting the community view. I found out that by tactfully giving feedback this way, people were better able to accept uncomfortable facts.

The Effect on NL MARSOF

My research focused primarily on the unit culture and strategic utility of NL MARSOF. It naturally had a solid theoretical foundation, but the unit's higher command had made clear that I needed practical results from which I could develop realistic recommendations.

Unit Culture Revealed

The Center for Strategic and International Studies defines military culture simply as the way things are done in a military organization. While specific definitions vary, most researchers seem to agree that organizational culture generally refers to a set of values, beliefs, and behavior patterns that form the core identity of an organization.7 In other words, "culture is to an organization what personality is to an individual."8 Many researchers have studied the question of how organizational culture affects organizational performance, and have generally agreed that a strong shared culture enhances organizational performance. The friction between members of the MSO and UIM mentioned earlier was the result of a weakly unified culture within NL MARSOF. My goal was to help the MSO and UIM unify their disparate cultures, but to make this happen, I first had to define and identify the distinctive elements of each.

To capture the relationship between organizational culture and performance, I used Daniel Denison's Organizational Culture Model, a practical model that was easy to grasp for end-users like me, and which comes with its own surveys and other standardized, user-friendly measurement tools.9 The big advantage of using an existing model is that its reliability and validity have previously been tested. Denison's model identifies four cultural traits—involvement, consistency, adaptability, and mission—which have a strong positive association with organizational effectiveness.10 Figure 2 shows Denison's diagram of these four traits, each of which is broken down further into three specific indices. Denison calls this diagram a Circumplex. Organizations that score higher in the model (measured from the center outward to the rim) perform better than organizations that score lower. According to Denison, "...effective organizations are likely to have cultures that are adaptive, yet highly consistent and predictable, and that foster high involvement, but do so within the context of a shared sense of mission."11

Each member of NL MARSOF had to answer sixty standardized survey questions borrowed from Denison's Organizational Culture Survey, or DOCS, linked to Denison's model. These sixty questions were augmented by a variety of questions specific to NL MARSOF's situation, for instance, "What is the best way in which NL MARSOF can distinguish itself from other Dutch SOF units?"

More than ninety percent of the men participated in the survey, which lent the final results considerable credibility. The unit's overall rating was generated by comparing our survey results to those of more than a thousand other organizations in Denison's normative database.13 Figure 3 shows the Circumplex of NL MARSOF's culture. The percentile scores indicate how well NL MARSOF ranked in comparison to these other organizations. For example, NL MARSOF had a percentile score of 43 in the Empowerment index, meaning that it scored higher than 43 percent of the others. Because Denison's cultural model is linked to effectiveness, the score helped highlight NL MARSOF's level of effectiveness when compared to other organizations, an objective benchmark that proved very appealing to my higher command.

This particular model's use of percentiles provided meaning and context to the results that absolute scores simply cannot give. Scoring better than only 5 percent of a thousand other organizations sends a much more alarming signal to the command than scoring 5 out of 100 on a random stand-alone test.

With weaknesses in specific cultural traits exposed, NL MARSOF could now do more than deal solely with the negative symptoms (friction points). For example, the overall low scores on the cultural traits Mission and Consistency (see figure 4), which are related to an organization's stability, or its capacity to remain focused over time, reflected the internal disagreements on selection and training.15 So now, instead of wasting energy on the symptoms— the friction points—NL MARSOF could focus on doing something about the cause: its weak cultural traits. This would strengthen the overall culture of the unit and thus improve its long-term effectiveness.

Two examples serve to highlight some of NL MARSOF's weaknesses. First, the low score (4) on the index Strategic Direction & Intent, a component of Mission, indicated that leadership has not done a good job of conveying NL MARSOF's strategic purpose and priorities to the men. Clarifying NL MARSOF's strategic intentions should therefore do a lot to defuse and eventually eliminate this source of friction. The low score on the index Coordination & Integration (21), under Consistency, indicated that the sub-units (MSO and UIM) were not able to work together, due to organizational boundaries. The eventual solution for NL MARSOF involved co-locating the staff members of the two units, who had been working at separate locations, to foster familiarity, cooperation, and mutual understanding.

The visual image of NL MARSOF's culture, as shown in figure 3, served as a wake-up call to the leadership. When I briefed the results to the command group, they unanimously, if unhappily, agreed that the DOCS model presented a mirror that reflected the unit in its present state.

The next step was easier: to compare the DOCS scores of the men from the MSO with the DOCS scores of the men from the UIM, illustrated in figure 4. Because the members understood the culture of their unit of origin, this would help me be able to pinpoint the differences between the units. I also made other comparisons, for instance between ranks or function groups, to get more in-depth knowledge of the groups' cultural differences. Figure 4 shows that both groups score low on the stability traits (Mission and Consistency). One difference, however, is that the men from the MSO score considerably better on the trait Involvement, which indicates that they feel more empowered and engaged than the UIM men. On the whole, however, the DOCS showed the men themselves that in terms of cultural traits they were not all that different. The primary source of the combined unit's friction points was instead an overall lack of confidence, captured by the low scores in Mission and Consistency. To improve its effectiveness, NL MARSOF first of all would need to create a clear sense of strategic utility, along with a common mindset and identity. The last part of the article describes ways in which NL MARSOF is trying to achieve these goals.

Before they saw this model, most NL MARSOF members knew something had to be done to unify and strengthen the unit's organizational culture, but they were not clear on what that was. The DOCS provided the tool to describe the cultural obstacles NL MARSOF faced, convincing senior leadership that the organization could now effectively address its weak points according to the four cultural trait areas. Translating something seemingly intangible like organizational culture into clearly defined and measurable traits was a critical first step for the reform of NL MARSOF.

Strategic Utility as a Core Cultural Trait

The DOCS results showed that the members of NL MARSOF felt the unit suffered from an overall lack of strategic direction, which is arguably the most important aspect of organizational development for leadership to address. NL MARSOF leaders urgently needed to re-evaluate the organization's strategic utility, and clearly articulate its strategic direction.

I knew from reviewing existing studies that there are many different approaches to and definitions of SOF strategic utility. The framework I developed for NL MARSOF uses three dimensions. First is the geographic environment in which Dutch SOF operate, which may be at sea, on land, or somewhere in between. The second dimension, the political domain, is divided into domestic counterterrorism missions and full-spectrum SOF missions abroad, a distinction roughly similar to that between military and policing missions. The third dimension, the special operations spectrum, is the full range of direct and indirect missions. Direct missions pit SOF directly against the enemy, while the indirect missions enable indigenous forces and populations to engage the enemy. I placed the three dimensions (geographic, political, and spectrum) on the three axes of a cube, as shown in figure 5. This 3-D diagram represents the entire range of SOF's strategic utility. By identifying NL MARSOF's degree of engagement on each axis, its specific strategic range could be visualized and compared with others'.

This simple framework generated a useful visual representation of the operational focus of NL MARSOF over the past three decades (see figure 5). It revealed that NL MARSOF conducted missions that varied by geographic and political domain. I expected this, given the nature of the original taskings of the MSO and the UIM. More interestingly, it also indicated that all the special operations the group has undertaken took place on the direct action side of the spectrum of special operations.

Figure 5 also illustrates the historical mission set of NL MARSOF in comparison to Dutch Army SOF (KCT). There is a large overlap in some mission dimensions between the two forces, but a gap in potential indirect missions. These observed overlaps and gaps beg the question of whether a more efficient division of tasks would expand the strategic utility of Dutch SOF overall. Recent heavy budget cuts for the Dutch Defence Forces make the answer to this question even more vital.

Whether NL MARSOF needs to focus more on indirect missions depends on what is actually required of it. My analysis of policy documents, studies, and doctrine identified exactly such a requirement. By passing all this information to NL MARSOF command, it now had the means to determine whether, and possibly where, it needed to adjust its vision for the way ahead.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

In my experience, clearly identifying the problem for all players involved, like doing the mission analysis in military planning, is the single most important step towards solving it. A problem that remains vague and/or intangible not only leaves room for misinterpretation, but also for denial. This is especially true in the case of "soft" problems like unit culture or strategic direction. These aspects of organizations are not easily measured in numbers, budgets, or other performance metrics and therefore are harder to manage. This was voiced by a staff officer of NL MARSOF who said during an interview: "We all know that something is wrong, but we can't quite put our finger on it. So, we just press on." Tools like the Denison model help commanders visualize the "soft" aspects of the unit and thus make its problems more concrete, which instantly makes them more manageable.

A Fish Stinks From the Head Down

Success requires leadership. Every military unit needs a clear and compelling vision to direct its efforts and actions—that proverbial dot on the horizon where you want to go as an organization. My research revealed that most members of NL MARSOF felt the organization lacked such leadership. One statement by an interviewee nicely captured this feeling: "MARSOF is like a big powerboat, but without a steering wheel." The men needed the boss to take the wheel and steer the organizational powerboat in the right direction, and to clearly communicate his vision to the rest of the crew so they could work toward a common goal.

To win the commitment of its personnel to the organization's strategic goals, I advised the command to get them involved in determining "the way ahead." The command therefore initiated a strategy session for selected senior staff officers, to formulate a coherent vision and strategic direction for NL MARSOF. This was followed by larger group workshops, to develop more support within NL MARSOF for the intended strategic direction. The mere fact that everyone was listened to during these workshops ultimately improved understanding and commitment to the organization's new roadmap.

Are You "Badged?"

The difficulties within NL MARSOF underscore the importance of unit culture, especially for those who are expected to take pride in their work. We can have the perfect organizational structure, the latest gear, and all the funding, but what is most important is that people feel part of the unit and believe in its goals.

Although the members of NL MARSOF did not think they shared a common mindset, when I asked everybody to choose the most important four out of sixteen possible core values and then rank those four, eighty percent valued quality the most. Seeing that UIM and MSO personnel shared a common value system was an eye-opener for most. It meant that the cultural differences that bothered everyone were at the more superficial level of symbols and traditions, which fortunately are easier to amend.

For NL MARSOF, as it happened, the most important symbol of all was utterly lacking—the unit badge. One comment captured the frustration of a lot of people: "[The command] asks me take off my frogman badge for NL MARSOF, but does not offer anything in return!" Therefore, one of the first priorities after my results were digested was to create a new unit emblem, and the much-desired badge for the dress-blue uniform of members who passed the new selection course, the so called "badged" guys. Though it might seem a small thing to outsiders, this recognition is vital to shaping identity and stimulating esprit-de-corps in elite units.

Personal Takeaways

I found this study, which I did to benefit my community, to be both meaningful and rewarding, and I hope my experiences can help others who might be facing a similar task. During the course of my work for NL MARSOF, I wrote down a few key takeaways, things I found helpful.

7P's: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss-poor Performance

This salty British military adage has proven its worth to me once more. I would even say that for me, as a former member of the MARSOF community, good preparation was especially important. My peers expected me to be on top of things when I returned to the unit's home base. Talking to the guys again gave me the warm feeling of a reunion, but they never let me forget that they also expected me to have a solid plan to solve the issues at hand. I must admit their expectations caught me off guard at our first meeting. I made sure I was "up to speed" and had a detailed plan ready for our second meeting.

Also, I would advise anybody to think ahead about follow-up possibilities. If others can easily build on your work, it makes it all the more valuable. In my case, the command committed to administer a follow-up survey after two years, using the same models and procedures I used, to see whether there have been improvements. Whoever is tasked to do this will already have the tools at hand to take a second "snapshot" of NL MARSOF.

Bring Something New to the Table

If the problem being examined was simple, it probably would already have been solved. I advise anyone tasked with this kind of research not to be too wedded to his initial assumptions and solutions. When pitching a plan, you don't want your audience to be thinking, "Here we go again… Been there, done that, not doing it again." Take the time to find out what ideas and plans have been tried and abandoned, ideally from those who had to implement them. This can give you a good sense of what might be of real interest to the whole community, and thus can help win their cooperation.

Don't Reinvent the Wheel, Customize it

Even though creativity is an important quality in special operations personnel, I believe that it is better to steal something good than to invent something bad. Researchers have been studying organizational culture since the early nineteen-eighties, and have already developed and tested good models and tools for others to use. The Denison model I chose was successfully used by more than a thousand other organizations worldwide. That fact alone gave it instant credibility among senior staff. The downside of any off-the-shelf model or tool is that it is standardized for a wide variety of organizations. So, when possible, customize it without losing the integrity of the model. In my case, I augmented the sixty DOCS-supplied questions with questions specific to the issues within NL MARSOF. This turned out to be a huge selling point of the research, because now everyone knew I used a tool that was battle-tested, but also fitted to the exact problem set.

Make it Worthwhile for Everyone, Not Just the Boss

I firmly believe that the researcher needs to motivate and commit people to the project as early in the process as possible. Without this, he will get information that is flawed, which means the findings are going to be flawed as well. Even if the findings are solid, chances are that nobody will do anything with them. So, the best advice I can offer is to use all your personal skills to inspire people and make the research plan compelling to them. Take the time to build a comprehensive research plan, communicate it in person, and then reveal the findings as thoughtfully and tactfully as you can. Equally important, be open to honest feedback. I was fortunate to find an honest broker within NL MARSOF whom I could ask, "What's in it for them?" His answers were indispensable to my process of selfevaluation. If his comment was unsatisfactory, I knew I had to adjust.

Know How to Brief Executives

I will never again underestimate the power of executive briefs. Ultimately, the executives are the big dogs, so they need to be convinced foremost of any plan or finding. As in anything, first impressions last, so the impression you make has to count. If, like me, you're not one of those types who can sell a drink to a drowning man, polish your presentation skills on friends who will give you honest feedback.

General Staff officers' agendas are very dynamic, and an opportunity to brief is likely to come when you least expect it. I got bumped from agendas more than once, because of more urgent matters elsewhere. Therefore, I made sure I always had one short and sharp brief ready to go at a moment's notice. When the chance does arrive to brief the commander, one sure sign of success is to realize, after having been slotted in for fifteen minutes, that you've been talking for more than an hour. Then you know you have the boss's ear. That is the moment when perseverance makes all the difference to overall success. In my experience, that moment was almost as thrilling as successfully completing a combat mission.

Don't be Too Academic

A researcher who comes from the unit needs to exploit the fact that he really knows the unit and the people working there. They are interested in practical solutions, not the theory behind them. Compared to academics or consultants, this is actually the single most important advantage you'll have. Most of the senior members of NL MARSOF already had a pretty good idea of who I was, so in any case it was useless for me to act otherwise. If you come from the community you're researching, chances are this will be the same for you.

Be Sure Everybody Knows the Big Boss Supports You

When you succeed in building commitment to your research, you will get truthful, valuable information. However, this information will most likely also be very critical of both specific aspects and certain high-ranking members. In the case of NL MARSOF, I took this to be a positive outcome, because it meant the men were not afraid to give me their straightforward opinions. They trusted my neutral stance. It is vital not to betray that level of trust by sugar-coating the findings in briefings, even if it means stepping on some toes. When even tact is not enough to keep some people from pulling rank, the visible support of a powerful, high-ranking sponsor is important. In the military system, rank counts. The fact that most of the command staff knew my sponsor was supporting the research also helped elevate the status of my findings.

Think of It as "Door-kicking" on the Executive Level

I would assume that most soldiers don't consider research the sexiest job in the world. Most would rather operate down range where the action is, kicking in doors to take out bad guys. I know I certainly do. Nevertheless, looking back I found it all very worthwhile. It is not often that one gets the opportunity to truly help one's community for the long term. Considerable organizational changes and improvements, based partly on my findings, are being implemented within NL MARSOF even as I write. All in all, what I learned is that someone conducting this type of research actually can help shape the future direction of his unit. Even though this still may not be as sexy as kicking in doors to take out bad guys, I would argue it's just as rewarding.

About the Author(s): MAJ Andy Kraag serves with NL MARSOF, the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps SOF component. He has deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan with the Dutch Frogmen (MSO) and the Dutch Counterterrorism Unit (UIM).


1. Unless otherwise noted, all figures are courtesy of the author.

2. Eliot A. Cohen, Commandos and Politicians: Elite Military Units in Modern Democracies (Cambridge: Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 1978), 27. The military utility of SOF can be described as the unit's ability to conduct full-spectrum special operations.

3. From Susan L. Marquis, Unconventional Warfare: Rebuilding U.S. Special Operations Forces (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1997), 266; Thomas K. Adams, US Special Operations Forces in Action: The challenge of Unconventional Warfare (New York: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001); and David Tucker and Christopher J. Lamb, United States Special Operations Forces (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 99.

4. Military Education Research Network, "White Papers on Defense:" whitepapers.html (accessed March 14, 2012).

5. William McRaven, "Posture Statement of Admiral William H. McRaven, USN Commander, United States Special Operations Command," Senate Armed Services Committee, 112th Congress, Washington, March

6. 2012. 6 John W. Creswell and Vicki L. Plano Clark, Designing and Conducting Mixed Methods Research (Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications, 2007), 5.

7. Daniel R. Denison, "Bringing Corporate Culture to the Bottom Line," Organizational Dynamics (New York: American Management Associations, 1984).

8. James Q. Wilson, Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It (New York: Basic Books, 1989), 91.

9 Daniel R. Denison, "Denison Culture Model," Denison Corporation: http://www.denisonconsulting. com/advantage/researchModel/model.aspx

10. Daniel R. Denison and Aneil K. Mishra, "Toward a Theory of Organizational Culture and Effectiveness," Organization Science 6, no. 2 (March–April, 1995): 204–223.

11. Daniel R. Denison, Research Notes, no. 1 (2006): http:// RN-2011-Denison-Model-Overview.sflb.ashx

12. Denison, "Denison Culture Model."

13. Due to space constraints, I will not go into detail here on how the results for my study were derived. Please see Denison's publications for an explanation of how the DOCS score is calculated, or see my Naval Postgraduate School thesis "Forging Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Forces":

14. Daniel R. Denison, "Circumplex Report NL MARSOF," Denison Corporation, 25 July 2011.

15. Denison, "Denison Culture Model."

16. Denison, "Circumplex Report NL MARSOF."

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