Small Wars Journal

E² (Embedding Effects): How to Enable Enduring Change in Partner Military Forces

Sun, 04/01/2018 - 6:19pm

E² (Embedding Effects): How to Enable Enduring Change in Partner Military Forces

Alexander Sharpe and Oliver Lotze


A large portion of the efforts of Western militaries to build capacity and capability in less developed partner nations is dedicated towards training partner military forces.[1] Much of this training takes place through the use of short-term (less than 30 days) exchanges focused on specific topics.[2] These short duration exchanges fail to achieve the enduring effect needed to enable the partner nations to accomplish the desired changes in their militaries.[3] Rather than continue short duration efforts that lead to little long term gain, long-term embedded advisors in partner nation military institutions should be used. A Western military presence in partner nation professional military educational (PME) facilities can provide an enduring effect that may result in professional armies inculcated in Western concepts of professionalism and fealty to civilian control and oversight.

This study examines the activities of an Advisory team assigned to the National Land Forces Academy (NLFA) of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF), located in L’viv, Ukraine. The period of assignment to the academy was February through October of 2017, as part of the U.S. Army’s Doctrine and Education Advisory Group – Ukraine (DEAG-U). The observations, assessments, and recommendations can offer a template upon which future advisory efforts may be developed, while also demonstrating the benefit of enduring PME partnerships with nations seeking to emulate Western professional military development.  

DEAG-U embedded one Armor Captain and one Infantry Lieutenant Colonel with a mechanized background to serve as the senior advisor. The German Army also provided one Armor Lieutenant Colonel with prior service as a cadet instructor. These advisors were posted at the L’viv NLFA, which is the Ukrainian commissioning source for Armor, Mechanized Infantry, Field Artillery, and Engineer Officers. DEAG-U also provided two post-command Infantry Captains to embed as advisors at the Odessa Academy which is the commissioning source for Airborne, Special Operations Forces, reconnaissance, and logistics officers. DEAG-U also became involved with the Desna Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy and National Defense University (NDU). Additionally, DEAG-U members conducted visits to multiple education institutions as part of other advisor assessments or at the request of the Ukrainians.

The Ukrainian Officer Education System has multiple 4-5-year commissioning academies based on branch of the officer which eliminates the requirement for a basic officer course as a Lieutenant after commissioning. The Captain’s Course is two weeks long and is oriented towards staff preparation. Majors and Lieutenant Colonels attend the National Defense University as do Colonels for war college-level studies. Officers achieve undergraduate and graduate degrees from these accredited institutions. Cadre are active duty military, retired military, and civilian. The academies’ and NDU’s cadres meet credentialing requirements and most have advanced degrees. The institutions also have research and analysis departments. A portion of Ukrainian doctrine is written at these institutions. The cadre also makes trips into the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) Zone. This has been reported to be for one of three reasons – fill vacancies, gather lessons learned to include in academy instruction, and to ensure faculty have experience and credibility of deployment to the ATO.

During the period of 1991 to 2013, Ukrainian armed forces experienced a severe degradation in quality and numbers. A lack of investment in the military after independence, poor governance, and endemic corruption left the UAF ill prepared to deal with the occupation of the Crimea and Donbas (separatist controlled areas in the oblasts of Luhansk and Donets) as well as the subsequent fighting in the ATO zone. The failure to maintain the military during this period also applied to officer and NCO training and education, leading to the current status of Professional Military Education (PME) in the UAF. 

Ukrainian NCO education institutions and systems are much younger than the officer systems and are to a large degree a result of recent reform. The education system is based on a former Soviet Union model and is evolving based on requirements of the current conflict in the Donbas.[4] It is also slowly changing as a result of individual school/department leadership, Ukrainian reform efforts, NATO Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP) engagement, allied advisors, Lithuanian leadership in NCO development, California National Guard State Partnership Program activities, and engagement by international defense attachés.

Mission Parameters

The mission of the advisors was to advise and mentor NLFA counterparts in order to assist with converting existing Operational Doctrine, enhancing Personnel Management, and refining Cadet training and education. These tasks were intended to facilitate NATO interoperability within the UAF, as directed by the president of Ukraine and specified within the 2015 White Book of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.[5] Advisors also assisted the NLFA’s leadership and faculty through change initiatives that were intended to facilitate an increased understanding of NATO standards and result in an improved PME curriculum, reference documents, and instructional tools.

Areas of concentration included the design of modern doctrine for current Ukrainian military structures and processes utilizing lessons learned from the ATO in the Donbas. The advisors also interacted with cadets in order to exemplify standards of the military officer profession, communicate the advantages of a professional NCO corps, and impart techniques for small unit-level leadership. The review and update of education lesson plans and teaching methodology with the NLFA faculty was also identified as an area that would enable an enduring benefit to the cadets’ education. Finally, the introduction to the cadets of NATO standardized doctrine and an understanding of the Mission Command concept was seen as fundamental to developing the capacity of UAF to be NATO interoperable.[6]  

Efforts to transform the UAF into a NATO-interoperable force is a long-term effort that will last throughout the tenures of any advisors assigned to UAF PME institutions. Thus, the metrics used to ascertain progress towards that goal at the NLFA should be oriented towards measures simple to explain and implement, yet enduring in longevity. Any attempt to introduce numerous complex schemes for educational and training development would have been futile due to translation errors and entrenched interests. Thus, NLFA advisors introduced methods and techniques that directly enabled NATO interoperability while simultaneously introducing Western techniques of leadership and operations. The concept of an academy sergeant major, the introduction of cadet-values cards, and the recommendation to adopt and teach NATO terms and graphics are some examples of simple yet attainable metrics that if adopted and maintained would aid progress towards the ultimate objective.

Activities and Areas of Success

The international advisors section of the NLFA consisted of one U.S. Army Armor Captain and one Infantry Lieutenant Colonel with a mechanized background, both of whom were assigned for nine months. There was also an Armor Lieutenant Colonel of the German Bundeswehr assigned to the academy as an advisor on a two-year tour of duty. The U.S. Lieutenant Colonel, being post-battalion command, assumed the role of senior advisor. Upon arrival, the advisory team began audits of cadet classroom instruction and a review of the manuals and doctrine used to train the cadets on tactics and field craft. Cadet field training was observed, and faculty members interviewed to ascertain levels of education and experience. Initial meetings with the NLFA deputy commandant for training resulted in the identification of NATO interoperability, cadet technical proficiency with military equipment, and small unit leadership as the biggest concerns from the NLFA leadership’s perspective.

After one month of observation of classes and field training, feedback was provided to the NLFA deputy commandant for training. This was followed by a presentation to the department chiefs and their instructors of the advisory team’s observations and recommendations. After the briefing, the artillery and engineer department chiefs requested follow up consultations for further observations and recommendations. Upon completion of audits and feedback to the artillery and engineer departments, the senior advisor began coordination with the academy research department to assist with the development of small unit and battalion-level doctrine.

Concurrent with the advisory team’s work with the research department was interaction with the various partner nation training teams that would periodically provide short term (usually two weeks or less) training to academy faculty on various topics. During these sessions, the advisors provided advice and assistance to ensure the relevance of the topics to the faculty and enable understanding by the target audience. The advisor section also supported English language classes at the academy through seminars with students, giving lectures on various topics and entertaining cadet questions. Advisors also supported quarterly education conferences involving the NLFA faculty, during which advisors conducted presentations on teaching methodologies and techniques to improve cadet education and training quality.

The constraints of supporting the academy were cultural and systemic in nature. The administrative structure of the NLFA is rigidly hierarchical. For example, the commandant is a major general, yet believes he can make no significant changes to the NLFA without permission from the Ukrainian General Staff. Some members of the faculty are resistant to change, having taught at the NLFA for many years. This made it difficult for the deputy commandant (Training) to affect an enduring change in teaching methodology. The reluctance to fully embrace aspects of NATO interoperability that the Ukrainians desire delays the change needed to field a more Western-oriented professional military organization. Delays in teaching cadets NATO terms and graphics are an example of this trend.

Administrators at the NLFA are reluctant to empower instructors to teach what they feel is needed as opposed to the specified curriculum. There is also a lack of empowering senior cadets to train or mentor junior cadets, increasing the burden on the instructors. The burden becomes more pronounced due to the shortage of instructors at the academy, which was at 80% of its authorization during the advisory team’s tenure. This tendency also hinders cadets from developing leadership skills needed after graduation. The lack of post-graduation instruction or training means cadets can only rely on what they learn at the NLFA to enable interaction with their soldiers upon arrival to their first operational assignments.

The NLFA curriculum and academic requirements pose unique challenges to reform. In four years, the cadets must complete the studies needed to obtain their academic degrees as well as perform the military training needed for their respective branches. There is also the need to provide initial entry training to the 80% of cadets that enter the NLFA without prior military experience. These competing demands make the NLFA faculty reluctant to embrace radical change, believing that something will be lost that will adversely affect the cadets after graduation. This mindset gave further incentive to the development of recommendations that directly addressed known cadet shortfalls, could be implemented easily, and would not interfere with existing NLFA requirements.

There were reforms at the NLFA during the advisory team’s tenure that helped overall progress toward addressing the most pressing needs of the institution. Active learning techniques lacking in early class audits became commonplace during later observations. These techniques increased and improved student involvement in classroom instruction and moved the NLFA away from the previous trend of hours-long lectures with little diversity or cadet interaction. The academy faculty also became more discriminating in the acceptance of short duration training offered by international partners. Whereas in the past any offered training was accepted, now there is more analysis about whether or not the training is relevant and how it can be altered to better fit the needs of the NLFA if not relevant.

Improvements to curriculum development and teaching methodology were also achieved through the reform of academy teaching symposiums. Held quarterly, these meetings were intended to offer proposed changes to the curriculum to the entire faculty for assessment. In reality they became a day-long series of lectures with little practical application. After receiving recommendations from the international advisors, the NLFA staff changed the symposium format to a three-day event incorporating working groups. Initial presentations, briefings on working group results, and a timeline for the way forward listing due outs and stakeholders have transformed the symposium into a practical tool for improving the NLFA.

Doctrine development is proceeding in a manner that will prove to be enduring. Initially, the intent of the NLFA research department (responsible for developing doctrine) was to translate small unit manuals from partner nations and adopt them as Ukrainian doctrine. The research department is now focused on crafting manuals relevant and applicable to the UAF, while also aiding in attaining NATO interoperability. This is due to working groups held by advisors with the department explaining that foreign doctrine is best used as a guide to doctrine development, not as a one-size-fits-all quick fix. A focus on NATO Mission Command doctrine and foundational materials, as well as an emphasis on overarching NATO doctrinal practices also convinced the department members to craft guidelines specifically relevant to the UAF.


Embedding advisors long term into the military training and education institutions of partner nations can be effective in not only enabling change towards a Western-style professional military, but also in developing lasting relationships that will support future operations. The embedding of advisors at all levels of partner nation PME in lieu of periodic temporary training missions can deliver a more enduring beneficial effect without an increase in expended resources. Embedded advisory efforts currently in place in Ukraine and other countries can serve as templates for future inaugural efforts in other partner nations desiring a long-term training presence and effect.

Military and civilian advisors from participating nations should be invited to support the advisory presence in partner nation PME institutions.[7] Advisory efforts gain greater credibility when more than one nation or organization is represented within the team. Advisory rotations of at least six months should be pursued in order to support the daily continuous contact needed to affect and support enduring change within partner PME education systems that will enable the change partner nations wish to see in their respective militaries.

Advisors should have the education and experience necessary to be able to serve as subject matter experts in the fields they are to support. At the NLFA, military advisors had at least company command-level experience or familiarity with teaching and mentoring soldiers. This prepared them well for supporting the instruction of cadets at the academy. Potential advisor candidates should also be able to reach back to their respective home station contacts and organizations. This will allow them to provide any needed in-depth information regarding any programs or initiatives PME faculty members may wish to implement.

The advisor mindset should embrace the concept that the PME advisory team is a foothold in the institution through which all manner of training and support from outside agencies can be coordinated. Advisors can be initially contacted and queried by outside agencies on the training needs of their respective institutions. Early coordination in this manner can allow for proposed training to be tailored appropriately prior to being proffered, ensure institution needs are met, and minimize any misunderstandings between the institution and the provider. This ability to leverage outside contacts and provide continuous presence is a force multiplier for partner efforts in support of reforming PME. Embedded advisors in the training and educational institutions of partner nations can not only enable achieving their goals, but also provide a daily example of the military professionalism the partner nations aspire to achieve.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and not that of any official government or government department or office.

End Notes

[1] Kirby, M. (2016). Building Partner Capacity (BPC): Analyzing Historical Case Studies. Maxwell AFB: Air Command and Staff College, 1.

[2] Lange, J. (2012). Building Partner Capacity Through Combat Training Centers. Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College, 3.

[3] Terry, J. (2010). Principles of Building Partnership Capacity. Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 66-67.

[4] Fox, A. (2017). Hybrid Warfare: the 21st Century Russian Way of Warfare. Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army School for Advanced Military Studies, 26.

[5] Ministry of Defense. (2015). White Book 2015: The Armed Forces of Ukraine. Kyiv: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 41.

[6] Army Field Manual 6-0. Command and Staff Organization and Operations. Washington D.C.: U.S. Army Chief of Staff, vii.

[7] Odom, C. (2016). Broken Mirrors: Tracing Issues in Building Partner Capacity. Monterey, CA: U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, 52.

About the Author(s)

Oliver Lotze is a German Army officer who is currently serving as Military Advisor to the National Land Forces Academy of Ukraine in Lviv. He is an Armored Officer with Leadership experience on the Battalion and Company level. He served previously as Instructor for Tactics and Leadership at German Army Officer School. He holds an Masters of Sport Science from Germany Armed Forces University and a Masters in Defence Studies from the Canadian Forces College. The opinions expressed in his articles are those of the author and not that of any official government or government department or office.

Alexander Sharpe is a California Army National Guard officer who previously served as the Senior Maneuver Doctrine and Tactics Advisor at the National Land Forces Academy of Ukraine, and currently advises the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command. He is an Army Strategist with a DBA in Homeland Security, and a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. The opinions expressed in his articles are those of the author and not that of any official government or government department or office.