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Culture as an Operational Enabler; NATO Mission Iraq - Blended-learning


Culture as an Operational Enabler; NATO Mission Iraq -  Blended-learning  

Culture as an Operational Enabler; NATO Mission Iraq - Blended-learning 

This course aims to equip Danish and Allied military personnel with empirical and analytical knowledge, skills and competencies to use culture as an operational enabler broadly, and specifically in military cooperation and staff work in NATO Mission Iraq (NMI). NMI advises and trains Iraqi forces based on “partnership and inclusivity as well as on full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity”. Accordingly, the COE NMI course overall objective is to educate staff officers in culture based on key research findings from military anthropology, Iraqi history and Iraqi politics to reach this mission objective.

Course Description
As Denmark prepares to take lead of NMI, this course offers education and training in “culture as an operational enabler” (COE) tailored specifically for personnel to be deployed in NMI. While Iraq is the empicial focus of this course, COE is a broad concept and is relevant for personnel and students looking beyond NMI. COE is a concept that has been developed through research at the Royal Danish Defence College. At the College, a team of anthropologists research different areas of military anthropology. The COE concept is one result of this research, which also explores military culture, training missions and civil-military interaction. It is clear that culture can be disabling for operational efficiency. But culture can also be an operational enabler – through insights into complex political circumstances and practical training in cultural understanding and inter-cultural competencies.

In NMI, culture can be categorized in at least two ways: there is “Iraqi” culture, including the unique history of Iraq, social developments and its recent context of war, social and political turmoil; and there is “our” culture, which includes solving military tasks such as capacity building, advice and training in close cooperation with allied forces of various nationalities (and cultures). Taken in sum, NMI is thus a complex cultural assemblage of various cultures, which sometimes result in misunderstandings, surprises, frictions and even mistakes or clashes.

In order alleviate these risks and thus enhance operational effect, and in order to prepare Danish and Allied staff personnel for NMI, the course follows two main educational trajectories with special emphasis on the first:

Firstly, the course will give insight into recent history and politics of modern Iraq. Special attention will be given to areas of importance to NMI: i.e. the security apparatus, security sector reform (theory and practice), current challenges to the Iraqi state and theories that capture the interrelation between state, security and society (including concepts like sect, ethnicity, family and tribe). How do political legacies from the Saddam era continue to this current moment? And what are the structures of security dynamics in Iraq? Historical knowledge and theoretical models will be put to test in concrete and mission-realistic scenarios.

Secondly, the coalition culture of NMI is scrutinized. Experiences from formerly deployed personnel as well as the experiences of course participants from similar coalition environments will form the basis for systematic evaluation. What is “coalition culture”, how can we approach NMI as a “mission formation” and how can one become more culturally adapt and thereby strengthen cooperation, coordination, training and advice? Through evaluation of experiences combined with newly acquired cultural insights, participants will strengthen their own cultural reflexivity and analytical awareness.

The course combines classical lecture-style sessions with hand-picked local and international experts with group work and practical exercises, such as case work featuring NMI realistic characteristics and scenarios. During the exercises, participants get hands-on training with the introduced theories and empirical insights. Lastly, participants will strengthen their ability to structure, write and present their newly acquired knowledge and findings in English.

While this course is specifically designed for NMI, it includes analytical abilities of more generic nature which can be applied with critical reflexivity in simililar environments.

If the course is attended by Danish as well as allied staff, the course language will be English. If allied staff attend, the exam language can be either Danish or English. If the course is filled by Danish staff only, the course and exam language will be Danish.

1. Phase (6 weeks: 17. August – 27. September)
(Online distance learning)
- Familiarization with online teaching system (Moodle)
- Introduction to participants, course director and kick-start of portfolio exam
- Introduction to the COE concept
- Reading key texts
- Online exercises with course participants and director

2. Phase (1 week: 28. September – 1. October
(Residential Period – three full days, excluding arrival/departure)
- Basic history, politics and religion of modern Iraq
- Basic concepts of sect, ethnicity, family and tribe
- Security apparatus and security sector reform (theory and practice)
- Current situation briefings
- Theories of state and society relations in Iraq
- Practical exercises, training the above

3. Phase (4 weeks: 5. October – 1. November)
(Online distance learning)
- Theoretical concepts of culture and coalition culture
- Experiences from NMI and related environments
- Online exercises, training the above
4. Exam phase
- Portfolio is synthesized

Entry Requirements
Although this course is part of a Danish Master in Military Studies, we warmly welcome participants from allied armed forces - if we have space! Especially those deploying to NMI or similar missions.

Learning outcomes
After completing this course, you will have obtained the following knowledge, skills and competencies:

• Knowledge of the current situation in Iraq.
• Knowledge of the culture as an operational enabler concept.
• Knowledge of the history, politics and culture of Iraq.
• Knowledge about social concepts like sect, ethnicity, family and tribe.
• Knowledge about the Iraqi security apparatus.
• Knowledge about security sector reform.
• Knowledge of theories about the interrelation between security, society and state in Iraq.
• Knowledge about coalition culture.
Skills and competencies
• An ability to think analytically about culture and its relation to the military and Iraqi security apparatuses.
• An ability to use culture as an operational enabler.
• An ability to analyze empirical data within a theoretical framework about state, security and society.
• Enhanced skills to navigate complex coalition culture environments.
• A strengthened ability to communicate, write and present own analyses and findings to a wide range of professionals (military and civilian).

Teaching and study methods
This course is a blended learning course combining individual and collaborative distance learning with one intensive residential learning period, which combines lecture-style teaching with practical exercises. You will be expected to put in about 7-9 hours of study work per week in the distance-learning periods. We value student participation highly and combine classical lectures with practical exercises, individual- and group work.

Residential learning periods in Denmark:
28. September-2. October:
28. September: Arrival no later than 1600. 1700: Introductory Session.
29. September – 1. October: 3 intensive working days.
1.-2. October: Departure.

Exam Regulations / Certification / Control
Exam type: written exam; developmental portfolio exam with introduction and concluding reflections.
Duration: progressive during the course, introduction and concluding reflections.
Grading: Pass/Fail.
Control: internal? external censorship? TBD


If you have questions or concerns, you may direct them to the course director:
Thomas Vladimir Brønd, Assistant Professor, PhD: thbr@fak.dk

Sidst opdateret 20-05-2020 - kl. 10:31

Date of publication

May 2020

Target group

MMS students
Allied forces

Level of Education

Level 7


5 ECTS-point


11 weeks:
17. August –
01. November


Phase 1 – Online learning: 17. August- 27. September (6 weeks)

Phase 2 – Residential period: 28. September-1. October (1 week, 3 full working days)

Phase 3 – Online learning: 5. October – 1. November (4 weeks)


Apply here

Date of application

16. June 2020


External students:
7.000 DKK
A few vacancies exempt from fee available.


Royal Danish Defence College
Ryvangs allé 1
2100 Copenhagen

Course director

Assistant Professor Thomas Vladimir Brønd 
E-mail: thbr@fak.dk
Tlf.nr,: 7281 7662 

Director of studies

MJ Allan Therkelsen
E-mail: alth@fak.dk

Objekt forkortelse





KTFM Sascha Hedberg
Tlf.: +45 72 81 70 82