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Vandergriff Joins Fabius Maximus Blog

Noted expert on adaptive leadership, military education, strategy and 4GW, Don Vandergriff, has become a contributor to the Fabius Maximus blog. A thought leader on the subject of military reform, Don is the author of Raising the Bar: Creating and Nurturing Adaptability to Deal with the Changing Face of War, Manning the Future Legions of the United States: Finding and Developing Tomorrow’s Centurions, The Path To Victory: America’s Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs and Spirit, Blood and Treasure and his official site can be found here.  I know Vandergriff will make an excellent addition to FM’s well regarded blog.

FM declared last week to be “Don Vandergriff Week” and here are links to FM’s posts regarding some of Vandergriff’s ideas:

A new addition to the FM website team: Don Vandergriff

Donald Vandergriff has joined the team of writers on the FM website.  He’s one of the select few who are incomparably more influential after they retired (but still alive).  This week we’ll run excerpts from some of his works.


In the world of military theory today there are many people on the cutting edge.  Historians like Martin van Creveld, analysts like John Robb and Chet Richards, visionaries like Thomas Barnett, even some crossing across these categories like William Lind.  But there are few developing solutions that can be implemented today.  By solutions, I mean large-scale programs (not incremental improvements) requiring no substantial political or institutional changes.

One of the best known on this short list is Donald E. Vandergriff.  He retired in 2005 at the rank of Major after 24 years of active duty as an enlisted Marine and Army officer.  He now works as a consultant to the Army and corporations.

Why is Vandergriff’s work an important contribution to preparing America for 21st century warfare?

Summary:  The second chapter in Donald Vandergriff week on the FM website, introducing his work to those readers not already familiar with it.  This chapter briefly sketches out why his work is critical.  People – not doctrine or technology – are the key to winning 4th generation wars (the many factors are always important, of course).  Recruiting, training, motivating, and retaining our men and women in uniform

Vandergriff: “Theirs Is to Reason Why”


Outcome-based training teaches the art in a manner that encourages retention while fostering independent and creative means of obtaining the end goal.

War is an art and as such is not susceptible of explanation by fixed formulae. Yet, from the earliest time there has been an unending effort to subject it’s complex and emotional structure to dissection, to enunciate rules for it’s waging, to make tangible it’s intangibility. One might as well strive to isolate the soul by the dissection of the cadaver as to seek the essence of war by the analysis of it’s records.
– “
The Secret of Victory” by General George S. Patton Jr.  (1926)

Preface to Manning the Future Legions of the United States: Finding and Developing Tomorrow’s Centurions

Today’s we have a excerpt from the Preface to Don Vandergriff’s book Manning the Future Legions of the United States: Finding and Developing Tomorrow’s Centurions (2008).  Posted here with permission of the author.

“People, ideas and hardware, in that order!”
– John Boyd (Colonel, USAF, 1927-1997), “A Discourse on Winning and Losing”, unpublished briefing,  August 1987, p. 5-7.


Like the United States today, Rome faced multiple challenges in 107 B.C., and was hard pressed to field adequate forces; the number of men who were qualified to serve, who could equip themselves was running out. The Jurgurthine War in North Africa had been going on far too long for the liking of the Roman Senate, a task that counsul (general) Gaius Marius took upon himself to resolve. German tribes had already defeated several Roman armies and threatened Gaul (southern France) as well as Italy.

Marius was a man of vision and acted upon the need to secure Roman provinces with the resources at hand. He did not have a technological revolution at his disposal to solve his strategic problem.  Marius turned to an intangible solution, the way the Roman Army was manned, structured and fought its legions as the solution. 

Training of officers, a key step for the forging of an effective military force

Chapter six:  Training (and Educating) Tomorrow’s Soldiers and Leaders

There is no standardized entry test for U.S. Army commissioning.

  • 10%-15% of officer cadets come through the United States Military Academy at West Point. Here, academic excellence takes priority over military proficiency and many of the places are allocated on the basis of Congressional patronage.
  • Most of the rest of cadets (future officers) join through the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) located at 270 schools throughout the US and its territories.
  • A small, but growing, percentage comes through the 16-week Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA. This course has been frequented more by former noncommissioned officers (NCOs) than by those who have met the minimum entrance standard with a degree and only basic training prior to attending, which is good for the Army if those former NCOs are not tied to the old way of doing things.  (See “OCS expanding to turn out more officers“, Army Logistics News, Nov-Dec 2000)

One Response to “Vandergriff Joins Fabius Maximus Blog”

  1. Fred Leland Says:


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