Date of Award



© 2017 John Phillip Buffin

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Grania Holman

Second Advisor

Ella Benson

Third Advisor

Carlos Braziel


The September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks on the United States caused a series of military events, including the planning and deployment of troops to Afghanistan. In less than a month after that infamous September day, military Special Forces (SF) members and officers from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were operating in Afghanistan. The SF and CIA members were faced with not only the difficult geographical terrain but were hampered by inadequate time to prepare for the complicated human terrain of the Afghan culture.

In the initial months of the war, these deficiencies were not evident; however, over the next decade, multiple cross-cultural failures in operations ranging from Afghanistan to Iraq, would have an impact on the culture of each nation, with bilateral frustration at best and suffering and death at worst. More than 15 years after 9/11, the military continues to operate in culturally challenging areas and struggles to prepare service members for such interactions. In 2017 the challenge remains how to increase every service member’s cross-cultural competency.

These research questions are used to examine a specific subculture of the military, known as the Special Operations community, to include Special Operation Force (SOF) and Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (MEUSOC) members, and to explore the role cultural education may contribute to enhance individual performance.

Findings suggest that there are definitive differences within the Special Operation Force community and these differences can be correlated to the varying degrees of cross-cultural training and education. Further, there is evidence that additional and specialized training assisted certain members of the SOF to better navigate the human terrain and understand the intricate nature of cross-cultural understanding. Additionally, it is clear there are areas needing improvement in the entire SOF community and the military in general.

Conclusions realized from this study demonstrate the necessity for cross-cultural training and education as an important complement to the Band-Aids-and-bullets mentality in securing bilateral success in the varying human terrain for all stakeholders. It is essential for the Department of Defense and the SOF commands to identify where, when, what, and how to implement formal cross-cultural programs for the future success of the United States war fighting and peace keeping missions, as well as to serve the alliances of multinational collaborations.


Ed.D. Dissertation