A Qualitative Multiple Case Study of the Cultural Barriers to Planning and Executing Bilateral Military Exercises in Thailand

A Qualitative Multiple Case Study of the Cultural Barriers to Planning and Executing Bilateral Military Exercises in Thailand

Author: 
John H. Helm Jr
Program of study: 
D.B.A.
Abstract: 
Southeast Asia is of strategic importance to the United States. The U.S. will continue to build up bilateral military ties with most Southeast Asian countries. The continuation of military exercises in Southeast Asia will enable the U.S. to enhance its military presence and strengthen its alliances and partnerships with countries in the region. Two of these exercises, Cobra Gold and Cope Tiger, are conducted in Thailand each year, involving the U.S., Thailand, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Cultural differences, host-nation capabilities, and host-nation training procedures and plans are not fully defined or understood when the U.S. and host nation military leaders are planning and executing military exercises. The general problem is a current lack of cultural understanding and cultural training, along with U.S. military budget reductions, which impacts the number of military planners that can support integrated ground, sea, and aviation military exercises with U.S. allies in Southeast Asia. The purpose of this qualitative multiple case study will be to determine the cultural barriers for planning and executing military exercises in Thailand, bridging the gap between U.S. planning culture and the host nation planning culture. The study was executed by conducting interviews and questionnaires with 48 military leaders from both the U.S. and Thailand from each planning level (strategic, operational, and tactical), and analyzing after action reports and doctrinal publications. The results of the study produced ten major cultural barrier themes, three major themes related to cultural training, and eight major themes related to cultural barrier mitigation recommendations.
Dedication: 
I would like to dedicate my doctoral journey to my wife Yenchit, my daughters Lauren, Katelyn, and Ellie, and my son John. You are all the driving force that has enabled me to start and complete my degree. I owe all of you hundreds of hours of family time as a father and a husband that we have lost during this journey, and I will make the time up to you in the near future. I would like to express a special thanks to all of my friends and fellow military personnel from Thailand. Without the support of the Thai military and Thai government I would not have been able to complete my study. Your hospitality and generous support enabled me to accomplish one of my lifelong goals.
Acknowledgements: 
I would like to thank Dr. D’Urso for guiding me through the dissertation process, both as a chair and a mentor. This started in year two residency when she was my resident instructor, linking me up with outstanding committee members and ultimately giving in to my requests and becoming my chair. I want to thank Dr. Krell for providing me military expertise, guidance, and the perspective of a U.S.A.F. leader. He took valuable time out of his personal and professional life to be a committee member for my dissertation. I want to thank Dr. Lindquist for being a member of my committee, providing the perspective of U.S. Army leader and a subject matter expert. This dissertation proves that different U.S. military service branches can work together to produce a tool that can be used by any U.S. service branch in the future. I would like to thank Kurt Boyd and Jennifer Kuskie for their assistance throughout my doctoral journey as my academic and financial advisors. Special thanks my wife, Yenchit, and good friend, Yadamon, that were critical in the transcription of data from Thai to English.