Core Values of Danish Expeditionary Soldiers
Henning Sørensen 
1. The Composition of the Danish Expeditionary Corps
A main change for the Danish Armed forces since the end of the Cold War – and for most other Western armies – is the fact that they have become leaner and meaner. This development has continued for Denmark over the last four years, 2005-2008, as registered in Table 1 below.
Table 1. Danish Military Personnel and Expeditionary Soldiers by Size, Type and Costs. 2005/6-2008.
Military personnel (officers, NCOs, regulars)
- 28 %
Soldiers ready for deployment abroad
+ 36 %
All soldiers deployed abroad
+ 17 %
Army soldiers of all soldiers
Total Cost of Expeditionary Missions, in mio. DKK
Costs in mio. DKK
+ 805 %
+ 950 %
(Combined civil-military Costs) mio DKK
+ 166 %
+ 483 %
Source: Beretning til Statsrevisorerne 2009: 11 (Tables 1, 12, 14, 2), 37 (Table 5).
Table 1 shows this contrasting development: A reduction of 28 percent in the number of all military personnel, an increase of 36 percent of soldiers ready for international operations and as a result an increase of 17 percent in the number of Danish soldiers deployed abroad from 2005 to 2008. Table 1, moreover, illustrates that the main part of expeditionary soldiers is delivered by the Danish Army. So the mindset of Danish expeditionary soldiers is the mindset of Army soldiers with an average age of 28 years. The composition of Danish expeditionary soldiers by 1 October 2008 was 3,253 regulars (53 percent), 1,780 NCOs (29 percent), and 1,099 officers (18 percent). The NCOs are the most needed soldiers deployed abroad every four years, the young officers and regulars every five years, and the older officers (MJ, LCN) every nine years. Financially, Table 1 shows that most of all the money spent on the Danish expeditionary missions for the four year period of 2005-2008, 7,085 mio. DKK (around 500 mio. USD) or 99 percent out of 7.093 mio. DKK, goes to military purposes. This amount is twice as much as it was four years ago while the numbers and costs of CIMIC projects have grown eightfold and the number and expenditure for combined projects has increased two to five times.
2. Core Values
The concept of ‘core values’ is not easily defined. One operative definition could be that a core value is a human attribute directing the behavior of a person, a group or an organization. Accordingly, a person with a core value of democracy will act in a democratic way towards others. Therefore, it is essential for the individual soldier, the armed forces, the nation and the international community to know and influence the core values possessed by soldiers so that their behavior abroad is more easily understood and managed. Many factors do of course influence the core values: (1) the function of the soldier (warrior or nurse), (2) the context (type of tasks, nation, landscape, service, and weapon), (3) the type of conflict (peace-preserving or peace-enforcing operations), (4) the rank (privates, NCOs and officers), etc. For instance, a core value for a fighting soldier may be different from that of a nurse, a technician or an administrator. Consequently, a clear definition of the concept of core values is difficult to give. Another problem is to agree on the specific contents of a core value: What is precisely meant by a core value such as ‘comradeship’, ‘will to fight the enemy,’ or ‘work for the local community’? And to which degree must the soldier/ observer be aware of the core values before we can accept it as a fact? People are some times unaware of the reason, i.e. the core value, for their behavior. A third problem is to what extent must the core value regulate behavior? Is ‘a 50 percent comrade’ sufficient to prove the existence of ‘comradeship’? A fourth problem is that people some times act in contradiction to their core values. Can they just disappear and then return? If so, for how long has a core value to exist to be accepted as such? And what if a core value is pursued in the short run, but not in the long run? And finally, a fifth problem is at what time must the core value be registered: Before, during or after deployment? So, the simple question: “What are the actual core values for Danish soldiers?” is insufficient to allow for a precise answer. We have to add to the question: ‘(...) for whom, when, where and how?’ These problems cannot be solved here, if only for the reason that the present material is rather limited. But through comparison of different studies, it is possible to deduct a preliminary mindset of Danish expeditionary soldiers.
2.1 Actual Core Values
The mindset of Danish expeditionary soldiers had not been studied until recently. However, results from four works will be presented here. They cover all three personnel groups of Danish soldiers and the four major conflicts in which they have served as shown in Table 2 below.
Table 2. Studies of Core Values for Danish Expeditionary Soldiers by Personnel and Conflict
The four studies mentioned in Table 2 are: (1) Sørensen (2009), an analysis of in-depth, qualitative interviews with four soldiers (an officer, an NCO and two regulars) with recent experience from Iraq or Afghanistan; (2) Sørensen (2006), a quantitative analysis of almost all Danish senior officers having served in Bosnia 1995-1999 (30 out of 33) with respect to their job in Bosnia, cooperation with other military units, the local population, etc.; (3) Kold (2006), a field study observing three different Danish detachments in Kosovo 1999-2000; and (4) Rasmussen (2006), a journalistic essay based on conversations/interviews with soldiers (and politicians) to commemorate 50 years of Danish participation in international military missions (1949-1999). Together these studies reveal – due to the answers of the interviewed soldiers – that four actual core values can be identified in prioritized order: (1) The group (unit, platoon, squad, etc.); (2) the individual soldier; (3) the enemy (war, casualties, etc.); and (4) the local community/population.
2.1.1. The Group
In the founding basic study for the sociology of the military, Shils and Janowitz (1948) underlined the importance of the group to explain why German World War II soldiers fought ‘so stubbornly to the end’ and not - as believed – National Socialist ideology. The group as the most important core value is relevant for Danish expeditionary soldiers, as well. All four soldiers saw the group as the major core value for which they worked and fought. All of them, when asked for “the most important core value” ,gave identical answers: the group, comradeship, mutual trust among soldiers, etc. However, the officer expanded the group to the company or regiment, emphasizing that officers sharing the living conditions of their soldiers strengthened the group feeling. The importance of the group may better be understood from a statement of one of the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan during Christmas 2008: “Isolated with my fellow soldiers in an outpost, we had the most primitive Christmas party, but due to our comradeship it was the best Christmas Eve I have ever had. But don’t tell my wife!” (Sørensen 2009).
When asked “Which are the qualities of Danish soldiers (contracted and enlisted personnel)?”, Danish senior officers in Bosnia answered: “social relations within the group” and “Danish soldiers act in a socially responsible manner, taking into account the situation of others.” Even when they were asked a rather military-oriented question: “Please describe the concept of ‘good military leadership,’” they did so by referring to civil factors and social relations between soldiers such as “to cooperate with others” and “responsibility for soldiers,” etc., while traditional military qualities such as bravery, honor, loyalty and tradition were seldom mentioned (Sørensen 2006). Kold (2003: ch. 4) came up with an identical importance of the group among all soldiers. The importance of Kold’s study is underlined by the fact that he more or less became a member of the group he studied and thus could ‘feel’ the group affiliation himself. And Rasmussen (2006: 89, 94) also refers to the importance of the group by quoting a Danish UN-soldier talking “about the good comradeship with warmth” (Rasmussen 2006: 93). So, all sources define the group as a major core value.
2.1.2. The Individual Soldier
The second most important core value seems to be the individual soldier or the Ego, the I, myself. In Sørensen (2009) one regular stated that “my starting point for joining the armed forces and accepting deployment abroad was myself, i.e. to test myself, to experience my boundaries, to get to know myself better.” Kold (2006: 416) also stressed the importance of individuality as a core value for regulars and explained it by arguing that they joined the Armed Forces and accepted deployment abroad in search of their own identity. Moreover, he found a shift (“an erosion”) in their self-perception during deployment from an “intentional behaviour” (Weber) to an “expressive behaviour” (Durkheim). What happened was that they gradually misunderstood the tasks of their mission due to lack of information from above. Therefore, they stopped trying to find rational reasons for their work/fight in another country and acted in a more expressive way. In Rasmussen (2006: 87), the Danish UN soldier agrees with the importance of individual reasons as a core value, starting his article: “I would not for anything in the world have missed this experience”.
2.1.3. The War
The third core value is the military mindset, here named ‘the war.’ It includes the characteristics of being a professional soldier, war, violence, enemy, surviving a war, meeting its consequences of death and becoming a casualty, etc. In the qualitative study, Sørensen (2009), only one of the Danish soldiers identified war as a core value in the sense that he was “proud of fighting terrorism for the sake of Denmark.” However, war is not a core value for the humanitarian or political changes it may bring about, but for the severe damage of death and casualties it may cause. As formulated by a soldier: “The war is a frame, not the core of, what we do.” Danish senior officers having served in Bosnia (Sørensen 2006) were asked to “characterize the four most important roles in your military organization with eight options: professional soldier, citizen soldier, mediator, ambassador, humanitarian worker, social worker, other.”” All Danish officers answered “professional soldier,” 80 percent mentioned “mediator and ambassador,” and 53 percent replied “humanitarian worker.” So, all officers had the role perception of a soldier in war, but along with civilian role models.
A military mindset is to be found in Kold (2003; 2006), as well, but it presents itself in a more indirect way, in rituals, routines, gear (weaponry, uniforms), symbols, training, traditional behaviour, etc. For instance, Kold identifies the training of regulars as only war-oriented: ”It is only the direct violence and the clear-cut conflicts that are presented and drilled at Oksbøl” (Kold 2006: 414).To this, one may add that this response was to be expected as combat and waging war is what is taught at Oksbøl. But to Kold, the military mindset /orientation (war, the enemy, etc.) is a more important core value for the Danish military organization than generally acknowledged by the military and society when compared to the many civilian challenges facing Danish soldiers deployed abroad, such as housing, schools, infrastructure, etc. Rather interestingly, Kold found that war was related to rank. The higher the rank, the more often war was a core value. This is also in coherence with his description of the military role-perception of Danish officers: “In the confrontation between the warrior and the mediator, the warrior wins again and again” (Kold 2006: 422).
2.1.4. The Local Community
In Sørensen (2009) one of the regulars distinctively rejected the local community as his core value. It was not a criterion of success for his part. On the other hand, he admitted that the attitude of the local Afghans was vital, even for the sake of the survival of Danish soldiers. In contrast, the NCO positively defined the local population as an important value in his mindset as he wanted “to make a difference for the local population.” He had himself observed the improved conditions for children and women in Gerehsk. To the same value, the officer reacted with scepticism. He was neither interested in the politics in Afghanistan nor saw his own role as a warrior fighting terrorism. On the contrary, he found that Denmark may run a greater risk of terrorism with Danish soldiers being deployed in Afghanistan. He was, however, pleased to solve a specific problem of, for instance, getting fresh water to the local Afghans, but he was frustrated working for a regime supporting female suppression (i.e. legalized rape, defined rigid dress code, etc). As indicated, the soldiers here disagreed on the local community as a core value. This disagreement could, however, be explained by their different deployment. The skeptical soldiers were all stationed in an outpost north of Gerehsk busy fighting Taleban warriors and blocking their admittance to the city, for which reason they had only had little contact with local citizens while the other soldier lived and worked in Gerehsk city and thus more easily could feel empathy for its inhabitants.
Another way of measuring the importance of the local community as a core value can be found in Sørensen (2006). The Danish senior officers in Bosnia were asked: “Distribute your actual time consumption (100 percent) in IFOR/SFOR” with the options: “Internal military,” “external military,” and “local politics.” Having calculated their combined spending within each of the three areas, the 30 Danish officers spent 56 percent of their time on internal military issues, i.e., within their own military organization, 33 percent on external military issues, i.e., the cooperation with the other military organizations participating in the IFOR/SFOR Multinational Force, and 10 percent on local politics/population. Nevertheless, big differences from one officer to another can be perceived. The 10 percent of Danish senior officers’ time spent on the local inhabitants/local authorities indicates a minor priority for the core value of “the local community,” even though “local authorities and local population have caused Danish officers considerable problems” and even though the local inhabitants/authorities were actually the reason for their deployment abroad. On the other hand, if Danish senior officers wanted to increase their local contacts, they could easily do so just by arranging more meetings with local authorities or more patrolling in the area. So, the low time consumption between Danish senior officers and local authorities/population is more a result of the priority of senior officers than a reflection of a low esteem of the local community as a core value. This is supported by the inclusion of “humanitarian worker (53 percent)” in the role perceptions of the very same officers (see above 2.1.3.). They are aware of this role of serving the local population. It is a new role perception; a decade ago, no Danish senior officers would have ever dreamed of such a self-identification. For the Danish UN-soldier in Kosovo the local community is a core value as is reflected in his statement that “we made a difference, for which I am very proud” (Rasmussen 2006: 87; also 93). He also mentioned “contact with the local population”, giving them food, helping in a car accident, etc. (Rasmussen 2006: 89, 90, 93).
So the presence of actual core values held by Danish expeditionary soldiers is – except for the group – a labile one depending on the soldier, time, place, rank, function, etc. However, all four values seem characterized by two elements: (1) a short distance to the battlefield; and (2) an actor to which they can be connected. The distance of the four core values to the battlefield is short compared with that of other core values such as honour, tradition, and the regiment (related to the military organization), the flag, homeland (related to one’s country), the political task (nation-building) or international law (The Hague and Geneva conventions). Each of the core values is clearly connected to a specific actor respectively: the fellow soldiers, the Ego, the enemy, and the local population. The relationship between the four core values can also be perceived as three circles: In the inner circle is the group and the individual soldier, in the next circle the enemy, and in the third one the local community.
2.2. Needed Core Values
The material which illustrates the needed core values are found at four levels: (1) International values as formulated by the UN-Charter, expressed in UN-resolutions, in the Hague and Geneva Conventions, by the OSCE or the EU, etc.; (2) national values as defined by the Danish Government and Parliament in their laws, statements, reports, public polls, etc.; (3) organizational military values as found in written field manuals, educational course texts, in interviews with official Danish military instructors, etc.; and (4) individual values as found in research reports, interviews with soldiers and unofficial military statements.
2.2.1. The Group
The group is not a core value for international and national decision-makers or for the military organization.
2.2.2. The Individual Soldier
Neither is the individual soldier a core value for the same international and national actors. At the military organizational level, however, the individual soldier could be identified as a core value, i.e. his/her knowledge and understanding of the task, the operations, etc. However, the quotation reveals that the core value is not a consideration for each soldier’s well-being but for his transparency of the job.
2.2.3. The War
The war fought in Afghanistan and elsewhere is perceived instrumentally by international, national and military organizations, i.e., the war is seen as a tool for a better cause such as to support nation-building, local authorities, to fight terrorism, etc. The eight UN Security Council resolutions on ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) are all built on the UN Treaty, Chapter 7 on peace-enforcement operations, i.e. war. Also the Danish Parliamentary Decisions define the deployment of soldiers at war as a core value, i.e., a precondition for a more secure and stable Afghanistan, as do the Danish Foreign Office (Udenrigsministeriet 2006a).
2.2.4. The Local Community
The most important needed core value for all contributors presented here is the local community. In international regulations of war such as the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 or the Geneva Convention of 1949, war must only to be waged against “a guilty party,” i.e. soldiers of another nation, and not against its innocent citizens or civil institutions, such as hospitals, churches ot the physical environment. In general, the aim of all international agreements is to limit collateral damage and to protect civilians. In particular, the focus of the Geneva Convention is to protect the victims of war, the wounded, the sick, and the unarmed civilians, women and children alike, irrespective of the legitimacy of the war. In short, the core value of the international material is the protection of the local community.
At the national level, the Danish Foreign Ministry (Udenrigsministeriet 2008a: 11) also defines the ”protection of civil Afghans” as a core value, together with the demand for the presence of the Danish military in Afghanistan to be compatible in accordance with the UN resolutions. The local community is also a core value for the Danish Army’s Operative Command (Hærens Operative Kommando, HOK) and is seen that way, too, by individual researchers such as Nørgaard et al. (2008) and Rytterager (2006: 55), who underline as the most needed values for soldiers/officers an ability to communicate with the local population, flexibility, etc. So, all the statements here define the local community as the most needed core value for Danish expeditionary soldiers and warfare as the second, and just as an instrument for promoting stability and security for the local and national community.
3. Needed Changes in the Danish Military System
The different priority of actual and needed core values raises two questions: Is it important that they get nearer to one another and, if so, which of them should move? In my opinion, the core value of the group should be preserved and better managed by the civilian society, in general, and by the Danish Army, in particular, as the group as a core value makes young men join the army, seek a military career, and accept international deployment. Another reason for the Army to do so is the fact that war then (in the 20th Century and before) and now are quite different. In former times, war was the expansion of one nation at the cost of another. Today, waging war is for the benefit of the population by protecting it against war lords, criminals, terrorists, etc. A third reason is that the power of the military organization diminishes the closer the soldier comes to the battlefield. So, the will to fight rests no longer as much on orders from the Army as on comradeship in the unit. Four changes in the Danish military system can then be mentioned as needed to meet the actual core values of the group and the individual soldier. They all relate to changes within the command and control system of the Danish Army.
3.1. Area of Responsibility
A first change within the command and control field is an expansion of the area of responsibility (AOR). Normally the individual soldier has a limited AOR for the specific order which he/she has been given. In the US Army, for instance, the AOR goes even up to the rank of LtC. This has to be changed. Instead of a restricted AOR, confined to the specific order for which the individual soldier is individually responsible, a collective responsibility should be introduced. It would delegate responsibility for the accomplishment, the cost-effectiveness, etc. of any task given to the group. Such a move is likely to have many positive consequences. One is that in armies with limited AOR, a lot of time is wasted pushing failures around instead of learning from them. In Denmark, this game is called: “Who’s got the monkey?” So a lot of time will be saved and thereby the efficiency of the military organization in operative missions will be increased. Another is that an officer in “old” AOR-armies is seldom ready to take even minor risks, because he will be responsible for the casualties. With group responsibility, each task will be accomplished more flexibly, faster and for less money. A third positive consequence is that group responsibility will make mental declines or breakdowns more easily acceptable than now, as in AOR-armies mental stress is by definition the problem of the individual soldier. Also, he/she has only little reason to feel stress with limited responsibility. With group responsibility “…stress symptoms are (considered as) normal reactions to abnormal situations.” (Martini 1998: 343) In spite of the quotation, the Danish Army still treats stress issues as an individual problem for each soldier. This individualistic approach to the problem of stress limits the responsibility of the military organization. If stress, on the contrary, was identified as a group problem it would make the military organization responsible.
3.2. Defined Operative Hierarchies
A second change needed in the Danish Army as a consequence of pursuing the group as a core value is the recognition of an operational hierarchy for expeditionary soldiers. It means that when Danish soldiers are deployed abroad, their functional ability is in focus so that supporting organizations are at their command and at hand for their service. In Sørensen’s (2009) study, the officer pointed exactly to this problem. Today, any element of the military organization within the Danish Army is an “isolated column” and without the obligation to follow orders from any other organization. So, the only way to solve the problem of legitimacy between two such military authorities is to go to the top. It needs to be changed so that a patrol squad (the fighting group) can ask a mechanic to repair their car even shortly before closing-time so that they can return the next morning through the Afghan desert in a safer car. Today they have to argue for this to be done. Tomorrow, they just should need to ask for it. One positive consequence of such a group-based redefinition of operational hierarchy for international missions is that many, even minor, problems often are elevated to the level of colonel/general, when they should be for the platoon leader to decide. Another is that the present inflation of problems haunts the decision-making process of any army and results in a less effective military organization.
3.3. Befehlstaktik versus Auftragstaktik
A third change as a result of the group being introduced as a core value for the whole Danish military organization, both at home and abroad, is a clearer shift from “Befehlstaktik” to “Auftragstaktik.” Befehlstaktik means that the officer dictates for the soldiers not only what job to do, but prescribes, moreover, how to do it, which way to go, for how long, what tools to use, etc. Auftragstaktik only defines for the soldiers what task must be accomplished. Thereafter, the group (i.e. the platoon/the squad) is expected to know what to do to. The instruction of soldiers in Auftragstaktik increases their sense of responsibility, self-esteem, etc., and makes them more engaged in doing their job. This change is not, per se, a criticism of “Befehlstaktik.” It depends on the type of mission. At home or abroad in specific battlefield operations, “Befehlstaktik” might be the better doctrine. But in open ISAF missions in Afghanistan, such as patrolling, searching, etc. with high risks and uncertainties, lack of predictability and broad functionality, “Auftragstaktik” is called for. In short, the problem is simply to relate tactics to tasks. Another argument is that in the civil society, employees are accustomed to influencing their own work and work place independently of management as long as the job is done.
A fourth change based on the the identification of the group by the Danish military organization as its core value is the improvement of debriefing sessions. Instead of doing so in a bigger format, it takes place between one crew of soldiers replacing the other. Debriefing sessions will become more precise and relevant. It means that a group meets with the group that is going to relieve it. Actually, two of the in-depth interviewed soldiers, Sørensen (2009), suggested exactly these improvements. With the group as a core value, each platoon or squad could learn more from one another.
The first conclusion of this study is the identified differing priorities of actual and needed core values for Danish expeditionary forces. The most important actual core value is the group, then the individual soldier and less important for the deployed soldiers is the war and the local community. The most needed core values are in the reverse order. Another conclusion is that the identification of a core value may depend on the soldier, time, place, rank, etc. A third conclusion is that war, both as an actual and a needed core value, is of minor importance. A fourth conclusion is that all core values identified here are related to an actor and closely connected to the battlefield. A fifth conclusion is that the distance to the battlefield increases the importance laid on the local community as the most important core value at the expense of the group and the individual soldier. International and national decision-makers rather seldom address the latter. A number of positive consequences have been presented for the suggested/needed changes in the Danish military organization based on the group as a core value. It is reasonable to argue that such new rules for command and control within the Danish military system are based on dedicated and responsible soldiers. But they would be even more so, if they were delegated more responsibility based on the group as the real core value.
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 Acknowledgement: The Swedish Defense Academy took the initiative for this article, for which I am most grateful. I also want to thank the Danish Ministry of Defense, the Army Operational Command, HOK, the Royal Danish Life Guard Regiment, Centralforeningen for Stampersonel, CS, and, last but not least, the Danish soldiers who – in 1999/2000 and in Dec 2009 willingly gave me valuable answers. They all helped to improve this article. I am, however, solely responsible for any of its shortcomings. All translations from Danish material into English is my responsibility.
 Figures in brackets are from 2004.
 “No study of the Danish Defense internal value, culture (…) has as far as I know yet been completed,” writes Kold (2003: 421).
 Oksbøl is the Danish training centre for the war training of soldiers.
 Hærens Reglementsforvaltning, HRN feltreglement 010-001 (The Danish Army Field Manual) 2000: 911: “it is decisive that each actor (= soldier, H.S.) is familiar with the mandate of the expeditionary force, tasks, ideas and operations.”
 See Parliamentary Decision of May 10, 2007 on the increase of the number of deployed Danish soldiers from 300 to 550 and of June 1, 2007 with the aim “to secure the expansion of the authority of the Afghan government (…) including the disarmament and demobilization of armed groups” (nr. 161).
 One instructive sentence reads “the over-all aim of the Danish military efforts is (…) to contribute to the expansion of the authority of the Afghan government in the Helmand region.”
 One example: “The Danish battle force (…) varies from security tasks to actual battles (…) by patrolling in the local area and creating a trustworthy relationship with the Afghan population.” http://forsvaret.dk/HOK/International%20Info/ISAF/Pages/default.aspx.