Author Biography

Updated 19 January 2005

 

Major Donald E. Vandergriff, United States Army, teaches military science in the Military Science Department and leadership in the Masters of Leadership Excellence program at the Center of Professional Development at Georgetown University.  He is also a professor at the American Military University.  He may be reached at 202-687-7065, or via email at dev@georgetown.edu, or vandergriffdonald@usa.net.

Major Vandergriff has had extensive experience in the field, serving in the Republic of Korea for 20 months, where he was named “8th Army Junior Leader of the Year” in the fall of 1986. He left Korea in February 1987 and reported to the National Training Center (NTC) the same month. He served both as an observer controller (OC) on the Live Fire Team (Dragons) in the capacity as Scout and Assistant Operations Officer (TOC) OC. In his last 14 months, he was selected to serve as the Chief of Reconnaissance for the OPFOR (Opposing Forces).  During his time at the NTC, he was selected twice as the junior leader of the quarter 1989 and 1990, as well as being the representative for the NTC and Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) for the Army’s Douglas A. MacArthur Award in 1988.

Major Vandergriff was selected by U.S. Army Personnel Command (PERSCOM) Armor branch in January 1990 to represent the Army at the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School (AWS). He reported in June 1990 and worked for three months prior to beginning the course writing staff-ride guides employing learning points that taught the theory of Maneuver Warfare through the use of military history.  During the 10 month AWS course (September 1990-May 1991), he served as the courses first student-instructor, acted as the OPFOR Commander in seven war games against fellow students, assisted in three staff rides and gave classes on Maneuver Warfare to his peers. He graduated number two out of 187 students in May.

Immediately after attending Army schools at Fort Knox during the summer of 1991, Vandergriff was sent to Germany where he took command of a tank company in August 1991 as it deployed to the Middle East to participate in Operation Positive Force supporting of the United Nations (U.N.) along the Iraq/Kuwaiti border in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm.  After commanding a tank company for 17 months (immediately after his first command, he was sent to the Army’s Combined Arms Staff Course CAS3, March-May 1993), he assumed command of headquarters and headquarters company (HHC) for another 18 months. 

During his 35 month command tenure his companies won numerous awards at different levels of command.  His tank company shot high company in Europe in February 1993 and his HHC won the top scout and mortar platoon competitions, his HHC planned and hosted the division level “Iron Medical Stakes,” where they also took top medical evacuation platoon. Finally, Vandergriff planned and oversaw all levels—from brigade to Department of the Army level—of the Department of Army Connelly Cup for the best field mess. They did this by employing an unique approach. The field mess was set in an insurgency environment, while a force on force exercise took place around it.  During this time, Major Vandergriff was again nominated by the First Armored Division (1993) for the Army’s Douglas A. MacArthur Award.

Following moving HHC 1-77AR from Germany to Fort Lewis WA in July 1994, Major Vandergriff changed command and moved on to a wealth of other assignments. He reported to the Resident Training Detachment (RTD) at Yakima WA in October 1994 where they trained the Washington Army National Guard’s 1-303rd Tank Battalion.  In this duty, Vandergriff oversaw the training of both A/1-303rd and HHC 1-303rd. He introduced free play force on force lanes training to the unit’s platoons, as well as innovative scout training. He developed a terrain-board based qualification test employing micro armor that prepared leaders from tank commanders up to all company commanders for lane exercises and their annual training at Yakima Training Center.

In June 1996, he and his family moved on to Washington D.C. where he reported for duty as the Chief Evaluator for the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) for Army Operational Test and Evaluation Command (OPTEC). During this assignment Vandergriff oversaw the evaluation and testing of the Army’s emerging simulation technology called the CCTT.  In March of 1998, Vandergriff was selected for assignment at Duke University Army ROTC due to his master’s in military history and left OPTEC in May 1998.

Major Vandergriff has been in ROTC assignments since June 1998, spending his first year at Duke University, and then transitioning to his current assignment at Georgetown University.  During his tenure in ROTC Vandergriff studied how to improve, what he saw as out of date training approaches of cadets despite the ongoing changes in the operating environments the Army would conduct its missions.  Ironically, due to the rebuilding of both his feet after suffering from collapsed arches, the Army allowed him to stay on at Georgetown through the year long recovery required after each foot is reconstructed (2002 & 2003). This gave him the time to study and experiment with leadership education and training. He continues his studies on how to educate cadets to become more decisive and better planners as war evolves to 4th Generation.

For his efforts, in 2002-2003, Major Vandergriff has been awarded the Colonel Leo A. Codd Award for the best ROTC instructor in the nation, and the following year he was named 3rd ROTC Brigade Instructor of the Year after being runner up for the TRADOC instructor of the year.  He was also tasked by the Eastern Region ROTC commander, COL Willis, to conduct an analysis of the ongoing of ROTC’s Leadership Training Course (LTC—formally known as “Basic Camp”) and report if it was evolving with ongoing Army Transformation efforts in leadership development (he briefed his report to the new commander of Easter Region, Colonel Frusha on July 20th 2004).  Vandergriff has been participating in the Army Cadet Command Curriculum Review Board (CRRB).  He is now finishing a study “Raising the Bar: Creating Adaptive Leaders to Deal with the Changing Face of War.” This study is also evolving into a book on reforming Army ROTC under the same tentative title.

Major Vandergriff has lectured extensively on military effectiveness and cultural impacts in the United States and Europe. He has briefed “The Revolution in Human Affairs” (available at http://www.d-n-i.net/vandergriff/rha/index.htm) over 20 times.  He was the first major from the Army to lecture at the Naval War College not once, but twice (2000, 2001). He has also lectured at Joint Forces Command, TRADOC Future’s office, The Marine Corps Command & Staff College, The National Defense University, The Industrial War College, The Swiss War College, “The Air Force Personnel division of the Air Force QDR Group,” and numerous think-tanks, to include the Institute of Defense Analyses (IDA), RAND, and The Center for Strategic Institutional Studies (CSIS), Naval Academy and the National Archives, at both the Washington D.C. and College Park, MD locations. He recently participated in CSIS’s work on “Beyond Goldwater-Nichols,” where a lot of his ideas were highlighted (forthcoming 2005).

Major Vandergriff has also been asked by the Army to serve on numerous task forces studying Transformational issues, such as the OPMS XXI Task Force in 1996-97 by Army Chief of Staff General Dennis Reimer and the task force director Major General David Ohle, the Unit Manning Task Force (later, the Stabilization Task Force) and the Objective Force Task Force by Army Vice Chief of Staff General Keane in 2002-2003.  He also provided General Keane with feedback on the progress of the works of these task forces.  He remains involved in Army Transformational issues, when he recently lectured the Officer Personnel Task Force (OPMS 3) task force in November 2004 at the request of the director, Brigadier General Rhett Hernandez.  Vandergriff is also sought out by non-military, but prominent figures for his ideas.

In May of 2003, Vandergriff was asked by former Speaker of the House, Dr. Newt Gingrich to do a concise analysis of the U.S. led coalition on Baghdad.  The four page briefing, “Lessons Learned from Operation Iraq Freedom,” with notes, (at www.d-n-i.net/vandergriff/vandergriff_lessons_OIF.ppt) was briefed throughout the top levels of the Army and the Department of Defense.  Inside the Pentagon covered the briefing in an article by Keith Costa, “DoD Urged to Reconsider Personnel Policies with Iraqi Lessons in Mind” (www.d-n-i.net/fcs/itp_6-2003.htm).  “The briefing, which according to multiple sources was prepared by Army Maj. Donald Vandergriff, recommends establishing a commission that would provide a road map for sweeping personnel reform.”

Major Vandergriff has also written over 50 articles in numerous military journals, newspapers and on line; the chapter "Culture Wars," in Digital Wars: A View from the Frontlines, edited by Robert Bateman (Presidio Press 1999); he is also been the editor of Spirit, Blood and Treasure: The American Cost of Battle in the 21st Century (Presidio Press June 2001), and he is the author of the book, The Path To Victory: America's Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs (Presidio Press, May 2002).  Most of his writings and briefings and be found at www.d-n-i.net, www.military.com, and www.sftt.org.

Major Vandergriff served on a number of personal reform panels outside the Army, to include The Center of Defense Information panel which gave input to Dr. Chester Richards' A Swift, Elusive Sword: What if Sun Tzu and John Boyd did a National Defense Review? (Washington, D.C.: Center for Defense Information (CDI), May 2001); the Hart-Rudman Commission on 21st Century National Security, and the Marine Corps Red Team session hosted by the director of USMC Manpower Command, Quantico VA.

Major Vandergriff’s book The Path to Victory was also endorsed by the Secretary of the Army Tom White during a media round table in August 2002. Secretary White stated that Path to Victory would provide a "blue print" for the personnel transformation of the Army.  Path to Victory won The New York Military Affairs Symposium (NYMAS assessed at http://libraryautomation.com/nymas/nwsltr26.html) award for military history excellence in fall 2002.  He has also lectured members of the personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on 10 March 2004 (www.d-n-i.net/fsc/pdf/vandergriff_hasc.pdf).

Since the release of The Path to Victory, which Army Times senior writer Mr. Sean Naylor referred to as “his magnum opus — an ambitious take on the need to transform every facet of the Army to prepare it for the wars of the 21st century,” Vandergriff has briefed several senior ranking generals, senior Army civilian leaders, and members of Congress, to include the Secretary of the Army Tom White, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General Jack Keane, Assistant Undersecretary of the Army John MacDonald, Congressmen Ike Skelton, Jim Sexton and Roscoe Bartlett. In addition, prominent figures such as former Secretary of the Navy James Webb sought out and asked Vandergriff to brief Mr. Webb one on one.  COL David Hackworth has also referred to Vandergriff’s contributions to improving the Army through several columns, highlighting Vandergriff’s efforts in a February 2004 article “Memo to the Chief.”

Major Vandergriff has also been the profile of several articles in prominent papers and magazines to include the Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly (on line January 2003 http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/fallows/jf2003-01-08/vandergriff3.htm), The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/archive/content/?030407fr_archive04) and the Army Times as well as the center piece twice in the Georgetown University’s The Hoya and faculty paper The Blue-Gray. The Army Times has featured the ideas of Major Vandergriff as a cover issue twice, on 8 July 2002 and 16 September 2002.

The works of Vandergriff have also drawn academic praise. Renowned military sociologist Dr. Charlie Moskos calls Vandergriff “the most well-known Major in the Army,” while lecturer, author and expert on military personnel issues, Dr. Jonathan Shay refers to Vandergriff as “the most influential major in the U.S. Army” in the preface of his forthcoming book he is writing under the direction of the Army DCSPER LTG Hagenbeck.  Prominent journalist James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly has sought out Vandergriff for consultation of several of his articles, mentioning him in his last piece “Will Iran be Next,” (December 2004).  Mr. Fallows has also referenced Vandergriff’s work on his stints on talk shows to include National Public Radio’s The Diane Rehm Show. Syndicated columnist Jason Vest is currently conducting research and interviews to publish an article on Vandergriff in March 2005 as well as writing a chapter in his forthcoming book on the Department of Defense.

Major Vandergriff’s formal education includes a degree in education from the University of Tennessee and a graduate degree from American Military University in military history “Land Warfare,” specializing in U.S. and German military theory.

Major Vandergriff resides in Woodbridge, Virginia with his wife, the former Lorraine Donna Love of Glasgow, Scotland, and their six dogs and a cat.  Once an “obsessive athlete” (according to his wife) but due to numerous injuries, he has backed off so now he spends his free time reading (his new obsession), biking, lifting weights, and spending time with his wife and six dogs.  He retires on 1 September 2005 and plans to remain in the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia area.

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