February 2022 Online Exclusive Article

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Cohesion in the Army

A Primary Group Analysis

Col. J. Todd Burroughs, U.S. Army
Col. Stephen G. Ruth, U.S. Army

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Photo of soldiers marching

What makes great units great? This is a question that leaders have tried to answer time and again—some successfully, some not. One could argue that, with few exceptions, most units in the Army generally have the same overall level of talent. We have all seen, or been a part of, units we would classify as great. Those units function so well as a team that they appear to be specifically chosen and specially trained. These units seem to intuitively know what all of their members are doing and to achieve unmatched levels of synchronization. They work harder than other units, conducting rehearsal after rehearsal to ensure that the execution of their assigned tasks is flawless. They demonstrate tenacity and a will to win that surpasses all others. They seem to genuinely like each other, but more importantly, they seem to genuinely love their unit and want it to be great.

How do teams arrive at this point? What is the secret to building a team whose level of performance exceeds the sum of its disparate members? The answer is cohesion. “Cohesive teams (i.e., strong bonds among members) perform better and stay together longer than do noncohesive teams. Teams can absorb more task demands, perform with fewer errors, and exceed performance based on linear composites of individual performance.”1 This is the first conclusion that Gerald F. Goodwin, Nikki Blacksmith, and Meredith R. Coats highlight in their review of six decades of research on military teams. They emphasize the importance of cohesion and the benefits that strong teams can provide to an organization. While much of the early extant literature on cohesion and productivity paints a confusing, inconsistent picture of the correlation between cohesion and productivity, more recent studies that include levels of analysis (group tasks versus individual tasks) and task interdependence provide clearer, positively correlated results that are statistically significant.2

The Cement that Binds—Components of Group Cohesion

Why do Army units have distinctive patches, regimental affiliations, and overt marketing strategies? The Army utilizes these artifacts for unit identification, but it is far more than that. These items of identification allow soldiers to trace the lineage of their organization back through history. But why is this important? In order to understand the importance, we must first examine the definition of group cohesion and its components. Cohesion is generally defined as “the ‘cement’ binding together group members and maintaining their relationships to one another.”3 The question, however, is the composition of this cement. This question has been debated since social psychologists first began studying the behavior of groups and group dynamics in the middle of the twentieth century. While opinions vary widely across the corpus of literature on the subject, the most common and widely accepted components of the cement are social attraction, group prestige, and task commitment.4 These components are referred to as the cement because they are the primary forces that determine the propensity for groups to stay together and contribute to the efficiency of the organization.

Social attractiveness is the first of the three components. Social attractiveness generally takes two forms. The first of these is interpersonal attractiveness—the extent to which one identifies with the other members of the group, most often based on desirable characteristics of others in the group.5 From an Army perspective, this explanation is somewhat difficult to define because of the diversity that exists within Army units—its members are comprised of almost every state, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. Given a random distribution of characteristics, it would be reasonable to see an equally random distribution of mutually exclusive cohesive forces were they strictly based on the idiosyncratic preferences of individuals in the group. Therefore, in Army units, it is logical to assume that the attractiveness we find takes the form of social attraction to fellow group members as group members more than interpersonal attraction—that is the attraction is depersonalized, as members are liked to the extent that they embody the group itself.6 For example, there is cohesiveness among the members of an infantry platoon because they are members of an infantry platoon. Additionally, the more prototypical they are—the more they typify the textbook infantryman—the more they are liked.7 This is not to say that groups based on interpersonal attractiveness do not form within the larger group, but overall group cohesiveness is impacted more by social attractiveness rather than interpersonal attractiveness.

Photo of people running

The second component of the cement is group prestige. This component is the least researched of the three accepted components, but arguably one of importance to the Army. In a study specific to the Army, “sense of pride” emerged as highly correlated with cohesiveness in small military formations. This particular study uses “sense of pride” as the construct to measure “the extent to which the soldier has internalized the legitimacy of the Army, has found meaning and purpose in his or her job and the Army, and has developed pride in himself or herself and in the Army.”8 These individual feelings are representative of the larger concept of group prestige, because prestige is one of the key accelerants of pride. For example, unit lineage is used to instill pride in soldiers by indelibly tying them to the honors and performance of those who came before them. It only takes one visit to Fort Myer, Virginia, and the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment—The Old Guard—to understand the importance of lineage to the Army. Unit designations and the lineage they represent serve as symbols of inclusion to all soldiers assigned to it. Once a person is assigned and arrives at Fort Myer, for example, he or she is a member of the oldest active-duty regiment in the United States Army with service reaching back almost two and a half centuries. The prestige of the “The Old Guard” instills pride, and the immediate inclusion makes that pride personal to each soldier assigned to the unit.

The third component of group cohesiveness is task commitment—one of the most often included and researched components in the cohesion literature, and one which lends itself well to applicability in the Army.9 The Army, by its very nature, is a task committed organization; that task is to fight and win our Nation’s wars. The influence of this specific group task directly aligns with the philosophy of cohesion forwarded by sociologist William Sumner in 1906:

The relation of comradeship and peace in the we-group and that of hostility and war towards others-groups are correlative of each other. The exigencies of war with outsiders are what make peace inside, lest internal discord should weaken the we-group for war.10

Sumner captured the essence of the task of warfighting on the profession of arms and its relation to cohesiveness. Research has since proven that intergroup conflict increases in-group solidarity and cooperativeness.11 In the military, however, the concept of task commitment exceeds even that of war itself. If we disaggregate military service into its component parts, we find that tasks associated with the disparate branches and units lend further to the cohesive powers of task commitment. One could easily argue that the cohesion found in an airborne battalion exceeds that of a standard light infantry battalion due to the nature of the task associated with that particular unit and the in extremis manner in which it is conducted—the airborne assault.12 The same argument could be made for a cavalry squadron and its reconnaissance mission, a ranger battalion and its direct action mission, or a Special Forces team and its unconventional warfare mission. Each of these unit types draws immensely from its assigned task—and the perceived difficulty, uniqueness, risk, and sacrifice associated with that task—to increase the cohesion amongst its members.

Finally, there are two extenuating factors to consider when studying group cohesion. First, the three primary components of group cohesion, what we have defined as the cement, are not the only components. They are a group of three that commonly exist in the literature that we feel have applicability to the types of groups under discussion—Army units. Many models of group cohesion exist: unidimensional models, multidimensional models, and even heuristics that include a multidimensional construct with primary and secondary dimensions.13 Related to the Army specifically, James Griffith and Guy L. Siebold both propose similar four-dimensional models of cohesion in military units. Both of these models include peer (horizontal), leader (vertical), and institutional components.14 The discussion of the three components supplements these previously existing models, focusing on applicability to cohesion in the primary group and only tangentially to either the levels of analysis construct (vertical versus horizontal) or secondary group construct proposed in previous studies.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that the components of cohesion are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are interdependent, and all contribute to cohesion within groups relatively given the frame of reference at a given moment in time.15 While this interdependence appears to complicate the process of building cohesion in groups, it allows Army leaders to work toward maximizing cohesion in their formations through the synergy created from interdependence. Consequently, by incorporating all aspects of cohesion, we can build more cohesive organizations and subsequently improve their performance.16 In other words, leaders can set conditions for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts.

The Science of Building Cohesion through Leadership

Military organizations are different from other organizations; thus, one could infer that it is easier to build cohesion in military units, but this is not necessarily the case. Military units are hierarchical organizations with clearly delineated chains of command; rank structures; and codes of conduct, rules, and regulations that virtually mandate conformity. Conformity, however, is not cohesion. Cohesion is, in effect, a perception of belonging held by a member of a particular group as well as his or her morale associated with membership in the group.17 Therefore, it is possible for one to conform to the rules of the group but still not see him or herself to truly be part of the group. An Army unit’s dependence on group cohesion, however, is existential in nature due to its purpose of operating in combat.18 The question then becomes how we create the conditions for cohesion in our units—that is, how do we facilitate an environment such that team members not only believe that they belong to the team, but also that they want to belong to the team? Leaders accomplish this by setting conditions for growth or improvement of each of the three components of group cohesion: social attractiveness, group prestige, and task commitment.

Assimilation of soldiers into the Army as an organization is of critical importance in the building of group cohesion. To this end, the Army has made a concerted effort to assimilate new recruits as part of the Army team immediately upon entry into service. U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), specifically, owns this process and places great emphasis on acclimation and assimilation through reception, training, treatment, and recognition. The Basic Combat Training (BCT) experience climaxes with a soldier ceremony at the conclusion of the BCT-culminating training exercise known as “The Forge.” In this ceremony, new recruits march onto the parade field—exhausted from ninety-six hours of continuous field operations focusing on multiple rigorous and challenging tasks that must be overcome together—and are officially welcomed into the Army as soldiers. They don their berets (a symbol of prestige); their drill sergeants affix the U.S. Army patch to their left shoulder sleeves and welcome them to the brotherhood or sisterhood that is the U.S. Army (solidifying and formalizing social attractiveness); and their battalion commander administers the oath of enlistment, where the new soldiers stand with their comrades-in-arms and, as the first rays of the sun illuminate the formation of new soldiers, publicly commit to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” (formal task commitment).19 They are officially acknowledged as Soldiers for Life. The soldier ceremony is an emotional moment, as it represents the conclusion of what many of them state is the most difficult task they have accomplished in their lives to that point–they have made a personal sacrifice and investment in the organization.20 This ceremonial acceptance is only a first step, however, as the process of group cohesion is dynamic and ever-changing.21 As these new soldiers move from the training base to their first units of assignment, the process of cohesion building continues, this time in their new units. First unit of assignment is where leadership at every echelon becomes even more important in the long term.

Equally as significant as assimilation into the Army is assimilation into a soldier’s assigned unit. For myriad reasons, this is a critical point in the soldiers’ careers.22 While they have been accepted as soldiers, and more importantly feel that they are soldiers in the Army, the same cannot be said for their feelings upon arrival at their first units of assignment. New soldiers tend not to feel accepted—or at least feel incompletely accepted—upon arrival as well as feeling inferior to those in their new units. In the Army specifically, these feelings are exacerbated when the group or a portion of the group are combat veterans.23 This situation is a challenge to social attractiveness, for newly assigned soldiers generally feel more pride in the unit based on unit lineage and history than veterans in the same unit.24 Multiple tools exist for leaders to attempt to resolve this issue, as they can influence social attractiveness both directly and indirectly.

The unit sponsorship program (formally the Total Army Sponsorship Program, or TASP) requires formal sponsorship of all arriving soldiers and that sponsors greet incoming soldiers and their families and assist them with in-processing.25 While an organizational program, the sponsorship program is implemented at the primary group level and, therefore, has a direct impact on social attractiveness for newly arrived soldiers as well as for the primary group as a whole. First, a functioning sponsorship program overtly signals to newly arriving soldiers that the unit to which they are assigned is an inclusive group to which they now belong. This condition is important because it signals initial social acceptance by the existing members of the unit. This perceived acceptance, in turn, raises the newly arrived soldier’s self-esteem, resulting in improved interpersonal effectiveness and thus increasing the probability of actual social acceptance.26 Second, the sponsorship program places existing group members and newly arrived members in close proximity, literally forcing interaction and communication between them—all factors that are shown to increase the probability of group formation.27 Finally, a formal sponsorship program serves to increase the knowledge of newly arrived soldiers to the unit based on the requirement to assist with in-processing. While this may appear trivial, those tasks that seem banal to existing members of the group actually lend to feelings of inferiority in newly assigned soldiers, for whom the tasks are novel.28 We see, therefore, that sponsorship programs are more than simply regulatory actions emplaced to ensure that a soldier arrives at a duty station on time and in the right place; when used correctly, sponsorship builds team cohesion.

Indirectly, military leaders can utilize the interaction of the components of group cohesion to strengthen one or more of the other components individually.29 Let us return to the association of historical unit lineage with current military units. One of the first tasks to be accomplished by newly arrived soldiers at the 82nd Airborne Division (and most other units) is to purchase a unit physical training shirt. To this point, the soldier has worn the standard Army Physical Fitness Uniform—a black shirt with the word “ARMY” imprinted across the front—an organizational-level promotion. Now, for physical training, he or she wears a shirt in the colors of his or her battalion or brigade imprinted with the specific regimental crest and the regimental motto—an outwardly visible sign of membership in the group. Invariably, the soldier will ask what “H-Minus” means (in the case of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment) and hear the story of how his or her regiment jumped in early at Normandy (before H-hour) on D-Day in World War II and liberated the first town in France, Sainte-Mère-Église.30 Imagine the impact of this small piece of history and the pride that it instills in that young soldier—that he or she is now a part of that historic unit. Every unit in the U.S. Army has a lineage, and leaders in those units should know, and enforce knowledge of, the unit’s history and lineage in order to instill pride and desire for belonging in members of the unit. In this example, leaders utilize a proud and honorable unit lineage directly to increase the level of group prestige, but the growth in group prestige also increases the likelihood of social attractiveness.

Photo Candidates starting a twelve-mile ruch march

Leaders also indirectly influence social attractiveness through its interaction with task commitment. Let us examine the case of the Expert Soldier Badge. On 14 June 2019, the Army announced that it was creating a new qualification badge, the Expert Soldier Badge, to recognize “those who truly deserve recognition as an expert in their career field.”31 A commonly held belief among many in the Army was that “the entire Army … has an ‘expert’ badge to wear.”32 Examined more closely, however, TRADOC developed the badge for two reasons. The first, and most obvious, was to increase force readiness by recognizing those who demonstrate expert proficiency through a series of tests on warrior tasks, battle drills, and physical fitness. The implication is that the process of gaining expert proficiency increases force readiness. The second, and less explicit, reason was to improve group cohesion through task commitment and social attractiveness. Like the Expert Infantryman and Expert Field Medical Badges, the Expert Soldier Badge requires a substantial training period that increases overall task proficiency under challenging field conditions. We see from the description that the train-up itself, whether a soldier earns or does not earn the Expert Soldier Badge, increases the probability of group cohesion due to task commitment, proximity during train-up and testing, and mutually shared hardship.33 For those who earn the Expert Soldier Badge, the effect is even stronger. Not only does their self-efficacy improve, but these soldiers now wear an outward and visible symbol—the badge itself—that they are yet one step closer to being the prototypical soldier, the expert in their craft. This trend toward the ideal increases their statuses as members of the group and thus the overall social attractiveness of the group, further elevating the prestige of the group.34 There are fewer things a soldier can accomplish that will see him or her accepted as an equal into a military formation than arriving at his or her first unit of assignment during Expert Soldier Badge testing and demonstrating mastery at the expert level by earning the Expert Soldier Badge.35 From this point of view, TRADOC gave each leader in the Army yet one more tool he or she can use to increase group cohesion in his or her respective unit.

The previous example examined how task commitment indirectly affects social attractiveness through group prestige. Leaders also have in their toolboxes numerous tools to influence task commitment—and indirectly social attractiveness and/or group prestige—through their correspondence with collective efficacy.36 Collective efficacy is a group’s shared belief in its own ability to organize and execute courses of action required to attain goals.37 Additionally, members of successful teams have higher levels of task commitment than those of less successful teams.38 It stands to reason, then, that leaders can use training events to improve group cohesion.39 Let us use the example of infantry platoon live-fire exercises. Units conduct this training so that their platoons will gain proficiency in a collective task, most often platoon attack. The platoon first executes the scenario without ammunition, known as a “dry fire.” When leaders are satisfied that the unit can safely execute the task under dry-fire conditions, they allow the unit to execute it with blank ammunition. Once again, when the leadership decides they can safely conduct the “blank fire,” they allow them to execute it with live ammunition, normally one time. The series is then repeated during limited visibility (at night under darkness) and then proclaim that they are qualified to aggregate to the next echelon of collective live-fire training, the company live-fire exercise.40 The training event is a means to an end. Let us now view the training event as an end in itself, as if the platoon live-fire exercise were the last in the series of training events. Given unlimited time and resources, leaders would look for ways to increase the level of difficulty through repetition, changing conditions, the addition of stress, and the injection of competition—in other words, leaders would treat the training as a journey, not a destination. In this case, the leader creates shared experiences for the unit and improves its overall collective performance. While this was a hypothetical, it is the duty of military leaders to train their units to the best of their ability, taking maximum advantage of the time and resources available to maximize unit performance. By improving the group’s performance, leaders increase each member’s perception of the collective efficacy of the group, which in turn increases the group’s task commitment and the group’s overall cohesion.41

However, there is more to the story of collective efficacy and group cohesion than the reciprocal relationship described herein. Recall that the quest is for the level of cohesion that facilitates the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. We begin to achieve this level of effectiveness when the members of the team (a) become motivated to work hard on behalf of the team and (b) set and commit to more difficult goals.42 Increased effectiveness is defined by two criteria because group cohesiveness alone is not necessarily positive. Cohesiveness can increase or decrease productivity depending on the direction of group induction—what the group wants to do.43 Therefore, it is critical that military leaders define the appropriate direction, organize the team to maximize progress in that direction, and motivate the group to pursue goals in that direction.44 It is necessary for leaders to align the motive states of individual members with the purpose of the team. This internal motivation increases commitment to accomplishing the group’s mission because the team members identify on a personal level with the goals of the group.45 In the military hierarchy, it is easy to fall into the trap of directive vice communicative. This means that the positional power attributed to leaders makes it easy to direct goals quickly, particularly in time-constrained environments, instead of communicating with the primary group. What research tells us, however, is that (a) group performance is improved through the attainment of group goals and (b) that greater task cohesiveness improves the attainment of those goals due to increased communication, even in time-constrained environments.46 Cohesive teams are shown to be more productive. However, in teams without charismatic leaders who provide purpose, direction, and motivation; lead by example; and operate with a collective mindset, cohesion—like other leadership theories—can result in negative outcomes.

The Army routinely utilizes competition to improve group cohesion and avoid the negative outcome scenario. Let us refer to Sumner and his categorization of “peace in the we-group” correlated with “war towards others-groups.”47 The Army is replete with competition scenarios. Beginning with morning physical training, squads within platoons are routinely pitted against each other in physical activities. The same is true for platoons within companies and for every echelon up to the brigade combat team. For example, the 82nd Airborne Division hosts All-American Week every year, during which all battalions and brigades in the division compete against each other in events ranging from a ten-mile run to flag football to combatives, to see which unit is the best in the division. The culminating training event for brigades in the Army is a trip to one of the combat training centers for two to three weeks of simulated warfare against an opposing force—competition.48 Anecdotal evidence from these competitions illustrates that, like the supporting literature, intergroup competition increases group cohesion by increasing task commitment and group prestige, particularly for the winning teams.49 Also consistent with the literature, winning is not a necessary condition for increases in group cohesion, as most units who undergo a rotation at one of the combat training centers do not “win.”50 They do, however, collectively undergo an arduous and exceptionally challenging experience shared equally by all members, which serves to improve the social attractiveness of the group.

Photo of soldiers assigned to 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, and 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division


“Three times in 40 years I served in superb units. All three were excellent because of the cohesion we built by demanding unit training and leadership that developed the soldiers’ confidence in themselves, their leaders and in each other.”51 Gen. Donn Starry speaks directly to the importance of collective efficacy and group cohesion in the military. There is no secret, intangible ingredient that, when added, magically creates a high-performing team. The secret is that it takes hard work, perseverance, and dedication. Most of this paper discusses the science—the components of group cohesion, how these components influence group cohesion, and organizational leadership tools or actions available in the Army that serve to improve unit cohesion. We discussed six separate but related strategies:

  • Invoke personal sacrifice and personal investment toward group endeavors. Individuals feel more committed to a team or group in which they have made an investment. Leaders set the conditions for the worthiness of this sacrifice to include role-modeling the desired behavior.
  • Create opportunities for greater member interaction and communication. Leaders create opportunities to bring the group members together for richer interaction, meaningful discourse, and shared understanding.
  • Establish unique symbols, mottos, artifacts, and norms that help the group focus on its lineage, identity, and organizational goals. Elevate the group’s esteem by winning.
  • Engage in multiple opportunities for the group to undertake activities that require extensive interdependence to increase reliability and trust through the group’s accomplishment of tough, realistic, and challenging team-oriented missions.
  • Obtain group agreement on purpose and direction of group activities. Having agreement on group goals serves to bind the group together and structures group interactions toward successful goal accomplishment.
  • Engage in intergroup competition to focus group efforts. Creating opportunities for the group to work together as one entity in competition with another group can increase interaction and bring the team together.

These six research-supported deliberate actions can improve or increase group cohesion through their impact on one or more of the three components.

The aforementioned represents the science of group dynamics, but there is an art to it as well. The art is engaged leadership—engaged leadership with an ever-critical eye—searching for indicators of team formation or team regression. Because of the dynamic nature of Army formations, leadership truly does require constant interaction. Effective military leaders do not count on last quarter’s “spur ride” or “prop blast” to be the one team-building event that is going to ensure group cohesion and carry their teams to victory.52 Effective leaders search for clues, like when they hear their soldiers discussing what “I” am going to do instead of what “we” are going to do—there is no “I” in “team.” Effective leaders listen for and notice methods of communication—metaphors in conversation and cliché consistency, for example—that are uniformly used across members of units; these are indicators of cohesive team formation.53 Effective leaders identify the clues that they are increasing the cohesion of their units, then they exploit their success to further improve their teams. When they notice a loosening of the bonds, they seek to identify the issue and work their hardest to reverse the negative momentum.

Military units are unlike other organizations in that their level of group cohesion is essential not only to mission accomplishment but also to their sheer survival. In the end, success or failure is an existential condition on the battlefield. Soldiers fight for the man or woman on their right or left. How hard they fight and whether they are able to endure the hardships that those in the military service are asked to endure depends to a considerable extent on the cohesion of their team.54 Understanding the components that comprise group cohesion, their interdependencies, and how to improve the beliefs and perceptions of team members is essential to giving any team their best shot at success.



  1. Gerald F. Goodwin, Nikki Blacksmith, and Meredith R. Coats, “The Science of Teams in the Military: Contributions from over 60 Years of Research,” American Psychologist 73, no. 4 (2018): 329, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/amp0000259.
  2. Daniel J. Beal et al., “Cohesion and Performance in Groups: A Meta-Analytic Clarification of Construct Relations,” Journal of Applied Psychology 88, no. 6 (2003): 989–1004, https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.6.989; Stanley M. Gully, Dennis J. Devine, and David J. Whitney, “A Meta-Analysis of Cohesion and Performance: Effects of Level of Analysis and Task Interdependence,” Small Group Research 26, no. 4 (2012): 702–25, accessed 23 November 2021, https://pennstate.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/a-meta-analysis-of-cohesion-and-performance-effects-of-level-of-a.
  3. Stanley Schachter et al., “An Experimental Study of Cohesiveness and Productivity,” Human Relations 4, no. 3 (1951): 229, accessed 23 November 2021, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/001872675100400303.
  4. Leon Festinger, “Informal Social Communication,” Psychological Review 57, no. 5 (1950): 271–82, https://doi.org/10.1037/h0056932.
  5. Rupert Brown and Sam Pehrson, Group Processes: Dynamics Within and Between Groups (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2020).
  6. Ibid.; Michael A. Hogg and Elizabeth A. Hardie, “Prototypicality, Conformity and Depersonalized Attraction: A Self-Categorization Analysis of Group Cohesion,” British Journal of Social Psychology 31, no. 1 (1992): 41–56, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1992.tb00954.x. For purposes of clarity in understanding, we refer to group attractiveness as social attractiveness or social attraction throughout this article.
  7. Hogg and Hardie, “Prototypicality,” 41–56.
  8. James Griffith, “Measurement of Group Cohesion in U.S. Army Units,” Basic and Applied Social Psychology 9, no. 2 (1988): 166, https://doi.org/10.1207/s15324834basp0902_6.
  9. Brown and Pehrson, Group Processes; Festinger, “Informal Social Communication,” 271–82; Gully, Devine, and Whitney, “A Meta-Analysis of Cohesion,” 702–25; Brian Mullen and Carolyn Copper, “The Relation between Group Cohesiveness and Performance: An Integration,” Psychological Bulletin 115, no. 2 (1994): 210–27, https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.115.2.210.
  10. William Graham Sumner, Folkways (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1906), 12.
  11. Muzafer Sherif et al., The Robbers Cave Experiment: Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1988).
  12. Gideon Aran, “Parachuting,” American Journal of Sociology 80, no. 1 (1974): 124–52, https://doi.org/10.1086/225764.
  13. Albert A. Cota et al., “The Structure of Group Cohesion,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 21, no. 6 (1995): 572–80, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0146167295216003.
  14. Griffith, “Measurement of Group Cohesion,” 149–71; Guy L. Siebold, “The Essence of Military Group Cohesion,” Armed Forces & Society 33, no. 2 (2007): 286–95, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0095327X06294173. This is a generic aggregation of the two models based on common factors. The specific language of vertical, horizontal, and institutional comes from Siebold’s standard model. In the aggregation, the concept of peer (horizontal) relationships is group contextual referring to squad or group members, subsuming Griffith’s description of the instrumental and affective relationships among junior enlisted soldiers. Similarly, leader (vertical) subsumes Griffith’s quality of relationships between junior enlisted soldiers and their leaders. Institutional in Siebold’s standard model refers to bonding between personnel and their military branch—in this case the Army—and subsumes Griffith’s soldier internalization of Army values. The differences in the two are in the organizational relationship—relationships between echelons—in Siebold’s standard model and Griffith’s soldier confidence in weaponry and leaders. Siebold categorizes organizational to be a secondary group (along with institutional) and therefore only tangential to the argument in this article. Griffith’s fourth component could be subsumed under vertical relationships and will be treated as such.
  15. Mullen and Carolyn, “Relation between Group Cohesiveness,” 210–27; Sherif et al., The Robbers Cave Experiment, 12–13.
  16. Richard A. Schmuck and Patricia A. Schmuck, Group Processes in the Classroom (Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown, 1971).
  17. Kenneth A. Bollen and Rick H. Hoyle, “Perceived Cohesion: A Conceptual and Empirical Examination,” Social Forces 69, no. 2 (1990): 479–504, https://doi.org/10.2307/2579670.
  18. Anthony King, “The Word of Command: Communication and Cohesion in the Military,” Armed Forces & Society 32, no. 4 (2006): 493–512, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0095327X05283041.
  19. “Oath of Enlistment,” Army.mil, 1 June 2020, accessed 8 December 2021, https://www.army.mil/values/oath.html.
  20. For more on sacrifice and investment as mechanisms of increasing group cohesiveness, see Glen H. Elder Jr. and Elizabeth C. Clipp, “Wartime Losses and Social Bonding: Influences Across 40 Years in Men’s Lives,” Psychiatry 51, no. 2 (1988): 177–98, https://doi.org/10.1080/00332747.1988.11024391; Rosabeth Moss Kanter, “Commitment and Social Organization: A Study of Commitment Mechanisms in Utopian Communities,” American Sociological Review 33, no. 4 (1968): 499–517, https://doi.org/10.2307/2092438; Harry Prapavessis and Albert V. Carron, “Sacrifice, Cohesion, and Conformity to Norms in Sport Teams,” Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice 1, no. 3 (1997): 231–40, https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2699.1.3.231; Alvin Frederick Zander, Making Groups Effective (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), 1982.
  21. Goodwin, Blacksmith, and Coats, “Science of Teams in the Military,” 322­–33.
  22. The reception and assimilation of newly arrived soldiers encompass numerous issues that are tangential but related to group cohesion. One of the primary issues is attrition prior to expiration of the soldier’s first term of service. This attrition is categorized as a symptom of lack of group cohesion and not a root cause itself, and therefore focus on group cohesion as the root cause.
  23. Edward A. Shils, “Primary Groups in the American Army,” in Continuities in Social Research: Studies in the Scope and Method of “The American Soldier,” ed. Robert K. Merton and Paul F. Lazarsfield (Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1950), 16–39.
  24. Ibid.
  25. Army Regulation 600-8-8, The Total Army Sponsorship Program (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2019), 5, accessed 23 November 2021, https://armypubs.army.mil/ProductMaps/PubForm/Details.aspx?PUB_ID=1004006.
  26. James E. Dittes, “Attractiveness of Group as Function of Self-Esteem and Acceptance by Group,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59, no. 1 (1959): 77–82, https://doi.org/10.1037/h0041812; Mark R. Leary, Catherine A. Cottrell, and Misha Phillips, “Deconfounding the Effects of Dominance and Social Acceptance on Self-Esteem,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81, no. 5 (2001): 898–909, https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.81.5.898.
  27. Brown and Pehrson, Group Processes; Festinger, “Informal Social Communication,” 271–82; Edward A. Shils and Morris Janowitz, “Cohesion and Disintegration in the Wehrmacht in World War II,” The Public Opinion Quarterly 12, no. 2 (1948): 280–315, accessed 23 November 2021, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2745268.
  28. Shils, “Primary Groups in the American Army,” 16–39.
  29. Michael A. Hogg and Sarah C. Hains, “Intergroup Relations and Group Solidarity: Effects of Group Identification and Social Beliefs on Depersonalized Attraction,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70, no. 2 (1996): 295–309, https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.70.2.295.
  30. Nicholas C. Welsh, “The 505th Infantry Regiment,” Army Historical Foundation, accessed 15 December 2021, https://armyhistory.org/the-505th-infantry-regiment/.
  31. Kyle Rempfer, “Army Officially Unveils Expert Soldier Badge,” Army Times (website), 14 June 2019, accessed 23 November 2021, https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2019/06/14/mo-badges-mo-problems-expert-soldier-badge-officially-announced/.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Erin Eatough, Chu-Hsiang Chang, and Nicholas Hall, “Getting Roped In: Group Cohesion, Trust, and Efficacy Following a Ropes Course Intervention,” Performance Improvement Quarterly 28, no. 2 (2015): 65–89, https://doi.org/10.1002/piq.21183.
  34. Hogg and Hardie, “Prototypicality,” 41–56.
  35. Also applicable to the Expert Infantryman Badge and Expert Field Medical Badge.
  36. David M. Paskevich et al., “Relationship between Collective Efficacy and Team Cohesion: Conceptual and Measurement Issues,” Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice 3, no. 3 (1999): 210–22, https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2699.3.3.210.
  37. Albert Bandura, Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control (New York: Worth, 1997).
  38. Paskevich et al., “Relationship between Collective Efficacy,” 210–22.
  39. King, “The Word of Command,” 493–512.
  40. For purposes of parsimony in this example, I utilize a commonly required dry-blank-live iterative process to describe the platoon live-fire exercise. Additionally, I utilize a standard echeloned training progression.
  41. Griffith, “Measurement of Group Cohesion,” 149–71; King, “The Word of Command,” 493–512.
  42. Elizabeth Weldon and Laurie R. Weingart, “Group Goals and Group Performance,” British Journal of Social Psychology 32, no. 4 (1993): 307–34, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1993.tb01003.x; Stephen J. Zaccaro, Andrea L. Rittman, and Michelle A. Marks, “Team Leadership,” The Leadership Quarterly 12 (2001): 451–83, accessed 24 November 2021, https://www.qub.ac.uk/elearning/media/Media,264498,en.pdf.
  43. Schachter et al., “An Experimental Study,” 229–38.
  44. Zaccaro, Rittman, and Marks, “Team Leadership,” 451–83.
  45. Robert J. House and Boas Shamir, “Toward the Integration of Transformational, Charismatic, and Visionary Theories,” in Leadership Theory and Research: Perspectives and Directions, ed. Martin M. Chemers and Roya Ayman (New York: Academic Press, 1993), 81–107.
  46. Weldon and Weingart, “Group Goals and Group Performance,” 307–34; Stephen J. Zaccaro, James Gualtieri, and David Minionis, “Task Cohesion as a Facilitator of Team Decision Making under Temporal Urgency,” Military Psychology 7, no. 2 (1995): 77–93, https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327876mp0702_3.
  47. Sumner, Folkways, 11.
  48. Combat training centers include the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana; the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; and the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.
  49. Brown and Pehrson, Group Processes; Albert Myers, “Team Competition, Success, and the Adjustment of Group Members,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 65, no. 5 (1962): 325–32, https://doi.org/10.1037/h0046513; Muzafer Sherif, Group Conflict and Cooperation: Their Social Psychology (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966).
  50. Brown and Pehrson, Group Processes.
  51. Donn A. Starry, “On Making Our Smaller Army a Better One,” Field Artillery (1991): 22, accessed 8 December 2021, https://tradocfcoeccafcoepfwprod.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/fires-bulletin-archive/1991/FEB_1991/FEB_1991_FULL_EDITION.pdf.
  52. Spur rides and prop blasts are team-building events commonly conducted in cavalry and airborne units respectively for the purpose of building group cohesion. They are equivalent to ropes courses, offsite corporate events, and other team-focused events in the civilian community.
  53. William Foster Owen, “Metaphor Analysis of Cohesiveness in Small Discussion Groups,” Small Group Behavior 16, no. 3 (1985): 415–24, https://doi.org/10.1177/0090552685163011.
  54. Charles Duhigg, “What Google Learned from its Quest to Build the Perfect Team,” The New York Times Magazine (website), 25 February 2016, accessed 29 November 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/what-google-learned-from-its-quest-to-build-the-perfect-team.html.


Col. J. Todd Burroughs, U.S. Army, is deployed as the deputy director, Military Advisor Group (North), Combined Joint Task Force–Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. He holds a BA from Wofford College, an MBA from the University of South Carolina, an MMAS from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and MA and PhD degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During his career, Burroughs has served in Eighth U.S. Army, the 391st Combat Engineer Battalion, the 82nd Airborne Division, the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Col. Stephen G. Ruth, U.S. Army, is the director of the Strategic Officer Recruiting Detachment for U.S. Army Cadet Command. He holds degrees from Texas A&M University and George Mason University, and he was a National Security Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. During his career, Ruth has served in the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Forces–Iraq, and U.S. Training and Doctrine Command, and as a U.S. Army exchange officer to the British army. He is a former assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy and served as commandant of the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School at West Point.

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