Dr. Peter Kilner

Dr. Peter Kilner

John Hottell Chair for Character Development

Cadet Character Education Program



Pete Kilner grew up in Silver Spring, MD, as the 8th of 9 children. In 1984, he enrolled at the University of Maryland—College Park and enlisted as an infantryman in the MD Army National Guard. He enjoyed being a Soldier and applied to West Point. He graduated with a B.S. degree in Political Science (International) and was commissioned as an Infantry officer from the U.S. Military Academy in 1990. As a lieutenant, Kilner served in Germany as a mechanized-infantry platoon leader and a battalion scout platoon leader in the 1st Armored Division in Germany. As a captain, he commanded D/2-325 AIR, an airborne heavy-weapons company in the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC. After command, Kilner attended graduate school at Virginia Tech, earning an M.A. degree in Philosophy and writing a thesis on the moral justification of killing in war. From 1998-2001, Kilner served in the Department of English and taught three core courses: Philosophy, Composition, and Advanced Composition. During that time, he co-founded CompanyCommand.com, an online community by and for Army company commanders, and co-edited the book Taking the Guidon: Exceptional Leadership at the Company Level. In 2002, he was appointed as an Academy Professor of Leader Development and Organizational Learning at West Point. From 2003-2006, he attended graduate school at Penn State, earning a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems. During that time, he became the lead facilitator of the PlatoonLeader.army.mil online forum and co-authored a book, Company Command: Unleashing the Power of the Army Profession. From 2006-2016, Kilner served as the deputy director and then director of the Center for the Advancement of Leader Development and Organizational Learning (CALDOL) at West Point. During that time, he co-authored A Platoon Leader’s Tour, co-developed the Leader Challenge method of leader development, wrote a monthly column in Army for company-level officers, conducted more than $1 million in funded research, and deployed five times to Iraq and Afghanistan to study combat leadership, interviewing nearly 400 junior officers. He taught both PY201: Philosophy and MX400: Officership. In 2017, Kilner retired as an Army lieutenant colonel, and in 2018 he began serving as the Hottell Chair for Character Development in the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic. Dr. Kilner is the author of more than 80 books and articles on ethics, leadership, and organizational learning. His work on military ethics has been featured in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, Military Review, Army magazine, NBC Dateline, PBS, BBC, NPR, and the film Soldiers of Conscience. He writes and speaks extensively on the morality of killing and war-related moral injury. His military-ethics website, http://soldier-ethicist.blogspot.com, has logged more than 200,000 page views. Dr. Kilner’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Senior Parachutist Badge, the Ranger Tab, and the Order of St. Maurice. He is a distinguished honor graduate of both the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and the Department of Defense Public Affairs Officer Course. He has been married to his West Point classmate (and Beast squad mate), the former Cathy Orpen, for 29 years. They have four sons, two of whom are Army officers.