From 13th to 19th of May, the Baltic Defence College’s (BALTDEFCOL) faculty members and students of the Joint Command and General Staff Course (JCGSC) 2017/2018 are conducting the International Study Trip (IST) to Italy and Georgia (Track 1), and to Ukraine, the Netherlands and Germany (Track 2) in order to gain access to decision-makers and receive briefings from the national defence and security institutions and NATO and EU HQs. The IST will enable the students to expand their understanding and expose them to the strategic, operational and component level of command structures within NATO, EU and the countries visited. Having completed the tour, the students of the JCGSC will have an enhanced understanding of the joint environment, the role of components, command and control structure and relationship between political/strategic/operational and component levels.
Photo by the National Defence University of Ukraine
On the first day, students of Track 1 visited the Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Naples, receiving briefs from members of the staff and the Commander JFC-Naples, US Navy Europe and US Navy Africa, Admiral James Foggo. The second part of the day was spent at the US 6th Fleet Headquarters, receiving briefings and participating in discussions on the command structure of the 6th Fleet and the Baltic Sea military strategy from the perspective of the United States.
Students of Track 2 started their IST with a visit to the National Defence University of Ukraine. The delegation was led by the Commandant of the BALTDEFCOL, Major General Andis Dilans. The Chief of the University (LTG Anatoliy Surotenko) and the Deputy Chief of the University (MG Sergii Sulkustan) welcomed the students and members of the university staff provided briefings on the Ukrainian military education system and how the education is impacted by the situation in Eastern Ukraine. MG Dilans, accompanied by the students, also paid a visit to the Embassy of Latvia in Ukraine where they had a meeting with the Ambassador of Latvia, Juris Poikāns. The ambassador personally provide the students a briefing and discussion on the current situation in Ukraine at the political level and the role of Latvia (and the other Baltic states) in assisting Ukraine. Following the discussion, the Latvian embassy hosted a reception for the students, where they were provided the opportunity to speak with representatives on the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian embassies.
Photos by the National Defence University of Ukraine/the Embassy of Latvia in Ukraine
Students of the Track 1 spent the morning of the 2nd day of the IST visiting the Italian Joint Operations HQ, receiving briefs on the mission and the current operations of the Italian military. Brigadier General Achille Cazzaniga, Chief of Staff of the European Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFORMED) briefed the students on Operation Sophia and enjoyed discussing operational level topics with the students of JCGSC. The students also had the opportunity to diversify their cultural experience by visiting historical sites within the city of Rome.
Delegation of the Track 2 conducted a site visit to the NATO Liaison Office (NLO) to Ukraine. They received information from the head of NATO representation to Ukraine on how NATO is working with the Ukrainian defence and security sector. The discussion included the NATO assessment of the current situation in Ukraine and possibilities of increasing ties between Ukraine and NATO. In the afternoon, the students received a guided tour of the Kiev War Museum and had the opportunity to explore the open-air Great Patriotic War Museum. The War Museum contained exhibits and artefacts from the entire military history of Ukraine dating back to the earliest settlers. The students spent the majority of the tour in a special exhibit dedicated to the recent military history of Ukraine including the revolution (2014), the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and the on-going conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Photos by NLO
On 15th of May, BALTDEFCOL's Latvian students and staff were invited to the Latvian Embassy to Ukraine for the reception on the occassion of the visit of Speaker of the Latvian Saeima. The Latvian diaspora and invited guests were addressed by Ināra Mūrniece, the Speaker of Saeima, Ainārs Mežulis, Head of the Saeima Group for Interparliamentary Relations with Ukraine, and two members of the group – Aleksejs Loskutovs and Edvīns Šnore (Director of documentary The Soviet Story).
On 17th of May, the Commandant of the BALTDEFCOL Major General Andis Dilans, joined the delegation of Track 2 for briefings at the Ministry of Defence of Georgia. MG Dilans had an office call with the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Georgian Armed Forces, BG Shalva Jabakhidze. Later that day, the Commandant visited the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (JTEC) and was briefed by NATO Advisory Team LTC Marius Nilsen. At JTEC he also met 3 BALTDEFCOL's graduates. During his visit to the Embassy of Latvia in Georgia, the Commandant met with the newly appointed Ambassador, H.E. Ingrida Lervence, and recognized her as a graduate of the Senior Leaders' Course (SLC) 2016 by presenting her SLC badge. MG Dilans also conducted a visit to the David Aghmashenebeli National Defence Academy of Georgia where he met with the Deputy Commandant LTC Davit Chkhetiani.
On 17th of May, after a day of travel, Track 1 of JSCGS IST arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia. The first day in Georgia was spent visiting the საქართველოს თავდაცვის სამინისტრო / Ministry of Defence of Georgia and the National Defence Academy of Georgia. Students received briefings on the role of the MoD in preparing Georgia to reach NATO membership and cooperation with EU on security and defence. In the National Defence Academy students discussed security challenges in the South Caucasus region. They also received a briefing on the structure and future projects of the Academy. The day concluded with an official dinner with Georgian MoD and Military personnel, along with the BDC Commandant, faculty, and students.
Photos by the National Defence Academy of Georgia
Students of Track 2 visited the NATO Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum. The Commander, General Riccardo Marchio, personally welcomed the students and his staff provided briefings on the roles and responsibilities of the JFC, the current political challenges facing NATO, the NATO Operational Planning Process, and a summary of the Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups. Following the JFC visit, the students continued to a site visit of the NATO AWACS E3-A headquarters, which included a walk-through the AWACS aircraft. At the headquarters, the students learned about AWACS operations, capabilities, responsibilities, and its integration with other NATO missions.
Track 1 of the IST spent their last day in Tbilisi visiting three different organizations. The first stop was the NATO Liaison Office, where students participated in discussions on NATO engagement in Georgia and the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package (SNGP) program. The second stop was the Defence Institution Building School where the students received briefings and discussed the Georgia-Russia 2008 war and the way ahead, the current security challenges in the South Caucasus region, and the role of Georgian Armed Forces in international missions. The last stop of the day was to the State Military Scientific-Technical Centre DELTA where students received a tour of facilities which produce armoured vehicles and other military weapon systems.
Students of Track 2 visited a museum dedicated to the WWII Battle of Hürtgenwald Forest (between forces from the United States and Nazi Germany). Following the museum, the students conducted a terrain walk of the battleground and studied a trench line and bunker system, which was used by the Nazis to defend against the US offensive. The students also were able to see a Red Cross bunker from the same period, which remains mostly intact today.