On the 17th of June 2011 the Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) graduated the students of the Joint Command and General Staff Course (JCGSC) 2010/2011. The Graduation Ceremony, held in the BALTDEFCOL Main Hall was honored with the presence of representatives of the three Baltic States as well as many honorable guests from European countries who came to congratulate the graduates on this very special occasion.
The Ceremony was opened by BrigGen Meelis Kiili:
Excellencies, generals, graduates, ladies and gentlemen,
Today we say farewell to the JCGSC class 2010/2011. The nations that sent students to the Baltic Defence College are about to get highly qualified general staff officers who are educated and skilled in their profession.
But most of all, the sending nations are receiving officers who are loyal, dedicated, mission- oriented and-- last but not least -- who are able to think critically. At times I have heard complaints that it is difficult for the nations to send good officers and staff members to serve on the Baltic Defence College faculty or as students because it puts a burden on the sending organizations as they have to do without good people. I disagree with such pessimistic or even myopic views that one finds in large organizations. It is not a burden to send good people here—it is an investment, indeed, a force multiplier. The training and experience and personal growth that people receive at the Baltic Defence College is not only a force multiplier for the sending organization— but for the society as a whole.
Dear graduates, you are the first course I have led-- though I am your second commandant. For that reason, you will always will be special for me. You are leaving these premises today, but you will remain as a part of the family. You have learned a lot. But, at the same time, your participation and involvment has also contributed to our faculty’s development. There are times when we learned as much from you as you did from us.
I would like to emphasize that, despite the graduation today, your studies are not over. This is just another phase in your education. We all need to approach our profession with the attitude that we are in a lifelong learning program. Therefore, I heartily encourage you to read, read, and read some more. Absorb as much of the information as you can. Analyze it. Constantly adapt and amend your thinking. Take the learning spirit from the college with you and use it.
Today you are qualified general staff officers. That is a status in its own right. That status entrenches duty, honor, dignity and extended responsibility. You are expected to act accordingly. Today you are-- without a doubt—expert in COPD, security policy, defence management and other disciplines essential to our respective nation’s national defence. You are being assigned to new duty positions and there you will be expected to implement the things you have learned here. Be aware it will not be easy. You will not always meet colleagues who are sympathetic to your ideas. You may have superiors who do not appreciate innovation or new thinking.
Basil Liddell Hart, the famous 20th Century thesoist on strategy and leadership once said that “The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is getting an old one out." This is understandable. It is human nature to be resistant to change. However, you have been taught to argue your case with reason, to make your position clear and concise and sound. You will need those skills to initiate the necessary changes that your armed forces will have to make in order to be successful. So I strongly encourage you to use the skill sets you developed in the college for making the world better place.
You will, no doubt about it, face challenges in the future and you will make mistakes. We all do. But do not let that make you idle or afraid to make mistakes—just don’t make the same mistake twice. Use you initiative and be ready to improvise-- and be one of those rare leaders with common sense.
I can recall one of my own experiences. I was assigned to a position in an exercise not long after my graduation and I was not very confident that I could do the job. I panicked and called my former instructor Ron LaGrone for advice. His answer was simple and straightforward: “Do not worry, you are going to make it. You are the graduate of the Baltic Defence College. Today I relay that wisdom to you, “You are a graduate of the Baltic Defence College—you will be able to handle the complex situations that will be thrown at you.
I believe that the main objective of this institution has been achieved-- to develop and mentor students so that they realize their full potential. That achievement is a common effort of the faculty and the graduates. It is an achievement that is based on a previously laid foundation, and I would hereby like to express my gratitude to the former Commandants Clemmesen and Abols who have a privilege to be present, and also General Vacieliunas who, due to the duty reasons, was not able to make it here today.
And last, but not least, I would like to express my gratitude to all our families. Without their support the success would have not been possible.
One last word for you graduates – Carl von Clausewitz once said that military officer must develop an inner light and must have courage to follow it in the darkest hour. Have your inner light and follow it through.
Thank you for attention.
Ad securitatem patriarum.
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