Higher Command Studies Course visits Central Europe

Stopping the traffic in Brussels: that is exactly what the Higher Command Studies Course did as it returned from its annual Field Study Trip to Central Europe on Wednesday. The course, headed by the Commandant, Maj. Gen. Vitalijus Vaikšnoras, the Course Director, Col. Igors Rajevs, and the civilian academics, Henrik Praks and James Rogers, began travelling on Wednesday, 23rd October in Berlin.

The trip was kicked off with a delightful reception at the Estonian Embassy, hosted by the Estonian Ambassador to Germany.

On Thursday, the course visited the German Ministry of Defence and the German Foreign Office, to learn more about German foreign and military policy, including the country’s support for the Framework Nation Concept, which is currently receiving attention from European leaders. The evening was capped with a reception in the Lithuanian Embassy, where the course settled down after a busy day of presentations and briefings.


HCSC in German MOD

The course went on to visit the Bundeswehr Operational Command on Friday. There, the students were taught how this command is structured and how it executes Germany’s current military operations. This was followed by an enlightening tour of the Bundestag, the Federal Parliament of Germany.


Bundeswehr Operational Command

The weekend began with a guided tour of Zossen – today a small ‘Book Town’ to the south of Berlin. During the Second World War, however, the town was more important, for it was home to the German Supreme Command. As it ventured through the creepy subterranean world of the dark concrete bunkers, the course discovered the facilities in which the Wehrmacht executed the Nazis’ geopolitical plans. The course then transferred to Stuttgart, ready to receive briefings during the next week.

Patch Barracks, home of the United States European Command, was the course’s destination on Monday. There, the students were engaged by several American generals and high level civilian officials who went on to answer their questions on the future of the Atlantic Alliance.


Meeting in US EUCOM

This was followed by a visit to Africa Command, where briefings were provided by the course’s American hosts on the role and responsibilities of American armed forces in Africa.


US AFRICOM

The institutions of the Atlantic Alliance – vital to the Baltic States strategic needs – were the next port of call. On Tuesday, the course visited NATO’s Headquarters, where it was given presentations on the impact of the new strategic environment on the alliance, as well as briefings on its defence planning and policy and partnerships after the International Security Assistance Force.


Visit to NATO HQ

This was followed by a visit to the Belgian Ministry of Defence, where the course discovered how the Benelux Countries had initiated a series of reforms – particularly to their naval forces – to better coordinate their military cooperation.


At Belgian MOD

On Wednesday morning, the course visited Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, where it was briefed on the Alliance’s current operations and the NATO Response Force and received a delicious buffet lunch, courtesy of the Latvian National Military Representative.


Visit at SHAPE

The course’s European trip came to an end after a guided tour of the Field of Waterloo, where students discovered how a combined British-Dutch-Prussian coalition finally crushed Napoleon’s dreams, changing irrevocably the trajectory of European history.


Field of Waterloo

Courtesy of the Belgian Military Police, the course was escorted speedily along the busy Brussels orbital motorway, in time to fly back to Estonia.
The faculty and students of the Higher Command Studies Course is thankful to all those concerned who made their Field Study Trip possible.

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