Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) AY 2023/2024 Students' International Study Trip Summary

International study trips are invaluable for professional military education, offering a rich blend of cultural exposure, knowledge exchange, practical experience, and personal development. They are crucial in preparing military personnel to effectively operate in a complex and dynamic global environment.

From June 10 to June 14, 2024, Joint Command and General Staff Course (JCGSC) 2023/2024 students from the Baltic Defence College (BALTDEFCOL) participated in an enriching International Study Trip (IST). This educational tour included visits to key military and defence institutions in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy. 

Track 1

During their IST Track 1, the BALTDEFCOL students visited the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Belgium, where Admiral Sir Keith Edward Blount, Deputy SACEUR (DSACEUR), delivered the students an inspiring and motivational welcome speech. This was followed by briefs and discussions on the ongoing transformations within NATO's command structure, NATO's Crisis Response mechanism, and the challenges of civil-military cooperation from a military-strategic level perspective.

The students also visited Headquarters Allied Command Operations (HQ Allied Brunssum) in the Netherlands as part of their educational journey. This visit was a pivotal opportunity for the participants to deepen their understanding of NATO's operational capabilities and strategic initiatives.

The Track 1 group undertook a significant visit to the NATO Special Operations University. This institution enhances collective defence by providing resources, training, and doctrine to NATO member countries. During their visit, the BALTDEFCOL students engaged in comprehensive briefings and discussions on several contemporary issues. These included transformational recruiting, allied Special Operations Forces Command (SOFCOM), successful partnerships, and Multi-Domain Operations. The previously mentioned topics are vital for the ongoing development and effectiveness of NATO's strategic and operational capabilities.

A visit to the NATO Air Base in Geilenkirchen, Germany, was one of the destinations included in the BALTDEFCOL IST Track 1 programme. This base is renowned for housing 14 E-3A aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Michael Belizaire delivered an informative presentation on the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), covering its equipment, capabilities, and upcoming projects. This session was followed by a detailed aircraft tour and a mission simulator experience, enhancing the student's understanding of AWACS operations' technical capabilities and training processes.

BALTDEFCOL students also had the unique opportunity to visit the German Army Concepts and Capabilities Development Centre (ACCDC) in Cologne, Germany. The ACCDC is a pivotal entity within the German Army tasked with developing the Army’s concepts, training activities, organizational strategies, and equipment planning.

Track 2

In Naples, Italy, the BALTDEFCOL IST Track 2 students visited Joint Force Command Naples (JFC Naples) and Joint Logistics Support Group (JLSG) Naples. They tackled real-world security challenges, from navigating the complexities of ongoing operations to countering cyber threats. The students also delved into the crucial roles of logistics and disaster relief operations in maintaining regional stability. After opening remarks by DCOS OPS Rear Admiral Jean Emmanuel Roux de Luze, JFCNP Sergeant Major Tschense introduced the overall mission and values of JFC Naples, highlighting service specifics.

As part of the IST, the BALTDEFCOL Track 2 students visited the Centre for Higher Defence Studies (CASD) in Rome, Italy. Rear Admiral (RADM) Gaetano Virgilio, Director of the Higher Education and Research Division (DiAFR), warmly welcomed them.

Throughout the visit, students gained an understanding of Italy's military education system. They discussed the educational objectives and organizational structure of the Centre, focusing on continental security, the Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Mediterranean regions, and cooperation with allied and partner nations. 

The visit concluded with a Q&A session covering topics such as:

  • The possibility for non-allied nations to participate in the PhD program.
  • CASD facilitates interoperability and collaboration between national and international defence forces in its educational programs.
  • CASD is focusing on key emerging threats and challenges in its current research.

Track 2 students visited the headquarters of Operation Irini, conducted by the European Union Naval Forces in Rome. They received a comprehensive briefing on the operation's objectives and activities, focusing on enforcing United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on arms embargoes in Libya. Operation Irini plays a vital role in disrupting the flow of weapons into the region, thereby contributing to stability and security in Libya. This visit gave students valuable insights into the EU's efforts to promote peace and security in the Mediterranean region and the complexities of maritime security operations.

The group also explored the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This visit offered them valuable insights into ancient Rome's culture and way of life. Additionally, they visited the historical site of Monte Cassino, which was significant for its role during the Italian Campaign of World War II, where several decisive battles were fought. These visits allowed the students to better understand ancient Roman heritage and more recent military history, enriching their appreciation of the region's cultural and historical legacy.


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