Baltic Defence College Representatives Attend the NATO Conference of Commandants

Baltic Defence College Representatives Attend the NATO Conference of Commandants

 

From 16 t0 19 May the Baltic Defence College commandant, Brigadier General Gundars Abols, and the Dean, Dr. James Corum, and head of the Politics and Strategy Department, Dr. Ilias Iliopoulos, attended NATO’s 39th Conference of Commandants, which was hosted by the Turkish War College in Istanbul. This is a major event of the year for leaders of NATO and associated nations’ staff colleges and institutions of higher military education. This year hundreds of senior leaders from more than 40 military colleges attended the conference.

 

The conference was opened by Lieutenant General Wolf Dieter Loeser of the German army, Commandant of the NATO Staff College in Rome. General Loeser spoke about the important of international cooperation in education and, moreover, the special importance of cooperation and partnership between higher civilian and military education. The cooperation between civilian education and higher military education is valuable because multinational operations today operate in a complex environment that requires an understanding of politics, society and economics. General Loeser advocated a “comprehensive approach to training.” An education that is too narrowly military and lacks an appreciation for the complexities of the modern environment will not meet the needs of our mi8litary operations. General Loeser pointed out that MA and doctoral programmes are important for today’s officers who no longer operate in purely military spheres. Military education ought to be geared towards “preparing officers who are broadly educated and who can learn for themselves.’

General Basburg, Chief of the Turkish General Staff reiterated many of General Loeser’s ideas as he addressed the conference. He also stressed the importance of higher education skills for military officers. He argued that training and education should exist in parallel and that the aim of a broad approach to military education should be to “aim for flexibility.” Comprehensive training should stress critical thinking skills so that the modern soldier can adapt to the changing environment.

The participants of the conference were organized into four “thinking platforms” that address different facets of military education. Baltic Defence college personnel participated in forums that dealt with the means of engendering critical thinking about the future and military educational institutions and their impact on educational programmes regarding strategic management. Both forums produced a list of recommendations that included developing a more comprehensive approach to educating officers in strategic management and in critical thinking skills.

Other military educational groups used the conference of commandants as a useful meeting point. The Central European Forum for Military Education (CEFME) a group of staff colleges that includes Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, the Czech Republic and the Baltic Defence College had one of their regular meetings and discussed research cooperation among the institutions. There was also a discussion of the Latvian national Defence Academy MA in Security Studies programme that the CEFME welcomed as a programme in line with NATO officer education trends. Of the CEFME nations several have strong civilian graduate degree programmes and Poland and Hungary are now making the MA degree a requirement for officer promotion. Thus, the development in the Baltics brings the Baltic nations in line with close NATO allies.
 

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