Staff Ride “Operation Albion” to Saaremaa

As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Read over and over again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene and Frederic…This is the only way to become a great general and master the secrets of the art of war…”

The quote emphasizes the significance of history education in the education of officers and civil servants as the lessons from history can be applied to modern circumstances.
Therefore, the module "Fundamentals and Components" includes the Staff Ride "Operation Albion". This module aims to extrapolate the historical background of war and identify the roles, tasks, capabilities, and limits of the various components, as well as their distinct contributions to achieving desired joint effects.
As an integral constituent of the module, the students of the Joint Command and General Staff Course (JCGSC) 2022/2023 and faculty members conducted the Staff Ride "Albion - 2022" in late autumn (30 NOV – 02 DEC 2022). They traveled to the biggest Estonian island – Saaremaa –to explore the historic sites of “Operation Albion 1917” conducted by German armed forces during World War I. This joint air, land, and naval operation was directed against the Russian forces to occupy the West Estonian Archipelago. Even nowadays, it presents a significant case study to be learned.
The purpose of this study trip was to summarize the learning received during the module, which covered all the armed forces services, by utilizing the historical case study of World War I. It was aimed to enhance understanding of the orchestrated use of various services and their contribution to the complex Joint Operation. During the study trip, students utilized previously acquired knowledge to comprehend the operation's terrain-specific features. Students also toured significant event sites, including the German invasion zone, Russia's coastal defence and air asset installations, and the routes used by retreating Russian forces. All this provided a better understanding of how the operation was planned and executed in the past. The focus was on what influenced the outcome and how lessons learned could be implied in a contemporary environment.
During the tour, students also had a wonderful chance to learn more about the Defence League’s Saaremaa District and had a very informative briefing by CDR Arto Reinmaa, the District Commander. In addition, the Commander of the Estonian Navy, Commodore Jüri Saska, addressed the current status of the navy and offered students practical advice on applying naval expertise to joint “Operation Albion”. Mister Villu Vastfeld, a hobby historian with unique knowledge of military history, gave additional and intriguing lessons on “Operation Albion” from a perspective not covered in the lectures.

In addition to military case studies, students had the opportunity to discover the beauty of Saaremaa Island and visit cultural sites located there. As they visited the Kuressaare (Arensburg) Castle, they had the possibility to get to know more about the island’s history. Kuressaare Castle is one of the most exciting and best-preserved fortification structures in Estonia, which is built from limestone and granite and holds between its walls the history from medieval up to post-Soviet times. There was also a short stop at the Kaali meteorite crater, showing what a rock of 20-80 tones falling at 15-45 km/sec speed could cause.


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