Troops for NATO operations are drawn from the forces of NATO member and partner countries, as well as non-NATO and non-partner countries.
Ensuring that these multinational forces can work together effectively despite differences in tactics, doctrine, training, structures, and language is a priority for NATO. This “interoperability” is built in a number of ways.
NATO’s network of training institutions offers a broad range of courses on both strategic and operational issues. While courses differ, they tend to focus on knowledge and skills required by individuals who will occupy senior or specialized positions within the structure of the Alliance, or who hold NATO-related posts in their own countries.
For instance, the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy, is NATO’s primary strategic-level educational facility and includes areas of study such as trends in the international security environment and their potential effects on NATO countries. It provides training for senior commanders whereas the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany, is the primary operational-level training centre for students. Operational-level training focuses on joint planning of NATO operations, logistics, communications, civil emergency planning, or civil-military cooperation.
Courses are being offered in an increasing number of locations to ensure all available expertise is being utilised, for instance, civil-militray training at the CIMIC Centre of Excellence. Courses can last anywhere from a day to several months depending on the type of activity. They are all open to personnel from NATO member countries and some to personnel from countries participating in NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, as well as selected “partners across the globe” (non-member and non-partner countries, also referred to as “global partners”). Some are also open to civilian participants.
Exercises provide opportunities to test and validate all aspects of NATO operations, including procedures, concepts, systems, and tactics. They also build and reinforce interoperability by focusing on practical training for personnel from NATO countries and partners with which the Alliance cooperates.
During an exercise, forces will typically be asked to respond to a fictional scenario that approximates what might occur in real life. This allows them to employ their previous training and experience in a practical way, and increases their level of readiness should they be deployed in a crisis.
Exercises cover the full range of military operations, from combat to humanitarian relief to stabilization and reconstruction. They can vary in length and scope, from a few senior officers working on an isolated problem to full-scale combat scenarios involving aircraft, ships, artillery pieces, armoured vehicles and thousands of troops. NATO also exercises its strategic-level political and military arrangements. This ensures that its consultation and decision-making architecture is refined and that key players are kept aware of how the Alliance works.
NATO partners are fully involved in exercises as participants and hosts through the Military Training and Education Programme.
- Experimentation and development
NATO is constantly trying to improve the way its forces operate. In line with its transformation agenda, the Alliance is continuing to focus on development of new concepts and capabilities to ensure future NATO forces are trained and equipped to the highest possible standard.
NATO countries conduct their own experimentation. The Alliance -- through Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and its subordinate bodies -- provides a forum for members to engage in knowledge-sharing regarding concepts and capabilities.
NATO also develops new concepts and capabilities to benefit NATO forces. For instance, the NATO Undersea Research Centre in La Spezia, Italy, has developed technologies and training for underwater reconnaissance and port protection. A separate initiative called the “NATO Friendly Force Tracker” helps to promote interoperability and is being employed in Afghanistan to help NATO-led forces better coordinate their actions and reduce the possibility of casualties.
Working with NATO partners on defence reform
NATO members have reduced levels of military personnel, equipment and bases from Cold War levels, and transformed their forces to meet today’s needs. Many partner countries are still going through this process, often with scarce resources and limited expertise.
Education is a key agent of transformation and NATO is using it to support institutional reform in partner countries. For that purpose, NATO has launched the Education and Training for Defence Reform and the Defence Education Enhancement ¨Programmes. The Alliance’s education and training programmes – initially focused on increasing interoperability between NATO and partner forces – have been expanded to provide a means for members and partners to collaborate on how to build, develop and reform educational institutions in the security, defence and military domain... These include courses and seminars, a network, tailor-made assistance and access to NATO experts.
Furthermore, in 2005, NATO began development of an “Education and Training for Defence Reform” initiative that provides a framework for cooperation for both military and civilian personnel.
- Courses, seminars and workshops
Countries which work with NATO through its various cooperation frameworks, as well as personnel from Global Partners are able to participate in an array of NATO education activities - courses, roundtables, seminars, and workshops.
- Tailor-made defence education
Each country participating in defence reform, in consultation with NATO, agrees on an individualised programme which varies in depth and breadth, depending on its interests and level of commitment and cooperation. This can include – in addition to participation in courses, seminars, and exercises – tailor-made education programmes such as on-the-job training, language training, and resettlement and retaining of redundant military personnel.
NATO is leading a series of tailored programmes called the Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP) with the support of the PfP Consortium of Defence Academies and Security Studies Institutes, the Partnership Training and Education Centres and Allied as well as partner defence institutions. These programmes focus on faculty building. There are currently six DEEPs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova and Mauritania.
A reflection on “what to teach” and “how to teach” led to two initiatives. One resulted in the development of generic reference curricula on defence institution-building, on professional military education for officers and on non-commissioned officers. The latter gave birth to a Defence Educators’ Programme which provides an opportunity for faculty members to exchange with their peers on best practices on modern teaching methodologies. Both initiatives are the subject of regular workshops and conferences to continue strengthening defence institution-building in countries of the former Soviet Union in particular. The George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partnekirchen, Germany often hosts these events, such as the workshop held in May 2012 on the development of a generic curriculum guide for non-commissioned officers. Armenia hosted the conference on approaches to defence/ military education and training in June 2012.
Furthermore, in Ukraine NATO has financed and implemented language and management courses in cooperation with Ukraine’s National Coordination Centre, which is in charge of the social adaptation of redundant military servicemen.
“Mobile education and training teams” (METTs) are another example of the tools the Alliance employs in response to partners’ defence reform needs. METTs are small groups of trainers who travel to the interested countries to deliver training tailored to the local context.
NATO countries are among the most advanced in the world in terms of defence capabilities. Countries cooperating with the Alliance on defence reform are able take advantage of this expertise. For most countries, this is done through the Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process (PARP).
Countries with special relationships with NATO can have additional mechanisms for exchanging advice and expertise. For instance, the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform provides a forum through which consultation can take place on initiatives as diverse as civil-military relations, democratic oversight and civilian management of the armed forces and other security sector agencies, defence planning, policy, strategy and national security concepts.
- Training initiative for Mediterranean and Middle East
A dedicated Middle East faculty has been established at the NATO Defense College in Rome as part of the NATO Regional Cooperation Course.
Education and training in NATO-led operations
NATO’s efforts to bring stability to crisis areas go beyond deploying troops. Through training and education programmes, NATO is helping countries such as Afghanistan develop its own security institutions and provide for its own security.
An important aspect of NATO’s engagement in Afghanistan is assisting the country in developing its security structures and forces. While the United States is the lead country for training the Afghan National Army (ANA), NATO is assisting and supporting this process. This includes special courses to train Afghan soldiers in specific skills and to prepare them to work in tandem with NATO forces. The Alliance has also deployed Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams to Afghan National Army units at various levels of command. These are small groups of experienced officers and non-commissioned officers that coach and mentor the ANA units to which they are attached.
In 2006, NATO signed a declaration with Afghanistan, establishing a substantial programme of long-term co-operation. The Afghan Cooperation Programme provides for further training assistance, including opening NATO courses and partnership activities to Afghan participation, providing advice and expertise on defence reform and the development of security institutions, as well as specific assistance such as language training.
Subsequently, on 20 November 2010, NATO and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed a Declaration on an Enduring Partnership at the NATO Summit in Lisbon. The Enduring Partnership is intended to provide long-term political and practical support to Afghanistan as it rebuilds its security institutions and assumes full responsibility for its own security through the Transition process. It includes a series of agreed programmes and activities undertaken as part of the ongoing cooperation between NATO and Afghanistan. This includes the Professional Military Education Programme for Afghanistan which aims to further develop Afghan institutions.
NATO and Russia also are collaborating through the NATO-Russia Council on a counter-narcotics training pilot project tailored to Afghan and Central Asian personnel.
At the request of the African Union (AU), NATO assisted the AU (June 2005-end December 2007) in strengthening its peacekeeping force in Darfur in a bid to halt the continuing violence. Initially, NATO’s support consisted in training AU troops in strategic-level planning and operational procedures. It provided support to a UN-led map exercise and later, in summer 2006, also provided training assistance in the fields of pre-deployment certification and “lessons learned”, as well as information management.
From 2004 to end 2011, NATO helped Iraq provide for its own security by training Iraqi personnel and supporting the development of the country’s security institutions.
NATO trained and mentored middle and senior level personnel from the Iraqi security forces in Iraq and outside of Iraq, at NATO schools and training centres. The Alliance also played a role in co-ordinating offers of equipment and training from individual NATO and Partner countries.