A programme is being established in Slovakia to prepare junior officers from future NATO members and Partnership for Peace countries to work more effectively in multinational operations and exercises. Starting in May 2003, it will offer three 12-week courses a year to a total of 180 officers.
The Junior Staff Officers' Course should be particularly useful to officers serving in multinational headquarters such as SFOR (© SFOR)
Based at Liptovsky Mikulas, a city in north-central Slovakia that is also home to the Slovak Armed Forces' military academy, the Junior Staff Officers' Course (JSOC) is a joint venture between the Netherlands, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. Once it is up and running, Slovakia will seek recognition of the Liptovsky Mikulas Military Academy as a Partnership for Peace Training Centre. The first Dutch member of staff is already in place and preparing the ground for the first course.
The JSOC seeks to fill a gap in the training of junior officers in the target countries. It therefore complements a Czech-UK Centre in Vyskov, the Czech Republic, that trains the trainers of courses aimed at warrant officers and non-commissioned officers and a UK-sponsored Regional Training Centre in Bucharest, Romania, that trains more senior officers in tri-service operational planning techniques.
"Most target countries will be volunteering individuals or units to multinational operations," says Lt-Col Simon Cleveland, the UK project officer behind the course. "We aim to help make the junior officers involved in these missions more effective."
Courses are designed for senior lieutenants, captains and majors in ground forces, including ground-based air defence forces, marines and naval infantry. They should be particularly useful to officers serving in multinational headquarters. It is also intended to assist in the training of junior staff officers appointed to the headquarters of the many new multinational units and formations which are being established in Central and Eastern Europe, ranging from the South East European brigade to the Central Asian battalion.
The JSOC syllabus is based on that used by the British Army to train its junior officers but will concentrate on NATO doctrine and procedures as well as experiences from international operations, including the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, KFOR in Kosovo, and SFOR and the UN Protection Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Teaching is carried out in English by British and Dutch instructors, who will be based in Liptovsky Mikulas. Students will be obliged to demonstrate proficiency in the language in their own countries before being accepted on the courses. If necessary, language training assistance and validation may be obtained through the British Council in their capitals.
Effective use of information technology forms part of the curriculum. Students are not, however, required to have computer skills before joining the course, as many do not have access to computers in their home countries. By the end of the course, they should have reached a level of proficiency akin to the so-called "European Computer Driving Licence".
British and Dutch defence attachés in target countries will help identify students for the courses, which will also be incorporated into NATO's Partnership for Peace Work Programme. The Netherlands and the United Kingdom will sponsor places on courses and are encouraging other Allies to do the same.
In addition to the 12-week courses for junior officers, the JSOC will offer short senior officer briefing courses for senior personnel from general staffs and defence ministries. These two-to-three-day visits are designed so that senior officers can ensure that the JSOC receives the most appropriate students and learn what additional capabilities these individuals will have when they return home.
The JSOC, which has British, Dutch and Slovak staff, will have a British Commandant and a Dutch Deputy Commandant. It has taken over and refurbished one floor of a teaching block with an auditorium that seats 80 and five floors of an accommodation block from the Slovak military academy. Slovakia is also making a considerable contribution to the project in the form of locally employed staff, transport, mapping, infrastructure and access to a Combined Arms Staff Trainer (a tactical simulator).
The annual cost of the JSOC is £1.7 million (2.6 million Euros), of which the Netherlands is contributing 25 per cent and the United Kingdom 75 per cent. The overall figure includes personnel costs from the United Kingdom, but not from the Netherlands, which are estimated to be an additional 420,000 Euros in 2003. Funding comes from the foreign and defence ministries of both countries. In addition, Slovakia has contributed £200,000 (318,000 Euros) to the start-up costs.