A sailor to the core

A sailor to the core

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Sailor and gifted linguist Lieutenant Commander Sergio Horruitiner Costa from Peru managed to arrive in Hamburg with his family just in time before the COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic hit. Read in the interview below what kind of good luck charm he always carries with him and what has brought him to the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College.

The naval officer from Peru standing on board a ship; to the left the sea, behind him the Peruvian flag is flying

Lieutenant Commander Horruitiner Costa is a passionate sailor; the crew is like a second family to him


Lieutenant Commander Costa, we are having this interview in German. How come that you speak German so well?

I started to learn German in Lima back in 2018 because I believe that Germany is an important country. Also, my great-great-grandmother came from Germany. And then before I started the course, I also went to study German at the Federal Office of Languages in Hürth last year. This is a prerequisite for every student taking part in the IGASOC, the International General/Admiral Staff Officer Course. I have to admit, German isn’t that easy at all. Germans speak very quickly and, in addition, I had to memorise all the technical terms that IGASOC students need to know.

Why did you join the military in Peru and become a sailor?

My uncle served as an officer on a submarine. When I was 14 years old, I was able to visit a frigate with him. Ever since I’ve been amazed by the idea of being a sailor. As a child, I never travelled abroad. As a soldier, however, I’m able to get to know other countries and defend my country at the same time. I chose to serve in the navy because I thought it was most interesting.

Unfortunately, the last time that I was on board a ship was in 2018. I miss being at sea. Right now I’m waiting to hear about my next assignment which will hopefully be on board a ship. Since becoming an officer 15 years ago, I’ve served nine years at sea – this has had quite a formative influence on me.

The naval officer from Peru giving the camera a friendly look

Lieutenant Commander Horruitiner Costa from Peru is one of the international students at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College

Command and Staff College/Christian Gelhausen

How come that you’ve been able to attend the IGASOC, the International General/Admiral Staff Officer Course?

When I was a Lieutenant in 2017, I attended the Peruvian basic staff officer course and achieved the best results. I then got awarded the grant for the IGASOC. Most of the other nations have similar courses like the IGSOC or the NGASOC, the National General/Admiral Staff Officer Course. These Courses are very important as they enable military personnel like me to develop different skills needed to, for example, command a ship or serve as a staff officer to an admiral.

How do like being a student in the IGASOC and what’s your favourite subject?

The navy syndicate is made up of eleven international and three German soldiers. I think it’s important to meet fellow soldiers from other countries and get to know their cultures. The other students are very nice and my mentor is very helpful. He even speaks Spanish very well. I don't have a favourite subject, but I like the military planning process very much.

My wife says that my hobby is to talk a lot. At the Faculty of Management, however, we’ve learned how to improve our nonverbal communication. I think that it’s particularly important that we, as future military leaders, become aware of how to get better at it. Besides, we also study international relations, something that is not only vital to the military, but also to the civilian sector. So we kind of get the whole package at the Command and Staff College. This is why I find this Course so fascinating. My aim is to return to Germany in about ten years as a Peruvian naval attaché.

Lieutenant Commander Costa wearing his uniform and sitting on a bench outside while giving the camera a friendly look

Lieutenant Commander Sergio Horruitiner Costa and his family enjoy their stay in Hamburg – as a naval officer, he likes Hamburg’s harbour best

Command and Staff College/Christian Gelhausen

What are the similarities and differences when comparing officer training in the Bundeswehr and in Peru?

We learn similar things in Peru, but the IGASOC is special. Together, we go on many trips and excursions. Moreover, we have joint classes. At the moment, students from the army, navy and air force are completing service-specific training. Later, however, we will have joint classes. I think this approach is a plus. In Peru, you see, each service has its own school. Only officers with the rank of commander and higher will have a staff course of six months together with military personnel from the other services.

Does Peru have an institution like the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College?

Peru does not have any military universities like the Bundeswehr, but it does have a college for officers. That’s a higher education institution also offering a master’s degree. Every service also has their own officer school and non-commissioned officer school.

Have you also served in countries other than Germany?

Yes, so far I’ve been involved in several exercises abroad. In 2018, I was on Hawaii participating in the world’s largest combined training exercise: the Rim of the Pacific. For this exercise, military from France and all countries bordering on or located in the Pacific Ocean meet on Hawaii. As regards Peruvian operations abroad: Peru is a member of the United Nations. This means that we have soldiers that are deployed to UNUnited Nations missions. I would like to participate in a UNUnited Nations mission, too.

Lieutenant Commander Costa standing in front of a plan in class presenting an operational scenario

Lieutenant Commander Sergio Horruitiner Costa held a presentation in front of the German Minister of Defence, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer

Command and Staff College/Christian Gelhausen

As a sailor you’re at sea lot. Don’t you miss your family while you’re away?

I do, but when you’re serving in the navy the crew is like your second family – we always work as a team. Also, I always carry a good luck charm with me. Like most people in Peru I’m catholic and I always have a picture of Santa Rosa de Lima in my jacket. She’s the patron saint of Lima. I’ve always got her picture and the photos of my family with me.

How do you and your family like Hamburg so far?

It’s less cold in Peru, but Hamburg is still nice. As a sailor, I like Hamburg’s harbour best. My family and I like to go there for a walk. The Command and Staff College helped us with finding accommodation. My son is in day care at the barracks where the College is located. My daughter’s still very young and, thus, stays at home with my wife.

The international students are helped by sponsors while they’re at the College. Do you have a sponsor, too?

Yes, my sponsor works in the private sector and is a reserve commander. Due to the pandemic I’ve only been able to see him once. But we’re planning on meeting up again very soon, and are both looking forward to it very much.

by Josefine Neuschäffer  email

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