European Defence Colleges Train Military Operations
European Defence Colleges Train Military Operations
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‘Armed groups have unleashed a civil war; the government and its army are overstretched. Many people have been killed or injured, there have been numerous attacks on minorities, and hundreds of thousands are fleeing their homes.’ This was the scenario of the multinational exercise CJEX 2022 – fictitious, but not entirely unfamiliar.
Seven nations, four defence colleges and more than 400 participants – this was the setting for this year's Combined Joint European Exercise, or CJEX for short. During the exercise, future military leaders trained the planning of a military peace mission under the umbrella of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.
Multinational Exercise at Four Defence Colleges
With four European defence colleges simultaneously hosting participants from different European countries, students of the German National General/Admiral Staff Officer Course welcomed soldiers from Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland, Hungary and Romania to the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College in Hamburg. At all locations, participants were presented with the same scenario of a fragile state. The objective of the exercise was to contribute to re-establishing stability in the region by military means. The planning of such an operation involves a wide variety of aspects: one must determine and assess the situation on the ground, consider geographical factors and analyse the threat situation in order to be prepared for one’s own mission. In addition, one needs to take into account opportunities as well as challenges regarding cyberspace, leadership techniques, information technology, civil-military cooperation and logistics.
European Cooperation – More Important Than Ever
Against the background of the Ukraine conflict, multinational cooperation at the European level has gained in importance. Since the Common Security and Defence Policy comprises the use of armed force, there is also a need for effective military cooperation. Therefore, one of the objectives of the exercise was to train the joint preparation of a mission at the operational level. In his welcome address to the future military leaders, Major General Oliver Kohl, Commandant of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College, emphasised the absolute necessity for joint trainings: ‘[...] you and your generation will be in lead to safeguard the values and freedom of our democratic societies. [For this very reason we need] to prepare together for countering any threat against our security and tackling the complex defence issues today and especially in the future.’
Scenario and Multinational Approach
Set in the fictitious state of Alambara in 2022, the exercise scenario presents a country characterised by years of ethnic conflicts over money, power and natural resources. On the advice of the UNUnited Nations Security Council, the European Union and the United Kingdom have decided on a joint stabilisation mission to end hostilities and establish a ceasefire. However, the successful implementation of such a mission requires intensive planning. ‘We must understand the chosen scenario as a vehicle to achieve the exercise objectives,’ said Colonel of the Austrian General Staff Guido Kraus, Liaison and Exchange Officer at the Command and Staff College in Hamburg and local head of CJEX 2022. ‘The key question is how we can achieve the objective – the sensible and comprehensible employment of armed forces in the respective environment.’ To this end, the soldiers used a NATO planning process to speak a common language in terms of methodology.
Cyberspace Has Gained in Importance
In the past two years, CJEX could not take place due to the COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic. The Colleges used the time they were unable to train together to expand the existing exercise scenario to meet current requirements, for example by including the challenge in cyberspace. Enemy hacking groups, cyber attacks and fake news as well as one’s own military capabilities open up a new field of action that must be taken into account. ‘On the one hand, of course, we have to think about protecting our own ITInformationstechnik infrastructure and, on the other hand, using cyberspace for our own activities. For where we are vulnerable, the enemy usually is, too,’ said Lieutenant Colonel Andreas Kornmaier, who supported the exercise participants on this particular subject.
‘Tangible’ Insights Thanks to Virtual Reality
In the future, digitalisation will also open up new possibilities in the planning process itself. This is something that the soldiers were able to see for themselves when they tried out the Digital Map Table presented by the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB. Using virtual reality goggles, the participants immersed themselves in the to-scale, three-dimensional environment of their area of operations. In the virtual space, they were able to move freely and thus take on completely different perspectives. The result was that they had all gained a common and, above all, very realistic impression of the terrain. ‘Of course, it makes a difference whether I am standing in front of a map and have to imagine everything or whether I can be kind of in the middle of it and see buildings, mountains, valleys or waters as they are. However, it is also particularly important that we all gain the same understanding of the terrain in which we will eventually have to fight,’ one exercise participant said after his first experience with the Digital Map Table. Another advantage of the system is that users theoretically have access to it from anywhere in the world. This means that one no longer has to bring military leaders together in one place, e.g. in a command post. It is virtuality that brings them all together.
CJEX 2022 as a Symbol of European Consciousness
The cooperation of the five Colleges from Great Britain, France, Spain, Italy and Germany has been ongoing for about 20 years. This year, Poland, Hungary and Romania have also joined the team – which shows that CJEX is a lively and open community. The head of the British delegation, Wing Commander Jeff Moulton, underlined this European connection: ‘Even though Great Britain is no longer a member of the European Union, we are and will remain Europeans, and as such we stand up for our common values as well as for European security.’
The Command and Staff College in Hamburg as a Meeting Place
The exercise focussed not only on planning skills, but also on interaction and cooperation. ‘It is equally important to familiarise yourself with the views, perspectives and approaches of other nations. Many will soon take on assignments in multinational staffs. They have gained important intercultural and social experience here that will be of use to them in those assignments. We should not underestimate this aspect,’ Colonel Kraus pointed out. In addition to taking part in the exercise, the participants also attended a leisure programme in order to explore the city of Hamburg together. A harbour cruise and city tour were a welcome change for the soldiers from all over Europe.