The mind as the most important weapon system
The mind as the most important weapon system
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On 25 August, the Commandant, Bundeswehr Command and Staff College (BwCSC), Major General Oliver Kohl, transferred command of the Training and Education Directorate from Brigadier General Holger Neumann to Flotilla Admiral Christian Bock.
“A character, an achiever, who credibly conveys what our profession is all about”,
Major General Kohl praised his outgoing deputy during a small ceremony at the Manfred Wörner Centre. He added that Brigadier General Neumann was a special mixture of a fine person and a proper soldier. At the same time, the Commandant wished the successor, Flotilla Admiral Bock, all the best in his new post, adding that his assignment record contained everything it takes to fulfil his new task. Brigadier General Neumann recapped the past three years as Director Training and Education in a humorous farewell speech. He emphasised the importance of personality development, system concept and methodological competence in the training and further education of staff officers.
In the interview, the Air Force officer summed up his work at Germany’s highest military training facility.
Interview with Brigadier General Holger Neumann
Brigadier General Neumann, you have been Director Training and Education at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College for three years. What was your best moment?
Over the past three years, there have been many wonderful moments at the College. I am thinking of a number of visits by high-ranking personalities, including discussions in small circles. Then, there were the ceremonial closing events of our courses, which always made me feel melancholic, but also a little proud. However, for me, there have also been many supposedly smaller occasions that I will remember very fondly. For example, the open exchange of ideas and the conversations with the course participants, or the extremely constructive and solution-oriented cooperation with other Divisions of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College, especially in difficult times.
What made up the greatest workload for you? What were the biggest challenges?
Apart from the further development of our Bundeswehr Command and Staff College in terms of content and structure, the biggest challenge was definitely the resumption of teaching under the constraints of containing the COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic. Here we were able to build on some ideas about modern learning that already existed. However, there was an immense need to catch up, especially in the area of digitalisation. We can all be very proud of what we have achieved, such as the establishment of a digital learning management system and the possibility of distance teaching and distance learning, as well as the high level of discipline that was demonstrated.
Where do you see the biggest changes during your time at the Command and Staff College?
In addition to the great progress made in the area of digital teaching, we have jointly set a clear course for the further development of the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College and the role it should play in the overall system of training in the Bundeswehr – the keyword being “lifelong learning”. As far as the Training and Education Directorate is concerned, I am very proud of what we have established and achieved in the area of personality and command personnel development: On the one hand, the structural representation of what I consider to be fundamental elements of staff officer training and further training. On the other hand, shaping the content through targeted individual personality development and counselling, leadership seminars, exchange of experience with civilian agencies and mentoring programmes.
What were the biggest differences between your time as a course participant at the Command and Staff College and as Director Training and Education?
I now have a better picture of the staff building (laughter). On the one hand, it is nice to see that there have been some positive changes in the past 20 years: the infrastructure, the adaptation of the contents and methods of teaching, the replacement of course papers by project papers, the Master’s Course “Militärische Führung und Internationale Sicherheit” (Military Leadership and International Security), the “German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies” (GIDS). On the other hand, however, there are also important constants: “MENS AGITAT MOLEM” – “Mind moves Matter” continues to be the motto of our academy. It is the guiding principle of our actions and symbolises the fact that we train the most important “weapon system” here: Our mind. Our distinguishing characteristic at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College is the ability to supplement the already existing toolbox of future Bundeswehr command personnel and, in addition, to give them the tools they need to develop their own new tools for tomorrow’s tasks and challenges that we – so far - do not know today.
What lessons have you learned yourself?
It has once again become very clear to me how crucial changes of perspective are in addition to a common “character set”. Not only in the interpersonal sphere, but especially in the international context and in a cross-divisional or interministerial approach. In addition, I also had the privilege, within the framework of my supervision duties, to participate in specific training course segments that were of particular interest to me. Exercises at tactical and operational level, faculty seminars, for example on hypersonics, space, wargaming or multi-domain operations, the information days of the International General/Admiral Staff Officer Course and very interesting GIDS events. But I also took with me many ideas and suggestions from our course participants.
Where do you still see potential for development at the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College? What advice would you like to share with your successor?
The long-term orientation, the track, if you like, is right. Of that I am deeply convinced. From my point of view, it will be important in the coming months and years to consistently pursue the long-term goals and to make adjustments if necessary. But we should also increase our focus on the near future. The question is: what can we change today to make things better already tomorrow? Looking at the status quo, I see two main areas where we can improve: First of all, in the interconnection of individual training blocks. This also includes seeing the bigger picture, i.e. improving the understanding between land, air, sea and cyber.
This cross-dimensional training is another unique feature of our academy. I believe it is worthwhile to make both qualitative and quantitative adjustments here – the keyword in this context is the “refocusing on national and collective defence”. Moreover, I am convinced that - in addition to infrastructure and information technology - the campus concept that we have developed for the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College of the future requires one thing in particular: Time. In this regard, I believe that the scaling down of curricula is a decisive factor – the keyword “refocusing” also applies here, but this time to the character of an academy.
What will you miss the most?
Besides the beautiful city of Hamburg, to which I also have a personal connection since my wife and I met here, I will miss the interaction with the young command personnel. The future belongs to them. In the coming years, they will help to shape and determine the fate of our Bundeswehr. I am very confident about that! Being Director Training and Education and thus responsible for all course participants was a very fulfilling task for me. The former American General and later Secretary of State Colin Powell once said “What could be more important than equipping the next generation with the character and competence they need to become successfulf?” And that is true.