GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany - Connecting people by promoting exchanges and friendships so they can work together to address global security challenges and uphold peace is at the heart of the Program on Applied Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.New to the team are 98 junior to mid-level security professionals from 42 countries, some of which have long-standing tensions with each other, who graduated from the Marshall Center's largest and lengthiest resident program Nov. 15. The Marshall Center is a 25-year German-American international security and defense studies institute based here.VALUABLE CONTRIBUTION TO CAPACITY BUILDINGDuring this class, Albanian President Ilir Meta spoke to the participants about security and Euro-Atlantic integration in the Balkans from the Albanian perspective Oct. 25."More than 800 military and civilian personnel [from Albania] have been trained in the unique programs of the Marshall Center - a valuable contribution to capacity building of our armed forces and diplomatic corps," Meta said during his presentation here. "Thanks to the faculty's amazing experience, knowledge and dedication, the Marshall Center offers an exceptional environment and network of talented professionals."NEW AMBASSADORS TO UPHOLD PEACEFor the past 10 weeks, these graduates experienced more than 300 hours of academic engagement."The challenges of today can be described as 'multiple dilemmas' where many of them are related to each other," German Army Col. Carsten Treder, Marshall Center's PASS program director. "Our course covers the broad spectrum of worldwide security challenges."And, the beauty of this course is that we have the opportunity to introduce young security professionals in the first years of their careers to everything that is somehow related to security policies that follows guidance from the German and American governments," Treder said.
Another way to look this program is how the U.S European Command sees it."We see that we now have 98 ambassadors from 42 different nations who are going forth and working the security challenges that we face today," said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Fred Pyle, deputy director of plans, policy and strategy at U.S. European Command.Pyle was the graduation speaker, who talked about the European strategic environment."I remind you that the world's problems are too big to take on alone and connections matter so please maintain them," he told the graduates. "Your comrades-in-arms from many nations are sitting to the left and right of you, and I encourage you to keep in touch with this newfound network that you have developed here when you go back home and continue the very tough work of making and upholding peace."DIVERSITY OF PARTICIPANTS, VIEWPOINTSStrangers when they came here 10 weeks ago, these graduates spoke an assortment of languages and practiced varying religions."One of the key strengths of this course is the diversity of the participants and viewpoints," said Aiko Holvikivi, researcher at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security in London, who gave a presentation on gender mainstreaming Oct. 22. "I feel as if I learn just as much as the participants every time I lecture here."They were also separated by other differences, such as age and gender.
Treder said that this class was comprised of more than 35 percent of females, which is one of the Marshall Center's lines of effort from guidance received from the German Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense. In fact, this class saw the first females from Burkina Faso attend a course at the Marshall Center."I think we have opened the gates for other females from our country to take courses at the Marshall Center," said Army Maj. Pascaline Wend-Lassida Judith Zoungrana, a military judge in the Ministry of Justice in Burkina Faso, and who is the highest ranking female in the Burkina Faso Army. "Now, we have the opportunity to come here, and I think this is a good thing for my country to send us here because female personnel are very important for security."These graduates also have different professional backgrounds. They work in ministries of foreign affairs, defense, intelligence, interior and internal affairs. They are police officers, researchers, counterterrorism analysts, professors, military commanders, desk officers, and parliamentary advisors and specialists."Topics that were introduced to us in the course has shifted my thinking from the tactical and operational levels to a strategic level," said Jordanian Army Col. A'abid Qasem Mohammad Al A'abid, instructor at the Command and Staff College of the Ministry of Defense in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.STRANGERS TO 'FAMILY'They studied 40 security topics from security experts in interactive lectures, ranging from an introduction to the three major paradigms of the discipline of international relations - realism, liberalism and constructivism - to understanding the tools of mitigation, and when and how they can best be applied. They investigated security topics such as climate change and diplomacy, choosing four from 37 elective topics."Being in this program, I am more aware of the international and regional security challenges, and I think this will help me in my daily duties and future missions," said Romanian Air Force 1st Lt. Dragos-Andrei Secareanu, section chief at the Ministry of Defense.They spent 80 hours in seminar groups of 12, where they formed "a family" while they are here, said Treder."They spend such a long period of time together. They eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, and they live and study together. They listen to different points of view, challenging their own assumptions, and engage in international problem solving every day," Treder said. "And, all of a sudden, they understand - 'he is a nice guy although he is from my most hated neighboring country' - this is really part of the story of this program and this is what some people refer to as the 'magic' of the Marshall Center."UNDERSTANDING TODAY'S STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENTSIncluded in these 300 hours of academics, participants discussed with faculty, subject matter experts and each other in seminar groups about the world's most challenging contemporary issues: terrorism; cybersecurity; migration; gender mainstreaming; and, transnational organized crime. They had formal debates that continued in informal discussions on these topics throughout the program."This course helps you to understand today's strategic environment, which is really useful from my perspective because you have to be ready for any demanding tasks like how to execute negotiations effectively," said Polish Army Lt. Col. Hubert Mariusz Kaczanowski, senior specialist of the Ministry of National Defense.GERMANY'S REBIRTH, TRANSFORMATIONThe 300 hours of academic engagement also included field study trips to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site to understand Germany's past and to Berlin to see the country's rebirth and transformation into one of the most important security actors in Europe. While in Berlin, they visited government agencies and heard from leaders in the Ministry of Defense and German Parliament on Germany's current national security policies.DIPLOMATS ATTENDING THE GRADUATION CEREMONYAttending the graduation ceremony were diplomatic representatives of the Republic of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Croatia, Republic of Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Poland, Romania, Republic of Serbia, Ukraine and the United States.This class had three from Albania, one from Bosnia and Herzegovina, three from Bulgaria, two from Croatia, four from Kosovo, two from Macedonia, one from the Philippines, two from Poland, four from Romania, three from Serbia, four from Ukraine and six from the United States.Also in attendance were the Friends of the Marshall Center leadership and members. A local organization here, the Friends of the Marshall Center help PASS participants learn about the Bavarian customs and cultures, and the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. They sponsored a reception with the Lord Mayor of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and many other friendship-bonding events, and provided tickets for transportation and entrance to cultural sites in the local area.These events as well as the volleyball tournament and Culture Night, where participants cooked native foods and presented their cultures, strengthen friendships and understanding among one another.MARSHALL CENTER'S 13,000 ALUMNI NETWORKThese participants have now joined more than 13,000 other alumni counterparts across the globe. They are able to connect with one another via an internet-based system called GlobalNet, and through various alumni-focused events carried out throughout the region. Should they need information or assistance, they are likely to find alumni from that country or serving in the needed specialty and organization."The fact that I've been a member of amazing network of 98 people from 42 countries, five continents, where I have met some lifetime friends," said Senior Police Inspector Alexsander Radenkovic, at the Traffic Police Administration of the Ministry of Interior in Serbia. "These friendships and acquaintances will surely be something that I will cherish until the end of my life and my career."