Polish Army Major General Andrzej Reudowicz, Commander JWC, hosted this year’s Allied Command Transformation (ACT) Senior Mentor Conference from 11 to 12 October at NATO's Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger. The conference is held annually since the mid-2000s under the direction and leadership of ACT’s Joint Force Trainer (JFT) based in Norfolk, Virginia in the United States.
The aim of the conference was to keep up-to-date on the recent developments in NATO, including policies and doctrine, and to discuss how best to meet the 2017 Senior Mentor programme. It provided a forum for exchange of views and information within the NATO Senior Mentor and exercise community, and in so doing, to stimulate discussion on the current and future Senior Mentor support to exercises and other areas of concern based on SACT’s and SACEUR’s training requirements.
In his welcoming remarks, Major General Reudowicz underlined the important role the JWC played in improving NATO’s readiness and effectiveness through TRIDENT Series of Exercises during which he serves as Officer Directing the Exercise (ODE).
“After 36 years in the military, in various assignments including combat, I understand both the expectations of the commander from his staff, but also the staff’s expectations from the commander, which can be different, leading to uncertainty at times. By communicating these expectations clearly, one can solve this problem, which results in success,” Major General Reudowicz said, adding: “Same rule applies to exercises too. Major General Reinhard Wolski, my predecessor, defined the six focus areas in training as information management, synchronization (time, space, forces, and effects), the civil/military integration, the battle-rhythm, StratCom and Targeting. One way to help the Training Audiences in these areas is good communication between the JWC Training Teams and the Senior Mentors representing the interests of the Training Audiences. We must understand each other well.”
Major General Reudowicz concluded by saying that NATO conducted operational exercises in order to provide its forces with the war fighting skills they need to fight and succeed in today’s complex, joint environment and also to help them adapt to an uncertain future with a very wide range of challenges.
“We have to provide NATO with relevant training. Keep a close eye on all the changes and improve the learning curve. SACEUR’s vision lays out the idea of developing maneuver warfare, the idea that we need to fight smart, find innovative solutions if we wish to prevail. The focus is on the operational art, much more than brute force. As JWC we are also a learning centre; it is very important that we provide Training Audiences an environment where they can learn. We must train NATO to continually learn and adapt,” he said.
The expectations from the Senior Mentor programme were high, according to Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dan Desrochers.
“The programme, initiated by ACT, benefits from the first-hand operational experience of former Flag or General Officers recommended by their respective Chiefs of Defence (CHODs) to NATO. They assist and train NATO commanders and staffs to continually adapt to new challenges in the conduct of their operations. Simply put the Senior Mentors help shape the Alliance's future military leadership. The programme has been very successful and regularly receives praises from participating commanders.”
The moderator of the conference was German Army General (Ret.) Karl-Heinz Lather, the Lead Senior Mentor for NATO, who addressed conference participants giving his assessment of the current developments and challenges. He said: “The discussions at this conference mainly centred on new expectations that came into sight since the NATO Warsaw Summit and the impact this had on the Senior Mentor programme’s support to NATO’s Education, Training, Exercises and Evaluation (ETEE) requirements in the coming years.”
He then added: “There is a need for a very responsive Senior Mentor programme regarding NATO exercises, which begins with the exercise planning process. Our aim is to support the stakeholders on the way ahead within the available budget. This is less a question of how to conduct exercises and more one of how to plan them effectively and efficiently. With the Senior Mentor support, there is a wealth of experience available to NATO which directly contributes to the effectiveness of the exercises and NATO’s overall readiness. Some of us still carry experiences and memories of NATO’s endeavors prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We are ready and eager to share those.”
On the first day of the conference, the presentations focused on JWC exercise planning process and development of training scenarios, which was followed, on the second day, by presentations and updates from HQ SHAPE, the NATO School and the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC). The conference concluded with VTCs on current issues at NATO HQs and HQ SHAPE.
Another highlight of the conference was an informal farewell for the three Senior Mentors: General Vincenzo Camporini, Lieutenant General Hans-Otto Budde and Major General Leo Van Den Born.