19 September 2010

Inside the UK's Defence College

A nice little article from the Telegraph sums up how the joint college in Shrivenham operates.

A key part of the course structure is the syndicate, where groups of 10 students and a member of the directing staff (DS) wrestle with intellectual issues in an atmosphere free from the admonishment of senior officers. Close bonds are formed by men who will later go on to advise senior officers or ministers.
The college is also unique in that it receives students brimming with practical battlefield experience who collide with academics carrying armfuls of the latest thinking. Some students have only got off the plane from the hell of Sangin a week earlier; in all, 84 per cent of students have direct combat experience.
But Wing Commander Chris Hunter, a DS who flew special forces helicopters over Baghdad, says that while those who arrive with a "couple of rows of medals" on their chests might have been good at their previous jobs, they now they have to "get stuck in intellectually".
Naturally, the college has the biggest defence library in Britain, eight miles of bookshelves that include a collection of field manuals dating back to 1760. The students' more predictable tastes are well catered for – there are 520 copies of Carl Von Clausewitz's On War.
"We are not trying to teach them what to think but how to think," says Brigadier Shaun Burley, commander of land forces education. "We may no longer have the technical edge in the future, so our people have to have the intellectual edge, therefore places like this are very, very important."
The course examines security relationships and potential problem areas with all the major powers including Russia, China, India and Brazil. Joint exercises are held with four other staff colleges in Europe, with a final two-day visit to Normandy to examine, admire or pull apart the intense planning that went into Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion.
Officers from the three Services mix constantly and there is a deliberate policy to move away from the "stovepipe" approach which caused great inter-service rivalry before the joint college was established in 1998.
A Shrivenham education can manifest itself in surprising ways later on. Lt Col Rob Howieson, now a DS, says it helped him to pull his company of Scots Guards together following fatalities in Iraq and give his men a broader view of the mission while they were being mortared every day. In particular, he remembered a poignant lecture given by a Korean War veteran.

By: Brant

No comments: