Conference of Commandants in Cracow


The Fortieth Conference of Commandants of Defence Academies (CoC) was held in Cracow from 29th May to 1st June 2011 and NATO, Partnership for Peace (PfP) and Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) countries took part. The representatives of more than 70 military colleges from 55 countries discussed issues of military education, including international cooperation, curricula standardisation and innovative methods of teaching. This prestigious event was held in Poland for the first time.


Polish Minister of Defence, Mr Bogdan Klich, the Chief of the Polish General Staff General Mieczyslaw Cieniuch, the Commandant of the NATO Defense College, Lieutenant General Wolf-Dieter Loeser, and the Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Lieutenant General Walter E. Gaskin were present at the opening of the conference, underlining the event’s significance.  The conference was hosted by Major General Romuald Ratajczak, Rector-Commandant of the Polish National Defence University (Akademia Obrony Narodowej).


In his welcoming speech, the Polish Minister of Defence, Mr Bogdan Klich, stressed that the educational process must adjust itself to new challenges and, what is more, it should reflect NATO’s new strategic concepts.


“Education for military personnel has to be more advanced. As a matter of fact, a commander should act as a manager who knows how to deal with subordinates and pretty large groups of people,” he stressed. Mr Klich also mentioned that a good commander is not only equipped with appropriate knowledge and skills, but also, as a leader, must be able to use them to foresee unexpected consequences.


The Chief of the Polish General Staff, General Mieczyslaw Cieniuch, said that according to statistics, a professionally prepared soldier should spend between 20 and 30 per cent of his or her professional career, that is from 7 to 10 years, “in the classroom.” The General paid attention to the fact that with terrorism, piracy and cybercrime, or even proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the military engagement is constantly growing and the character of peacekeeping missions is undergoing real changes. “These new missions need deeper knowledge of psychology, sociology, languages, history of conflicts, culture and religion, and institutions connected with the military environment, all demanding the coordination of activities addressed by the various different subjects.”


Furthermore, Mr Cieniuch stressed that the development of the latest technologies is either changing the nature of missions (planning, command, control) or the influences involved in preparing for them, as the role of distance education grows.


On behalf of the organisers, Lieutenant General Wolf-Dieter Loeser, Commandant of the NATO Defense College, introduced the main theme of the 40th Conference. Lieutenant General Loeser presented the most significant tasks which should be taken into consideration within the areas of security and defence education. He said that staff training should take place in an international environment. Such conditions would prepare military and civilian staff for their work in multinational milieux. Lieutenant General Loeser also added that one of our future challenges is the integration of  civilian and military staff education.


On the first day of the conference, there were the following keynote presentations:

  • Prof Dr J. Lindley-French (GBR) – University of Leiden. Presentation & Q&A on: “Education, Educators & Operationalizing the Comprehensive Approach”
  • Mr H.B.Weisserth, Permanent Secretary, European Security & Defence College (ESDC). Presentation & Q&A on: “The European Security and Defence College: Networking and Co-operation in the Field of Training and Education”
  • LtGen A. Graham (GBR), Cmdt UK Defence Academy. Presentation & Q&A on “Transforming NATO’s Approach to Education and Training”
  • VAdm A. Rondeau (USA),Cmdt U.S.National Defense University. Presentation & Q&A on “Smart Education for a Smart Defense"
  • Col G. Calopareanu (ROM), Deputy Cmdt “Carol I” National Defence University. Presentation & Q&A on ”Standardisation of Education Programmes Curricula”


Four “Thinking Platforms” were held during the morning of Tuesday 31st May. The discussions started with input from Brigadier General J.D. Testé (FRA), who chaired the first TP on “Delivering Higher Defense Education in a Financially Constrained Environment: Doing More with Less.” The second platform, chaired by Mr Hans-Bernhard Weisserth (EU), concerned higher defence education “Operationalising a Comprehensive Approach to Crisis Management through Higher Education: Civilian and Military Dimensions.” The aim of third Thinking Platform “Higher Education / International Co-operation UN-NATO” was to discuss international cooperation and the partnership of higher education within the Euro-Atlantic Partnership and the European Union. The Thinking Platform was chaired by Major-General Gosselin, CMM, CD, the Commander of the Canadian Defence Academy. The closing TP, on “The New Strategic Concept and the Partnership,” was chaired by Major General C. Branco (PRT).


The 40th Conference of Commandants was chaired by the Commandant of the NATO Defense College and the host and co-organiser of the event was the National Defence University in Warsaw. The 41st Conference of Commandants will take place in Paris (France).


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