By: Christiane Rodenbücher; photographer: Ulrike Schröder
"Striving, persistence, inventiveness": These are the words used by the official speakers to describe the committed efforts of the Command and Staff College and the Helmut-Schmidt-University in the past years with regard to establishing a joint course of study. The first thirty graduates have already received their degree. The awarding of the certificates of the course of study "Military Leadership and International Security", in short MLIS, is the sign of a fruitful cooperation between the two institutions in Hamburg. It is the first formalized and clearly visible cooperation in which the two institutions are working together to complement each other.
High quality standards
The first ideas about implementing this course of study were put forward in 2011. Today, these broad ideas and plans have become reality. "The MLIS enhances the status of the General/Admiral Staff Officer Course at the academy. Passing the GASOC delivers almost half of all credit points needed to be awarded the degree. This is an honor for our academy and also underlines once more the high quality of the training from an academic point of view", said Rear Admiral Carsten Stawitzki, Commandant of the Command and Staff College during a ceremony at the Hamburg Helmut-Schmidt-University (HSU).
Having the courage to criticize
Lieutenant General Peter Bohrer, Vice Chief of Staff, Joint Support Service, spoke of initial concerns and resistance that were soon addressed and resolved. "With this kind of cooperation the Command and Staff College can now position itself more strongly in terms of interacting with other training institutions. Additionally, the students will be qualified much better in preparation for future assignments", he said. Furthermore, Lieutenant General Bohrer spoke about "...having the courage to raise critical objections, which is something I do like very much about the young officers." Vice Admiral Joachim Rühle also addressed the new achievements in his speech. "Both institutions, the Command and Staff College and the Helmut-Schmidt-University have provided essential elements enriching the academy's and university's portfolio with an internationally competitive master’s degree. This is a prime example of education and qualification in the Bundeswehr", explained the Director of Personnel at the Federal Ministry of Defense.
Heading into the future jointly
Lieutenant Colonel Konrad Panzer, project officer and guiding spirit of the new course of study, explained: "The MLIS follows up the academy's NGASOC, adding to the professional and academic knowledge it imparts by bringing in the university's scientific elements. The MLIS can be taken at the same time as the NGASOC. Qualifications already acquired during the NGASOC can, in part, be recognized as academic credit points." Until now, all NGASOC students were not able to receive a recognized academic qualification after the two-year training at the Command and Staff College. This possibility has existed at other comparable institutions for a long time. "Only with such a qualification is it normally possible to be assigned to functions at the highest level in the international environment", Panzer said. The degree "Master of Arts" makes a real difference for the NGASOC students because it is an internationally recognized academic qualification.
1500 hard working hours
The course of study "Military Leadership and International Security" is divided into six modules including ones on leadership reflection, security and planning processes. There are credit points for each module which are internationally recognized. 60 credit points in total are needed for graduating with a degree in MLIS. This, in turn, corresponds to a total number of 1500 working hours. Completing the NGASOC makes up half of the required credit points, and, this interlocking of the two courses is what makes it even more attractive for the students.
No ordinary students
The majority of the MLIS students already hold an academic degree, which was acquired during regular officer training. But that was several years ago. In the meantime, as staff officers, these servicemen and women have proven themselves in assignments in Germany and abroad. The best of them participate in the NGASOC, which is the armed forces’ most exclusive course at the highest level. For this reason, it is not surprising that most of the officers’ MLIS results are outstanding. This year, six students graduated from the course (which, for most of them, was their second master’s course) with the highest possible rating of a straight "sehr gut" (very good). This means that each of these students’ performances within the two years has been completely flawless.
"Smarter than ever before?"
"And here, poor fool, I stand once more, no wiser than I was before.", as said in Goethe's most famous work "Faust" and mentioned by Admiral Stawitzki in his speech to lecturers and students. To be sure, the MLIS course is not just about studying for studying’s sake. In a few weeks, the graduates, once again, will be back in command, responsible for numerous people and a lot of material. The academic work they have done on military topics should help them to perform successfully in practice and to make decisions when facing complex challenges.
Additional burden for the officers
Due to the fact that the officers are not full-time students, some of the master theses from the first MLIS year that were submitted later than others still need to be corrected. The academy's MLIS students are taking one of the most intellectually challenging courses of the Bundeswehr while additionally spending the weekends participating at the university's seminars. According to some the participants of the seminar, this additional burden is particularly tough for the commuters. The reason for this is that only a few NGASOC officers are living with their families in Hamburg and its surroundings. Time is very often the determining factor.
Convinced about the concept
Despite all the exertions , the students are absolutely convinced of the merits of the course. Major Rayk Hähnlein already acquired a diploma in international security at the Helmut Schmidt University ten years ago. Asked if he is smarter than before after graduating with an MLIS master's degree, his answer is as follows: "Definitely"! It was very helpful and interesting to supplement the NGASOC's seminar contents with the latest scientific insights. I completed my studies ten years ago. So, the MLIS course of study definitely helped me to bring myself up to date on the current status of research." Apart from the existing advantages for all parties there might also be another remarkable outcome: the MLIS as a corporate project of both institutions that could be the beginning of an "education cluster" revolving around the Bundeswehr, both in national and international terms, in Hamburg.