International Exercise with a License to Learn

Around 1,200 participants from almost thirty nations are gathering now for this year's major international leadership training exercise, Combined Joint Staff Exercise, CJSE 16, in Enköping, Karlskrona and Uppsala. Many of the participants are students at military schools, both in Sweden and abroad, and here they are given a unique opportunity to develop their own staff work skills at different levels within a multinational environment.

– Our aim is to conduct the exercise in a learning environment where it is okay to learn from your own mistakes, explains Bengt Axelsson, Exercise Director and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Swedish Defence University (SeDU). Taking part in such a simulation, in an environment like this, is useful since the participants may soon find themselves working on a real life operation.

Continuous Development of a Unique Training Concept

The exercise is conducted through close cooperation between the Armed Forces and SeDU, as well as with other organisations such as Folke Bernadotte Academy. The main responsibility for planning lies with the Armed Forces Command and Control Regiment who, over time, have developed a unique training concept, one which has attracted international interest, not least within NATO.
– We have developed a scenario that incorporates most aspects of international crisis management, including the cooperation between a multinational military force and different civil authorities and actors, says Krister Larsson, Deputy Exercise Director and Head of Command and Control School.

In addition, mentors provide participants with feedback and support during the exercise.
– CJSE was conducted for the first time in 2006, although today it’s safe to say that nothing is the same’, adds Bengt Axelsson. As a result of continuous planning and utilizing feedback from lessons identified and learned after each exercise, everything has improved, from the interaction between civil and military actors within the scenario to the systems within the gaming method itself, which enables us to achieve the established exercise goals.

The exercise also utilizes a number of experienced leaders at different levels who contribute with their knowledge and experience, acting as ‘game drivers’ to ensure the exercise runs smoothly.
– The fact that we also practice several different levels of leadership by working at the operational, advanced and lower tactical levels is unique, explains Bengt Axelsson. Normally only one level of leadership is practiced, if you look at other parts of the world.

Complex but Realistic Scenario

The exercise will soon start in earnest on the computers of about 800 exercise participants as they are launched into a fictional NATO-led multinational military force under a UN mandate, engaged in a complex scenario where a fragile ceasefire agreement exists between three parties. The scenario includes both ethnic and religious dimensions, as well as the consequences of a political power game where the uneven distribution of natural resources has led to poverty, crime and despair. The military force's mission is to contribute to security and stability in the region.
– This exercise and the scenario are highly topical since we ourselves participate in NATO led operations under a UN mandate, says Krister Larsson.
– It is important that individuals increase their understanding of NATO's staff processes, but also that they learn to cooperate in an international environment and sharpen their language skills, particularly in English, concludes Bengt Axelsson. I am proud that Sweden can offer this kind of international exercise and cooperation. Together we’re stronger!