COPC – Tools for the Toolkit

At SWEDINT, the Comprehensive Operations Planning Course (COPC) is just finishing. The COPC has been developed and conducted in close cooperation with the NATO School Oberammergau since 2009, and the main aim of the course is to prepare operational planners for the complex crises of today, before their deployment to an ongoing or future crisis response operation, either in a NATO or in an EU context. Thirty-six officers have been instructed, taught, trained and served by no less than twenty-three instructors and administrators, all in all representing eighteen nationalities.

The exchange between officers from different countries, NATO and non-NATO, is a major benefit at SWEDINT. Photo: Jan Gustafsson - SWEDINT/NCGM
Perseus, Auriga, Vulpecula – normally star constellations. Here, nations at war. Photo: Jan Gustafsson - SWEDINT/NCGM
LtGen (ret) Ralph J. Jodice II with Course Directors LtCol René Orellana and Maj Arne Boman. Photo: Jan Gustafsson - SWEDINT/NCGM

LtGen (ret) Ralph J. Jodice II from the United States Air Force has been a senior mentor at the COPC, and he appreciates how the infrastructure, facilities and environment at SWEDINT gives the students a chance to focus on the courses.
“I think it is extremely important that the students here are not in their place of work, where there is a temptation for them to go back and do their day to day work. We have a firm requirement on this course that the students can’t miss anything, they have to be there for all the seminar work and all the lectures. This isn’t easy. This is hard work. So we need them to focus.”

One of the officers doing just that is Maj Ronald Verkuijl from the Dutch Army, a planner for the MINUSMA mission in Mali.
“The course is quite complex, there is a lot of theory that you need to comprehend, and for someone who doesn’t have English as a first language it can be a challenge”, says Maj Verkuijl.
“But once you leave the theory and start working with exercises it is easier to connect them with your personal experience. I actually think one of the most important gains from a course like this is the increased confidence you get in your ability to use English language correctly, terms and acronyms et cetera. This will be very important in a situation when the stress is high.”

Major Michael S. from the German Army, working at the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in the Netherlands, agrees that doing the course in English can be a hurdle, but that it also has its benefits.
“It’s like an added education, a positive side-effect, trying to transport your ideas into a different language. And the more you practice, the better you get.”

Maj Michael S. believes that the exchange between officers from different countries, NATO and non-NATO, is a major benefit.
“The participants themselves bring a lot of value to the course. I could have gone to Oberammergau as well, but I wanted to come here to SWEDINT for this environment and mixed community of officers.”
Maj Verkuijl agrees. “All participants bring experience from the contexts and missions where they have been active, which is not necessarily the same for all nations, and that exchange is very valuable.”

The course curriculum for the COPC is built from multiple short lectures, followed by practical exercises in sub-syndicates and back-briefs in syndicates. Both weeks culminate in formal briefs to a senior mentor who performs the role of a joint commander. For this COPC, this is a role upheld by LtGen Jodice, and he is clear about the benefit of the course.
“What we usually hear at the end of a course is: I am smarter now than I was when I entered two weeks ago. I learned a lot about the planning process and it gave me more tools to put in my toolkit. The idea at the end of this course is not for them to be the ultimate planner; this is to try to give them the generic overarching foundation. The second thing is the interaction and the relationships that they build across this multinational spectrum. They will know people now that they will feel comfortable with, with picking up the phone or send an email or text message to, and saying “I need your help in this area”, or “What do you think about this?” To get things done you have to have relationships and a course like this helps build those relationships.”