Interview of the First Deputy Defense Minister of Armenia to Mediamax
-Mr. Tonoyan, military education is one of the main areas of defense reforms. What is the main ideology and reforms in this area?
- Indeed, as part of the defense reforms, the issue of military education is one of the priorities for the Armenian government. The Armenian Armed forces can't stay aside from international trends of military education development. The measures taken in this are aimed at bringing our military-educational sphere in line with modern standards and integrate it into international educational system.
The quality standards of the 21st century Armenian officer is expressed in the main provisions of military-educational concept, which are gaining and development of intellectual, educational, professional, strategic self-preparedness, moral training indexes. Thus, to replenish the Armenian Armed Forces with sensible and skillful officer staff we should work out and introduce conceptual approaches to education, training and advanced training for the officer staff. As a result we are expecting to have officers corresponding to international standards with theoretical and practical knowledge and skills enabling to conduct both a modern all-arms battle and peacekeeping operations. In this context, we pay much attention to development of officers' skills on making and carrying out conscious and independent decisions.
We consider the foremost experience in defense reforms in the armed forces of a number of countries useful to establish the career development path of the officers who perfectly hold the military profession.
Back in 2005, Armenia officially joined the Bologna Process having aimed at joining the European Space for Higher Education in the end. It supposes implementation of radical changes in the systems of secondary, higher and lifelong learning to which the military-educational system of the Armenian Armed Forces reacts.
- The introduction of professional sergeant staff has been much spoken about recently. In which phase is the process now and when are you going to finish it?
- Contract sergeant service formation is one of the key issues of shifting to contract military service. Strengthening of the fighting capacity of the Armed Forces and discipline in the army through uniting the officers' knowledge with the sergeants' experience and skills are two main goals we aim at.
To this end, according to the program of defense reforms, the process of training contract sergeants launched back in February 2008.
Training courses for contract sergeants are conducted in two phases within a year - January-May and July-November. During the courses the Deputy Rifle Platoon Commanders and Rifle Section Leaders are trained.
A number of changes concerning contract sergeants have been made in the legislation. In particular, according to the amendment introduced in Law "On Performing Military Service" contract sergeants were separated from “Private Staff” becoming a “Warrant Officer Staff”.
Works on development of new educational programs and amendment of the current ones for the higher level of contract sergeant staff (Company Sergeant, Staff Sergeant and Battalion Sergeant) are currently underway.
Introduction of the contract sergeant system is a long-term and ongoing process. It took decades for even such countries as Great Britain (which has a 300-year history of sergeant staff) and U.S. (50 years of history of contract sergeant staff) to achieve what they have now. So, I think it's still early to speak about the exact date of completion of the process.
- In late 2011, an international expert group formed under NATO aegis visited Yerevan to support military-educational reforms in Armenia. As a result of the visit, it was stated that the program of command and staff courses for senior officers that will later become the Command and Staff Academy of the Ministry of Defense should be finally elaborated. Besides, the plans on establishing a National Defense University were also spoken about. Which phase of the process we are in now and when are you going to set up other educational structures?
- We plan to organize the first command and staff course in 2013 which will become a prototype for establishing the command and staff military-educational institution scheduled for 2015. Under the decree of the Minister of Defense of Armenia, a task force has been formed which coordinates works of organizing the command and staff course.
The task force worked out the draft of state educational criterion for the qualification of "Master of Military Management" of higher military education which will be submitted for approval of the Ministers of Defense and Education and Science. Two educational programs for command and staff course based on the experience of various countries as well as proposals of relevant subdivisions of the Ministry of Defense and General Staff are being elaborated now.
As for the National Defense University, it will help us provide political education in the defense and security spheres on the strategic level, re-training and advanced training of senior officer and command staff of the Armed Forces as well as senior officers of other ministries involved in handling defense and security issues. It will be implemented in form of the 2nd university degree, postgraduate and additional education. It's a long-term goal which supposes formation of a serious scientific potential. I believe necessary conditions for establishing the National Defense University will be created within next 3 years.
- Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanyan said not so long ago that the military education will be one of the priority areas in Armenian-American military cooperation.
-Development of military cooperation with various countries is going on. Core and some associated areas underlie the cooperation with each state. It's military education that's one of the priority areas in case of Armenian-American cooperation.
A large group of Armenian officers takes re-training and earns education in various military and educational institutions of the U.S on a yearly basis. Besides, a number of specialists from various subdivisions of the U.S. Armed Forces provide professional and methodological support within the reforms in military-educational sphere in Armenia.
As for the special role of the military education in the cooperation with the U.S. it's conditioned both by U.S. leading role in the sphere and readiness to provide assistance and relevant resources to partner states including Armenia.
- In which countries do Armenian officers take re-trainings? Russian military universities have long been considered our main "forge" for our officer staff. What is the situation like today?
- Since 1994 up to now, military-educational institutions of the Armenian Defense Ministry have been the main "forge" for the officer staff of the Armenian Armed Forces.
Within annual bilateral military cooperation programs, the representatives of the Armenian Armed Forces get education and take professional re-training in military-educational institutions of Russia, U.S., Germany, China, France, Italy, Lithuania, Greece, Poland and a number of other countries.
We are going to realize staff training in Kazakhstan as well in 2013.
After the declaration of independence and up to now, we have received invaluable support from Russia in providing military educaiton for the Armenian officers. The representatives of the Armenian Armed Forces get higher military and professional education in various military and educational institutions operating within the territory of our ally. I should note that the military-educational system of the Russian Armed Forces is also being reformed now.
The final aim of our reforms is to make Armenia a much more self-sufficient country in the military education sphere.
- Can Armenia shift gradually to professional army after the completion of the reforms or it's impossible due to the unsettled conflict?
Relevant geopolitical conditions are needed to shift to professional army. In case of reaching such conditions, is it possible to shift to professional army? You fairly noted that we have an unsettled conflict and in these conditions not a single state except for several super-powers can afford full shift to the system of contract military service.
Consequently, we will continue reforming our Armed Forces on the mixed principle - mandatory and contract - gradually increasing the volumes of the latter. Besides, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will no way impede or slow down the rates and volumes of defense reforms, just vice versa. Enhancement of fighting capacity of our Armed Forces was and still is our main goal and the military and educational reforms are one of the most important components of success of the process.
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