“Our time at CCOE…” – US Cadets and their experiences at CCOE.

One only needed to read the news headlines around the world over the course of our three week assignment at the Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence to be reminded of the sacred need for cooperation, understanding, and harmonization. In an age of undeniable interdependence and increasing complexity, we must look to each other, across borders, for support and solidarity. From the humbling memorial formation for the victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, to the spirited and illuminating office conversations, our experience here in this comfortable and open international environment constantly reaffirmed those truths. 

As young American officer-cadets, still very much wet behind the ears and wide-eyed, there was much to learn here at the CCOE. Amidst a demanding curriculum, there had been little time in our training to learn much of NATO and the Centres of Excellence. For the young American officer-in-waiting, the opportunity to learn from and interact with senior members of other nations’ armed services is an unparalleled opportunity; it certainly is a leg up in a strategic environment that continually showcases the futility of unilateralism and the increasing importance of interoperability. Our time at the CCOE was a chance to ask questions and gain understanding of NATO, member countries, the mechanisms and decorum of international military environments, as well as NATO CIMIC doctrine. Our case study research into several of the CCOE’s main projects allowed us to see the great value in diverse nations, organizations, and interests coming together to share knowledge, harmonize ideas, and create unified and coherent doctrine and Training.

Under the direction of CPT Corbe (DEU-A), who provided us with the proper balance of autonomy and guidance, we gained knowledge and experience in the structure, function, and value of NATO as the pre-eminent defense partnership collective. Each of us was assigned a different project within the CCOE to research. We gained insight into the Centre’s many projects, collected data that will be used in further analysis, and provided constructive feedback on the efficacy of the projects. 

From CPT Corbe’s expertise, we improved our professional writing and communication skills, learned valuable skills related to organizational research and contact-making and developed case study reports that will hopefully help the Planning and Coordination Branch assess the efficacy of its long term programs. Our mentor also escorted us to the U.S. Embassy in The Hague, where we had the chance to hear the senior American perspective on international environments and diplomacy. Without end, CPT Corbe and the rest of the CIMIC COE staff were always willing and available to guide and mentor us as future officers with the NATO alliance.

The assignments and education we received at the CIMIC COE were doubtlessly valuable, yet the most benefit was gained from the holistic experience. Fostering friendships and connections across the dining hall table whilst hearing suggestions for good restaurants and sights to see, getting to know local Dutch citizens, and walking the streets of historic cities like Delft, the Hague, Leiden, and Amsterdam gave us a long-lived appreciation and admiration for Dutch hospitality and culture; the friendliness and wisdom of our allies left an impression as well.

We can hardly believe and are highly distressed that our time here at the CCOE, our time in Europe, in fact, is over. We’ll miss the pleasant weather, the peaceful bike rides, the gastronomical delights, and the stimulating conversations with the many fine men and women working within this institution. What we’ll forever keep with us, however, is the wisdom and knowledge gained from our fruitful interactions with everyone here at the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence, as well as the penetrating feeling that we are training to become part of the truly amazing team that is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Story by Cadets Gabriel Beck, Derek Swanson, and Kevin Whitham