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Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes, the U.S. ambassador to Croatia, talks about the importance of listening to each other and finding common ground based on shared priorities during a ceremony for 106 participants from 51 countries graduating from the Program on Applied Security Studies Nov. 16 at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Karl-Heinz Wedhorn)

By Christine June
GCMC Public Affairs

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Nov. 17, 2016) – Armed with the knowledge of the “big picture” of the world’s security challenges and whole-of-government approaches, 106 security professionals from 51 countries graduated from the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies’ Program on Applied Security Studies Nov. 16.

“Be an agent of change,” said U.S. Army (Ret.) Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, the Marshall Center director, during his remarks at the graduation ceremony. “Take what you have learned here and see how it can be applied to your countries.”

For the past eight weeks, these participants experienced more than 200 hours of academic engagement. They studied 33 security topics from security experts in interactive lectures starting with security challenges and ending with strategies and approaches.  They also investigated security topics such as contemporary war and diplomacy, choosing three from 25 elective topics.

“The world has changed while you were here.” Dayton listed these changes: “Syria is worse. The situation in Kashmir has deteriorated. Iraqi forces are fighting in Mosul. A peace agreement was reached between the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and Colombian government, only to be rejected in referendum. Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine and has reinforced Kaliningrad with new missiles. Migrants continue to flow. And, the U.S. elected a new president.”

Included in these 200 hours of academics, participants discussed with faculty, subject matter experts and each other in seminar groups about the world’s most challenging contemporary issues: terrorism; cyber security; migration; gender mainstreaming; and, transnational organized crime. They had formal debate – that continued in informal discussions – on the value and wisdom of referenda as a means of making key national security decisions.

“There are representatives from more than 50 countries in this graduating class,” said Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes, the U.S. ambassador to Croatia, who was the graduation speaker. “Living and studying together must have been a crash course in listening to different points of view, challenging your own assumptions and engaging in international problem solving.”

Throughout her speech, she talked about the importance of listening to each other and finding common ground based on shared priorities.

This ability to listen to each other and find common ground were tested as the participants inhabited the worlds of the fictional countries of Marislova and Denabia during a four-day, crisis management capstone exercise.

The 200 hours of academic engagement also included field study trips to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site to understand Germany's past and to Berlin to see the country's rebirth and transformation into one of the most important security actors in Europe. While in Berlin, they visited government agencies and heard from leaders in the Ministry of Defense and German Parliament on Germany's current national security policies.

“I will always remember the key ideas underpinning Germany’s national security policy: ‘No war again, and never do business alone,’” said Col. Mahamadou Seidou Magagi, an Army engineer officer serving as aide de camp for the Niger Office of the Presidency. “I would say that George C. Marshall European Center is one of the best institutions worldwide for whoever wants to improve his knowledge and practice in security.

“With the completion of PASS, I think I am more knowledgeable on security matters, and this will be beneficial in my present position and future positions either as a military advisor or in high command positions,” Magagi said.

This course aims to develop junior and middle-level civilian government officials, military and security force service members and government academics, who aspire to higher leadership positions. It also encourages them to build a network of trustworthy international partnerships.

“I believe this course will help me to better my network both inside and outside of my country,” said Capt. Alice Sesay, adjutant with the Forces Intelligence and Security Unit at the Ministry of Defense in Sierra Leone. “I am taking it as a challenge on how I can better myself for higher positions in the future.”

Helmed by the U.S. Department of Defense and the German Ministry of Defense since 2005, PASS is the Marshall Center’s largest resident course.  In this class, participants’ professional backgrounds included working in ministries of foreign affairs, defense, intelligence and internal affairs, and even, one from her country’s space agency. They were military and police officers, researchers, attachés, instructors, specialists and parliamentary advisors.

Attending the graduation ceremony were diplomatic representatives of the United States, Serbia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Honorary Consuls Generals for Nepal and Mali. PASS 16-15 had 12 participants from the U.S., three from Serbia, five from Montenegro, five from Ukraine, two from Afghanistan, one from Nepal, and one from Mali.

Also in attendance were the Friends of the Marshall Center leadership and members. A local club here, the Friends of the Marshall Center help PASS participants learn about the Bavarian customs and cultures, and the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. They sponsored a reception with the Lord Mayor of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and many other friendship-bonding events, and provided tickets for transportation and entrance to cultural sites in the local area.

These events as well as the volleyball tournament and PASS Culture Night, where participants cooked native foods and presented their cultures to more than 300 people, strengthen friendships and understanding among one another.

These participants have now joined almost 12,000 other alumni counterparts across the globe. They are able to connect with one another via an internet-based system called GlobalNet, and through various alumni-focused events carried out throughout the region. Should they need information or assistance, they are likely to find alumni from that country or serving in the needed specialty and organization.

“The Marshall Center is a hallmark in the world of security and international relations, and I am now part of a network, which I built here,” said Polish Navy Cmdr. Roslaw Jezewski, senior specialist at the Operational Command of the Ministry of Defense in Poland. “We face the same challenges with different outlooks and perceptive. We built a good team here, and I will see them again.”