GCMC Flagship Course Holds Graduation Ceremony

Program on Security Studies 2023 Graduation Ceremony

GCMC Flagship Course Holds Graduation Ceremony

The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies held a graduation ceremony for the Program on Applied Security Studies participants Nov. 21, 2023. The event marked the end of the nine-week flagship course that brought together 86 participants from 47 countries across the globe.

“I find the curriculum of this program really impressive,” said retired Lt. Gen. Volker Halbauer, strategic advisor with the Defense Reform Advisory Board of Ukraine, in his keynote speech. “Studying so many different aspects of the international security environment in such a short amount of time is a great achievement.”

This year, the course examined how the new era of strategic power competition, Zeitenwende and polycrisis affect the specific transnational and regional issues as well as the broader prospects for liberal international order based on democratic values and the rule of law.

PASS was broken down into six sequential modules on fundamentals of the international security environment, global challenges and transnational threats, regional security in Europe and other parts of the world, multilateral cooperation and instruments of statecraft, and case studies of historical and institutional context for security policy in Germany and the United States. Each module built on top of the last, culminating in a Table Top Exercise.

Marshall Center professors, such as Cmdr. Rachael Gosnell, Cmdr. Jonathan Odom, Drs. Matt Rhodes, Youssouf Diallo, Ben Nickels, and Graeme Herd offered unique perspectives shaped by their research and teaching experience. Professors from other countries’ military, assigned to the Center bringing their unique perspectives, are a boon to the program as well. 

During the regional security session, Rear Adm. Piotr Niec, seconded professor to the Marshall Center from the Polish Armed Forces, spoke to the PASS participants on how the Eastern flank has been a historical hotbed for battles involving imperial migrations both from and toward the East. 

“Middle-sized countries can defend against a greater threat, but this depends on foreign provision of military equipment and key operational capabilities,” Niec said, adding that these countries must first demonstrate a strong will to defend if they want to receive foreign aid.

“If we do not have the cohesion of NATO, we cannot defend ourselves.”

Additionally, outside experts, like Prof. Dr. Shyamsunder Tekwani, Prof. Dr. Hans-Peter Schmid, Drs. Anna Gussarova,  Katrin Kamin, Elena Mandalenakis, May-Britt Stumbaum, Pavel Bernat, Pal Dunay, Loic Simonet, and Maximilian Terhalle, as well as retired Col. Matt Sousa, and retired Cmdr. Andreas Hildenbrand, brought real-world insights, practical applications, and diverse viewpoints to the PASS course, fostering a dynamic learning environment and encouraging participants to critically analyze information, make connections between academic concepts and real-world scenarios, and develop a more comprehensive understanding of security matters. 

During the fundamentals of the international security environment, Hans Peter Schmid, Director at Karlsruher Institut für Technologie Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research Atmospheric Environmental Research, and Dr. Katrin Bastian, professor at the Marshall Center, teamed up to provide in-depth views on climate change and the effect on national security. 

"From the 1880s to the present time, almost all regions of the world now have temperatures higher than the expected global average," explained Schmid. "Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2000 years. It is too late to reverse the heating caused by human influence in the past decades, but climate-sensitive policies have a chance to minimize the expected warming in the future.”

"Whether you believe in the human influence in climate change, the security implications stay," said Bastian. "Climate change comes with surprises, and by definition surprises come with unexpected events. Democracies have to somehow find a way to climate-proof their decisions in the future.”

One of the last sections of the course focused on genocide and mass atrocities. Using the Holocaust as a case study, the Marshall Center, in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, opened a temporary Holocaust exhibit at the Nick Pratt Hall, the second year in a row that PASS has worked with USHMM on the display. Later in the week, the participants spent the day in Munich, touring through the Documentation Center, one of many memorials and museums across Germany to remind their citizens and visitors alike that atrocities like those that happened during World War II can happen anywhere and must be guarded against.

“We are here to analyze reasons and triggers for genocide and mass atrocities,” said Col. Konrad Lau, director of PASS while at the Documentation Center. “We also want to show our participants the possibilities of the culture of remembrance and education.”

The final section of PASS took the participants to Berlin for a week of studying at the German Ministry of Defense. They had the opportunity to speak with journalists, parliamentarians and military officials on insights and challenges in the German national security sector.


Of course, a PASS course would not be complete without the cultural element. From a traditional Bavarian breakfast, complete with Bavarian music, to a tour of Garmish-Partenkirchen, the participants were treated to the best of the local German culture. Culture Night, a participant favorite, is a seminal part of the cross-cultural Marshall Center experience. It was a chance for PASS representatives from each country to display the best of what their nation has to offer, usually in the form of several kinds of prepared foods. The colors, tastes and textures were on full display for Culture Night and no one went home hungry. It was also an excellent opportunity for the participants to network and get to know a person or place they might not have known before.

After completing the rigorous nine-week course, the participants became part of a global network of past Marshall Center participants. With nearly 16,000 alums, the network is an invaluable resource that extends the impact of the institution far beyond the duration of PASS. It serves as a dynamic platform for collaboration, information exchange, and professional development among security professionals that share common values and advances similar geostrategic goals. The network becomes a hub for fostering lasting connections, facilitating knowledge transfer, and promoting ongoing dialogue on critical global security issues.

“This is the beginning and not just the end of a course,” said Marshall Center Director retired Maj. Gen. Barre Seguin to the PASS graduates at the ceremony. “What starts in Garmisch lasts a lifetime.”

PASS is a foundational course designed for early- to mid-career security professionals from around the world, including civilian government officials, military and security service members, and academics and other experts from civil society.