GRAFENWOEHR, Germany –
On a chilly mid-winter Bavarian morning, more than 50 officers from U.S. and foreign militaries were up early in stucco bungalows qualifying to become senior staff officers in the U.S. Army Command and General Staff Officers Course Common Core at the 7th Intermediate Level Education Detachment, here, at Camp Normandy, Jan. 29, 2022.
The 7th ILE is a part of the 7th Mission Support Command, the U.S. Army Reserve´s forward deployed mission command headquarters in Europe.
“Our mission is to prepare U.S. and international students to build and lead organizations under mission command in unified land operations,” said Army Reserve Lt. Col. Christopher Mackin, 7th ILE CGSOC’s phase lead.
As the phase lead, Mackin tracks and enables student progress during the course.
The 7th ILE, like the U.S. Army´s Command and General Staff College, located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, certifies officers primarily at the rank of major for larger responsibilities as a professional leader of warfighters.
“This is the first opportunity for field grade officers to be trained on the operational art of war and defense at the strategic level,” said Mackin, adding that the teaching plan follows the same ten-month graduate-level curriculum as the CGSC.
“We have active duty Army, National Guard, Reserve, Civilians, U.S. Navy and we´re the only satellite course outside of CGSC, Fort Leavenworth, that has international students,” he said.
Mackin explained that the schoolhouse reserves about 10 seats each cycle for foreign military students.
“This year we have students from Kosovo, North Macedonia and Croatia,” he said, adding that the school is popular to foreign officers, especially while COVID-19 is still complicating international travel to the U.S.
“I checked the internet and found the 7th ILE,” said Kosovo Army Maj. Dede Hiseni, a coordination officer attached to the Republic of Kosovo Ministry of Defense who is working in his home country with deployed units of the Iowa National Guard and the Office of Defense Cooperation.
Hiseni said that during the COVID pandemic, he qualified for CGSC but was afraid he would miss out since hygiene restrictions resulted in more travel limits to the U.S.
When he saw information about the 7th ILE´s offer, Hiseni contacted the U.S. Embassy and the ODC in Kosovo to get help in securing his seat in Germany.
Hiseni said it has been a good choice for him during the pandemic because the training in Grafenwoehr combines distance and residential learning throughout the crisis that mitigates the effects of lockdowns and travel bans.
“We got some slots and here I am,” said Hiseni, adding that it has been “an amazing experience,” studying with U.S. and other foreign officers.
Mackin said that the 7th ILE, which also counts Ukrainian officers in its list of alumni, is looking to further expand and host more participants from recent NATO countries.
7th ILE is currently expanding its size and Mackin sees opportunities for more talent in its ranks as it plans to have up to 80 students per class in 2025.
“Our mission is evolving,” said Mackin. “We´re actively recruiting students.”
But until the school can get new instructors, opportunities to attend CGSOC at the 7th ILE will stay competitive.
“We have a waiting list,” said Mackin.