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World Changes Affect NATO School

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

OBERAMMERGAU, Germany, Feb. 5, 1998 – The NATO School here used to teach NATO policies and procedures only to military students from the 16 allied nations. Today, its student body includes military from Partnership for Peace countries, Russia and other non-NATO nations.

The school curriculum has expanded to meet the needs of Europe's changing security structure. Keeping up with this change is the greatest challenge the school faces, said its academic director, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher (Red) Campbell.

"Back in the Cold War days, when we had a general defense plan and an inter-German border, it was relatively stable," Campbell said. "We could give lectures on certain topics and know those topics weren't going to change appreciably in the next year. A lot of the things we talk about now change week to week or month to month."

NATO expansion is an example of the change affecting the school, Campbell said. School officials have to keep up with the status of the three countries invited to become new members.

"How do we deal with the Czech, Hungarian and Polish students?" Campbell asked. "Do we treat them any differently? Do we give them any additional access? If they're going to become NATO members in April 1999, what does that mean for us as an educational institution? How can we be on the leading edge to educate and train those people so they can become fully participating members of the alliance?"

Another example is the change in NATO's relationship with Russia. Russian students attended the NATO School in the past, but last year there were none, Campbell said. "We think that was because there were negotiations going on which resulted in the Founding Agreement." School officials hope to see Russian students return in the coming year, now that the charter agreement between NATO and Russia has been established, he added.

U.S. European Command and the German military co-sponsor the NATO School, which first opened its doors in 1975. Since then, the school's curriculum has expanded to include courses for NATO's new partners, Russia and members of the three former warring parties from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Attendance at the school grew by more than 1,000 students from 1996 to 1997, Campbell said. Of the 5,800 students in 1997, about 740 were from non-NATO nations, more than double the number the previous year. More than 150 from the former Yugoslavia attended the Bosnia-Herzegovina security cooperation course. A few others attended from Tunisia, Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

Most courses are classified and are only open to NATO members, but the number of courses open to nonmembers has risen continually since school officials first offered a course to Partnership for Peace nations in 1991. This year, nearly 20 courses are open to non-NATO members.

The NATO School at Oberammergau focuses on NATO operations and is one of three NATO educational institutions. NATO's Communication and Information Systems School in Latina, Italy, deals with tactical and technical operations. The NATO Defense College in Rome focuses on strategic concerns.

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