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Professional Military Education

A Cross-Cultural Survey


Edited By Duraid Jalili and Hubert Annen

This book brings together non-Western viewpoints on military pedagogy and professional military education (PME). In doing so, it seeks to provide a counterbalance to the predominantly European and North American bias found within the research field, as well as generating new insights on Latin American, African and Asian pedagogical commentaries and critiques. The collection contains essays from PME researchers and practitioners across fourteen countries, on subjects including large-scale educational reform, civil-military and academic influences on military pedagogy, internationalisation, cross-cultural collaboration, and interoperability within military education.

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Training, Integration and Jointness for Complex Scenarios and Multilateral Conflicts: Experiences in the Education of Argentine Army Officers

Professor Silvia Cristina Bernava y Rosas

Training, Integration and Jointness for Complex Scenarios and Multilateral Conflicts: Experiences in the Education of Argentine Army Officers

Abstract: This chapter contends that contemporary states face an increasing range of external and internal threats to their vital interests, and that this in turn necessitates a pedagogical focus on interoperability and interconnectivity within professional military education. Taking the Colegio Militar de la Nación (National Military College) of Argentina as its focal point, the chapter outlines a number of potential teaching and learning frameworks suited to this requirement. These frameworks incorporate intellectual, ethical and competency-based training, and operational and policy roleplaying scenarios. The chapter concludes that these methods can help to provide officers with the skillsets necessary to adapt to new security threats and to appreciate alternative socio-political and cultural perspectives, as a means of enhancing interoperability.

Keywords: PME, military education, interoperability, military ethics, Colegio Militar, competency-based education, Argentine Army


Contemporary armed conflicts differ substantially from past wars. Political, social, ethnic, religious, cultural, scientific and technological factors, among others, can result in permanent changes in the international system as well as revolutions in military affairs. Different regional scenarios across the world can also present complex challenges that cannot be solved through linear or uniform thinking in the management and operation of the military. Battles occurring in cyberspace have also led to a revolution in various areas of military activity, such as strategic planning, leadership, command and control, tactics, as well as impacting upon the fields of psychology and international humanitarian law, amongst other areas. In addition to these contexts, the multilateral nature of armed conflicts, the strong predominance of multiculturalism, multi-causality and hybridity in ←189 | 190→many confrontations, framed within a context of uncertainty, increases the urgency required for the correct management and operationalization of pedagogical changes in the training of officers within the armed forces and wider military personnel.

In classical wars, the determining causes of conflicts were generally border struggles, sovereignty disputes and territorial annexations. Such conflicts usually began with a formal declaration. In contrast, contemporaneous armed conflicts result from a series of diverse causes, including control of strategic resources (especially energy sources) as a method of achieving politico-economic predominance and power. Many of these conflicts also have roots in ‘identity’ politics, including confrontations over ethnic differences in which, in addition to other causes, non-state actors are involved, such as insurgent and terrorist groups, who conduct their activities through guerrilla warfare as well as through the use of virtual space. These so-called ‘hybrid conflicts’ can result in confrontations between both state and non-state actors. As argued by Bartolomé (2006, p.19):

“The Agenda for International Security in relation to previous eras, is broader and more complex, encompassing actors of a non-state nature, transnational dynamics, the use of violence through alternative and non-traditional means and increased flexibility regarding the criteria of non-interference”.1

Undoubtedly, the system of international relations is a complex and uncertain one of an open and dynamic nature. In this system, interdependencies are growing ever deeper and various threats, risks and transnational dangers are jeopardizing the strategic interests of nation states. According to the Argentinian General Evaristo de Vergara (2012, p.121), it is possible to distinguish and characterize three types of threat within the international framework, namely: traditional threats, transnational threats and irregular threats. Traditional threats motivated the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries, while transnational threats encompass issues such as drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal arms trafficking, narco-terrorism, lack of migration control, human trafficking, cyberterrorism, large-scale ←190 | 191→refugee incursions, among others (Ibid.). Finally, irregular threats are the same as the aforementioned hybrid conflicts that characterize current conflict scenarios across the world.

Given this contemporary state of affairs, the armed forces must adapt to ensure successful performance and active participation in different scenarios, across different geographical areas with a diversity of cultures. This includes adapting to the social contexts that are, in many cases, characteristic of failed states, state actors with a lack of governance or situations of institutional vulnerability in which non-state actors engage in hybrid conflict. The Argentine Republic has already taken steps to adapt its military personnel and prepare its forces for the different missions to which they may be assigned, across both international scenarios and local or internal activities. In addition to describing the new risks and dangers that states may face in protecting their vital interests, this chapter relates these contexts to the growing impact of interoperability and interconnectivity on the teaching methods used within the Colegio Militar de la Nación (National Military College). Using experiences in the training of Argentine Army officers, the chapter argues that military educational reform is necessary to provide answers to these challenges in this new century.

Modern Operations and Interoperability

Having professionalized and highly trained armed forces is the essential goal of military educational reform. In order to achieve this, in 1998, the Argentine Republic adapted its military educational system to match the frameworks of the National Educational System (Ley N°24948, 1998, Art.13 and Art.33.c.1). This resulted in a series of pedagogical changes for the training and professionalization of all personnel integrated within the military hierarchy. In broad terms, these reforms were designed to support the Argentine Armed Forces in their performance in the following situations:

1) Defence of the vital interests of the nation, in accordance with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations (United Nations, 1945, VII.51) and the National Defence Law of 1998 (Ley N°23554, 1988, Art.2), by which the military component of the Argentine state must defend the nation from armed attack by another state actor.

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2) Participate in international missions of the United Nations, peace-keeping operations, peace-building operations (i.e. the construction or establishment of peace) and peace-enforcement operations (i.e. the imposition of peace), operating jointly with the armed forces of other states.

3) Provide support to the police and security forces in matters of internal order, when said forces are overwhelmed in situations in which internal security is affected, and in accordance with the Law of Internal Security (Ley N°24059, 1992, Art.31).

4) Subsidiary tasks of support to the national community or friendly countries in emergency situations due to natural catastrophes, floods, earthquakes, etc.

In line with this, the Argentine Armed Forces have participated for several years in MINUSTAH in Haiti with their military personnel and are currently serving in Cyprus and in other international operations and missions. In such missions, as in all tactical operations, the armed forces must act jointly and in combination. This includes the coordination of all combat and support functions, with specialties responsible for logistical support, such as armouries and quartermasters, to which must be added the medical corps. In addition to this, lawyers specializing in the international law of armed conflict and international humanitarian law, usually accompany these military forces, in order to provide advice in operational theatres in particular. This helps to avoid collateral damage to protected persons, by focusing the military’s actions onto combatants and military objectives.

This combined action is reflected in the act of integration between the armed forces of different nations, in which the troops of various states with various cultural differences are coordinated under a unified command. This performance of joint and combined tactical operations characterizes what has been called “interoperability” (Bartolomé, 2006, p.166). For this interoperability to occur, the preparation of military personnel and the creation of a multicultural perspective is crucial. Proof of this can be seen in the international coalition formed by thirty-four states, including pan-Arab nations, that occurred in the second Gulf War in 1991. This coalition included assistance from the Argentine Navy, who participated in ←192 | 193→the United Nations’ blockade named Operativo Alfil (Operation Bishop), which provided an important contribution to the war effort.

Synergizing such efforts in terms of interoperability requires a unified command, such as that led by General Norman Schwarzkopf in Desert Storm. At the time of Desert Storm, the U.S. Joint Staff defined interoperability as “the ability of systems, units or forces to provide services to, and to accept services from other systems, units or forces, and to use the exchanged services to operate effectively together” (Domínguez and Bloch, 2004, p.38; Sessions and Jones, 1993, p.9). As we will now consider, to create the capacity required to operate in a multilateral environment, the Argentine Army has made a series of reforms in its education and training, in which the role of the Colegio Militar de la Nación as the cradle of officer education is highly relevant.

The Colegio Militar De La Nación

The Colegio Militar de la Nación is responsible for training the future officers of the Argentine Army. This institution is classed as a ‘university’ college, in line with its position as one of the academic units of the current faculty of the army (formerly the Instituto Universitario del Ejército), which in turn is part of the Universidad de la Defensa Nacional (National Defence University – UNDEF), created by the Law of the National Defence University (Ley N°27015, 2014). UNDEF provides a centralized institute for all military education, including undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate institutes. In order to gain the rank of Second Lieutenant, the officers of the Argentine Army receive professional education of excellence, both in terms of academic and practical standards, in the Colegio Militar de la Nación. Specifically, this is achieved through a university-level degree entitled the Licenciatura en Conducción y Gestión Operativa (Bachelor of Operational Conduct and Management). This degree is composed of three subjects aligned with the three fundamental lynchpins of an officer’s career:

A) Military sciences;

B) Social sciences;

C) Natural and mathematical sciences.

Through this means, the future officer is given an integral preparation that incorporates the physical and military operational aspects required ←193 | 194→for their role, as well as intellectual, ethical-spiritual and competency-based training through which they may acquire valuable cognitive skills and abilities. This education creates an officer who is capable of making decisions and resolving highly complex situations and problems, as well as maintaining the inner strength required to operate effectively in critical scenarios with courage, integrity and morality.

Graduating after four and a half years, the future officer is awarded a double degree that identifies them as an officer, licensed in their respective field. From the ethical perspective, this system of military education tends to the reaffirmation and permanent consolidation of moral values and virtues. Importantly, however, officers are also trained for the defence of the Argentine constitutional order, including the fundamental and supreme laws of the republic, the fundamental rights and individual freedoms of its population, and the republican and federal systems designed to uphold these laws and freedoms, as have been enshrined in the Constitution of Argentina since 1853 (Constitución de la Nación Argentina, 1994).

In addition to providing this integral training to its command corps, the Colegio Militar de la Nación educates the officers who form the professional corps of the Argentine Army (i.e. professionals who enter the service with pre-existing university qualifications, and who are then provided with the requisite military training and education in subjects related to military matters). The professional corps also has its own military training exercises in accordance with the specificities of each force and the environment in which each officer must operate. Regarding interoperability, the armed forces train their personnel through external tours relevant to the operational terrain they will face. In the case of the Colegio Militar de la Nación, the cadets of the command corps also experience periodic operational tours to prepare them in the arts of tactics and management. This constitutes the practical side of their education.

Formative Academic Experiences in the Colegio Militar De La Nación

For a few years, the Colegio Militar de la Nación has developed interdisciplinary seminars as part of its competency-based training process. The cadets participate directly in these seminars, especially during the third and fourth year of the Licenciatura en Conducción y Gestión Operativa. ←194 | 195→The Battle of Tobruk, which occurred in 1941 during the Second World War, was used as the central historical case study during these seminars for some years, to provide the necessary tactical and interdisciplinary training for the cadets. Since 2015, however, the staff selected a new case study with more contemporary relevance and more connection with interoperability: Operation Desert Storm of 1991.

As has been referred to previously in this chapter, Operation Desert Storm required the combination of different disciplines and expertise, and a joint approach to various operational aspects. In line with this, the interdisciplinary seminars included the participation of cadets from the Colegio Militar de la Nación, alongside cadets of the Escuela Naval Militar (Naval Military School) and Escuela de Aviación Militar (School of Military Aviation) of Argentina. It also featured the participation of students from several civil universities, both private and public. Since the commencement of these seminars in 2015, the school has been able to change the specific battles that are used as case studies, within each annual iteration.

These seminars provide a tangible framework for joint operations that require the insertion of military officials from all three military services with civilian personnel from wider universities. They take place over three intense days, and cover relevant issues including tactics, management, command, leadership, geographical environment, electronics, military technology, psychology, gender issues, religious and cultural factors, as well as international humanitarian law and operational military law. In homage to this joint participation in 2015, 2016 and 2017, these seminars were named the ‘Seminarios Tormenta Conjunta’ (Joint Storm Seminars).

Although a group of specialist teachers provide presentations, including the author of this chapter, the annual seminars revolve around the cadets themselves who, after studying the subject matter at hand, demonstrate their conclusions through personal and coordinated presentations with the students of the other participating institutes. In this way, the cadet is the protagonist of their own learning process. In addition to the fruitful academic outcomes of this experience, it is also worth highlighting the positive effects achieved in creating camaraderie and integration between civilian and military students.

In line with the significant benefits of such roleplaying methods, there is no reason why this form of work should be limited only to these ←195 | 196→inter-institutional events. Indeed, the Colegio Militar de la Nación also uses didactic and pedagogical techniques and strategies in its classrooms on a daily basis, including roleplaying scenarios to a significant degree. As an example of this, a practice roleplaying session was developed by fourth-year cadets of the bachelor’s degree, framed around the concept of “negotiation and problem solving”.

The case study used was the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan for possession of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which is currently recognized by the international community as part of Azerbaijan but is claimed by the self-titled Republic of Artsakh. In line with the interdisciplinary nature of the seminar, fifteen days before the practice session commenced, the professor of the respective course delivered a dossier to students. This dossier was prepared by teachers from a range of participating courses, in order to provide a synthetic expository presentation of the conflict. The dossier contained relevant maps to provide students with a better illustration and understanding of the scenario, as well as information on the historical evolution of the dispute. The cadets worked in separate teams, each representing different countries as well as other state actors related to the conflict. Through this exercise the students demonstrated and applied the negotiation skills that they had previously learned in the classroom environment.

A second example used within the college involves an exercise in hermeneutics, argumentation and rationale. Importantly, this exercise involves each team of cadets changing their roles during the course of the session itself. The session focusses on the issue of missile tests of North Korea, and is coordinated by the author of this chapter, given that its subject matter focus on Public International law is a topic delivered to fourth-year cadets by this author. Despite this focus, the session is preceded by presentations that bring together differing perspectives in order to highlight the interdisciplinary mindset and knowledge base required to address this subject.

The exercise was designed to occur chronologically and was structured in the following way: a team of four cadets defended North Korea’s interests in the debate, another team of four cadets defended the interests of the U.S., a third group of cadets represented Russia’s interests, a fourth team represented the interests of China, and another team was added to ←196 | 197→represent Iran’s interests in relation to this scenario. The rest of the cadets were allocated as advisors, with one advisor for each country (i.e. team).

On the day of the debate, the cadets demonstrated their argumentative skills with their respective rationales, in the following manner: each group of cadets had to elaborate their argument based upon a resolution of the United Nations Security Council that was provided to them by the teacher. Four resolutions were designed, one was selected by lot and on that basis, the cadets had to debate it and resolve its approval. For this part of the exercise, the cadets undertook an exchange of roles. Specifically, they formed a group of fifteen people to represent the fifteen members of the Security Council. Five cadets were given the role of the five permanent members of the council, and ten other cadets fulfilled the role of non-permanent members. This method was designed to simulate for the cadets the argumentative processes that surround the foundation and interpretation of such scenarios.

In addition to teaching cadets about specific topics and the functioning of security communities and political powers, there exists an additional benefit in the realization of these exercises, which is of particular relevance for the future officers of the Argentine Army. Specifically, this relates to the skillset of ‘creative thinking’. In the military system, the delivery of commands, both in combat missions and other areas in which military personnel work, occurs within a set of specific legal and regulatory frameworks. Despite this, in carrying out the orders that one is given, the creativity to apply one’s previous learning is a vital skill. This is especially the case, given that this creativity will need to be managed multiple times when appropriate decisions need to be made. This may include any number of unforeseen situations that can arise in time of peace or war, or in United Nations operations (in which Argentina remains a key contributor). As shown in this section, competency-based training provides a unique and vital method to test and reinforce these skills.

Developing a Pedagogy of Interoperability

As highlighted above, to successfully teach the principles and the importance of interoperability within the military environment, it is necessary to ensure the convergence of two critical aspects of contemporary education. ←197 | 198→Firstly, a conceptual understanding of the significance of multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives in understanding warfare. Secondly, a practical understanding of the threats and opportunities of utilizing new systems (and technologies) for the creation of joint learning experiences – especially for students with different backgrounds and perspectives, from across the full civil-military spectrum.

In seeking to approach issues of military education from multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives, it is important to contextualize these terms. Domínguez and Bloch’s (2004, p.41) definitions are of particular value in this scenario. Specifically, they define multidisciplinarity as “the necessary approach to the analysis of an object based on the theoretical and methodological vision of various disciplines to achieve a broad understanding of the object”. Transdisciplinarity represents a scenario in which “the context and cooperation between various disciplines takes place when they have adopted the same methodology for research and analysis”. Finally, interdisciplinarity requires “the encounter and cooperation between two or more disciplines, each one contributing (in terms of theoretical and empirical research) their own conceptual schemes, their problem-solving styles and their research methods”.

Whether it takes the form of competency-based learning or unidirectional lectures, educators must also emphasize the fact that war, as a process of armed conflict, is a complex phenomenon. This phenomenon requires one to account for military and political sciences, international relations, systems theory, chaos theory, philosophy and metaphysics (in order to attempt to discover the ‘Dasein’ or ‘Being’ of war), philosophical and cultural anthropology, sociology, history, geography, geopolitics, geo-strategy, economics, military and general history, law (both comparative and international), and professional ethics, among a host of other disciplines. The necessary combination of these disciplines reveals that, in military affairs, learners are trained in subjects dealing with complex phenomena and methodologies of approach.

Secondly, educators must possess a practical understanding of the threats and opportunities of utilizing new systems (and technologies) for the creation of joint learning experiences for students with different backgrounds and perspectives, both across the military services and across the civil-military spectrum. In this second instance, the technological advances that ←198 | 199→contribute to the ‘revolution in military affairs’, should also be addressed in the training of future officers to ensure a better understanding of the scenarios in which they may have to act.

Such techno-scientific advances increase the importance of incorporating innovative technological developments and other products into professional training activities for military officers. Such activities are not only applicable to the military but are also useful for the civil sector and are, therefore, worth developing for educational programmes with a dual civil-military character and purpose. This would also contribute to further integration between civilians and military officials dealing in scenarios that require knowledge of technological innovation, in such a way as to enhance logistical coordination, economic advantages, improvements in the civil-military relationship when engaging in joint work, and a source of professional jobs and activities for military officers after their retirement from the armed forces.

In addition to receiving education on the application and benefits of new technologies, however, educators must reinforce the principle that war is a means of last resort to students. This principle is rooted in the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, following on from which most nation states renounced the use of war to resolve disputes. It is also enshrined in Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations Organization, which advocates that “parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice” (United Nations, 1945: Art.33 Cap.VI). This policy must, of course, account for the existence of non-state actors on the international stage, with whom negotiations or other peaceful means are often more difficult to apply, as seen with the self-styled Islamic State.


Preparing professional officers for the conflicts of the 21st century is a challenging field, requiring continuous curricular reform, an expansion of joint training exercises, adaptation to new technological realities and ←199 | 200→multidisciplinary, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Such training must cover a multitude of aspects related to human existence and must seek to ensure that, in the heat of battle, armed conflicts and complex international missions, officers will excel not simply due to their formative operational knowledge but also (even more importantly) their status as dignified and honourable individuals, who show a respect and understanding for other cultures in both their service to their homeland and to the populations of diverse cultures in the varying international scenarios in which they serve.

However, the fundamental requirement to achieve this occurs long before the creation of educational programmes for such officers. Instead, it occurs in the training and mentality of the educators themselves. To contribute to the achievement of academic excellence, the Colegio Militar de la Nación of the Argentine Republic provides its team of teachers with continuous, updated didactic and pedagogical training. This task is carried out through workshops and seminars designed to support existing teaching strategies and techniques, to reinforce the value of competency-based training for the cadets, and to address educational questions regarding the importance of the neurosciences in the training of the future officers. In addition to these updates, teachers must undertake continuous postgraduate, specialization, master’s and doctoral studies in order to heighten their levels of achievement and skillsets related to the different disciplines to which each one belongs. This process of continuing education is vital for teachers, in ensuring that they are able to deal with increasingly well-educated and highly trained officers.


Bartolomé, M.C. (2006). La Seguridad Internacional Post 11 S: Contenidos, Debates y Tendencias. Buenos Aires: Instituto de Publicaciones Navales.

Constitución de la Nación Argentina. (1994). Argentina. Buenos Aires: El Senado y Cámara de Diputados.

De Vergara, E. (2012). Estrategia, métodos y rutinas. Buenos Aires: Universidad del Ejército.

Domínguez, N.A. and Bloch, R. (2004). Un enfoque sistémico de la defensa. Vol. 1. Personal edition of the authors.

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Ley N°23554: Ley de Defensa Nacional. (1988). Argentina. Buenos Aires: Presidencia de la Nación.

Ley N°24059: Ley de Seguridad Interior. (1992). Argentina. Buenos Aires: El Senado y Cámera de Diputados.

Ley N°24948: Ley de reestructuración de las Fuerzas Armadas. (1998). Argentina. Buenos Aires: Cámara de Diputados.

Ley N°27015: Ley de Universidad de la Defensa Nacional. Creación. (2014). Argentina. Buenos Aires: El Senado y Cámara de Diputados.

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United Nations. (1945). Charter of the United Nations.

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1 All quotes, which were originally written in Spanish, have been translated into English by the author of this chapter. Although it has not been explicitly indicated which quotes were originally in Spanish, the bibliography has retained the original publication language for all articles used within this chapter.