Two Australian Defence Force (ADF) reserve officers represented Australia in a country first at NATO’s annual Young Reserve Officer Workshop 2013 (YROW 13) in Brno, Czech Republic 27 July-2 August 2013.
Working alongside 47 representatives from over 30 NATO member or partner nations, Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Lieutenant Lauren Rago and Australian Army Lieutenant Jonathan Bourke participated in a number of collaborative syndicates, were privy to presentations from senior NATO guest speakers and fronted the multinational opening parade in Brno City’s Freedom Square.
Lieutenant Lauren Rago said involvement in the special reserve officer event was an honour and provided valuable professional development.
“YROW 13 provided all attendees regardless of profession or nationality with the opportunity to learn about and discuss current defence issues of relevance to NATO and reserve forces around the world.”
“The primary aim was to build upon the skills and knowledge of NATO processes and procedures, as well as hone our own individual leadership abilities.”
Via a simulated military scenario the reserve officers conducted elements of Crisis Management Planning including a counter aggression campaign around NATO’s response to a nearby nation’s aggressive posture.
“I found the time it took for our pretend ‘NATO countries’ to reach a consensus during the planning stages very interesting, and the innovation afforded by such diverse opinions or agendas was entertaining for all.”
“In my group of 17, I was elected Chairman which meant I led members from the Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Denmark, South Africa, the Czech Republic and the United States through the group discussions and planning task.”
“My colleague, LT Jonathan Bourke took charge in his syndicate of members from Canada, Finland, France, Switzerland and The United Kingdom.”
For the two Aussies, formal and social interaction with military personnel from such a wide variety of countries throughout the week was fascinating and good fun.
LT Jonathan Bourke said they consistently enjoyed a few laughs, particularly during the ADF’s Country Brief.
“In the typical Aussie style we struck a balance between providing serious information about Australia and the ADF with some jokes and great photos thrown in for good measure.”
“They loved it and I think we recruited half of the room to the ADF when explaining our benefits.”
“Of course we received questions about our wildlife and snakes and spiders,” LT Bourke said.
Before travelling to the workshop, all attendees were required to undertake an online NATO course on Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) so they could actively contribute to the briefings on the subject. Participants were also invited to sit a LOAC exam, which both Aussies passed with flying colours.
LT Jonathan Bourke had touched on LOAC during his recent infantry training but found the NATO course particularly valuable.
“It was certainly condensed, but it drove home the key messages NATO wants to impart to its young leaders about LOAC.”
“It was an eye opener to observe the thought process of other nations, in particular with Rules of Engagement (ROE), but by the end of the workshop the participants were on a similar page.”
“Overall the course was brilliant. We got so much out of five days.”
“A huge highlight for me was the formal closing mess dinner on the last night. The Czech hospitality was fantastic; they provided a beautiful setting and delicious local food. I am very jealous of the ADF members who get to attend next year’s conference in Europe.”
YROW is conducted annually by the Young Reserve Officer Committee through the Confederation of Inter-allied Officers Reserve (CIOR). CIOR is a NATO-affiliated, non-political and non-profit umbrella organisation of member nations’ national reserve officer associations. The organisation represents the interests of over 1.3 million reservists across 36 participating nations within and beyond NATO.
Australia is a NATO ‘partner nation’ and in 2012 signed to the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, which is based on individual bilateral relations by each of the 22 partner countries and NATO.