Premiere: First German-Dutch Leadership Seminar

How to counter the current and future threats and challenges in our operational environment together? This was the key question of “Griffin Seminar”. From 9th to 12th December, the inspector generals of the German and the Dutch army, Lieutenant-General Jörg Vollmer and Lieutenant-General Martin Wijnen, invited their top personnel to The Hague to discuss issues of joint command today and in the near futur. While Dutch soldiers have been regular guests at the German inspector’s annual leadership seminar in recent years, this joint event is the logical evolution of the close relationship between both nations.

“The cooperation between Germany and the Netherlands is already unique in NATO and EU,” said Vollmer in his welcome address. 1st German-Netherlands Corps, which prepared the event, as well as the integration of the Dutch 43rd Mechanized Brigade into the 1st Panzer Division are just a few successful examples. Wijnen agrees: “There is no other cooperation that is that close.”

German and Dutch Generals work closely together to solve future challenges

Results from the different syndicates will influence the further development of the German/Dutch Land Operating Concept.

How will war-fighting look like in the future?

Digitization, unmanned systems and artificial intelligence will massively shape and change the warfare of the future, as all seminar participants are aware. In both armies, this development is already in full swing. Added to this is the changed threat situation since Russia’s actions in Ukraine in 2014. The re-focus on deterrence and on alliance solidarity operations, such as the support of the partners on the NATO eastern flank, have a decisive influence on both land forces. For the German army that is a significant increase in material and personnel. Thus, in 2023, the army will again provide a brigade for NATO’s Rapid Reaction Force (VJTF). In 2027, the first of the three divisions will be fully operational and modernized, the other two follow until 2031. Vollmer summarizes the paradigm shift from stabilization operations back to collective defense: “We have to think big again.”

The so called “Division 2027” at the same time formed the troop for the exercises during “Griffin Seminar”. In nine groups, the nearly 100 Generals and Colonels had to react to tactical dilemmas and solve them. During the order briefing, Major-General Gerard Koot, Deputy Commander of 1st German-Netherlands Corps, asked for finding „new answers to new problems.“  The various ideas were afterwards presented to the plenary. These outcomes will form the starting point for the further development of the German/Dutch Land Operating Concept as a common conceptual basis for the doctrinal future.

Knowledge development and inpiration

Various lectures supplemented the tactical exercises. Thus, Lieutenant General a.D. Horst-Heinrich Brauß, NATO Secretary General for Defense Policy and Armed Forces Planning at NATO’s International Staff in Brussels from October 2013 to July 2018, presented the latest developments in the field of hybrid threats. Perspectives on cyber were presented by Lieutenant-General Frank Leidenberger, Chief Strategy Officer of the Bundeswehr IT-Service BWI, and Brigadier-General Elanor Boekholt-O’Sullivan, Commander of the Dutch Cyber ​​Command.

Further inspiration came from a lecture by Maurice Peeters, Director of Young Capital, who showed how his company is benefiting from the influence of younger generations in leadership roles. The involvement of young officers in the various working groups also provided other, innovative perspectives during the seminar.

New perspectives were given by various lectures.

Major-General Jürgen-Joachim von Sandrart presents his lessons learned from the cooperation.

Differences make us stronger

Another main topic was the (army) culture of both countries. It’s not just about tactical but intercultural interoperability, said General Wijnen. The cliché result of a study by the University of Groningen on cultural differences and smiliarities caused for much amusement among all soldiers: The German soldiers described thermselves as structured, the Dutchmen themselves as flexible. But these very differences make the cooperation of both nations so valuable; a cooperation allows the advantages of both sides, as well as Major General Jürgen-Joachim von Sandrart, commander of the 1st Panzer Division, emphasized in his subsequent talk.

The shared laughter about the cliché shows: differences are not a topic anymore, to the contrary the differences make us stronger. This strength is also evident in the namesake of the seminar, the Griffin. He combines the heraldic animals of both nations and is at the same time the name giver for the entire German-Dutch army cooperation.