The Croatian Armed Forces Training Simulations Program

Article excerpt

In February 2001, the Croatian Armed Forces officially opened the Croatian Armed Forces Leader and Staff Simulation Center (CLSSC). Hailed by some as one of the best equipped training simulation centers in the region, the CLSSC marks a dramatic new step in transforming the Croatian Armed Forces from its wartime disposition to one aimed at improving interoperability with Partnership for Peace (PfP) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Though a comprehensive simulations training program, the Croatian Armed Forces are preparing their forces for the future.

A Deposit Paid in Blood

The Croatian Ministry of Defense (MoD) began the conceptualization for a training simulations program three years after the end of Croatia's war for independence from the Republic of Yugoslavia. Early in 1999, the MoD recognized the need to transform its armed forces into a more modern, better-equipped force in line with western compatible doctrine, training and command and control. The conundrum faced by the senior leaders of the Croatian MoD was how to accomplish this goal with limited resources. The answer to part of that problem lay with training simulations. The use of simulations was recognized as a primary means of training staffs and junior leaders in western decision making and staff procedures. As a result, the government of Croatia, through the MoD, set in motion plans to develop a training simulations program and to establish a Croatian Armed Forces Leader and Staff Simulation Center. This vision included integrating simulations training into all facets of the professional training curriculum of t he Croatian Armed Forces.

In an armed forces competing for scarce resources, why invest in expensive training simulations? First and foremost was the need for the Croatian Armed Forces to train its leaders to western standards. In May of 2000 Croatia joined the PfP program and articulated as one of its strategic goals, full membership in NATO. To achieve this goal, the need for interoperability was paramount. Secondly, with a hodge-podge of doctrines left over from the former Yugoslavian Army, the Croatian Armed Forces had a bewildering array of tactics, techniques, and doctrinal procedures with little basis for standardization. Training simulations would allow leaders and staff the first real opportunity to acquaint themselves with western doctrine techniques and tactics. The third major factor in choosing to invest in training simulations stemmed from resources. For the Croatian MoD, time, money and training facilities are in short supply. Even though the initial costs for training simulations programs would be expensive, the traini ng costs would be easily recuperated over the long run.

Besides the obvious values of training simulations, a less tangible reason existed for the use of simulations. For many in the Croatian Armed Forces, the value of providing better training for it soldiers was based on bitter lessons learned from wartime experiences. In the early days of Croatia's war for independence, many hastily assembled units were no more than groups of friends from a town organized into makeshift infantry units. These units in turn made up the brigades that fought the major actions of the war. These men, many of whom had no formal military training, learned their trade by trial and error, sometimes with grave consequences. After the war, commanders of the Croatian Armed Forces committed themselves to the belief that training saves lives. For the Croatian Armed Forces, training simulations would help ensure future generations of Croatian soldiers did not suffer because of inadequate training.

Recognizing that training simulations were a cost-effective means of training the armed forces, the creation of a simulation center became the target goal. The next step to was to develop an implementation plan. A timed phased approach was taken to implementing this plan and it was developed with the assistance of retired army officers and non-commissioned officers working for the U. …