With Jarosław Mokrzycki on how the army is already preparing for challenges awaiting them a decade, two, or even three decades from now, talks Krzysztof Wilewski.
When the Doctrine and Training Centre of the Polish Armed Forces was created in 2009, it was supposed to be a Polish equivalent to the American TRADOC [United States Army Training and Doctrine Command], which is the most important institution responsible for training and preparing new doctrinal documents. Has the plan from over a decade ago been successfully executed?
Some assumptions that became the cornerstones in the process of establishing the Doctrine and Training Center were put into practice. We created an efficient system of collecting knowledge on how to effectively manage NATO multinational joint operations.
What weren’t you able to do?
Ultimately, we didn’t create an equivalent of the American TRADOC, i.e. an institution which supervises, among others, all military training centers in the USA.
Nevertheless, as the Center’s name itself suggests, you are responsible for training soldiers...
We don’t avoid it, but contrary to the mentioned TRADOC or other institutions of this type, we take on the role of an advisor or analyst, rather than that of a creator and organizer. These functions have been assigned to other institutions. General Commander of the Branches of the Armed Forces is the person responsible for preparing, thus also training, soldiers for operations later managed by either the operational commander or the supreme commander.
One of your most important tasks is NATO standardization. What exactly does it consist in?
It involves implementing doctrines developed by NATO in the Polish Armed Forces, so as to ensure maximum interoperability in our army and all of NATO. The aim is to enable a German, a Brit, an Italian or a Pole to jointly plan, prepare and execute operations, to be able to fight together.
What is the biggest challenge in doctrinal work?
The subject area it concerns. We estimate that there are about 10,000 normative documents, from forms to textbooks, functioning in the Polish Armed Forces. About 6,000 of them are regularly used, and about 2,000 are key in executing joint operations. About 300 of these documents are of the greatest significance to us, as they fully describe our operational activity. They are a kind of a “cookbook” for every soldier, with answers to the most important questions on reconnaissance, delivery or logistics.
How is this specific “cookbook” created?
Doctrines are not developed in isolation from reality. Regulations regarding operational standardization on various levels, from tactical to operational, or even higher, are above all an answer to what is happening in the security environment. What I have in mind is for example hybrid threats. Every time we identify a subject of interest to us, we launch a verification process. It can take various forms, such as staff trainings, simulations or operational games. In the process, we also check if our NATO Allies have noticed similar threats. Then, we either engage in joint work on a given issue, or we initiate the commencement of such work in the Alliance.
We don’t solve problems instantly, we rather think whether the mechanism of handling and reacting to the problem that we have adopted as the armed forces is the best possible choice. The Center has created a comprehensive and multi-layer system of criticizing and undermining doctrinal documents. We look for imperfections in existing solutions, arrangements, standards, norms. If our evaluation is that they can be changed and improved, we get down to work.
The fact that doctrines are created in English might be a bit problematic.
It’s true that English is the main language of operational standardization used in NATO. It is quite an impediment, but not because soldiers are not fluent in the language – they do speak English well, but in this case, it’s not enough. The problem are certain nuances of language, since the same words can have a slightly different meaning in different languages. A perfect example is the word “arms,” which in Polish comes from the word “defend,” [“broń” – “bronić”] as we have used weapons to protect ourselves, while in English it expresses an offensive attitude. Someone might say it is a language nuance, but etymology here is of utmost importance, and influences the adopted method of operation.
Is that why soldiers often talk about their own versions of English?
This is a serious problem. During one VTJF [Very High Readiness Joint Task Force] exercise, after several days of training, a German commander said: »Stop. Enough. I’m lost. You have to start speaking one language,« when in fact everyone was using English. Differences in used expressions were so big that he was not certain if he actually knew what was going on.
How was this problem solved?
A dictionary including 200 words was written. Everyone was told to use only the expressions from the dictionary.
At the time when the Center was being formed, there were many debates on what would be the best recruitment system in this specific institution. Ultimately, no particular model was adopted, but an idea was put forward that all line commanders should be recruited. Would this solution be advantageous for you?
It makes no sense for all line commanders, e.g. former brigade commanders, to join us. The Center needs people with very specific skills. They must be able not only to notice a problem, but also to carefully analyze the process in which the problem occurred. It is often necessary to look at a certain issue from a different perspective to notice something that was omitted before.
What should the recruitment system look like then?
The Doctrine and Training Centre should have best of the best specialists of the Polish Armed Forces. However, there is no systemic solution that would ensure the inflow of such personnel. Therefore, as any good leader, I must put together a team out of the puzzle pieces I have, so that it can face the occurring challenges here and now. To prove it is possible, let me mention the NUP [New Polish Battle Order project – an analysis of Poland’s security environment developed for the needs of the Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, which is to enable the creation of a new Polish multi-domain operations concept. The project’s name refers to the old Polish battle order, i.e. an innovative battle formation of Polish cavalry developed by our military men in the 14th century.] The project was launched because we were able to step out of the bubble of doctrines and NATO standardization. In the dynamically changing reality, we’ve reached a place where, as the Polish Armed Forces, we have to ask ourselves about the methods of operating in the current and future security environment, and about the operational environment – multi-domain and much more complicated than it used to be. How should the army function in time of peace? How should it operate in time of crisis? What about wartime? The Center is not engaged in solving current problems of the army, in reacting here and now. Thus, we have time to work on such issues. Obviously, we don’t work alone, but in cooperation with civilian experts.
Why do you use the knowledge of civilian experts in your work on the NUP? Doesn’t the army have its own specialists?
We generate a base of knowledge, which, by holistically describing the environment, shows us where potential threats may arise and how we should respond. Civilian experts working in various fields – from demography, through sociology, to urban planning – are capable of explaining to us long-term consequences of certain phenomena in areas important to our national security.
Who is the NUP targeted at?
Civilians rather than soldiers. Soldiers must react, act, not analyze threats. They are to carry out an operation, rather than think about theoretical assumptions behind it. Therefore, the project is targeted more at civilians, people who study and analyze the security environment, helping us, soldiers, to be better prepared for battlefield challenges. Their knowledge will help us to prepare and practice scenarios of threats that have never occurred before, but are increasingly possible to occur now.
Colonel Jarosław Mokrzycki is the Director of the Doctrine and Training Centre of the Polish Armed Forces (since July 2, 2018). Between 2007–2008, he was Deputy Chief of Staff in Multinational Division Central-South in Iraq. From January 2014 to October 2016, he held the post of Deputy Commander of the 21st Mountain Infantry Brigade in Rzeszów, and later, for a year, he was its Commander.
autor zdjęć: CDIS