NATO and its member countries, including Poland, are working diligently to develop mountain warfare capabilities, especially in the face of new emerging conflicts. The mountains of Poland offer a landscape ideal for military mountaineering training, and the surroundings of Szklarska Poręba became the set for the Mountain Warfare Small Units Leader Course (MW SULC) for the second time from 19 to 30 September 2022. The MW SULC is an international course which was organized by the Education and Training Branch (E&TB) of the NATO Mountain Warfare Centre of Excellence (NATO MW COE), together with the Military University of Land Forces from Poland (Akademia Wojsk Lądowych (AWL)).
The course was attended by 12 soldiers, including members of the Polish Armed Forces, the Hungarian Defence Forces and the Armed Forces of Uzbekistan. The aim of this course was to provide officers at light infantry platoon/company level from NATO and partner nations with in-depth knowledge and understanding of mountain warfare, to foster the development of leadership and management skills, and to enhance the understanding of the specifics of mountainous terrain and climate when planning and conducting operations in this environment. It was held by lecturers from Poland, Austria, Romania and Norway, and instructors from Slovenia and Poland.
The prerequisites for the course are the completion of two e-Learning courses, provided by NATO MW COE: Basic Mountain Environment Characteristics and Combat Functions in Mountain Warfare.
The completion of these courses accelerates the understanding of the topics discussed during the lectures. As some of the practical classes are conducted at considerable height, having mountaineering skills is welcome.
The two-week course consisted of theoretical, practical and tactical parts: leadership, movement and tactics, and was carried out in a combination of teaching methods including classroom lectures, field and team work, to build capabilities from easy to difficult.
The MW SULC focused on building the participants’ knowledge of appropriate mountaineering and winter equipment for movement in difficult terrain and skills of climbing and descending techniques, tactical actions and procedures, and the importance of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the preparation and execution of military operations in a mountainous environment.
The Course participants were taught the influence of the mountain environment on combat functions and the best ways to mitigate negative effects and seize opportunities; the importance of leadership skills in critical situations and how to overcome the challenges of fighting in difficult terrain and climate; and how to execute troop leading procedures taking into consideration the specifics of mountainous terrain and its influence on combat power. Furthermore, the students were taught that mountain routes require not only above-average physical fitness but also mountaineering skills. Mountaineering develops mutual trust, as during training the participants often put their own safety in the hands of the SMEs and their colleagues.