The Lithuanian cadets, double skilled professionals

The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, Vilnius. © Benoît Theunissen

The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, Vilnius. Photo: Benoît Theunissen

The economic crisis that is hitting Europe leads many young Lithuanians to choose the army to get a degree for free and to ensure their future job stability. The Lithuanian Military Academy hosted in Vilnius is forming the next national army leaders.  The studies might be free, but the Academy requires a high sense of commitment from its cadets.

By Benoît Theunissen 

Vilnius, Lithuania: For Cadet Tomas Kvietkauskas, who is currently in his third year of International Relations at the General Jonas Military Academy of Lithuania, becoming an officer is a childhood dream. But not only is it a dream of his it also represents a duty.

– I think that the military education is every Lithuanian’s duty. He must know how to defend his country. It is important because if bad times come it will be needed to serve in the army., he says.

The patriotism concept is well anchored among the young cadets of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, especially for Cadet Tomas Kvietkauskas :

-In my opinion, patriotism is a love of your country and of your history. I am a real Lithuanian and I will serve for every Lithuanian.

History and love of the nation
Cadet Kęstutis Kilikevičius is now in his third year of Personal Management. As a future infantry officer, he is also very attached to his country’s past:

– In 1945-53, there were the Forest Brothers, Lithuanian freedom fighters against the Soviet army. My grandmother helped them and I think that’s a good example of real patriotism.

Serving under the flag was definitely not a new discovery for Cadet Kęstutis Kilikevičius when he took the decision to study at the General Jonas Military Acaemy in Vilnius. He had already been serving in the National Homeguard for almost three years. In his opinion, it was very useful.

– There, you have a kind of military training with a basic infantry course. So, it is easier to enter the Military Academy afterwards, he says.

Many cadets already have a military experience when they enter at the Military Academy. That was also the case of Cadet Monika Šinkunaité. She is enrolled in her second year of Personal Management.

– I came in this academy mostly because I was participating in the Riflemen’s Union. That lasted one year and a half. There were military trainings and it was very physical, she claims.

The Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union is a paramilitary organization with a high historical significance. Many young Lithuanians with strong belief in their country take part in it.

– I also came here (at the G. J. Military Academy) because of patriotism. It is interesting for me to know my History and that the family tradition continues, she adds.

SOUND: Colonel Eugenijus Vosylius, Commandant of the Military Academy explains the importance of patriotism among the motivations of the cadets:

The names of the Lithuanian heroes are written on the walls of the Genocide Museum in Vilnius. The museum is hosted in the former KGB headquarters. Many of Lithuanian resistants against the Sovetic regime were tortured and executed in the basement jail of the building. The memory of these names is an historic heritage that many cadets defend nowadays. © Benoît Theunissen

The names of the Lithuanian heroes are written on the walls of the Genocide Museum in Vilnius. The museum is hosted in the former KGB headquarters. Many of Lithuanian resistants against the Sovetic regime were tortured and executed in the basement jail of the building. The memory of these names is an historic heritage that many cadets defend nowadays. Photo: Benoît Theunissen

Free studies Versus expensive fees
On one hand, patriotism and historic values are very important motivations for enrollment amongst the future leaders of the Lithuanian Army. On the other hand, there are other students who are more motivated by the free costs of the studies. Cadet Ugnius Ragauskas is studying Aircraft Piloting. He is now enrolled in his fifth year.

– Being a pilot has always been a dream. I had the possibility to be a civil pilot or a military pilot. One of my reasons to study in the Lithuanian Army is that it is free, he says.

Although there is no financial cost for studying Aircraft Piloting in the Lithuanian Army, enrollment requires a very high commitment from the students. The only two Aircraft Piloting students of the General Jonas Military Academy are studying with civil students. While the civil students are spending summer relaxing, the two students have to follow military trainings.

The selection process
Selection system to enter in the General Jonas Military Academy of Lithuania is composed of three stages: a professional aptitude test, a military medical screening commission and examination of the former academic achievements. Everything in this system has been made to select the best of the best candidates.

This selection system has been implemented in the Lithuanian Armed Forces for ten years. They took experience from a system that has been working for fifty years in the United Kingdom Army. It was adapted in the Lithuanian army for the young Lithuanians.

Scientific research have been done to monitor the motivations of the young cadets through questionnaires answered by candidates. Most of them want to become officers because of the economic situation, a second part is interested by an official soldier career and a third part is coming in the Army by patriotism.

– It is worth to remember that Lithuanian Armed Forces is a quite young military organization, restored in 1990 after the restoration of the independence of Lithuania, says Captain Renius Pleskys, chief of Personnel Department at the Ministry of Defence.

A defense internationally oriented
Lithuania became part of the European Union and NATO in 2004. That put pressure on the Lithuanian Military Academy to develop its international programs.

The General Jonas Military Academy of Lithuania cooperates with other military academies abroad. It has developed joint programs with many of them. For many years the Military Academy has been cooperating with military schools of higher education in the United States of America, Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, France, Croatia, Poland and other Baltic countries.

Many officers are also sent to the Baltic Defense College (BALDEFCOL), a trilateral Baltic States project. It is financed by the three Baltic States : Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Besides financial contribution, the Lithuanian Army sends some of its officers as instructors and staff members to the college. The role of BALDEFCOL is to educate and further the personal and professional development of military officers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The Polish and Lithuanian ministers of National Defence meeting in Vilnius. The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence, Vilnius. © Benoît Theunissen

The Polish and Lithuanian ministers of National Defence meeting in Vilnius. Photo: Benoît Theunissen

SOUND: Colonel Eugenijus Vosylius– Commandant of the Military Academy speaks about the importance for the officers to have an excellent level of English:

The leaders of tomorrow
The representatives of the Lithuanian Military Academy are proud to insist that they train officers by developing their leader’s qualities and intellect.

– Our purpose at the Military Academy is to form commanders and quality soldiers. We provide officers with theoretical and practical skills useful for the leader who is motivated and ready to command in war or peace, says major Rimvydas Adomavičius, Chief of Division of Leadership Training at the Lithuanian Military Academy.

Developing leaders’ qualities represents an important part of the cadets’ education. Is is an underlying subject during all the study period in the Military Academy.

Eight values are taught to the cadets during their study period so they can become effective leaders. These values are: patriotism, morality, self sacrifice, honesty, respect, honour, intelligence and courage.

The Lithuanian Military Academy intends to shape the intellect, the physical presence and the character of its future leaders.

Even during the daily life of their study period, the young officers are trained to develop their leadership skills. The students are divided in battalions and platoons.

-I am a platoon leader. I have twenty subordinates. I am their commander and I teach them the values and what they need to do, says Cadet Kęstutis Kilikevičius.

Cadets are allowed to make mistakes. The have to learn from it.

The Military Academy hosts very few women. It may be challenging for these female officers to command men. Cadet Monika Šinkunaité is one of these women.

– Commanding is a little bit more challenging than for the guys because you have to understand more the people you are commanding. But there is a plus. Usually girls are more emotionally intelligent. They understand people. You can use this emotional intelligence with your subordinates. You do not have to behave like a man. You have to remain a woman, she says.

Delegations from all the arms of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. On the left: the infantry; in the middle:  air force; on the right: the navy. © Benoît Theunissen

Delegations from all the arms of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. On the left: the infantry; in the middle: air force; on the right: the navy. Photo: Benoît Theunissen

An officer degree needed for private companies
Alltough there are no requirements to possess an officer degree to get a high level job, Lithuanian companies show an important interest in recruiting retired officers.

– The Lithuanian society’s attitude to the national defense and the army has been very positive for many years. Public surveys show that more than 60% of the Lithuanian population trust Lithuanian Armed Forces, claims Captain Renius Pleskys, chief of the Personnel Department at the Ministry of Defense.

Military education is well valued by the Lithuanian society. Many people consider it as a prestigious education. Some companies employ retired or volunteer officers because of their leadership, commanding, loyalty and organizational skills.

– I think that, in general, companies are requiring ex-military officers because they have a very nice background as citizens and officers, says Major Rimvydas Adomavičius, Chief of Division of Leadership Training at the Lithuanian Military Academy.

The Military Academy provides graduated students with two specialties; military commanders with a civil bachelor (Modern technologies, Personal Management, Aircraft Piloting). Therefore, the retired officers are able to use their degrees very easily in the civil society. Most of them work as engineers, managers or logistic experts after their military career.

Private companies are not the only ones interested by the experience of former soldiers. Some state organizations requires an initial military service from their candidates. It is the case of the Special Investigation Service, or the State Department.