This past summer I spent a month in Greece training with the Hellenic Military Academy cadets. Over the summer, the cadets have a four week camp devoted to military training in tactics, offensive and defensive operations, marine operations, airborne operations, patrol base operations, military vehicles, weapon systems, terrain obstacle crossing, weapon proficiency, land navigation, and hand to hand combat. The camp operates in a way similar to a prolonged FTX, but evaluates the cadets in a way similar to LDAC. Myself and 32 other American cadets were paired with a 2nd year Greek counterpart. The 2nd year Greek cadets are undergoing the end of their main assessment. After this camp is completed, their future positions in the Hellenic Army will be decided and they will begin training to become officers in their respective branches. About half will be put into combat arms branches and the other half will be put into support branches.
The Greek military lives a very different lifestyle compared to the American military that is influenced by their culture as well their military strength. For one, Greece required mandatory 9-month military service for males. While military service is required, many males and females pursue the military academies instead. To become an officer, an officer cadet must graduate from the Hellenic Military Academy in Athens. To become a non-commissioned officer, a cadet must attend one of the specialized military schools in Greece. An NCO would become an officer after 20 years of service. Because of this separation, the officer-NCO relationship is much different than it is in the American military. I noticed personally when watching the interactions between the officers and NCO’s that the interactions were blunt and straight to the point and usually just a command. The officers and NCO’s rarely interacted outside of that.
Based on their military strength and technology, the Greeks trained for both offensive and defensive operations with more stress on defensive operations. We did more training dealing with situations where the enemy was equal in strength or had stronger capabilities. This style of training involved a lot of stress in camouflage, weapon placement, and sitting in the same spot for hours upon hours. Offensive operations consisted primarily of raids and ambushes. Since Greece is largely surrounded by water and composed of many islands, usually there was some form of terrain consideration that involved water. The best thing I got the privilege of experiencing at the camp was a raid scenario operation involving the use of Zodiac inflatable boats. Typically, this would be an operation that only their SOF units would conduct but it was considered a necessary exercise for the cadets to familiarize themselves.
The Greek cadets always carried themselves to a high standard of physical fitness, field knowledge, and military bearing. They were always willing to learn from us, and they were always willing to return the favor and give us advice. Despite the good quality of the cadets, there were many times where they did not hold themselves to the same disciplines of field safety or military traditions. Time constraints were always loose, formations were full of gaps and holes, spacing was not a concern, and muzzle awareness was ignored. While the Greek disciplines were fairly laid back, the cadets still managed themselves well.
Seeing the perspective of the Greek cadets made me appreciate our foreign counterparts much more than I did before. To be able to understand the differences between our militaries is vital to creating a relationship where we can work together with ease. From the time we met the Greeks on the first day and could barely understand their English, to our last day there where they could easily speak English fluently, we learned from each other tremendously.
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