In April 2014, the American University of Armenia (AUA) and the Armenian Ministry of Defense, with financial support from the AGBU, launched a series of initiatives to provide valuable educational resources to support military officers, servicemen, and non-military civil servants working within the Ministry of Defense.
These programs include management and leadership training for officers enrolled in graduate studies at the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Institute; training in leadership for junior officers; English courses for language teachers at the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces; training for conscripts during their two-year military service; training and professional development for civil servants and military personnel at the Ministry of Defense; and scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students admitted to AUA from the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces.
The basic training for junior officers aims to build leadership skills with an emphasis on cultivating confidence and adaptability, problem solving, informed decision-making, and developing experience in the full spectrum of operations. It is at this critical point that officers and officer candidates acquire basic leadership skills and learn unit and situational tactics so that they may assume the responsibilities that come with a higher rank.
For more than a decade, large-scale reforms have been planned in the realm of military education in Armenia. Since 2008, the Ministry of Defense sought new ways to elevate military education to levels on par with contemporary global standards. With this goal in mind, a partnership with the AUA was deemed a natural next step.
The collaboration between AUA and the Ministry of Defense began in 2013 with the design and implementation of leadership courses for military officers at the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Institute. The success of a pilot program led to the renewal and expansion of AUA’s collaboration with the Armenian Ministry of Defense within the framework of an agreement sponsored by AGBU.
At the helm of the leadership program is Dr. Arpie Balian, the director of the AUA’s Extension Program. Referring to the techniques used in the program, Dr. Balian says this training “is aligned with the military values instilled in soldiers from the very start. Infusing interactive teaching and discussion into each of the leadership modules, we facilitate a process whereby participating majors and lieutenant majors are able to develop their individual and unique leadership attributes and skills. In the process of acquiring new and more advanced leadership skills, participants assess their own strengths and weaknesses going forward in their military careers.”
Hrachya Petrosyants, a military affairs expert formerly with the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Institute and the Department of General Army Tactics, is helping coordinate the leadership program. Addressing the practical benefits that the Captains, Majors, Lieutenant-Colonels and Colonels will reap from the course, Petrosyants says: “It is important that they [the officers] are able to relate to another way of thinking, especially in the field of management. We still have stereotypes inherited from Soviet times and it seems to many people that some things cannot be done any other way. What’s important here is to learn how to think differently and see alternative ways to make decisions at the managerial level.”
Along with Balian and Petrosyants, AUA President Armen Der Kiureghian has also been closely involved in the conception and implementation of the military education program. “We are an American University in Armenia. We are one of this country’s universities and we want to be integrated in all aspects of life in Armenia, so we value the opportunity to offer training and courses to the Ministry of Defense,” notes Der Kiureghian.
The program has done more than improve military education, it has also played an essential role in strengthening English language skills in Armenia. Sofya Shamyan, an English teacher at the Pokr Mher Military Educational Complex for Cadets, says she benefitted immensely from the English training for language teachers course in early 2014 and is already applying the techniques she learned.
“Thanks to the program, our teaching has become more effective. Our students learn more and have more opportunities to participate in various competitions. We are also equipping our army cadets and future officers with a higher level of knowledge,” says Shamyan.
Ani Meliksetyan, who has served in the Armenian Peace Keeping Brigade for the past five years, echoes Shamyan’s sentiments, noting that the course has allowed her to improve and develop her English. “As peacekeepers, we often travel abroad to attend NATO gatherings,” says Meliksetyan. “Now we can represent Armenia in the best way possible thanks to our great command of English.”
By improving their language skills, not just their military knowledge, future generation of officers are becoming better ambassadors for the armed forces in Armenia, both abroad and at home, where it is hoped their success will attract greater numbers to consider careers in the military.