Late Summer Congress kicked off

The ‘CIOR Late Summer Congress 2020’ was kicked off with an opening ceremony in Tallinn’s ‘Freedom Square’ Sunday afternoon, and Monday morning the Executive Council and various committees started their work.

By: Sqn Ldr (R) Michael Cairns, Royal Air Force/ CIOR Public Affairs

A photo gallery from the opening ceremony can be found here !

Seven national Vice Presidents participated physically in the Council meeting, and 15 participated remotely via the “Zoom” online video conference tool.

The essential work of CIOR as the body which links reservist organisations across NATO has taken a key step forward with the start of a COVID crisis delayed Summer Congress in Tallinn, Estonia.

The COVID crisis has changed the way the world works and CIOR, which advises NATO on reservist issues is no different, with the Congress being a mix of face-to-face and online participation in order to reduce the risk of virus contamination.

Twenty-two countries participated in the opening Executive Committee, 15 of them via digital conferencing and 7 represented in person in the congress meeting room.

CIOR President, Col. Chris Argent of the UK who was amongst those who travelled to Estonia, acknowledged the unique circumstances and paid tribute to the work of those who had made the event possible and stressed that the work had to go on.

“Shutting down completely would have been a serious blow to CIOR with serious consequences,” said Colonel Argent.

“The COVID situation is one we will have to live with for the forseeable future and it is deeply disappointing that I can’t meet you all in person as I regard you all as friends and colleagues. But I want to pay tribute to our Estonian hosts who have put in so much terrific effort to ensure that the Congress could take place and for those of us in Tallinn that we can do so safely,” said Col Argent in his address to the delegates on screen and in the room.

Nations that had sent delgates included, the UK, Spain, Sweden, Albania, Austria, Greece and of course hosts Estonia. Estonia will take over the CIOR Presidency following Germany in 2022.

Also meeting in the Congress hotel were participants in the Young Reserve Officers and Reserve Officers programme in which junior officers get to meet and learn from colleagues around the NATO alliance and to work through exercises to build mutual understanding.

Col Argent said the Executive Committee was looking forward to attending a seminar run by the International Centre for Defence and Security during congress week because of the high calibre of attendees and the opportunity to raise CIOR’s profile with key figures such as Defence and Foreign Ministers from many NATO countries.

One of the three topics at the seminar , titled ABCD 2020, is the role of Reservists – so having the body which represents and reflects reservists from across the Alliance in the room could hardly be more relevant.

“This will be a great opportunity to create a new contact for CIOR,” said the President. “It gives us a unique opportunity to present ourselves and build relationship.”

Estonian armed forces photos from CIOR LSC.

CIMEX started in Tallinn: Sixteen online participants

There’s another first for CIOR, as the 2020 CIOR CIMEX (civil-military cooperation exercise) has 16 online participants from North America and Europe along with 18 in Tallinn. A distinguished panel of speakers are due over the three days, discussing a variety of topics including NATO energy strategy, the HADR (humanitarian aid and disaster relief) mission from a EUCOM (US European Command) perspective and supporting the exercise for the delegates – enabling both virtual and physical attendees to contribute equally.

On Sunday, the CIOR ‘Late Summer Congress’ (LSC) will kick off with the opening ceremony and welcome reception for physical attendees. Many more will join online when the congress meetings start on Monday.

The LSC is organised in lieu of the CIOR Summer Congress in Liege, Belgium, which was scheduled to take place in August but cancelled due to Covid-19.

This year’s CIMEX (civil-military cooperation exercise) has 16 online participants from North America and Europe along with 18 physically present in Tallinn.

Estonian armed forces photos from CIOR LSC.

CIOR partnering with distinguished Defence Institution

In place of the normal Summer Congress Symposium, CIOR is in Tallinn co-sponsoring with the International Centre for Defence & Security its internationally recognised ’Annual Baltic Conference on Defence’. This is a one-day event – this year entitled ”Strengthening Baltic Societal Resilience and Military Defence”.

 – For CIOR this is a prestigious opportunity to co-operate with an important defence institution, says President Argent.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt.Col.  (R) Norwegian Army/CIOR Public Affairs

The host for the ABCD is the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn.

After introductions by the President and Prime Minister of Estonia, topics being covered are the COVID-19 Pandemic, NATO in the Baltics, and – in the afternoon – Reserves. The title of the latter is: ”The role of reserves in the current and likely future security environments”. Speakers include senior officers and politicians from Estonia, US, UK, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

From an earlier ABCD conference. Photo: ICDS.

All those who are attending the ’Late Summer Congress’ in Tallinn in person can participate, and virtual facilities will be provided for everyone else who wants to follow the event online.

– All of this is really relevant to CIOR, and frankly the list of speakers is such that we could not hope to rival it, says CIOR President, UK Colonel (Retd.), Chris Argent – who is hoping this might only be the beginning of  fruitful partnership.

– There is definitely a long term possibility of ongoing cooperation with the ICDS, Argent enthusiastically says.

The International Centre for Defence and Security has published a wide range of reports on international peace and security issues , in cooperation with – among others – the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, well known in CIOR through the annual winter Seminar. Photo: ICDS.

Link to the ABCD website, with the current version of the program. The conference is hosted by the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn.


The ’Late Summer Congress’ is confirmed

The CIOR  ’Late Summer Congress’ is confirmed to go ahead as initially planned, in Tallinn, Estonia, from 27 September to 01 October 2020. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the virtual IBM held last July agreed to make a final decision by the third week of August.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt.Col.  (R) Norwegian Army/CIOR Public Affairs

The congress will have the option to participate remotely via video-link, for those that cannot, or do not want, to travel and be physically present. It is anticipated that a majority of delegates will choose to participate through the virtual facilities.

– It was important to show that CIOR adapts and adjusts in a realistic, military fashion, says outgoing CIOR President, UK Colonel  (Retd.) Chris Argent.

– We have conducted a thorough risk assessment and are reasonably sure that it is possible to hold this congress without exposing attendees unnecessarily to the virus, given standard precautions are followed – social distance and good hand hygiene being the most important ones.

Participants’ accommodations are available at several hotels in Tallinn for the LSC. The main hotel being the Park Inn by Radisson Meriton.

The President and the Secretary General, UK Colonel (Retd.) Adrian Walton, have been on location for a recce this week, and following a loosening of the Estonian National Policy on quarantine for visitors from countries with higher infection rates in consultation with the Estonian hosts, the congress confirmation was posted on CIOR Connect today.

In place of the normal Symposium, CIOR is co-sponsoring with the International Centre for Defence & Security, the Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABCD) which is a one-day event entitled ”Strengthening Baltic Societal Resilience and Military Defence” on Wednesday 30 September in Tallinn. Speakers include senior officers and politicians from Estonia, US, UK, Germany, Spain and Portugal, and proceedings will be opened by the President of Estonia.

All those who are attending the ’Late Summer Congress’ in person can participate, and virtual facilities will be provided for everyone else who wants to follow the event online. Contents will include key note speeches on the Security and Defence Implications of COVID-19, NATO’s Deterrence and Defence in the Baltic Region and the Role of Reserves in the current and likely future security environments.

CIOR President, UK Col. (Retd.), Chris Argent.

– For CIOR this is a prestigious opportunity to co-operate with an important defence institution, and we are grateful for the opportunity and the goodwill of the ICDS, says Argent.

In respecting the health advice for social distance and large gatherings, and adjusting for what is practically possible on short notice during this situation, the Congress will be held without the traditional military competition (MILCOMP), and it is hoped that the CIOR Language Academy (CLA) will take place at a later date.

The ’Late Summer Congress’ is held in lieu of the cancelled Summer Congress in Liege, Belgium, which was scheduled for early August.

The Estonian ’Late Summer Congress’ event page can be found here.


Germany takes over Chairmanship of NRFC

On 1st of July, Germany took over the National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) Chairmanship from Poland. With NATO Member States, the NRFC promotes and enhances the utility and interests of Reserve Forces and Personnel as a vital component of the National Forces and of the NATO Force Structure.

In a bilateral video-teleconference call, Major General Robert Głab (Poland) handed the responsibility of Chairmanship over to Rear Admiral Michael H. Busse (Germany).

Germany will now hold the chairmanship for the next two years.

In his farewell remarks, Major General Glab highlighted “the honour and privilege of chairing the NFRC”.

– As chair, my priorities were to facilitate and deepen cooperation between NRFC members, all NATO nations, and NRFC observers as well as to create the appropriate conditions for active participation in NRFC plenary meetings, he said.

He also commended Nations for the work carried out during his tenure and the Reserve Forces for their continued commitment.

NRFC’s new Chairman, Rear Admiral Michael H. Busse, German Navy, signing the NRFC Handover Certificate. (Video-teleconference screenshot by NATO HQ.)

After signing the NRFC Handover Certificate, Rear Admiral Busse emphasised the importance of the NRFC “as a forum to share information, experience, effective models, and solutions between Nations and observe ways in which joint activities build on international best practices”.

– I look forward to working with NATO and the NATO Military Committee who have always been strong advocates for the NRFC and understand the compelling requirement to exploit the inherent potential of reservists and Reserve Forces”, the new chairman said.

Created in 1981, as an interallied and joint committee and recognised as a NATO advisory committee in 1996, the NRFC is one of four entities dedicated to reservist issues: the National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC), the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (known by its French acronym CIOR), the Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers (CIOMR) and the Confédération Interalliée des Sous-Officiers de Réserve (CISOR).

(Edited version of NATO headquarters website article and photo.)

A hundred years of Finnish Reserve Officer training

Only a few weeks after the country got its independence in 1917, Finland organised the first platoon leader course in Vimpeli. This has been considered the beginning of Reserve Officer training in Finland. The first Reserve Officers Course began the 1st of April 1920 at the Reserve Officer School in Hamina.

By 1st Lt. Susanna Takamaa, Finnish Reserve Officer Federation/ CIOR Public Affairs

During World War II, the reserve officer training was relocated from Hamina to Niinisalo where it operated under the name of Officer School. From 1945 to 1948 the training was halted all together because of the Allied Control Commission.

After that the school returned to Hamina where it has continued to train reserve officers on two courses per year, the summer and the winter course.

Most of the reserve officer trainees are young people in their twenties. Photo: Susanna Takamaa.

The defence of Finland’s territory is based on the large reserve created by general conscription. Every male Finnish citizen aged 18 to 60 is liable for military service, and women can apply for military service on a voluntary basis.

Annually, the Army’s eight brigade-level units alone train around 20 000 conscripts. The Finnish Navy turns approximately 3400 conscripts into reservists every year, and the Air Force around 1300. Less than 10% of the conscripts are trained to become reserve officers.

Thousands of reservists trained every year

Refresher exercises, which maintain reservists’ skills, involve thousands of reservists each year.

Nowadays Finland has five different reserve officer training units. While the Reserve Officer School in Hamina trains most of the reserve officers, some special branches carry out their own reserve officer training.

Among these are the Special and Para Jäger units of Utti Jaeger Regiment and officers for the armoured troops of the Armoured Brigade. Navy reserve officers are trained in Naval Warfare School and Air Force reserve officers in Air Force Academy.

Military rank only when in active service

The service obligation as reservists continues until the age of 60. The reserve officers do not have a military standing while in the reserve but when called to active service, reserve officers rank with career officers.

Based on their performance during service in the reserve, reserve officers may be promoted to higher ranks. All officer promotions are decided by the President of Finland.

The reserve officer courses bring soldiers from most Finnish garrisons together and bond them through the shared experiences. Sportswear with their own insignia for each course is one of the most prominent identifier among especially the younger reserve officers. Photo: Susanna Takamaa.

CIOR IT Support officer presented at NATO conference

For probably the first time ever, a CIOR representative has briefed at a NATO conference. That happened when IT Support officer (officially Assistant Secretary General Information Technology), UK RAF Squadron Leader Robin Wilkinson in early June gave a presentation to the Alliance’s annual ‘e-learning’ conference.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt.Col. (R), Norwegian Army/CIOR Public Affairs

Sqn Ldr Wilkinson presented to over 200 delegates on CIOR’s use of digital technology for some of its business online, and to ensure 24/7 connectivity between the Presidency and the delegates from the organisation’s 34 member associations. His presentation was titled “Digital Development in support of International Reservists”.

Screenshot from Sqn Ldr Robin Wilkinson’s briefing session with the “NATO Training Technology Conference”.

The presentation was well received by the audience at what is formally named the “NATO Training Technology Conference”. The conference was entirely virtual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Wilkinson participated from his home office in England. Attendees were following the presentation from across Europe and North America.

Moving forward in the digital space

– It showed how CIOR is leading the way in embracing technological change, an evolution – not so say revolution – which has proven absolutely crucial during the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilkinson said.

CIOR started its digital revolution 18 months ago, and the project has now come to practical fruition to the extent that nearly all aspects of the organisation’s dealings practically could happen online – securely.

CIOR has just held its first IBM entirely as a virtual meeting and plans to provide at its upcoming Late Summer Congress remote access for any delegates unable to attend.

Although cyberspace activity is not foreseen to ever fully replace in-person meetings with face-to-face human interaction, the potential for savings in terms of both travel time and money by reducing travel is huge – and is something that the Confederation is looking into.

– About finding a good balance

– It is about finding a good balance between virtual meetings and physical attendance, CIOR President, UK Colonel (Retd.) Chris Argent said. He sees NATO’s interest in the CIOR project as a sign of success.

– This is clearly evidence that the path we chose and the priorities we set in 2018 were the right ones. CIOR has been leaning forward in modernising itself for the 21st century to stay fit for purpose, Argent said. He mentioned E-learning as another area where CIOR had put in a lot of effort to make good use of new, digital tools.

“New tools, technologies, strategies, and practices”

The NATO Training Technology Conference “is for anyone involved in NATO training and education who is looking for new tools, technologies, strategies, and practices to enhance their knowledge, expertise, and capabilities, with learning technologies” (

The annual conference is organised by Allied Command Transformation, NATO’s warfare development command and one of the Alliance’s two strategic entities. It’s headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia is the only permanent NATO institution outside of Europe.

Allied Command Transformation headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia is NATO’s warfare development command. Photo: HQ SACT.







IBM succesfully concluded

CIOR wrapped up its first virtual IBM successfully last weekend with discussions on policy revisions and the way forward – to ensure the Confederation remains fit for purpose. More than 50 delegates and other attendees online made this historic conference a success.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt.Col. (R) Norwegian Army/CIOR Public Affairs

Never has CIOR organised such a large online meeting, and thanks to meticulous planning, thoughtful organisation and repeated rehearsals, everything went as good as anyone could hope for – both in terms of attendance and technically.

The outgoing British-Estonian Presidency and delegates concluded that this way of organising a meeting could be an example for future IBMs.

Although cyberspace activity is not foreseen to ever fully replace in-person meetings with face-to-face human interaction, the potential for savings in terms of both travel time and money by reducing travel is huge.

The British part of the outgoing joint UK-Estonian CIOR Presidency at the Royal Air Force base Northolt, where they ran the first ever virtual CIOR convention, with more than 50 participants.

CIOR 2030

A vetting of the CIOR constitutional foundation and strategic delivery to ensure continued – and strengthened – relevance, and to agree on an enduring business plan process for the future, was at the core of the meeting’s deliberations.

The outgoing Presidency was praised by several delegates for already having sharpened the focus of CIOR considerably, e.g. by the Romanian delegation (AORR).

“Indeed, during the Joint UK-Estonian Presidency, CIOR has renewed its attitude and ambition by delivering very good products and outputs”, their discussion paper said.

Especially mentioned was the signing of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with NATO’s National Reserve Forces Committee (NRFC) and the Interallied confederation of non-commissioned officers (CISOR), the re-establishment of a Reserve Advisor at the NATO operational headquarters SHAPE and the strengthened training – especially with regard to young reserve officers and Cyber.

Now is the time to strengthen CIOR’s “main role of becoming a real advisor to NATO on Reserve Matters” and “a true think-tank on demanding issues regarding Reserve Forces and Reservists, including Cyber”, the AORR paper said, and delegates recognised that this role is a ‘’two way street’’ in which CIOR can play an important role in Strategic Communications from NATO to the civilian community.

This discussion will continue at the planned Late Summer Congress in Tallinn and further into the next two-year period. The strategic review is set to be concluded by 2023.

Ambitious agenda – and projects

More than 50 delegates and other attendees participated in the conference online. Photo: Lars Bak.

Other central points on the ambitious agenda for the IBM, was to ensure momentum is kept for organising a pilot ROW Course for young reserve officers in addition to the present YROW and a plan for a CIOR Language Academy Mobile Training Team (MTT) that CIOR has been asked to deliver by the International Military Staff (IMS) at NATO Headquarters in Brussels – and that is foreseen to cover a long list of countries participating in NATO’s outreach program.

The meeting also discussed the allocation of future presidencies and summer congresses, and further included reports from the various committees – which for the most part have been very active also during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.

Late Summer Congress in Tallinn

Council agreed to the plan to hold a Late Summer Congress in Tallinn, Estonia, September 27th – October 1st, unless the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic worsens to the extent this might not be possible. A final “go” or “no go” will be decided upon by August 15th.

The Presidency will facilitate that participants that still do not wish to travel during the present circumstances, or that are under travel restrictions, may participate online.






Delayed spring meeting in cyberspace

CIOR is this first week of July in the middle of its initial virtual conference involving all member associations. The IBM (”In-Between-Meeting”) scheduled for the spring but temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, takes place without the delegates physically meeting.

By: Roy Thorvaldsen, Lt.Col.  (R) Norwegian Army/CIOR Public Affairs

CIOR President, UK Army Colonel (Retd.) Chris Argent.

When the Corona-virus attacked in March, it became clear that CIOR needed to regroup and come up with a battle plan – one that did not involve physical presence for its meetings to move the extensive program of work forward.

– It was paramount for me as the leader of a military organisation that CIOR also related to the threat that had occurred in a military fashion, by finding an alternative way forward. To admit defeat, surrender and sit around waiting for things to get better was not an alternative, says CIOR President, UK Army Colonel (Retd.) Chris Argent.

A huge effort has therefore gone into establishing a safe means in which to meet. Building on the success of CIOR Connect, CIOR’s new digital workspace, it was quickly decided that professional video conferencing would provide the key functionality to run a large international meeting like this.

Many of those taking part have already become proficient in using this technology in their civilian careers, but comprehensive guidelines and rehearsals were prepared as well as facilities for Vice Presidents and Committees to be able to ‘chat’ as they would do in sidebar discussions at a normal meeting.

In addition, there was a requirement for precise scheduling to enable members from both Europe and North America to participate, fully allowing for different time zones.

– The Presidency is very happy with the way the first day of the meeting proceeded, Argent said.

The Norwegian delegation listening to CIOR President Chris Argent during his report to the CIOR Council. Photo: Ole Kristian Haagenrud, Communication Manager NROF.

– A success

– Both in technical terms and with regard to attendance, which totalled 44 on the first day, and effectivity of discussions and decisions, this clearly is a success, he stressed.

Argent believes the experience has shown that virtual meetings could replace some of the annual physical meetings, most typically the IBMs, due to huge savings in time and travel costs for the 34 member national associations. However, one of the key principles of CIOR is learning about other nations’ ways of working, and much work is done outside the formal sessions, so physical meetings are vital for success.

– This is up to the CIOR Council to decide, but we believe it has merit to meet in this way some of the times. It’s not a matter of either or, but with the help of modern technology to find an ”ideal” combination of virtual meetings and face-to-face human interaction, Argent points out.

Late Summer Congress

The first day of the IBM, among other important business, discussed the plans for holding a ”Late Summer Congress”, in lieu of the cancelled congress in Liege, Belgium.

Estonia has offered to host the Late Summer Congress in Tallinn, as they also did for the 2019 Summer Congress.

Details are to be agreed upon by the CIOR Council, but the proposal is to hold a congress as normal as possible. However, in respecting the health advice for social distance and large gatherings, and adjusting for what is practically possible on short notice during this situation, the Congress will be held without the traditional military competition (MILCOMP) – and also without the CIOR Language Academy – which will be busy fulfilling an operational task for the NATO International Military Staff (IMS). The mid-week Symposium of the Congress would be a scaled down version, according to the suggestion.

Call for nominations

Another matter of high importance discussed during the first day was the successful completion of job specifications for the newly re-established Reserve Advisor at NATO’s operational strategic headquarters, SHAPE – and the Presidency’s call for member nations to nominate candidates for the post.

The second day of the IBM continues with discussions on strategy and future presidencies, and the new ROW course for young reserve officers. The meeting will conclude Saturday noon.




Romanian Reserve Officers Association involved in fight against COVID-19

The Romanian Reserve Officers Association (AORR) donated 460 medical visors to the Central Military Emergency University Hospital (SUUMC) in Bucharest and the ROL 2 Deployable Military Hospital, in function at the Ana Aslan Hospital in Bucharest.

These are in addition to a 120 medical visors aid granted the previous week. Over 40 AORR members donated over 10,000 leu (ca. € 2.000) for this purpose.

Photo: Col (R) Ninel Cercheaza/AORR.

The medicla visors were purchased through the efforts of AORR members and with consistent support from robotics teams made up of high school students from Bucharest, Ploiești and Deva, participants in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) program. These teams have the ability to produce 3D-printed visors, which they donated either directly to those in needs or to AORR for further distribution.

Spontaneous collaboration

It is a spontaneous collaboration that brings together three generations in the fight against Covid-19: military personnel who have ended their active period, volunteer reservists and high school students. We are in a period of turmoil, but also of confirmations related to our potential – and the contact with the FTC is such a confirmation, said AORR President, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Virgil Bălăceanu, PhD.

– Glad we can help

We are glad that we can help, by staying close to active comrades and, at the same time, with minimal exposure to the risks of Covid-19 for AORR members. It is not a small thing to deliver hundreds of medical visors every week, and if we can do that now it is only due to the mobilisation that took place in the whole society”, said AORR Secretary General, Brigade General (R) Iulică Burticioiu.

Effort continues

AORR plans to deliver another 500 medical visors next week. Also due to the accumulation of donations in money and materials, an action that will continue in the coming weeks, it will be possible to make a stock of such visors for military structures in Suceava, a city closed for quarantine.

The original article was published in the Romanian Military Observer no.17. from 29 Apr – 05 May 2020, by Marius Bâtcă. Translation by col (R) dr. Crăișor C. Ioniță.