Job well done: Digital Summer Congress a Success!

The first 100% digital Summer Congress of CIOR was successfully concluded Sunday, with a lot of compliments from national delegations to the German-led Presidency. The entire agenda was adressed and discussed during the limited two-day timeframe, and all required decisions made by Council.

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

More than 70 delegates and supporting staff were logged on throughout the two-day event, alongside committee chairs and other participants. During the Symposium on Saturday there were actually almost twice as many as this, around 130 people, logged on.


The digital meeting format works well for the CIOR Council. Also on the second day over 70 participants were logged on.

The timetable was well managed, and only a few minutes over the estimated end-time for Council deliberations, President Jan Hörmann, Captain (R) German Navy, could thank heads of delegations for a job well done. Or (Bravo Zulu, normally abbreviated to ”BZ”, an old navy expression signalling thumbs up) as he probably would have preferred to put it.

Efficient and effective

Council meetings in CIOR have a reputation for being quite ”wordy”. Discussions have traditionally been very long. However, this has changed a lot with recent years’ streamlining and efficiency reforms. Digital meetings have contributed further to this change, which most will say is an improvement.

Day 2 of the Council meetings started with committee chairs’ reports to Council. It was an uplifting exercise, and a show of force in agility and adaptability.

Impressive committee work

Screenshot from the CIMIC exercise (CIMEX) presentation by the chairperson, Major (R) Zoe Stewart, UK Army.

Very succesful events have been carried out under the limitations of the Covid-19 pandemic: The CIOR Seminar last February; more recently the Young Reserve Officer Workshop (YROS); and CIOR Language Academy (CLA) that carried out a very impressive Mobile Training Team (MTT) deployment during a difficult period; and, closest to the Summer Congress, the Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) exercise CIMEX and the partly decentralised military skills competition (MILCOMP).

Also the other committees that do not run an external activity, have performed remarkably well during the pandemic: Legal, Defence Attitudes and Security Issues/ DEFSEC, Cyber and Outreach.

The nexy point on the agenda was dedicated to future summer congresses and precidencies.

Future summer congresses

The plan is that Greece will host the 2022 Summer Congress (regular, with physical attendance), followed by Finland in 2023 and Estonia in 2024. With regard to future leadership, less is confirmed – but options are on the table. Firstly, Estonia takes over from Germany in the summer of 2022 and will be in charge for the next two years.

Forward leaning on information technology

CIOR has also become a forward leaning organisation with regard to IT, be it the public website and social media, or intranet and information management. A plan for staying abreast of the developments in this are was dedicated a separate presentation towards the end of the day, as part of the Strategic Foresight updates.

The German-led CIOR Presidency, with the CIOR President, Captain (R) German Navy, Jan Hörmann, front and left.

Virtual Summer Congress kicked off

The first ever fully virtual Summer Congress in CIOR started with an inspirational keynote speech from Rear Admiral Ralf Kuchler, German Navy, to set the tone – before the President moved to more ordinary agenda points like the budget plan for the next fiscal year.

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

Last year’s Summer Congress had been cancelled at the planned venue in Ghent, Belgium, before Estonia offered to hold a ‘Late Summer Congress’ in Tallinn. That one was hybrid, meaning that quite a few delegates and committee chairs were on site, whilst the majority was online – taking part in the discussions via the Internet.

This time, the only people physically in the same room were the current German Presidency, which actually were gathered for the very first time since they took over from the British Presidency last fall. All the other about 70 participants called in via the video tele conference tool that so many of us have been familiarised with over the last year and a half – “Zoom”.

North Macedonia confirmed

The discussion on finances was followed by an update on the enrollments for the Non-Profit Organisation CIOR has moved to be, the new membership of North Macedonia, which later was confirmed by Council, and adjustments to the CIOR constitution/by-laws.

Symposium shared Best Practices

The symposium this time was a 90 minutes embedded event consisting of two lectures:

Wing Commander Graham Banks, Royal Air Force, lectured on Best Practices in use of Reservists during the pandemic. (Photo: Squadron Leader (R) Robin Wilkinson, Royal Air Force.)
  • How various countries have been using their Reserve Forces during the pandemic, and;
  • Sharing ideas about future preparation on Reserves to increase national resilience and readiness

The content of these two lectures will be shared later.

Future Meetings

The day was rounded off with an outlook to future meetings. The first one, the fall IBM (“in-between-meeting”) with Council and committee chairs, will – if possible at all, be held as a physical meeting in Berlin 28-31 October.

The next one after that will be the Mid-Winter Meeting (MWM) at NATO Headquarters some time during the second half of January – and the venue for the spring IBM is planned for Wilhelmshaven on Germany’s North Sea Coast. The latter event is planned for April or May. Finally, Greece has offered to host the Summer Congress of 2022 in Athens, in lieu of this year’s cancellation.

However, before all that, there’s another day left of the virtual Summer Congress 2021.




For the first time, Romanian volunteer Reservists train with US Reserves.

Between 1 and 7 August, joint training of reservists from Romania and the US takes place at the Land Forces Academy “Nicolae Bălcescu” in Sibiu, Romania.

This is the first large scale mission dedicated to Romanian volunteer reservists, and the first time they take part in a military capacity together with a NATO ally.

The training is based on the CIOR Military Competition (MILCOMP) format.

File photo: US competitors on the CISM-standard obstacle course in Tallinn, Estonia, 2019. (Sgt. Apolonia Gaspar.)

– An important selection stage

Due to the pandemic, the competition in its standard form has been suspended in 2020 and 2021, but it is expected to be arranged next year, in Athens. Romania plans to compete in MILCOMP 2022, and the August training is regarded as an important selection stage.

In addition, working with the more experienced American team can provide an important competitive advantage.

“Working with the more experienced American team can provide an important competitive advantage.”

The 53 participants will train on a CISM (International Military Sports Council) obstacle course, in utility swimming, rifle and pistol shooting, handgrenade throwing, marching and orienteering.

The program also includes a series of combat lifesaver courses, teaching elements of Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC).

The event takes place with the support of the Romanian Defence Staff, the Staff of the Land Forces, the Staff of the Air Force, and the Joint Logistics Command – with the approval of the Ministry of Defence.

All regions of Romania

Volunteer reservists from all regions of Romania and various branches of arms and specialties take part, together with representatives of the Romanian Reserve Officers Association (AORR) and staff from the “Nicolae Bălcescu” Land Forces Academy, the Training Center for Land and Anti-Aircraft Artilery “Ioan Vodă” Sibiu, and the Training Center for Moutain Light Infantry ,,Bucegi” in Predeal.

Reserve Officer Association Essential for Coordination

The involvement of AORR has been essential for adopting the competition format and coordinating with decision makers.


MILCOMP 2021 explained

The military skills competition is a core activity of CIOR. This pandemic year is a bit special, in that formally there’s no central contest – but rather local events run in parallell in the various participating nations. Yet, ten of the nations have still chosen to meet in Finland to compete there. In other words, a hybrid solution.

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

– Through national, bilateral, and multinational gatherings, the CIOR Military Competition Committee is demonstrating resilience, fortitude, and the will to prevail over Covid-19, says committee secretary, Grant Staats, Captain (Ret)/USN(SEAL)

All competitors that are gathered in Lahti, Finland, for the 2021 CIOR military skills competition.

While adhering to national, governmental guidelines about the pandemic, MILCOMP participants are conducting advanced military skills training and competitions to raise awareness of Reserve Forces and the CIOR program.

– In this effort we hope to achieve confidence and support from the people and societies we protect, that Reservists can adapt to any threat, in any environment, and actively train and fight to accomplish their missions and tasks, Staats says.

Military competition secretary, Grant Staats CAPT (Ret)/USN(SEAL) Grant Staats in action during an orienteering competition. File photo By D. Keith Johnson, U.S. Navy Reserve/DVIDS.

As a testament to this achievement, MILCOMP has captured recent activities in the form of videos, other imagery, interviews and reports – like the ones we have posted the last couple of days.

– These multimedia products clearly demonstrate that MILCOMP Reservists are the best in the world at rifle and pistol shooting, grenade throwing, and in fitness and agility – on land and water obstacle courses.

– Additionally they acquire great skills in technical problem solving in the disciplines of land navigation, map and compass orienteering and range estimation. Finally they need to prove that they also master combat casualty care [first aid].

– Each of these areas is critical to a soldier’s ability to fight and win against any adversary, in any situation. MILCOMP soldiers constitute a mentally tough and resilient combat-ready force, Grant Staats convincingly explains.

CAPT Grant Staats (Ret)/USN(SEAL) together with chairman of the MILCOMP committee, MAJ (R), Danish Army, Kim Åge Nielsen Birkerød. Photo: Private.

Getting ready for MILCOMP!

An important event during the CIOR Summer Congress is the military skills competition. All participating nations take MILCOMP very seriously, and train for months to be the best they can be for their team in this friendly annual contest.

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

From the US we have picked up this report, on their team’s preparations:

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Senior Airman Trevor Thompson, 67th Aerial Port Squadron, is one of 10 reservists selected to represent the United States in the 2021 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers Military Skills Competition held in Finland beginning July 30.

Senior Airman Trevor Thompson, a reservist in the 67th Aerial Port Squadron, navigates under an obstacle on the land obstacle course at Camp Johnson, Vermont as part of the team selection and training event for the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers military competition July 20. Ten service members from the U.S. Army and Air Force reserve components trained in Vermont to prepare for the CIOR MILCOMP, an annual competition among NATO and Partnership for Peace nations. (U.S. Army photo/Calvin Reimold)

The three-day competition consists of pistol and rifle shooting, various obstacle courses, and land navigation that includes range estimation, map reading, and hand grenade throwing.

The event tests and trains reservists in various branches of the military from across the world, and participants are chosen based on physical fitness test scores, marksmanship abilities, and overall fitness standards.

The competition is designed to foster camaraderie between allied nations and encourage participants to take their knowledge back to their home units.

CIMEX 2021 only a week away!

The announcement of the CIOR Summer Congress also signals the coming of the annual CIMIC (Civil-Military Cooperation) exercise, CIMEX. This year’s theme should be particularly interesting and highly relevant, so hurry and sign up, says CIMIC Chair, Major Zoe Stewart (R), UK Army.

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

-On behalf of CIOR’s CIMIC Committee, I would like to warmly welcome you to this year’s exercise, says Major Stewart.

CIOR CIMIC Chair, Major Zoe Stewart (R), UK Army.

Major Stewart is new to the role as CIMIC Chair, and full of energy and drive – eager to drum up support for the exercise, which takes place in less than a week from today: Saturday July 31st and Sunday August 1st.

”How do CIMIC reservists support resilience in the fight against a pandemic and associated resilience challenges?” is the fitting theme for this year’s CIMEX, as the cover photo of the programme indicates.

No prior knowledge required

No specific preparation is required to attend the CIMEX, nor any prior knowledge of CIMIC. You do not even have to be a CIMIC officer to participate. It has been designed as a self-contained learning experience.

Free of charge

The organisers hope the digital format this year – and hence no face-to-face interaction and socialising – won’t stop would-be parttakers from signing up. By the way: Participation in the event is completely free of charge.


– This year we have chosen a theme that aligns with the overall theme of the CIOR Presidency: “Resilience of our Reservists”. Hence, we will be exploring the role of CIMIC reserve officers in supporting governments in civil preparedness, the preparation for a crisis.

– More specifically, this exercise will be built around how a CIMIC reserve officer can support during a pandemic – and build resilience, Stewart says.

– This is very pertinent when we consider the number and variety of crises currently happening around the world – like Covid-19, significant heat waves, horrendous fires and flooding.

From the CIMIC exercise (CIMEX) that took place in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2019.

– Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s CIMEX will be online, but despite this, we have a varied and diverse programme that we hope participants will find engaging and valuable, says Major Stewart.

CIMIC explained

From CIMEX 2019, in Tallinn, Estonia.

A high-level explanation of CIMIC and Civil Preparedness has been provided in the context of the exercise with the intent of helping participants to understand what they will be learning and participating in during the two-day event.

Therefore, the exercise should be a valuable pedagogic introduction to this particular military discipline, where operators have one foot in the military world and the other foot in the civilian world.

Each year, the CIOR CIMIC Committee delivers a CIMEX on behalf of CIOR; it is a recognised NATO exercise.

The overall purpose of CIMEX:

  1. To provide an opportunity for reserve officers from the different nations that constitute CIOR, to meet and form relationships.
  2. To provide the opportunity to learn and share experience as CIMIC reserve officers.
From the CIMEX that took place in Tallinn, Estonia in 2020.

– Note that by participating you will gain some value in attending and on completion have a basis to start preparing for attendance at the next CIMEX planned for 2022. That will be an on-site, physical exercise either in Greece or in Belgium, major Stewart points out.

So, by participating this year, you will be ahead of the game for next year’s CIMEX, which will be held during a traditional, physical Summer Congress – probably in Athens, Greece.

Click here for the detailed programme of this year’s exercise and instructions on how to sign up!

Summer Congress 2021 to be held Virtually

Due to the implications of the global COVID-19 pandemic and after extensive discussions, the summer congress for 2021 will be a solely virtual event. The summer congress will be running for two days from the 7th of August to the 8th of August 2021. Further details about the summer congress are to be discussed and announcements will be released once more details have been decided. If you have any questions please contact us at or use our Contact page.

Late Summer Congress concludes


The most challenging circumstances that a CIOR Summer Congress ever faced were overcome with a successful week’s outcomes in Tallinn, Estonia. Delegates from a reduced number of countries attended in person due to the Covid-19 crisis but meetings continued online via apps like Zoom to ensure that exchanges of ideas took place. The success of this was evident on the last day when 53 people logged in as the round-up reports were being given.

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

On site at the Estonian conference base were the Executive Committee, Young Reserve Officer Workshop (YROW) and Reserve Officer Workshop (ROW) participants and those taking part in the Cyber workshop. The Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC), Defence and Security (DefSec), Legal, Seminar, Symposium and YROW committees largely met online. CIMIC reported that 34 members took part in the CIMIC exercise (CIMEX) that dealt with an imaginary widespread flooding incident. Members of the Strategic Communication committee provided Public Affairs support at the congress centre along with host nation photographers.

Both CIOMR, the medical sister body of CIOR, and the non-commissioned officer body CISOR also had small, but valuable presences in Tallinn.

A younger feel

The good turnout by YROW participants gave the Congress a younger feel as they made up a sizeable proportion of those on the ground. And indeed a former YROW and young Lieutenant, Sarah Alexandra George was the face of CIOR at a significant defence conference held in Tallinn during the week, the Annual Baltic Conference on Defence (ABCD).

CIOR partnered with the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) in Tallinn and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bonn, Germany to host the conference, which in part focused on reserve policies and experiences across the NATO Alliance.

Praise to Estonia

As the UK Presidency transitions to the German Presidency, outgoing President, Colonel (R) Chris Argent, UK Army, paid tribute to the support he and his team has had from Estonia in hosting so many events in the past two years. Several members of the joint UK-Estonian Presidency team received the CIOR Medal of Merit for their efforts in a simple ceremony in the Council meeting room.

Estonian major (R) André Lilleleth was one of the CIOR Medal of Merit awardees due to his extraordinary efforts during the last two years’ UK-Estonian presidential period. Outgoing CIOR President Chris Argent left. Photo: Roy Thorvaldsen.

Argent said his aim was to encourage refocusing and problem solving in relation to CIOR’s position and relevance to NATO and national governments, and believed progress had been made.

As to the future of physical meetings, Argent said the Covid crisis had shown how compromises were possible and how elements of online working could contribute to cost savings where appropriate –whilst never replacing the need for face-to-face engagement.

Estonian major (R) Ülo Isberg listening to special guest UK Deputy Commander Field Army, Major General Celia Harvey speaking to Council – as the LSC 2020 draws to a close.

Resilience and visibility

Incoming president, German Navy Captain (R) Jan Hörmann said the German Presidency’s focus would be on “Resilience and Visibility of Reserves.” The incoming President said the theme had been chosen prior to the COVID crisis but was now even more relevant to highlight to communities how important reserve citizen soldiers are at times of crisis.

“We want to make our reserves more visible to our communities and to our countries, especially in times like these when we all have to stand up for democracy and freedom.”

While next year’s congress is planned for Athens, Greece, the extent of who will be able to attend will remain unclear for some time to come. But as the Tallinn congress ended, there was no doubt what all of CIOR wanted, and that was to look forward to the time when relationships and exchanges can once again be built face to face. Keep safe!

Limited Numbers but still a Great YROW Experience

This year’s late summer congress was not a normal one due to the Covid-19 crisis, as fewer nations understandably decided to attend in person. Despite this, the organisers of the YROW (Young Reserve Officer Workshop) and ROW (the new Reserve Officer Workshop for the age level above YROW attendees) managed to pull off a great event in which junior officers learned valuable lessons and built cross-Alliance friendships.

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

Officers attending both the YROW and ROW combined to become one group whilst others joined sessions from their home countries online.

Those that travelled to Tallinn included delegates from Austria, Greece, Sweden, the Baltic states and the UK – and they carried on the important CIOR tradition of broadening knowledge of key military issues and learning how best to work with reservists from across NATO.

The cultural learning element of the workshop included a personal tour of the Estonian Parliament and representatives chamber with the former Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas who is now himself a Reserve Lieutenant.

He outlined to the workshop attendees the nature of Estonian democracy, and the concerns the country has in relation to exterior threats. The nation has a deep pride in its identity.

The cultural learning element of the workshop included a personal tour of the Estonian Parliament and representatives chamber with the former Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivass who is now himself a Reserve Lieutenant.

Amongst those attending was Lieutenant Natalie Gardner (34) who reflected on how fortunate she was to become aware of the YROW programme in light of what she will take away from the Congress:

“I really think this programme should be more widely publicised,” said Lt Gardner,” as it allows for great junior officer networking and learning.” “Being able to gather in Estonia’s Freedom Square in uniform with those from other nations was a real highlight. I have no doubt that this is something every young reserve officer should try and come on, and knowing it is there could be an excellent retention tool as an activity you would not get to attend as a civilian.”

An unusual event in which YROW participated was the Annual Baltic Defence Conference (ABCD) enabling them to hear from key defence leaders in Spain, Sweden, the US, the UK and elsewhere about how reservists are being best used during the Pandemic, and on wider aspects of assessing future threats.

YROW participants following the ABCD event online from the Late Summer Congress venue.


Getting acces to such an event is not something which comes along easily, so yet another reason to remember Estonia 2020 as a key year in the YRO and RO workshop members’ development.

On top of this, long-time YROW participant, Lieutenant Sarah Alexandra George, UK Army Reserve, was entrusted with the role of moderator in one on the three ABCD sessions – the one dealing with ‘The role of reserves in the foreseeable security environment’.

Lieutenant Sarah Alexandra George, UK Army Reserve, moderating one on the three ABCD sessions.

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.