Summer School 2021 summary

Satisfied and tired (especially those who signed up for the Zulu Group, the most physically demanding), participants in the second edition of the Military Studies Society’s Summer School said goodbye last Sunday the 20th of June with the promise to meet again in next year’s edition, if not before.

They left behind two days full of activities for all tastes: from the most theoretical for the students of the Alpha Group, to the physical and, above all, mental training of the Zulu Group, with which it sought to provide an experience similar to what the elite forces go through in their formative phase, a small taste of what the “hell months” are, but without reaching the level of exhaustion required of a true military professional. 

The intense weekend that all the participants lived began on Friday the 18th with the reception by the organization and the explanation of what the experience and the organization would be, to then move on to share the rooms. 

After dinner, both groups received a first training: for the Alpha Group, Pol Molas (SEM’s president and one of the theorists of the group), shelled out the differences between the strategic, operational and tactical levels and how they interrelate and should be taken into account when planning. At the same time, the members of the Zulu Group learned the basics of land navigation orientation, in preparation for one of the workshops of the following days, and distributed the watches that the members of that group would perform during that night and the next. 

 As we have said, at all times we sought to live an experience most similar to that of military professionals. 

Saturday’s morning began at 6 a.m. to the sound of the “Toc de Matinades”[1] for all groups, followed by a voluntary workout program for members of both groups, the flag’s hoisting, and breakfast. A start that would be repeated the next Sunday with the same pattern. 

The first lecture of the day, given by the historian PhD. Xavier Rubio-Campillo, which was followed by both groups, the Alpha and the Zulu, dealt with the importance of naval actions during the siege of Barcelona from 1713 to 1714, and surely the relevance of the naval service during operations, and the fact that dominance of the sea was about to tip the scales of the battle towards Catalan forces, surprised more than one attendee. The loud and long final applause, give good testimony. 

After lunch, the two groups separated, each to face their own program: military logistics with Adrià Armengou (which analyzed the practices of the armies of Julius Caesar and Napoleon, and British logistics during the Falklands War, putting it in perspective to trace a historical analysis), and military operations in urban terrain, by Pol Molas. 

Meanwhile, the members of the Zulu Group engaged in various exercises and “challenges” both individually and in groups, inspired by the selection tests of some units from around the world. 

After the flag-lowering and dinner, both groups were invited to a wargame about the Falklands War, where thanks to the knowledge gained in the logistics session by the members of the Alpha Group, the operations on the game board turned out to be very fluid. 

Divided into four groups (two of them representing the Argentine army, and two more the British), they played two simultaneous games, with which it was shown that History does not necessarily repeat itself, because in one of the games was the side representing Argentina who emerged victorious. 

Sunday’s morning began for the Alpha Group with a lively session on open source intelligence (OSINT). The interest in this session was made clear by a rush of questions from the attendees that the speaker, Lluís Prieto, was answering, thus adding value to the session. In addition, he was able to give some practical examples of what tools intelligence agencies use to recruit potential recruits. 

Meanwhile, members of the Zulu Group practiced how to overcome failure; as the saying goes: “until you lose, you are not ready to win.” Physical exertion continued to be a constant, with water activities in the pool of the site where the Summer School was held. 

The afternoon session for the Alpha Group was given by Professor Dr. Francesc Xavier Hernàndez, who reviewed the relationship between the Catalans and the militia, from the medieval period and the Almogavars, beyond 1714. Once finished his dissertation, and answering a question from Pol Molas, gave a brief explanation on the production and possession of weapons in Catalonia, and advanced the research he will carry out to clarify whether the so-called “Miquelet lock” is really from Catalonia.

As this unfolded, members of the Zulu Group continued to practice field orientation, navigation, group work, and leadership under stress, to the point of simulating the transport of wounded on the battlefield. Which was not at all easy, especially considering the considerable physical and mental wear and tear accumulated at the height of the Summer School.

A constant throughout the Summer School were the cenacles of attendees and speakers who, between sessions, held conversations on topics of strategy and military history, a passion unleashed during these two days that has undoubtedly filled the attendees. Jokes about a winter school could be heard in these cenacles, although more than jokes, they seemed more like a wish.

With an absolute full house regarding reservations, from the SEM we are already considering what the third edition of the Summer School should look like; if for the planning and execution of the second edition we had the feedback of the participants of the first, now we have more experience and opinions to further refine the next edition.

[1] A traditional instrumental piece performed at the very dawn of the Catalan festivities