In September 2022, the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AFBiH) will undergo the most difficult test in their 16-year history, NATO announced.
As stated, more than 800 soldiers will be assessed to see if they can perform to the same exacting international standards as more than 70 countries around the world.
”NATO calls this the Operational Capabilities Concept Evaluation and Feedback (OCC E&F) Program. It is a four-year process on two levels of progressively more challenging evaluations. And at the end of that, the force will be certified for use as part of international operations around the world (not only with NATO but also with European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN) missions).
In NATO, military personnel can only be deployed if their home nation offers to send them (NATO is perhaps the most powerful military alliance in history and can call on 3 million military personnel, but actually has no forces of its own). But this assessment proves that the person who may one day work with us is ready and able to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the best-trained military forces in the world.
The OCC concept
The OCC concept is available to NATO Allies and Partnership for Peace countries, as well as to our partners in the Mediterranean Dialogue (MD), the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (IC). If successful, the AFBiH unit will join more than 13.000 soldiers from 15 partner countries to complete the program.
We know that no single country can solve the security challenges we all face alone. Therefore, the militaries of different nations will regularly have to cooperate, whether it is to maintain peace, defend against cyber threats or work to save the lives of civilians trapped by rising flood waters. The OCC E&F program sets common standards that all countries must meet, demonstrating that they can operate using the same language, the same procedures, and the same equipment. This means you can gather soldiers from 30 nations and they can work as one team. The ability to do this is called “interoperability”,” NATO stated.
Two levels of the process
The statement added that there are two levels of the OCC process, each consisting of two parts: one self-evaluation and one NATO evaluation. Thus, level 1 consists of Self-Evaluation Level 1 (SEL 1) and NATO Evaluation Level 1 (NEL 1).
AFBiH successfully completed these evaluations in September 2019 and September 2020. Level 2 consists of Self Evaluation Level 2 (SEL 1) and NATO Evaluation Level 2 (NEL 2). The AFBiH successfully completed SEL 1 in September 2021. NEL 2 is planned for September 2022.
”Once a unit achieves the NEL 2 standard, it is known as a “declared” unit. Once a unit is declared, it can enter the NATO pool of forces and can participate in NATO exercises and operations. They can still only deploy if sent by their government (each nation has a different approval process, but the nation must be an all-volunteer force). They must be reassessed every 3 years,” NATO added.
This evaluation process is just one of the ways in which NATO encourages the military forces of allied and partner countries to work together and cooperate on political as well as military issues.
”Declared units regularly train together in NATO exercises, as well as participate in bilateral (nation to nation) exercises. Partner countries can send liaison officers to work in one of the NATO headquarters,” NATO stated.