The Military Mountain and Special Operations School (EMMOE), which the Spanish Army has in Jaca (Huesca), is a teaching center of international relevance that offers high-level courses for soldiers in the mountains and for special operations (OEs). They are commemorated this year 75 since they began operating. We reached out to them to learn more about the reality that defines them. This is reflected in a lengthy article in the December issue of Defense magazine. We also had the opportunity to interview their current director, Colonel José Antonio Jañez Blanco.
What can you tell us about your professional experience in the mountains and special operations (OEs)?
Well, even though I was stationed in a mountain unit in the Gravelinas Battalion in Sabiñanigo (Huesca) for almost three years in my first job as a lieutenant, my greatest experience in the OEs was as a lieutenant and captain of the disbanded Group of Special Operations (GOE) VI in La Coruña and more recently as a commander in the headquarters of the MOE and GOE XIX, currently BOEL XIX. From the mountain units I learned the value of personal sacrifice and the calm and selfless work of their small units. With the OEs, I was able to experience the great development that they have undergone in terms of material, organization and importance of their tasks and make them a decisive part in the solution of current conflicts.
You took up your current position in April 2019. What has been your experience at EMMOE since then? Did you announce any changes to the workspace that was kept until you arrived?
While all courses appear to be the same, updates are made every year to keep them in line with the latest trends. With this in mind, I received up-to-date and challenging courses from my predecessor. I have tried to encourage this ongoing process, always trying to create the most specialized and up-to-date combatants possible. At the same time I tried to promote other training activities for already graduates and to re-evaluate the EMMOE as a reference center for mountain training and OEs for all Spanish Armed Forces (FAS).
We are interested in delving into Jaca’s main dishes. Can you explain to us about the mountain course for managers which technical aspects define this special training? What would you like to have more influence on?
This is a long term course aimed at the student achieving a high technical qualification in life, movement and fighting procedures in summer, winter mountains and cold weather. Climbing and skiing are the most technical part, always paying attention to safety. Passing this course will ensure superiority over all opponents who appear in this environment hostile to the usual fighters. Use this very hostility as a greater chance of success.
The previous one is supplemented by a new one for troops. What are the goals of this special preparation? What would you like to have more influence on?
The command course is very demanding, and as I said before, starting with a very brief knowledge of the mountain, a high level is reached. This enables us to reach leaders of small special forces who are able to safely carry out complex mountain missions. The troop course is aimed at mountain unit veterans with intermediate mountain knowledge acquired through daily instruction and training in their units. From there, confirm this knowledge and expand it to qualify them as squad leaders or small teams of mountain specialists so that they can independently carry out subtasks in the units indicated above.
We are aware of the hardship of mountain preparation. Is the physical or mental training more intense? Is it true that it is even more difficult than OEs?
Although it is difficult to judge the hardness of an activity as this is somewhat subjective, it seems clear that the mountain course has a higher physical load, but with a more regular pattern. It contains fewer types of activities that take longer, so it is easier to maintain an individual’s level of progress. In the case of OEs, there are many more competencies that need to be trained in all sorts of circumstances, which in some cases implies ignorance of the moment and the conditions under which they are triggered. Maybe achieve greater psychological stress.
Photo: The SO course for managers focuses on a wide range of topics to train them to lead the units they are assigned to. (EMMOE)
Interesting answer. We would like to have a little influence on the preparation of officers and NCOs in OEs. Can you explain to us what the main goals of this are? And which technical aspects define this training?
Preparation at EOs is continuous and extremely practical. Enter as a student after a short week of selection. First of all, physical and mental hardening of the individual is sought, whereby the individual training is emphasized. We call this the basic phase. They are then trained in specific procedures of the OES units and it ends with an application phase in which everything learned during the course is practiced. We are looking for mentally stable and robust fighters who can always face what needs to be done. With enough initiative to be able to independently respond to the purposes of their commanders, and with knowledge and resources to lead the various units of the OES where they are. Experience in their goals – Army’s Special Operations Command (MOE), Navy’s Special Naval Warfare Force (FGNE), and Army’s Squadron of Parachute Sappers (EZAPAC) – will polish them.
As far as I understand, will the EMMOE also take on the training of the Special Operations Command (MOE) troops in OEs? Wouldn’t it be good to take a troop course for the units of the three armies, including EZAPAC and FGNE?
Regarding the designated ET OE troop course, although it takes place in Alicante, I can explain that its direction and administration is entirely from the EMMOE. In this case, the execution falls to the MOE. Years ago, its curriculum was developed, adapted to the teaching regulations and content expanded, standardizing the procedures taught to the force with those of the course for supervisory bodies, allowing quick integration into the curriculum of all Operational Teams (EOs) corresponding GOEs / BOEL, for which they are determined at the end of their respective courses. However, this course is also in a very important phase for Jaca and spends between 1 and 2 months at the school depending on the year. The involvement of personnel from other armies in this course is beyond my responsibility.
In the current context of defense in Spain, it may seem illogical / uneconomical to some to keep the EMMOE open. What contribution would the Jaca School make today to ensure that it continues to be the benchmark that it has been for the past 75 years?
The EMMOE is an Advanced Teaching Center that offers very specific quality teaching and ensures that the units it serves have the best trained staff possible. We are talking about the quality of the staff who will continue to carry out missions, more isolated or with more complex objectives. And that’s invaluable when needed. In return, EMMOE enjoys the necessary independence to devote itself exclusively to this, with a team of very committed and motivated teachers in a really privileged environment in the middle of the mountain, but very closely and well connected to many other teaching facilities. – Maneuvering areas, air force bases, swamps, support units, etc. The resulting product, the military graduate, foils this idea and retains the motif that inspired its creation.
Photo: EMMOE courses are particularly intensive and are carried out with different levels of support in different parts of the peninsula. (EMMOE)
We learned that they will bet on new courses. We know you’ve just been taught TEO (Technical Exploitation Operation) techniques. What did this training focus on? Are you preparing other courses to provide more teaching content for EMMOE?
Indeed, we undertake to complete the range of specialization courses – two for mountain and two for OE – and include shorter courses that we deem necessary to alleviate certain unit needs through regulated education. Needs resulting from the constant further development of the procedures in the field of application and at national level. This is the case with TEO, whose third edition has ended these days. At this moment we can be proud, because it is the first time that we are developing it exclusively nationally. Up until now there have been teachers or media on loan from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), with EMMOE exclusively setting the stage. I think we can already say that we can develop it at national level alone.
EMMOE was not alone in this regard. We have been working with other units and centers across the FAS at this point through the most highly qualified personnel on this matter in order to achieve the best possible quality in an area that, as you know, is treated to train OE operators in a short time Gathering evidence – which can endure the goal of a team at OE – and knowing how to handle it safely, in accordance with applicable law, without breaking the custody chain; Submit them to an analytical laboratory and, as much as possible and without prejudice to the foregoing, extract as much information as possible from them to obtain useful information.
In addition to this course, other activities are currently being developed – days or seminars – of very different types: combat shooting, stranding / opening, planning, shooting in snow, extreme cold medicine, ski repair, etc. Hopefully some of these can be developed as one at TEO new course was the case.
Photo: Water is an environment that those graduating in OEs from the Spanish EMMOE should know well. (EMMOE)
The history of EMMOE this year celebrates 75 years of continuous, intense and very professional activity. In which known and new aspects will you focus the future of this teaching center with international reference?
From my point of view, EMMOE needs to keep their 4 main dishes up to date, which in itself uses up a large part of the school’s personal and material resources. To that end, we would like to continue improving facilities, materials and staff coverage. We need to further consolidate the cooperation with units and centers that support the complex activities of the EMMOE. I believe the recent appointment as the FAS Reference Center for Mountains and OEs will help us achieve these goals. We need to integrate army / navy training into these matters at the level established by command, thus becoming a real vector of interoperability between the different armies / navy. The short training activities that will be developed will go a long way in that direction.
Finally, would you like to add something for our readers?
Thank you simply for the effort and dedication of the staff at this school that I am allowed to lead, and for the selfless collaboration of many of the other units and centers with which we work. Our daily work is not aimed at improving the efficiency and usability of the mountain units and special operations that we love so much.
Thank you Colonel Jañez. Octavio Diez
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