Abstract: The educational safety of military training refers to the possibilities of the constant and continuous development of the educational process. As a result, a person undergoing education at a military academy may become a fully-fledged officer. Effects related to the global spread of COVID-19 also influenced the functions of officer cadets and future officers. Military socialisation, education, military training, family relations, and morale were selected areas of the military education system that the authors have analysed to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the educational security of future officers. The need for rapid implementation of online classes and reduced officer cadets’ contact with the outside world was vital—but it also had negative consequences. Besides the negative consequences, the pandemic may also positively affect future officer training. Building relationships between soldiers, commitment to the local community, and class hybridisation are some solutions that can be utilised to enhance the education process significantly. The proper adjustments and adaptations to pandemic reality enabled the transformation of potential threats into opportunities for improvement of training. Polish officer cadets were engaged in the anti-pandemic activities implemented in the crisis management system of the country. Those solutions implemented to adjust military education to the COVID-19 pandemic reality positively impacted the security potential and allowed soldiers to acquire unique skills in the fields of leadership, management, and cooperation in hazardous conditions. Officer cadets’ actions during the pandemic for the benefit of society also influenced society’s perspective on the utility of military structures in crisis response.
Problem statement: How to adjust academic education to restrain the adverse effects of the pandemic?
Bottom-line-up-front: Since 2020, the world has faced a pandemic affecting all areas of life—including the functioning of military education. The pandemic’s aftermath is not only an epidemiological issue but also heavily influences the human psyche and social interactions, which are of immense importance for proper educational outcomes.
So what?: Relevant departments of military universities should conduct an assessment that would enable data collection concerning officer cadets’ educational processes. Based on the fact that we are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the conclusions of the COVID-19 pandemic in the field of military education should be discussed and implemented in case of the emergence of similar threats in the future, and also to make educational security more flexible to possible disruptions.
Source: Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna
COVID-19 and MUT
The COVID-19 pandemic can be discussed from objective or subjective perspectives; each person’s experiences of the pandemic are unique. However, few processes in society are purely polar and one-sided. Often, phenomena with adverse effects can also contain positive attributes of benefit to a narrower group of people.
If we talk about the military during the pandemic, it should be pointed out that the functioning of soldiers has changed. For example, the organisation of the educational system has been changed from stationary to remote. In addition, military academies also supported crisis-response authorities throughout the country, and officer cadets played a crucial role in this support. They have carried out field tasks alongside the Territorial Defense Forces and provided technical solutions to ongoing problems. It should be noted that it was necessary to make organisational changes indispensable for the constant provision of human resources to perform the tasks, which resulted in the limitation of the possibility of leaving the Academy by officer cadets.
If we talk about the military during the pandemic, it should be pointed out that the functioning of soldiers has changed. For example, the organisation of the educational system has been changed from stationary to remote.
The pandemic and the related infections did not spare this social group, which influenced the scope of tasks assigned to the armed forces. The entire Armed Forces were responsible for the tasks of Operation “Shield” and “Resilient Spring”, which later evolved into “Enduring Resilience” (Polish: Stałą Odporność). The military was responsible for setting up container hospitals for the civilian healthcare service, transporting, securing, and storing strategic reserves of materials used to fight the pandemic. Moreover, the soldiers of the Armed Forces carried out activities aimed at supporting institutions that provided social assistance, such as the evacuation of nursing homes or the provision of basic necessities for people under the quarantine regime.
Military Education in Poland consists of entities providing educational services at various levels for current and future soldiers. These entities also offer training courses for reserve personnel to prepare them to function in the armed forces and thus indicating the organisational, equipment, and other significant changes that have occurred to enable them to perform their duties if necessary. These diverse levels constitute the primary military education created by training centres and NCO schools for educating lower commanders. Higher military education is responsible for the training of officers. It takes place at military universities with different legal statuses. From the first day at the premises of the university, a person who comes to study there obtains the title of officer cadet and acquires skills and knowledge through a wide field of study, as well as general military knowledge. An officer cadet’s life within the university’s walls is specific in that it resembles the functioning of soldiers on basic military service years ago.
Military Education in Poland consists of entities providing educational services at various levels for current and future soldiers. These entities also offer training courses for reserve personnel to prepare them to function in the armed forces and thus indicating the organisational, equipment, and other significant changes that have occurred to enable them to perform their duties if necessary.
Entering the premises of a military university means the obligation to undergo a particular education process. It lasts five years (except for the medical faculty, where the education lasts six years) and ends with the officer’s examination. This education requires certain sacrifices that were affected by the pandemic; the first concerns the fact that an officer cadet, during their education, cannot leave their designated accommodation without permission. This restriction is due to the increased requirements regarding the necessity to ensure the functioning of the military university as a regular military unit. Still, it also shapes the ability to submit to specific military rules and rigours. Failure to comply with this principle is a source of disciplinary liability. However, repeated rejection of these principles by an officer cadet may result in criminal liability for the officer cadet in question.
Restrictions during the pandemic in MUT
It should be recognised that the pandemic was a specific, unplanned personality test for these young people in at least two aspects. First, the ability to function in a hierarchical organisation, and second, morale. Why has COVID-19 allowed for some breakthroughs in the area of command? When there are no disruptions, it is easier to function than when threats make it difficult to carry out daily tasks. On March 22, 2020, the Rector of the Academy ordered all the officer cadets to stay accommodated in their dormitories until further notice. The possibility of leaving the Academy was limited only to a few exceptional cases. At the same time, lectures and exercises were suspended, and later, remote forms of education were introduced.
The stress test is decisive in evaluating specific organisational solutions in management sciences. It seems reasonable to recognise that it was and is also true for officer cadets. In a situation of peace, it is easy to plan everyday life. However, being an officer cadet is not only about studying but also about serving. For this reason, it seems appropriate to emphasise that the skills acquired by an officer cadet during the pandemic may prove invaluable because they add a value that cannot be deliberately communicated. This value is about unique social competences, shaping the awareness of responsibility for actions taken and creating the ethos of service in a harsh pandemic reality. Family, education, socialisation, discipline, morale, and military training are those areas that have been identified as the most significant in the functioning of young people as officer cadets from the perspective of their destiny as future commanders.
Family Life During the Pandemic
The family is the basic community. The ties formed with parents, siblings, and life partners determine the decisions made in education and work. A person strives to choose a direction of professional development that will enable them to meet the needs resulting from the hierarchy. The idea of the family and its influence on the service has often been manifested in the research conducted by sociologists.
A person strives to choose a direction of professional development that will enable them to meet the needs resulting from the hierarchy. The idea of the family and its influence on the service has often been manifested in the research conducted by sociologists.
On the one hand, if one treats taking up service as gainful employment, it allows you to secure your and your family’s material needs. In the society and relationships that govern it, however, there is an equivalent to Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Service potentially gives something to the family but also limits the soldier’s relationship with their family to some extent. This is evident in young officers’ education, as officer cadets’ requirements are even more significant than those for other soldiers. Their purpose is to command subordinates and manage the tasks set by their superiors; hence their service in a barracked system throughout their studies and, to some extent, rationing their ability to leave the university area results from the need to unite future officers with the service and shape their characters so that in the future they can force the obedience of orders and instructions.
Military socialisation that takes place among newly incorporated soldiers cannot wholly replace the relationship with the family. Hence a kind of struggle for a soldier between the family and the service emerges. Balancing these relationships allows the officer cadet to achieve success in personal and professional fulfilment. In terms of family relations, it should be noted that the internal way of functioning of the university has determined to some extent, the relations of officer cadets with their families.
The threat of the SARS-CoV-2 virus triggered the need for action from the public administration, including university authorities. The university’s functioning was quickly adapted to the hybrid model. Whereas civilian students left the university, officer cadets remained because, apart from being students, they were also soldiers and, if necessary, could be engaged in activities ordered by their superiors. Thus, it was necessary to limit the possibility of soldiers departing from the dormitories for all kinds of leaves and permits.
The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was accompanied by the lack of reliable methods for preventing its spread. Due to the real threat of the virus spread among the large community of officer cadets, the lack of aforementioned methods, and the need for epidemiological protection at the academy, it was necessary to keep officer cadets in their place of accommodation. Officer cadets could not be sent home due to the risk of the potential infection of their family members and the possible transmission of the virus from the outside during the officer cadets’ return to the Academy. According to the research conducted by the authors, such forced separation from families had negative consequences in the opinion of officer cadets. First of all, there was no reliable information about the duration of the period with no possibility of leaving the Academy. Unfortunately, no one could provide such information because, in the initial phase of the epidemic, the pathways of spreading the virus or the health effects it caused were unknown.
Due to the real threat of the virus spread among the large community of officer cadets, the lack of aforementioned methods, and the need for epidemiological protection at the academy, it was necessary to keep officer cadets in their place of accommodation.
Moreover, considering the average age of officer cadets of around 23, it should be noted that this is also the period when some people decide to start a family or already have one. The research shows that the vast majority of officer cadets declared that the restriction of the freedom to leave the Academy significantly impacted their family life. However, taking into consideration the nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus threat, this action was a necessity. In some extreme cases, certain officer cadets considered leaving the army due to changes in the organisation of the university’s functioning during the pandemic.
Education During the Pandemic
Since March 2020, it has become necessary to adapt the rules, forms, and education methods to correspond to the requirements posed by the state of a pandemic threat and, later, the pandemic. For example, civilian polytechnic students started to implement distance learning. Since military students attend some general polytechnic subjects together with civilian students and organisers of polytechnic education are faculties, military students also receive distance learning. Opinions in this respect, however, are strongly divided, depending on the field of study and the dominant form of teaching (lectures, classes, laboratories). Most military students found remote courses to be a suitable alternative to classroom lectures. In the research, over 42.27% of officer cadets (n = 388) stated that such education was effective, and 21.40% had no opinion. 36.34% of officer cadets did not consider such education to be effective. There are several reasons for this fact. First, to participate in a course in a remote form, there is no need to go to the lecture hall. The growing number of students with limited housing space may cause a reduction in the quality of reception of the content conveyed in such conditions. Hence allowing the student to choose where s/he participates in classes seems to be an exceptionally satisfactory solution to this problem. Many lecturers organised classes using e-learning platforms, enabling the recording of lectures with the possibility of later reproduction. This provided an opportunity for those students who wanted to re-research the content presented. This solution also gave a chance to those who could not attend lectures for several reasons. Online learning for officer cadets also resulted from the decision of the Academy’s authorities, and the positive aspects of distance learning may be used in the post-pandemic future.
It should also be noted that the implementation of remote classes and the idea of recording allows students to familiarise themselves with the presented material later and thus enable absent officer cadets to obtain missing knowledge. It is also worth mentioning that sometimes the conditions of acquiring knowledge by students, and more precisely, the place in which it takes place, determine the success of this process. Many students found it much easier to read the course material in the comfort of their rooms.
It is also worth mentioning that sometimes the conditions of acquiring knowledge by students, and more precisely, the place in which it takes place, determine the success of this process. Many students found it much easier to read the course material in the comfort of their rooms.
61.86% of the surveyed officer cadets (n = 388) stated that they had become so used to the organisation of remote activities that it would be difficult for them to return to those carried out traditionally. 23.97% of the officer cadets stated that they got used to the remote classes, but they would prefer to return to those carried out stationary, and only 14.17% of the officer cadets did not have an opinion in this regard. Importantly, 68.30% of officer cadets agreed with the statement that one of the effects of the epidemic is an increase in their efficiency. The use of remote learning in the case of exercises and laboratories did not fully achieve the intended educational goals. Interviews with students conducted as part of the research show that problems related to the workshops appeared in solving complex mathematical problems, requiring discussion of individual stages of the task. The inability to obtain quick answers from students led to the verification of whether the result obtained by the student was the same as that resulting from the model solution of the task.
In the case of laboratory classes, the problem was even more complex. Laboratory work requires acquiring theoretical knowledge in the field of problem-solving in a practical manner using materials, tools, and techniques gathered in a specific laboratory. Here, indicating only one adopted solution to the problem is impossible. Some lecturers provided students with a recording of conducting measurements with devices available in the laboratory and the input data necessary to prepare the reports. Thus, they made the test results available that the students would obtain by adequately using their knowledge and skills while operating the device. Others tried to divide training groups into smaller ones, enabling students to make measurements on their own. The respondents assessing the effectiveness of conducting various forms of remote classes on a scale from 1 to 5 (where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best) gave an average mark of 3.81 for lectures, 2.65 for exercises, and 2.05 for laboratories (n = 388). However, it was optimal to hybridise with the abovementioned methods and organise classes as workshops that activate students and then conduct research of knowledge about their theoretical foundations for implementing laboratory classes. In the opinion of the officer cadets surveyed, 77.58% of the respondents (n = 388) stated that the hybrid model of teaching, in which lectures are carried out remotely, but classes and laboratories are stationary, is better than the traditional approach, in which everyone must participate in all forms of fixed classes. Reaching this stage allowed the laboratory leader to reassure himself that the teaching objectives had been achieved even though discussing and illustrating the proper equipment operation methods only.
Military Education During the Pandemic
Military education involves two stages. The first stage is the adaptation stage, i.e., basic training. During this period, basic military knowledge is transferred, and the character traits desired from a soldier are formed. After completing this stage, military education moves to the second stage – classes done over five years of study. During this time, officer cadets gain technical education and specialist military knowledge, as well as social and command competences, which varies depending on the faculty they study. The literature states that the goal of this stage is to endow individuals with the skills necessary to function in the profession as highly qualified soldiers and thus shape their social values, character traits, and commitment.
As a hierarchical organisation, the military requires soldiers to behave appropriately in certain situations. Hence the area of education includes fire training, tactics, reconnaissance, and physical training. It is difficult to imagine the possibility of limiting this area of activity. During the pandemic, it became necessary to introduce new methods and forms of class organisation that would enable commanders to pass on vital military knowledge. Besides the broader emphasis on using laser simulators in the classes, military training was implemented without significant changes for the soldiers.
During the pandemic, it became necessary to introduce new methods and forms of class organisation that would enable commanders to pass on vital military knowledge. Besides the broader emphasis on using laser simulators in the classes, military training was implemented without significant changes for the soldiers.
It should be noted, however, that the inclusion of officer cadets in assisting the country’s citizens by appointing them to the Territorial Defence Forces can be considered in the category of the added value of military education. The effectiveness of disposition groups increases as the chemistry of their members increases. When soldiers know their place in the hierarchy and can predict at which stage of task execution, adversities may occur. This is achieved through joint training and exercises and then intensification and ripping. However, no one could prepare military education for the epidemic threat.
Moreover, professional experience, social competencies, and the ability to implement actions as part of crisis response are unique values, the transfer of which is complicated. The officer cadets from MUT were assigned to support the activities of the Territorial Defense Forces throughout the country during the period of the greatest epidemic threat in Poland. In everyday military training in times of peace, a soldier may overlook the need to help or to devote themselves to service matters beyond the expected level. In short, routine limits empathy in some way. The performance of official tasks for the community allowed the service personnel to find a sense thanks to the fact that their work is recognised, and they noticed its positive effects. 62.63% of the surveyed officer cadets indicated that, in their opinion, their will and need to help (empathy) increased when they could see its meaning with their own eyes.
The Military University of Technology officer cadets were responsible in the Territorial Defence Brigades for managing logistic support, completing supplies, and physically delivering food and necessities to residents who could not reach the stores due to quarantine or other reasons. In addition, they supervised the functioning of the aid notification system and, thus, were responsible for gathering information on the needs and taking them into account in the supply plans of Territorial Defence units. As time went by, it also became necessary to perform tasks related to the control of people under isolation or in quarantine at their place of residence. At that time, soldiers helped police officers and controlled the isolation process. Soldiers from the Military University of Technology also developed a mobile application supporting the process of reporting the needs of people staying due to quarantine at their residences and aggregating this information to local crisis management centres. Knowledge in this area was divided into areas of responsibility of respective sub-divisions, and the expected products were delivered to the inhabitants. It is also worth mentioning the soldiers’ involvement in conducting epidemiological interviews. At the university headquarters, soldiers obtained information from patients about their health conditions and people in contact with them who could become ill. The implementation of epidemiological interviews greatly supported the sanitary services due to their previous inefficiency.
Doctors involved in combating and counteracting the pandemic’s effects could not simultaneously act in the area of pandemic prophylaxis because the number of people requiring care continued to grow and, along with this number, the percentage of seriously ill people increased. The development of a method of communicating between citizens and officer cadets regarding the pandemic and the diseases themselves, and the way of proceeding in connection with their outbreak allowed them to directly reduce the pandemic threat in the country. Therefore, attention should be paid to two aspects that have changed in military education during the pandemic; the first concerns a significant deterioration in the possibility of conducting military training due to pandemic restrictions. The number of military classes has decreased, and the possibility of providing specialist training outside the university has been limited. On the other hand, there was an underestimated and unnoticed possibility of developing officer cadets in the area of functioning as part of crisis response, checking their skills in the process of command, and helping citizens. In a subjective opinion, such a value may make soldiers involved in anti-pandemic activities better perform their tasks in the future because, during this time, they saw the meaning of the actions taken.
The research showed that 66.24% of the surveyed officer cadets believed that the practice of their cooperation in hazardous situations allowed them to build better group relationships and esprit de corps. Furthermore, 41.23% of the respondents indicated that one of the most significant positive outcomes of the pandemic was the possibility of acquiring knowledge and competences that were not given due attention previously.
The research showed that 66.24% of the surveyed officer cadets believed that the practice of their cooperation in hazardous situations allowed them to build better group relationships and esprit de corps.
The military is trained to be ready to act when needed. The repetition of certain activities, exercises, or patterns implemented in service activities grounds the appropriate behaviour from an operational perspective. In this helpful monotony, respective units may lack the variety the soldiers obtained when assigned to perform anti-pandemic tasks. In individual conversations conducted by the authors as part of the research (May 2022) of officer cadets performing functions in the Territorial Defense Brigades in the area of crisis response, there were often statements that even the initial reluctance to perform tasks away from the university in an unfamiliar environment changed when the soldiers tangibly saw the result of their actions, for instance: the food provided, the residents looked after, and the word thank you built an atmosphere of a well-fulfilled duty. 54.64% of respondents during the pandemic engaged in anti-epidemic activities by donating blood or blood components at blood donation points, and 48.45% of the respondents stated that they had carried out tasks as part of the Resilient Spring operation in the Territorial Defense Brigades. 29.38% of the respondents were involved in providing food to elderly and quarantined people. Moreover, 21.90% of the respondents were responsible for conducting epidemiological interviews to support the state healthcare system. From the perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic, morale can be discussed by considering factors such as mental resistance, trust in commanders and colleagues, the use of military equipment, and the internal discipline inherent in subordinate organisational structures, as well as responsibility.
There is no single definition of morale. Esprit de corps is sometimes called institutional belief, but looking at morale from a unique perspective is better. Leo Tolstoy wrote in War and Peace, “In military affairs the strength of an army is the product of its mass and some unknown x”. Historical experience indicated by Tolstoy shows that the quantity of an army does not necessarily correspond to its strength.
An explicit example is the ongoing war in Ukraine. The origins of the current situation should be sought in the period preceding the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. At that time, Ukraine made distinct statements considering its path of a “new opening” in the field of international security. On February 24, 2022, the troops of the Russian Federation crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border. Two days later, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti- reported Ukraine’s conquest. From today’s point of view, we perceive the operation as an embarrassing predicament for Russian authorities. At the time of publication of this article, the war continues, and the Ukrainian Armed Forces lead an effective counteroffensive which has already resulted in some serious regains of hitherto occupied territories.
Ukraine made distinct statements considering its path of a “new opening” in the field of international security.
The presentation of such information in the Russian media meant a substantial underestimation of Ukraine’s military power. Independent rankings suggest that Russian militarily significantly exceeds Ukraine’s potential. Nevertheless, news about the Ukrainian defenders, their will to fight, and their successes on the battlefield appeared in the media. Some of these news pieces became icons of the Ukrainian resistance. Pure calculations concerning the number of soldiers and military equipment could imply an explicit advantage for Russian forces that should easily outperform Ukrainian troops. Then, how to explain the opposite, seemingly counterintuitive effects?
The conclusion might be that sometimes small armies might beat more powerful opponents, while not all of the factors accompanying such results are obvious. Tolstoy also points out that such success of potentially smaller forces is sought in technical superiority, field conditions, or the genius of commanders. Behind such events is an unknown factor X. “That unknown quantity is the spirit of the army, that is to say, the greater or lesser readiness to fight and face danger felt by all the men composing an army, quite independently of whether they are, or are not, fighting under the command of a genius, in two—or three-line formation, with cudgels or with rifles that repeat thirty times a minute.” Factor X is what builds morale.
Beyond faith, the essence of morale is the readiness to perform tasks and the belief that they are right. Of the three aspects of leadership (morale, physical and intellectual), the literature indicates that the most important, and at the same time the hardest to achieve, is leadership in terms of morale. This is due to the need for a personal understanding of the issue of service, instilling norms of proper behaviour in subordinates, which directs these issues to the moral development of leaders, including understanding, maturity, and personal ambition.
Morale is referred to as the belief in success and a sense of responsibility for achieving goals. It can be concluded that the presence of an elevated level of morale is accompanied by a situation in which the person setting a task to be performed by soldiers can be sure that it will be performed with the utmost diligence and in the prescribed time. It is worth considering that morale, like authority, is built from conscious and unconscious actions. People who previously experienced more difficult moments together during military service establish relationships more easily, and the joint bearing of the hardships of military service of superiors with their subordinates results in the deepening of a specific bond which means that even if the subordinates subjectively disagreed with the task set and the manner of its implementation, they proceed to its implementation because they believe in their superior. This is how authority is born, resulting from premises other than the formal assignment of soldiers. The period of the COVID-19 pandemic has so far been a morale test whose success depends on the adopted criteria.
It is worth considering that morale, like authority, is built from conscious and unconscious actions.
The research shows that 92.27% of officer cadets joining the army knew that the service requires sacrifice. 73.71% of the respondents indicated that they were aware that such a situation might occur in which they would have to risk their lives and health while fighting the epidemic. Therefore, declared awareness of the role played by the military during the pandemic was high. Moreover, 63.14% of the respondents stated that they perceive the execution of the orders issued by their superiors during the pandemic as the fulfilment of their social obligation. In the authors’ opinion, if we recognise a belief in the organisation as morale, this area was also positively influenced because, as declared by 47.68% of respondents, their trust in their colleagues increased. However, morale creates a system of vessels connected with others. Despite the noticeable increase in mental involvement of officer cadets in the military service due to the pandemic, morale was also affected negatively due to imposed restrictions. However, it is impossible not to notice opinions that express dissatisfaction with this state of affairs. The fact is that the way officer cadets leave the commander of the unit regulates their accommodation. They might feel they have been treated differently from the professional staff who left their place of service every day and went to their families and homes. Suppose we point to people with more rights or freedom functioning in the environment of people whose equal rights or liberties have been restricted. In that case, it could be indicated that this situation is a source of antagonism between them. University authorities noticed such a situation in due time, and staff up to and including company commanders was barracked together with the officer cadets. Thanks to this decision, the officer cadets could see that they were not treated worse or better than the professional staff.
From the perspective of participatory observation, the time spent with other officer cadets should be considered the most morally elevating for young soldiers. It was the first time that they had the opportunity to be with their supervisor for such a long time without interruption. The officer cadets’ opinions gathered in the interviews conducted by the authors showed that they recognised their superiors as equals. Their only differences were the military rank and the scope of responsibility for the decisions made. There was also mutual respect associated with sharing the hardships of isolation, which contributed to the rise of authority. It is crucial to distinguish between functioning in peacetime and crisis. In peacetime, cadets enjoy cultural and social life benefits and can pursue their private life goals. However, the necessity of performance of crisis-time tasks may result in changes in everyday life and the functioning of the university. In the authors’ opinion, it is vital to emphasize the bond development between superiors and subordinates due to joint problem-solving. It is not common for superiors to live with cadets and carry out new, unusual tasks apart from the training grounds and exercises.
It is crucial to distinguish between functioning in peacetime and crisis. In peacetime, cadets enjoy cultural and social life benefits and can pursue their private life goals. However, the necessity of performance of crisis-time tasks may result in changes in everyday life and the functioning of the university.
The issue of morale and the performance of tasks in the field of crisis response by officer cadets is also worth mentioning. At various times during the pandemic, officer cadets were designated to perform official tasks for the local communities. The vast majority of officer cadets thus involved in anti-pandemic activities assessed it positively. In the opinion of the authors, this was since values such as the possibility of helping other people, confirmed by data on the need for various types of social assistance, or the positive effects of the introduced anti-pandemic measures seen by officer cadets, made it possible to build the authority of superiors and conscious attitudes of respective levels of command. This area of officer cadet activity should be summed up with an important conclusion regarding morale.
The authors’ research shows that the superiors’ attitudes influenced the subordinates’ performance of duties. Based on subjective opinions, it should be noticed that those people who directly performed activities related to combating the pandemic or counteracting its effects, together with their superiors, established a special bond with them. The emergence of demanding situations and unconventional decisions in the command process cement the relations between superiors and subordinates, thanks to which they can get to know each other. Therefore, it can be concluded that, in extreme situations, the supervisor will be able to count on proper action on the part of subordinates. That was also the case at the time of designation to territorial defence subunits. Officer cadets, more than once, had to face new challenges and performed tasks intended to be completed by officers. This was due to the belief in the necessity to carry out the anti-pandemic missions assigned to MUT and the will to gain the knowledge indispensable to carry out these missions. This unexpected and unintended situation reminded them that the military’s morale resulting from relations with superiors is rooted in authority.
In the authors’ opinion, in peacetime, military authorities make dangerous attempts to limit themselves to the formal authority that is determined by the subordination of soldiers, occupation of a specific official position, and military rank. Difficulties and crises prove that having material authority, resulting from the broader characteristics of a specific person, allows for the effective performance of these tasks even in the face of a threat to life or health. In addition, the allocation of the armed forces in the crisis management system or building a service ethos should be considered if one would like to achieve an even greater increase in morale in service activities.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed a considerable challenge to military education in Poland. However, conclusions must be drawn from this experience. Some of the after-effects of military socialisation, morale, or military education will remain in the education system for long periods. It is worth emphasising the positive aspects of the range of the abovementioned changes. The popularisation of distance education or the increase in social competencies and, thus, also empathy among soldiers are just some of the positive elements brought about by the pandemic.
Some of the after-effects of military socialisation, morale, or military education will remain in the education system for long periods. It is worth emphasising the positive aspects of the range of the abovementioned changes.
The case of military education during the pandemic shows that despite the disruptions, a difficult pandemic situation, and changing legal and organisational solutions, it is possible to achieve most of its primary goals, i.e., educate future officers. Educating these personnel has changed its vector over time due to the pandemic, but these positive areas are worth highlighting. Military studies at the time of the pandemic underwent much change. It should be recognised as a kind of compromise that, after the pandemic, military studies will be different from before. At the same time, the educational process will continue to achieve the goal of educating the armed forces personnel.
1st Lt. Maciej Wielgosik MSC & MA, is a PhD student and an officer responsible for military discipline issues at the Military University of Technology in Warsaw, Poland; his scientific activity deals with the sociology of disposable organisations [Military University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland]; OCdt. Eryk Marchlewski BSc, MSc Student, Chairman of Student Linguistic Association [Military University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland]. The views contained in this article are the authors’ alone.
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