On 11 April, an exceptionally proud Second Lieutenant Edita Karahasanovic passed-off the parade square at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst ready to take command of soldiers in the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A year ago a very nervous Private Edita Karahasanovic, from Sarajevo, went to the UK to complete officer cadet training, she was the first ever woman from Bosnia and Herzegovina to attempt this gruelling training course. Now she is one of over 200 other young officers who successfully completed the training course and who will take up their command duties in the UK and across the world.
UK Defence Attaché to Bosnia and Herzegovina Lt Col Rob Tomlinson together with Minister of Defence Zekerijah Osmic and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina Major General Anto Jelec were guests of honour at the Sovereign’s Parade. Minister Osmic stated that he was immensely proud of Bosnia’s newest young officer and was delighted that she had clearly done so well at what is arguably one of the world’s foremost military leadership training academies. General Jelec said that he is looking forward to Edita’s return to Bosnia and Herzegovina where she will assume her new command responsibilities as a Second Lieutenant.
Edita is the third officer cadet from Bosnia and Herzegovina to graduate from Sandhurst in the past two years; two other junior cadets are still undergoing training there. This training forms a small part of a larger, UK-funded, project to rejuvenate the aging Bosnian armed forces officer corps. This project, which began as a relatively modest pilot two years ago, is proving to be ground-breaking and has been described as the most important defence reform activity since the unification of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2005. With British military support, the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina have adapted NATO-compatible best-practise officer selection and training systems. The successful pilot selection process proved that they are willing and capable of reaching out and recruiting some of the best young graduate leaders from society. In addition to the cadets passing through Sandhurst, a further 29 newly selected potential officers are undergoing a rigorous, year-long training programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These young graduates, Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims, were selected using fair and transparent processes and are now living and training together.
The aim of the project is two-fold. Firstly, to recruit and train up to a thousand high quality young officers over the next 8-10 years - from all sectors of society regardless of ethnicity, religion or political affiliation - thus rejuvenating the current officer corps. Secondly, the new processes are demonstrating that the Ministry of Defence and armed forces leadership is prepared to tackle corruption head-on. Before the pilot selection project in 2013, the Ministry of Defence had been subjected to countless accusations of corruption and political interference in the selection processes.
Lieutenant Colonel Rob Tomlinson, who runs the project jointly with a senior Bosnian official, expressed his satisfaction with the success of Bosnian candidates:
I am delighted with the quality of the officer cadets who are being trained both in the UK and back in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Edita is an excellent example of this need breed of young leader - she is an intelligent, tough, thoroughly professional and determined young woman who has done an outstanding job. She overcame injury to pass one of the world’s most challenging basic officer training courses. She represents all that is good about Bosnia’s youth and I am convinced that she will make an excellent addition to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Armed Forces young officer corps.