On the 03rd of September 2020, the change of command of the EUROCORPS’ Headquarters Support Battalion took place. The Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas FEY (FRA) handed over the command of the Support Battalion to Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marc CAPRACE (BEL).
In the Aubert de Vincelles barracks in Strasbourg, Lieutenant General Laurent KOLODZIEJ, Commander EUROCORPS and Mrs. Jeanne BARSEGHIAN, Mayor of Strasbourg, attended the ceremony. This year’s ceremony was a lighter version due to the covid-19 precautionary measures in effect.
The Public Affairs Office (PAO) had the opportunity of an interview with the new Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Marc CAPRACE (BEL).
PAO: Please tell us about yourself.
LTC CAPRACE: I am the Lieutenant-Colonel Caprace Jean-Marc. I come from the Engineer branch and my last assignment was in the Department Strategy of the Belgian Defense where I was responsible for the capability development and management of the Engineers. Today’s posting is my first assignment in a multinational Headquarters. Nevertheless, I got multiple opportunities to gain experiences in missions abroad and working in international environments; as I served in Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin, Lebanon and Kuwait.
PAO: Who has impacted you most in your career, and how?
LTC CAPRACE: I really want to thank the Belgian Chief of the Engineers, Col HAMES, who was one of my former Battalion Commanders showing me the art of being a leader. My mentor was giving enough freedom of movement and allowed his subordinates to take initiatives but we always owned the responsibility of “the result…”
PAO: What are your number one goals for EC HQ SPT BN and how do you plan to accomplish this during your time as Commander? And, what is your leadership style?
LTC CAPRACE: Even if “Command” is not a walk in the park, I first have to walk together, shoulder-to-shoulder, with my experienced deputy LTC BECKER, DEU-A, who is in post for almost four years and who knows everything about the battalion.
We have had a lot of personnel rotations during summer leave and training was rather limited due to the covid-19 situation. Thus, my first preoccupation will be to train the companies in their primary role of transport and build facilities for the HQ without forgetting the real life support we always have to provide on a daily basis.
I would like to work by issuing objectives and meet the people on the result. Hereby, II know I can rely on professional subordinates. Let them decide the “how” but I will be present to see how well it works and, if necessary, to steer and help them.
I always said that opinions and ideas are more than welcome and even stimulated but at the end of the day I have to decide. I believe in and promote a culture of hard work, respect, and integrity. These are tenets that I have always reinforced, and they complement our core values.
One important point I have to take into account is that we cannot afford us to fail. Our battalion is giving real life support and failure cannot be an option.
One of my actual biggest concerns is the COVID-19 crisis with all its implications to get the workplaces ready and safe in accordance with the latest safety measures. On the other hand, we cannot loose knowledge and expertise due to a lack of training opportunities because we always have to be ready to support a potential deployment of the HQ.
When asked to support the community in times of pandemic and agreed upon by the Framework nations, EUROCORPS as a command and control tool should be ready and prepared to cooperate with other authorities.
PAO: What is your greatest fear?
LTC CAPRACE: The COVID-19 related loss of operational capacity in the Headquarters. The health of our EUROCORPS community is – and always will be our TOP PRIORITY.
PAO: It’s not your first duty in multinational environment. Based on your personal experiences, what advice would you give someone going into a training mission position for the first time?
LTC CAPRACE: Based on my personal experiences in Africa, especially in Congo and Benin, I will certainly mention the cultural difference between people and the fact that it’s not because people are not doing things in the same way you do, that they are doing wrong.
PAO: What do you assess to be the biggest challenges to a BN Commander?
LTC CAPRACE: My biggest challenge will be the manning. In the battalion we face a lack of personnel. Thus, each available individual is of utmost importance and could rapidly become critical. In this complex, ever changing environment we realize that each soldier has to contribute to the success of the mission wherein we are not allowed to fail.