Military service is more than just training ground exercises and foreign missions. After putting on a uniform, soldiers can still pursue many different professional careers and achieve success in many fields.
There is a great variety of different specialists working in the army. Although the main goal of every soldier is to protect the borders of their homeland and its citizens, many of them pursue a professional career away from the training ground. The army is not only tanks, carriers, rifles and guns. Military uniforms are worn by doctors, air traffic controllers, divers, meteorologists or sportspeople.
How does this multi-trading work within the profession of a soldier? We have asked representatives of different trades about their professional development. They are a living proof that everyone can find their place in the military.
Many high-school graduates decide to go to military academies not only because they want to become soldiers, but mainly because they are the only studies which can give you unique qualifications. This was the case with 2ndLt Aneta Stogowska, who has been interested in math and geography since primary school. “This world fascinated me. It was in high school when I first thought it would be cool to combine my love of maps with a professional career,” says the officer. She found out the Military University of Technology (Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna, WAT) offers a specialization that meets her expectations, but going there would mean putting on a uniform.
“I must admit I was wondering if it was something for me. I like to challenge myself, work hard, so I really wanted to try it, but at the same time I wasn’t sure I was up for it. I started reading a lot on the subject, and it was actually my fiancée, now my husband, who motivated me to study at a military university, as he had chosen the same path. Ultimately, in 2014, I started studies at WAT,” says 2ndLt Stogowska. She now admits she quickly found her place in the army. She knew she had made a good decision and that cartography and geodesy would determine her future professional life. She felt it was her thing. In 2019, she was promoted to the rank of a second lieutenant, and began her work at the Military Geographical Center (Wojskowe Centrum Geograficzne, WCG).
“If anyone thinks working with maps is dull, they are wrong. On the contrary, there is plenty of room for creativity. Moreover, I feel this kind of service really matters. For the army, the knowledge of terrain is crucial in any operation, so my work, which involves very detailed mapping of the terrain, is very important. It brings me a lot of satisfaction, and lets me do something I truly enjoy,” says the officer.
Others can find their place in similar, unique fields of study. After graduating from a military academy, one can become a military chemist, logistician, aviator, or, as in the case of Capt Marek Kwiatkowski (his personal details have been changed), a cryptologist. He has been fascinated with math for many years. He has always loved solving various puzzles and riddles. In 2009, he began studies at Inter-Faculty Individual Studies in Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Łódź (Uniwersytet Łódzki, UŁ), while simultaneously studying theoretical physics and theoretical mathematics.
“In my first year, I took part in a course on the history of mathematics. There, I had a chance to study the works of Polish cryptologists and I learned about their role in breaking the Enigma code. This mysterious world got me interested in the Lviv School of Mathematics. The subject really pulled me in,” he says. Soon after that, the officer learned about ongoing recruitment at the Military University of Technology for the faculty of information technology with specialization in cryptology. Although he finished his first year in Łódź without any problems, he decided to start his higher education from the beginning. “My passion for mathematics and the emerging fascination with cryptology led me straight to WAT. I knew this would be it,” says the captain.
He admits the fact it was a military university was also important to him. His father and his godfather, who have both served in the State Fire Service, instilled in him the respect for a uniform and the conviction that service is an obligation, but also a great honor. “Studies at a military university only confirmed my belief. It quickly turned out that the reality I came into fully met my expectations. Military life has become a part of who I am, and the incredibly interesting studies have been, and still are, a real adventure,” says the officer. In 2015, he started service at the National Center for Cryptology, which was later transformed into the National Cyber Security Center.
Soon, he will be defending his PhD thesis at WAT. “What I like most about my work is facing new challenges every day. People constantly come up with new technologies, ideas, algorithms, and thanks to that I can always learn something new and develop,” says Capt Kwiatkowski. He also emphasizes that going to WAT was the best decision he has ever made, because being a specialist in the army does not only guarantee an interesting job fitted to your passions, but also gives you certainty that experts in your field of work are sought for in the civilian market as well. “The demand for cyber security specialists is constantly growing, they are practically indispensible in almost every institution. This helps me think optimistically about my future,” adds the captain.
From Emergency Room to War
Graduating from military university is not the only way to pursue a career in the army. Military uniforms can also be worn by people who already have an education, such as doctors, nurses, vets, pharmacists, lawyers, or IT specialists. Graduates of such civilian universities, after proper military training, can enter the ranks of professional army. There are also posts for drivers of almost every license category.
MCpl Andrzej Kliniewski, today a medic at the 2nd Search and Rescue Group from Mińsk Mazowiecki, began his service as a well-educated professional. After his high school exams, he applied to a post-secondary medical school. “When the first week was over, I already knew it had been the right decision,” he admits. One day, his school was visited by representatives of the Military Medical Training Center in Łódź (Wojskowe Centrum Kształcenia Medycznego). “The soldiers encouraged us to apply, after getting our diploma, to the NCO School of Medical Services that existed back then. They told us about the challenges, foreign missions, professional development and good salaries,” says Kliniewski.
Several people, among them Kliniewski, decided to follow their advice. After seven months of studying, already as a corporal, Kliniewski took his first post at the 15th Mechanized Brigade in Giżycko. “The reality of service was a bit different from what was promised to us. I was appointed to the command battalion, whose structure was not yet entirely adjusted to the presence of a medic, so I had to wait three months for my job,” says the medic. He admits that even though his first years of service were challenging, today he feels enormous satisfaction when he looks back on his career path. After hours, first as a volunteer, later as a full-time worker, he practiced his skills as part of an ambulance crew. He also worked at a hospital emergency ward.
In 2011, he left for a mission in Afghanistan. During the 10th rotation of the Polish Military Contingent, he mainly served as a medic at the infirmary, but he also took part in patrols outside the base. He admits the mission was a breakthrough point in his service life. Before he went to the Hindu Kush, he had been trained by American soldiers. “It was the first time I heard about battlefield medicine, caring for the wounded according to the requirements of TCCC [Tactical Combat Casualty Care]. Later, already on the mission, I realized how much we still needed to learn in this field,” he emphasizes.
Having returned, he kept developing his skills. He finished studies and commercial tactical medical courses organized by medics, former commandos from Lubliniec. He was in a group that initiated a cyclical conference and workshop on tactical medicine for rescuers in uniforms, called Mil Med Challenge. In October 2020, MCpl Kliniewski moved to the 2nd Search and Rescue Group, because he wants to work as a rescuer onboard a W-3 Sokół helicopter. Currently, he is taking a course which will help him to become a helicopter crew member.
To the Rhythm of March and Rock
The army also needs artists, such as educated musicians who play in military orchestras and provide musical setting during various events. MCpl Rafał Sójka, a clarinetist, has worn a uniform for several years. He graduated from the faculty of Conducting and Instrumental Music at the Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music, and today he is a musician of the Military Orchestra in Bydgoszcz. Sójka admits he really wanted to work in his learned profession. It is a family tradition: his father and brothers are also musicians. After he had finished studies, he conducted choirs and orchestras, and as a clarinetist, he cooperated with symphonic orchestras in Bydgoszcz, Toruń and Płock.
“The work, although closely connected to my education, didn’t entirely fulfill my expectations. At some point I met my university friend, who had served for several years in the Military Orchestra in Bydgoszcz. He told me about a vacancy in the orchestra,” he says. “I thought it was a great opportunity and a chance to change my professional career. I finished an NCO course for musicians and I began service in the orchestra,” he recalls. Today, he is satisfied with his professional life, although he says being a musician in the army is a bit different than work outside the military. “One of the main tasks of military orchestras is participation in patriotic celebrations, so some people may think we only play marches. They couldn’t be more wrong. We’re happy to play popular, classical and film music.”
MCpl Sójka emphasizes that he deals with playing music on a daily basis, but above all, he is a soldier. He takes part in all obligatory military trainings and has to be in good physical shape. “Being in the army is a great way of life and a good opportunity to fulfill your passions. I think it was a very good decision, and I can only regret I put on the uniform so late,” says Sójka.
Cooking Is My Life
MCpl Piotr Welter’s love for cooking was instilled in him by his parents – two out of their three sons have become professional cooks. Their father was a policeman, but he spent his compulsory military service as a cook. “He told us about field stoves heated with wood, cooking for hundreds of soldiers, giving out meals. It made quite an impression on us,” says Welter. He finished gastronomic technical school, and later, in the early 1980s, he began his compulsory military service. I worked in the kitchen of one of the units in Łódź. There, I acquired professional skills as a cook, and later, when my superiors noticed my talent, I started work at the officers’ mess,” he recalls.
After finishing basic military service, he remained close to the army and the kitchen. As a civilian, he ran the kitchen at the military messes complex in Bydgoszcz. “Cooking is my life. I have always tried to give my best and infect people with the love of good cuisine. One time, during training ground exercises, we were catered by another unit. The food wasn’t any good. When several days later we set up our own field kitchen and we used the same products to create totally different dishes, everyone was astounded. Ingredients matter, of course, but the will to cook and putting your heart into it are equally important,” he says.
MCpl Welter has kept developing his skills in gastronomy. He has completed various courses, trainings, he has been a member of the Association of Cooks of Kuyavia and Pomerania. Today, he is a member of the Polish Chefs and Pastry Chefs Association. In 2010, he received an offer to continue pursuing his passion in the army, but this time as a soldier. He finished a school for NCOs and started service at the command battalion of the Armed Forces Support Inspectorate, where he has been a squad commander until this day. “Now, I’m both a cook and a soldier. When I was offered to put on a uniform, I was very happy. I feel good in this environment and I can combine my service with my passion for cooking,” he emphasizes.
He has been a member of Poland’s National Military Culinary Team for 13 years, and its captain for 11 years. Under his leadership, the best cooks in the Polish Armed Forces won three bronze medals at the International Culinary Olympics in Erfurt and awards in the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg. “It is not about simply cooking lobster, but about knowledge and creativity.” He recalls one experiment – he and his cooks made a dish out of military canned meat. Properly seasoned and with side dishes, it turned into a meal that everyone enjoyed. “They couldn’t believe it was made out of canned meat. For me, it is a perfect proof that you can do anything if you want,” emphasizes the chef.
Diplomacy Likes It Quiet
Soldiers who already serve in the army are also given opportunities to obtain unique qualifications. Many of them want to develop, so they attend various courses and trainings, finish studies, go abroad for internships or missions. This was the path of Col Wojciech Kaliszczak. “At the age of 13, I already knew I would become a soldier. Later, I just focused on achieving this childhood dream. I went to military high school, then graduated from Stefan Czarniecki Military Academy (Wyższa Szkoła Oficerska im. Stefana Czarnieckiego, WSO), and as a second lieutenant I began service at the 1st Mechanized Division in Warsaw,” he says. After eight years of service in line units, he started work at the then Land Forces Command, first in the commander’s secretariat, and later in the press department.
“In 2006, as a young captain, I participated in a meeting of the land forces commander with the personnel of the military diplomatic corps and the defense attaché, stationing in Warsaw at the time. I clearly remember the moment, as it was right then I thought to myself I wanted to become a diplomat in a uniform,” he says, adding: “I am a lucky man, because my dreams proved to be in step with my superiors’ vision.” For two years now, he has been a Polish defense attaché in Japan.
Taking the post of the attaché was preceded by years of learning, studying, taking many trainings and courses. Col Kaliszczak had served, among others, at the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Poland to NATO in Brussels, at the Armed Forces Operational Command, and the Department of Military Foreign Affairs at the Ministry of National Defense. He also went to two missions – in Kosovo and in Afghanistan. Before he took the post of a diplomat, he completed year-long studies on military foreign service at the War Studies Academy (Akademia Sztuki Wojennej, ASzWoj), and studies at the Academy of Diplomacy (Akademia Dyplomatyczna, AD). “Defense attachés represent the minister and their country, so they must be people with a vast knowledge and experience. It is certainly a job which requires personal maturity,” emphasizes Col Kaliszczak.
Today, he closely cooperates with the Polish ambassador in Japan, he handles matters concerning the army and widely understood security in the country and in its vicinity. In his daily work, he meets with representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Defense, members of the military diplomatic corps, members of think-tanks engaged in the subject of security, people from the world of culture, art, economy. One of his tasks is working out agreements between the Polish and the Japanese ministry of defense. “Despite the fact that our countries are so far from each other, the relations between them are strong. Japan is the first Asian state, and the fifth state in the world to have recognized Polish independence,” emphasizes the attaché. He also indicates areas where the Polish-Japanese cooperation might thrive. “I’m thinking about exchanging ideas and experiences concerning the use of the 5th generation fighters. The Japanese have ordered 147 F-35 fighters from the USA. Their experience in crisis management could also be valuable to us. It is on a very high level in Japan, if only due to the high risk of tsunamis or earthquakes in this part of the world,” says Col Kaliszczak. Looking back at his 28 years of service, he admits he would not change a thing. “The army has given me the opportunity to develop, learn, meet new people, see interesting places around the world. I feel fulfilled and I’m glad I can still serve my country,” he concludes.
An increasing number of civilians are interested in work and service in the military. What do they usually expect from this job? Maja Meissner of Meissner&Partners, specializing in recruitment for the highest management positions, says that they are certainly looking for job stability, but not only that. “For many people, higher values are also very important, especially now, in the time of the pandemic,” admits Maja Meissner. “It is a certain feeling of belonging, but also of security. When we add a an education that is useful in the military environment, this career path can be a truly interesting and enriching experience.”
Officer Courses for Specialists
Three-month specialist courses start in April at the Military University of Land Forces (Akademia Wojsk Lądowych, AWL). They are for people who want to become officers of particular specialties.
The university has prepared a total of 24 places for future prosecutors (10), pharmacists (4), doctors (1), dentists (1), vets (2), nurses (1), paramedics (3) and military chaplains (2). 49 civilians will have an opportunity to take part in a 12-month course. Apart from purely military groups, such as armored-mechanized, general reconnaissance or general logistics, candidates for officers will also train in groups teaching legal services (9) and economic-financial services (8). Seven people will also start a 24-month course on air traffic at the Military University of Aviation (Lotnicza Akademia Wojskowa, LAW).
Get a Profession at WAT
The Military University of Technology (WAT) will accept 837 candidates for the first year of studies in the upcoming academic year. Out of those, 40 will be able to study geodesy and cartography, 116 – cryptology and cybersecurity, and 70 – aviation and cosmonautics.
autor zdjęć: sierż. Daniel Chojak / CGDP, st. szer. Patryk Szymaniec