Ugrás a tartalomhozUgrás a menüpontokhozUgrás a lábléchez

”We Have Always Found The Proper Solutions”

Szöveg: Ádám Draveczki |  2009. január 24. 9:32

After four years of work, General András Havril has left his office as the chief of the defence staff of the Hungarian Defence Forces, to hand it over to his successor, General László Tömböl. We have talked with the leaving commander about the major achievements in his work and his experiences.

What were your preliminary ideas when you occupied the position of chief of the defence staff, and if you look back to the past years, to what extent did your ideas eventually differ from reality?

I was very much aware of the situation of the Hungarian Defence Forces when I became chief of the defence staff. Prior to the hearing of General Tömböl before the National Defence and Law Enforcement Committee, I have re-read the protocol taken at my hearing and I can say that I have actually implemented the things I had outlined and the tasks I had listed back then. I can say that I have successfully completed what I had undertaken then. Of course, a given situation can be shaped, formed, in line with the opportunities arising in the meantime, you can get the most out of them, and there happened to be a number of things in these four years which needed to be adjusted in the meantime or took another direction than the original plans. But on the whole, there haven’t been many suprises compared to what I had expected before. I had seen what condition the Hungarian Defence Forces were, I was aware of the most important tasks. I was supported by the actual leaders and my direct colleagues alike, and owing to this, we were always able to approach the targets and the tasks to be completed from the proper aspect in both national and foreign relations. The Dialogue programme has helped us to stay on the ground of reality, to assess a given situation and the achievements properly, and to try to bring them closer. This way the possibilities could be synchronized with the budgetary indices. One has to have dreams, of course, but these have to be dreams which can be approached by reality. The four years I have spent as chief of the defence staff went by without any extreme diversion.

The Dialogue programme you have just mentioned has recently been highlighted by you several times as one of the most important results. How would you sum up the significance of the process?

I am convinced that today Dialogue has a significance that is felt by everybody in the armed forces, and we cannot even see the end of the process yet. It can be said that here we are talking about a communications method for the ordinary days which has broken through a series of obstacles in the leader-subordinate relationship which is not always transparent. It has unveiled some issues everybody knew about but still nobody talked about. And if the situation is like that somewhere, it blocks creativity and efficiency. From the first moment, Dialogue has strengthened the trust for each other, and this could be felt almost immediately. And in the life of a soldier trust is very important. From the minute we started to have a dialogue, the programme also had an educating effect, and what is more, it did so in the other direction, too, as regards the commanders: the commander was put in the ‘crosshairs’ as well – does he set an example, targets, does he have proper visions. The subordinate asked the question: “is he the kind of chief I need?", and of course, the commander also asked: “are these the kind of subordinates I want to work with?". This has moved strategic thinking to absolutely different dimensions, and without that, we can achieve nothing. Everybody could feel that they are a part of the things and can contribute to the results with their work, and this has improved the sense of responsibility. This is important because today one-man leading is impossible without specialist support, professional decision preparation. Thus Dialogue has started something that has turned into a tool by today the trust-strengthening and keeping functions of which have become permanent features. This process started in a historic moment and fortunately, it has produced the results we had expected. If you ask a soldier today, what he or she means by Dialogue, everyone will have a different answer. This is a tool now, which has indeed modified the approach and the targets.

What are you the most proud of as regards the past four years?

A chief of the defence staff has to be able to answer this categorically. Without doubt, I am the most proud of having completed what we had undertaken. I am proud that in the past four years we guaranteed predictability and proceeded in line with the plans, strengthening the stability of the Hungarian Defence Forces. The self-respect, confidence of the commanders is by now encoded in the organization, and as we have mentioned several times, confident commanders and efficient corps are needed. There was a change in military culture which has ’levelled’ the military, making it up-to-date. We are able to answer the new challenges, and to set new targets in this spirit. In other words, the future chief of the defence staff can take over a disciplined, well-operating organization – by the way he played an active part in the processes detailed above, and what is more, as the first man of the Joint Forces Command, he also led them.

And which were the most difficult, most unpleasant moments?

There were many difficulties but these could probably be seen less from the outside. At the same time I have not experienced any great astonishments I had not calculated with before, and fortunately, there were no problems that could not be solved, which I could remember now as thorns, neuralgic points. Of course, there is a reason for this: we have always found the proper solutions. Still, I would mention the tragedy of the Slovakian military aircraft at Hejce, where I was among the first to get to the site and what I had seen there has left a mark in me as long as I live. I felt like those young people who died there were Hungarian soldiers… Such experiences will make a man cautious for all his life. Every day has its difficulties which keep us from becoming conceited or overvalue our achievements, results. Anything can happen at any time, there is always a hazard.

What is the greatest, most significant difference between the work of Hungarian soldiers serving on missions abroad now and four years ago?

Within a four-year period things are constantly changing. Different expectations are set for a nation within the allied system, and different targets have to be set for the soldiers within the given organization to guarantee the pace of development which enables them to complete their tasks on a higher and higher level. We had to elaborate the Hungarian mission strategy along highly complex assignments. We started the whole thing with an engineering battalion, which has launched an experience-gaining process by the help of which training and preparation have improved, and at a later stage, the tasks and targets ahead became more complex step by step. The more complicated activity of the Iraq transport battalion took place in a more endangered area. Peacekeeping in the Balkans requires special preparation, and what is more, it creates a special situation due to the geographical proximity. As regards the reconstruction tasks in Afghanistan, the unknown area has already made it clear that a new type of people, new type of commander is needed, moreover, the operations there have to be performed in a very sensitive media environment. Thus a number of realizations had born earlier in Hungary than at the other allies, in the spirit of the confident commander–efficient personnel concept mentioned earlier. In certain countries they are beginning to discuss a series of questions now, the importance of which had been foreseen by us years ago. This is the result of us being able to outline new, valid scenarios in time during preparation. In recent years, there has been a very conscious activity always answering the relevant challenges in the missions. We could always carry out what was expected of us, we have proven our preparedness, and owing to that we have always had the opportunity to prepare for the next task at home. Moreover, we could always do this in due course, with proper preparations, instead of doing it subsequently, hastily.

What are your plans for the future?

I have been given the opportunity to continue to work in diplomacy as an ambassador, which is a great honour to me and I thank everybody who supported me. The job done by the soldiers, the successes we share have obviously played a major part in being able to continue to serve my country on this level, and I trust the experiences I have gained as the chief of the defence staff can be utilized as well – even if such an assigment greatly differs from the military career, seemingly.

How do you think you will feel if years later you look back to these four years?

When I was a student at the military college, in 1972, I read a very interesting article in Interpress Magazine about an American escape artist who left a letter behind which could be opened only a hundred years after his death. When the day came, everybody was eager to see what was in the letter, for they thought he would reveal the secrets. But nothing was revealed in it eventually. My philosophy on the other hand has always been not to hide anything: I wanted to transfer the experiences I have gained, I have never been jealous of those who have advanced my thoughts and were perhaps successful because of that. What is even more, for me the greatest success probably is that even at the top of the military command, I am still glad to see the success of others, since one does not make decisions for himself. I am also proud that I was able to preserve the feeling of comfort, which is the result of my colleagues trusting me, waiting for the directions. This is a very-very good feeling and I have felt it until the last minute, for instance even when I said goodbye to the units respectively. Indeed, we could work as a team based on mutual respect, and I have been supported in that as the chief of the defence staff by everyone, every soldier and civil employee of the Hungarian Defence Forces. Therefore I can put an end to nearly forty years of career in the military with dignity and with achievements left behind: beyond not feeling a twinge of conscience about anything, I do not feel that I am leaving anything behind that should be arranged for afterwards. I am leaving in a balanced state, and I do not even feel that I am leaving – perhaps this is the most important. Until the last minute, I will make every effort to transfer the experiences I have gained. But some time must pass until I realize that my active military service has ended.