Escaping early, in 1991, from what would later become the geopolitical tar pits of Yugoslavia, Slovenia is often referred to as the “green piece of Europe” given its abundant trees, sloping hills and prairies, and picturesque Mediterranean beaches. Situated in Central Europe, across the Adriatic from Italy, and inhabited by around two million mostly Catholic Slovenes, the country is also home to some serious mountains: the Julian Alps.
Little known, perhaps, outside the country itself and the cadre of historians who have studied Alpine warfare throughout history, the Julian Alps are the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the annals of mountain warfare. As a result of this history, one of Slovenia’s niche military capabilities, in which it holds rarely matched expertise, is mountain warfare.
Mostly honed while battling Italian forces in the First Great War, specifically during the 12 Battles of the Isonzo, but also ingrained in the Slovenian culture over thousands of years, mountain warfare is an integral part of Slovene military identity. Over 30,000 ethnic Slovene casualties resulted from the intense mountainous fighting against the Italians in Word War I, as the Slovene contingent of the Austro-Hungarian empire played a major role in beating back, for years, the futile Italian advances into the area.
It should surprise no one, then, that the Slovenes have a pretty badass military mountain school. Formed in Bohinjska Bela, Slovenia, in 1996, the training center is located near the resort town of Bled, an Austro-Hungarian spa village in the foothills of the Julian Alps, situated on the glacial Lake Bled. The mountain school of the Slovenian Armed Forces is the lead institution responsible for training Slovene and allied military units for operations in mountainous areas.