Skomantas Povilionis

Only an educated person is a true patriot of his country

Capt. Skomantas Povilionis is the Lithuanian army spokesperson and VMU alum (MA in Public Information and Communication). He says he has undying love and respect for his country, which he is proud to serve and defend. We sat down with Skomantas to discuss career opportunities in the military, his studies at VMU, the importance of intellectual development and the benefits of his undergraduate degree (Art History and Criticism) in his career.

How did you first become interested in the army?

The army is not something you become interested in after you turn 18. It starts much earlier than that: it all depends on the environment in which you grow up and on your grasp of national security. If the conditions are in place, there will be a desire to join the defence effort. 

Personally, I’m very impressed by the Danish people. I had the chance to spend some time with the director of the Danish Home Guard School (Hjemmeværnet),Col. Steen Wollenberg, who said: “The people of our country have a deep understanding and high appreciation for their country’s history and culture. That’s why we have such a huge Home Guard.” There was an effort in Denmark to reduce the size of the guard, but the movement was largely unsuccessful, as its numbers were only reduced from 70,000 to 65,000. People not only wanted, but demanded the chance to freely serve in the protection of their country.

The desire to be a soldier doesn’t stem from an interest in a uniform and a gun. It comes with education, with better understanding of your country’s history and culture. But it’s also important to know more than just your country. You need to know what’s beyond the border in order to see what you value the most about your homeland and what you would never want to lose.

Departing from one’s country is by no means an unloving act. On the contrary, it’s a part of your development. Like I’ve mentioned before, only an educated person can truly be a patriot of his country. You have to understand what’s worth fighting for. If you do this based on someone else’s views, you’re in danger of heading into fanaticism.

One of the university’s goals is to encourage critical thinking, and yet the army is a rigid organization. Is there any friction between the open, questioning mind you acquired at VMU and the need to take orders in the military?
Of course, there needs to be order in the military so that all of the operations would go according to plan. However, each one of us is an expert in his field. The military is a big step forward for any educated person’s development. It’s a place where he can hone the talents discovered during his studies, improving in areas like engineering, medicine, finance, personnel management, rocket technology, public relations and many others. Every soldier has a chance to advise management and share his opinion on how an assignment can be better accomplished. You can even say that a great leader is one who can find the appropriate specialists and make use of their knowledge and experience. Let’s be honest and admit that no person can be an expert in every area. It is by collaborating that we can achieve a better result. But then, I’m not questioning whether a soldier must listen when he is ordered to turn right and take position after 200 metres. However, if he sees something that would improve the situation, he can offer his opinion to his commander, who will then consider the advice and possibly change his orders.
So you felt like your communication talents would be the most useful to the army?
While serving in the military, I have always worked in communication: when I was a volunteer, when I served in overseas operations and even now in Lithuania. Communication is the field where I can contribute the most. On the other hand, joining the military is above all a personal decision. It might be that it’s more useful for you to apply your talents to civilian life. Or for example, say you’re a private doctor, but feel your place is in the army, because you could handle what others couldn’t, that’s likely where you should be. 
Of course, a doctor can work both in the military and as a civilian doctor. As the spokesperson for the Lithuanian Army, could you, imagine yourself not working in the army?
You can never say “no,” but at this point I feel good at work and foresee many opportunities for professional growth. Let’s not forget that, as a Lithuanian soldier, I’m also a NATO soldier, so I can apply my knowledge on a greater scale, by participating in international operations, interacting with foreign media and soldiers from different countries and cultures…overall, with people from many different fields.
It seems as though your Communication studies at VMU have had a considerable impact on your career. What about your Bachelor’s degree in Art Criticism, how much of an impact did it have in your life?
Art criticism isn’t just about brush strokes; the field deserves a look from a wider perspective. After all, we experience beauty and art all around us. We are soldiers, so we visit many different countries and see many different works of art. For example, there’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Minaret of Jam, in the Ghōr Province in Afghanistan, where a Lithuanian contingent of the ISAF force is stationed. The second highest brick-and-mortar minaret in the world, it’s been standing since the time of the Ghurid Dynasty (12th century). Having a degree in Art, I can better appreciate this work of art and understand what it means to the local people. Understandably, not every artist or art critic has the chance to visit this heritage site.
When one thinks of a military expert, it is easy to imagine someone with a degree in the exact sciences. Is it difficult for a graduate in the humanities to find a place in the military?
By no means. Current studies carried out by the military indicate that there are just as many people in the military with a degree in the humanities as there are those who studied exact sciences. However, some of our soldiers have several degrees in different fields. There are those who have diplomas in both the exact sciences and the humanities. As I’ve mentioned before, we need a broad spectrum of specialists. Nowadays it’s not enough to know how to march, shoot a gun and dig trenches in the army. Of course, every soldier needs to know these like the ABCs, but his specialty opens up all sorts of opportunities in many different fields.
Thanks for your time!