AFNORTH HQ, Brunssum – On 15 October, under crisp, cloudless skies, and in front of a large group of international media, SACEUR General James L. Jones presented the first NATO Response Force colours to General Sir Jack Deverell.
“The passing of the colours of the NATO Response Force today marks what I consider to be one of the most important changes in the NATO Alliance since the signing of the Washington Treaty over 50 years ago,” said Gen Jones.
Gen. Jones told the assembled crowd and the 60-man Guard of Honour that the NRF embodies NATO’s ongoing transformation and is vital in order to meet the new and very dangerous threats of the 21st Century that are so different from those of the Cold War era.
“For the first time in its history, the Alliance will have a joint (multi-national) combined air, land, sea and special operations force under a single commander, maintained as a standing rotational force,” noted SACEUR.
Gen Deverell, Commander in Chief, Allied Forces North will command the first two rotations of the NRF. NRF 1 and 2 will be prototype forces employed to test and develop the concepts and practices of the Force.
“Our task is to pave the way to Full Operational Capability in October 2006,” said Gen Deverell. “NRF 1 and 2 will be capable of executing a range of missions such as non-combatant evacuation operations and support for counter-terrorism.”
“By the time we pass the baton to our colleagues at Regional Headquarters, AFSOUTH in July 2004, we will have progressed far along the road in terms of doctrine, organization, training, certification procedures and command and control functions,” added CINC NORTH.
There will be challenges facing the decision makers of the Alliance. The authority to prepare, train and maintain standing and ready forces as well as the decision to embark on a given mission are issues individual nations debate each day at NATO HQ.
Strategic airlift to move the forces and deployable communications and logistic/life support systems are shortages planners have identified that must be addressed urgently.
“It was only 11 months ago on 21 November 2003 at the Prague Summit that the leaders of the NATO nations envisaged a new, revitalized and relevant Alliance,” said Gen Deverell, praising the work of the staff who have worked on creating the NRF.
“Today, thanks to your efforts, we have taken a major step forward in creating the expeditionary capability, essential to countering the globalisation of new threats to peace and security.”
Background on NRF : www.nato.int/issues/nrf/index.htm