NATO Response Force leaders met at Allied Air Component Command Headquarters Ramstein to discuss the future of the fledgling force during exercise Allied Reach ’07, May 2 to 4.
This was the first opportunity for all NRF commanders from NATO’s component commands to meet and work together as a team since the NRF attained full operational capability in November 2006 at the Riga Summit.
“Let’s think about the program’s title (‘NRF deployment: beyond theoretical concept’) for a minute, and what it means,” U.S. Gen. John Craddock, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told the audience of more than 100 delegates from 28 nations. “To me, this means that we are here to examine operational and transformational issues in the context of a mission-tailored NRF.”
The NRF serves as an engine for the Alliance’s continuing transformation as it shifts from its 20th century charter – that of a capable but primarily reactive alliance – to its 21st century requirement, which is to be a more proactive alliance at great strategic distances.
“We need to look at simple, pragmatic ways to incorporate the lessons from the field into the NRF capability toolbox,” said U.S. Gen. Lance Smith, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. “(Allied Command Transformation) will closely look at the outcomes of Allied Reach in the fields of command and control, logistics, comprehensive approach and training.”
NATO officers, along with colleagues from international organizations and non-governmental organizations, considered three types of missions that the NRF is designed to accomplish – embargo, crisis response and initial entry operations.
NATO Secretary Gen. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and members of the North Atlantic Council joined the exercise participants to hear the results of the joint strategic command study seminar, noted the lessons learned and listened to a proposed way ahead for the NRF. The decision to deploy the NRF is made by the NAC.
“The NATO Response Force is a ready, agile and flexible force which I believe is crucial to the health and success of our alliance in the coming years,” said General Craddock. “As a key element of our NATO military culture, the NRF can enable the alliance to better meet threats to security and stability in the 21st century.”
The NRF is a land, air, maritime and special operations force of up to 25,000 that can be tailored to specific missions and is held at 5 to 30 days notice to move.
“The alliance has made tremendous progress in creating and developing the NATO Response Force concept,” said General Cradock. “However, it was not conceived to be a static force that sits on the shelf after achieving full operational capability. The NRF must evolve and improve continually – based on solid input, experience gained and lessons learned.”
High readiness forces fill the NRF on a rotational basis. Since its initial concept at the Prague Summit in November 2002 and the NRF’s initial operational cababilty in August 2003, forces have participated in land component rotations of six months each and air and maritime rotations of one year each. The NRF is described as the engine of transformation because as units participate in the NRF and are certified in the NRF program, their level of training and standardization of operations improves so that future NATO forces have an increased level of interoperability.
“In the U.S. military, it is difficult enough to get four services interoperable. In NATO, take that and mulitply by 26 nations,” said General Smith. “In an ideal world, the NRF should be able to quickly deploy, be fully sustainable and operable. We are seeing progress, but we still have some work to do.”
The commanding headquarters is also rotated between Joint Forces Commands in Naples, Italy and Brunssum, the Netherlands and Joint Command Lisbon in Portugal.
Responsibility for the Allied Reach exercises, which began in 2004, rotates between Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation. This year ACO conducted the exercise at Allied Air Component Command Headquarters Ramstein.
“For CC-Air HQ Ramstein, this is of course a major event,” said
Lt. Col. Meinrad Angermayer, CC-Air HQ Ramstein Public Information Officer. “We’ve been working earnestly since November to prepare for it. We’ve had great support from the host nation, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and the different wings here on Ramstein, especially for lodging and transportation of exercise participants. It’s been great support. We hardly could hold the exercise without it.”