For the Soldiers: NATO's New Land Component Command
I woke up early to the sound of hard rain pounding the side of the hotel in downtown Izmir, an ancient city on the Turkish Aegean coast. So much for the outdoor ceremony, I thought to myself.
Today was the stand-up of a new command for NATO, Land Component Command Izmir, which will be a 28-nation, three-star enterprise led by an energetic American Lieutenant General, Ben Hodges. I was in Turkey as the speaker for the event, which was the first major muscle movement in a 30% reduction in the NATO standing command structure.
You may recall that we've been working on NATO reform, reduction, and reinvention for several years. Back around the time of the 2010 NATO Lisbon Summit, the Nations of the Alliance agreed to transition NATO towards a leaner and flatter structure.
For two years, we've built the plan and gained consensus from the 28 nations to reduce from 11 major headquarters to only 6, and to reduce the staff from 13,000 to about 8,800. And we've done all this while fighting wars in Afghanistan, conducting significant combat operations in Libya, keeping an uneasy peace in the Balkans, constantly patrolling the skies around the entire Alliance and the Mediterranean Sea, as well as conducting counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa.
This new, leaner structure is ideas-driven. If you think of the Cold War as NATO 1.0, and our current operations as NATO 2.0, this new structure represents NATO 3.0: a new approach. This approach places emphasis on special operations, cyber, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, strategic communications, missile defense, and a robust set of exercises and training events to keep the edge on the Alliance's deep military capability.
So as of today, 30 November, we have reached a major milestone with the activation of our Land Component Command in Izmir, Turkey. At the ceremony, I began by thanking Turkey for their hosting of this command, which reflects their status as the nation with the largest Army in the European side of NATO; second only in size to the U.S. Army. As we focus on a potential deployment of Patriot missiles to defend Turkey, I mentioned to the audience that "Turkey has stood strongly within NATO for 50 years, and NATO will always stand with our ally Turkey."
I tasked General Hodges with three major efforts:
- Be the connection between NATO command staffs and all the national capabilities represented by the 3 million men and women on active duty, especially the Soldiers.
- Be the 'idea factory' for land operations. The motto of the new LCC is "For the Soldiers," and I told General Hodges I want the command also to generate "the ideas for the Soldiers."
- Be the leader in training, exercises, and certification of NATO land forces, especially ensuring we are interoperability of our Soldiers in the field.
Ben Hodges, by the way, is a perfect choice for this command. A combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, he has exceptional skill as a team-builder and a leader. Ben is a shrewd but easy-going Floridian who collects rocks from the various battlefields he visits and displays them in his office. A real soldier.
At the ceremony, which we hosted in a large field house, there were representatives from every corner of NATO -- virtually every senior Soldier in command in the Alliance was present, as well as our Senior Airman, General Phil Breedlove of Air Component Command Ramstein, Germany; and Senior Sailor, Admiral Bruce Clingan, of Joint Force Command Naples. More importantly, we had many senior representatives from Turkey, including General Atay the Aegean commander, and the Governor Mustafa Kirac, and Mayor Aziz Kocaoglu of Izmir.
It was a good day for NATO. I was proud to be there and have the chance to simply say thank you and well done to Ben and his team. As I looked over the assembled representatives of the Alliance and thought about the new command, I felt we were marching in the right direction -- for the Alliance, for our nations, and indeed, "for the Soldiers."