ADM James Foggo
NHQ Sarajevo Change of Command
9 July 2018
Honorable members of the Presidency; Members of Parliament; Ambassadors; Ministers; Fellow Flag and General Officers, Honored Guests, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen; good morning.
I am honored to be with such a distinguished audience - an audience committed to fostering continued peace and progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Today we have the opportunity to honor Brigadier General Robert "Randy" Huston and Captain Helge Tonning as we bid them farewell and recognize their accomplishments at NATO Headquarters Sarajevo during the past year.
Itís a particular pleasure to be back in Sarajevo after visiting much of the Western Balkans this year.
I was here in this beautiful city just a few months ago. While touring the sights, I was struck very positively by the improvements that have been made since my last visit in 2005. The developments are remarkable.
As a keen 20th century historian, I sought out an opportunity to walk across Latin Bridge, where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated. An act which sparked one of the bloodiest conflicts of our time.
This bridge lies at the heart of Sarajevo, a thriving city thanks in large part to your efforts.
For 100 years, this bridge has been a symbol of war. However, today, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have helped the city of Sarajevo move away from this negative association. What I saw during my visit was a symbol of peace and connectivity, a bridge to a bright and positive future.
I was struck by a similar sentiment on one of my recent visits to KFOR. My friend, the KFOR Commander, Italian Army General Salvatore Cuoci, took me to the Austerlitz (New) Bridge that spans the Ibar River and links North and South Mitrovica. The mayors of both sides of the city, one Albanian and one Serb, met with us there on the bridge and the four of us shared a common handshake.
The image of the two mayors crossing the river and, for a moment, putting their differences aside for a shared purpose, appeared in the press and resonated deeply in Kosovo; a country seeking to unite old ethnic-divides.
The concept of "bridges across time, and metaphorical gaps" led me to pick up Ivo Andric's book, "The Bridge on the Drina".
This Nobel Prize winning piece of literature centers around the Ottoman built; Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Visograd.
The main protagonist in this book is not a person, it is the bridge itself. In the words of Andric, the bridge "...joins the two ends of the road which was broken by the Drina and thus link safely and forever Bosnia and the East". It is a social connection.
The bridge, a constant in an ever changing landscape, bears witness to the tribulations of the people who live near it. Plagues, wars, floods, and tyrants.
This crossing was used over the centuries by Muslim Bosnians and Turks, Orthodox Christian Serbs, and later on Catholic Croats and Jews, and is only 75km from where we stand right now.
The book is partly set in the 16th century, at this time the square or seating area on a bridge might have been known by a Turkish word "Kapia".
A Kapia was a meeting point ... a social forum where locals and travelers, merchants and soldiers, people of different ethnicities and different faiths could meet ... to talk and exchange ideas.
A Kapia is the perfect spot for an open and honest discussion.
Because of its position, often at the center of a bridge, parties joining from either side of the river are immediately required to make a small compromise. Meeting in the middle, on neutral ground, on "no-mans land". Here, over a coffee, ideas can be freely exchanged, prejudices cast aside and discussions can be had without bias.
In a Kapia, parties both physically and figuratively bridge their differences and meet in the middle.
The progress made within Bosnia and Herzegovina toward lasting peace has required a "meeting in the middle" of Bosnians and Herzegovinians, of all denominations. Differences have literally been bridged, reforms accomplished as much to mind sets, as to security architecture.
As noted in a November 2017 article in the Economist, this is a nation that has begun to focus on performances, rather than job titles. Bosnia has a complex constitutional makeup, but its elections see a constant churn of parties and coalitions taking power. The system now puts an emphasis on consensus ... on discussion ... on partnership.
Formally or informally, governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina need partners from all parts of society to continue on the path toward success crossing that bridge to a bright future.
The past year has been a productive period for this headquarters, and I would like to commend General Huston for his leadership, his passion for supporting and protecting all of the people of Western Balkans, and for his tireless dedication to NATO's mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Under General Huston; NHQ Sarajevo has successfully joined up Bosnian institutions with the international community, communicating important issues with the world stage, amplifying the national voice.
While I could list any number of General Huston's accomplishments ... and there are many ... I am going to focus only on a few key accomplishments to characterize his tour of duty, and the energy and dedication with which he engaged the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Gen Huston, like me, is a true Alliance officer and a Europhile. His resolve to build bridges between NATO and EUFOR in Sarajevo has paid great dividends in terms of co-operation and economy of effort.
The co-location of NATO and EU elements has great utility; indeed my own headquarters houses The European Union Command Element and my Chief Of Staff wears a second hat, The Head of the EU Command Element. His boss, Gen Everard is both DSACEUR and the overall Commander of Operation Althea.
These officers, Gen Everard and Gen Portolano, Gen Huston and Gen Dorfer, embody the metaphorical bridge between NATO and the EU.
Gen Huston has been passionate in his belief that the path to lasting positive change in Bosnia and Herzegovina lies with defense reforms. In recognition of the advancements so far, at the end of June, the EU General Affairs Council officially acknowledged the progress that has been made toward reforms.
During his command, with the NATO HQ Sarajevo teamís support, Bosnia and Herzegovinaís Ministry of Defense developed a book of rules for promotions and evaluations, adopted new defense procurement regulations, developed a modern military ID card system, and developed gender equality regulations.
Through a synergistic effort, General Hustonís team provided guidance to the Ministry of Defense that helped establish a project for the modernization of Bosnia Herzegovinaís Helicopter Fleet.
General Huston also focused his efforts to support the Western Balkans Region in capitalizing on its diversity and identifying regional solutions for issues associated with military assistance to civil authorities.
General Huston shares my ethos that by working together in support of issues beneficial to all, members of all ethnic groups begin the process of healing old wounds and identifying themselves not just by ethnicity, but as citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As an example of how he brought people together for a common purpose: General Huston gave his support for the first ever "Consequence Management Field Exercise" jointly organized by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre and Bosnia and Herzegovina Ministry of Security.
During this exercise, over 1200 military and civilian personnel from 32 NATO and partner nations and 8 international organizations developed courses of action to be used in the event of a natural disaster.
My greatest praise for General Huston is the manner in which he executed his responsibilities.
He has done so on a human level, with great respect for the people and culture of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As we say goodbye to General Huston, I would like to welcome his successor, Brigadier General Marti Bissell.
General Bissell is coming to us from the National Guard Joint Staff where she served as the Chief of Staff. Her distinguished professional journey to this posting includes command at the battalion and brigade levels and service in Korea, Jordan and Germany.
Gen Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, says she is the best Guard Officer in the business and he should know, her last role was as his Chief of Staff!
She brings a wealth of operational and staff experience that will serve her and NATO well during her assignment here in Sarajevo.
Marti, welcome aboard. Let me offer my congratulations on your selection to serve in this prestigious position, and for your recent promotion to Brigadier General.
I also would like to welcome Col Morten Henriksen the new NATO HQ Sa Deputy Commander. He is coming to us from the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
Welcome, or as we say in Naples, benvenuto!
I know you are both eager to get started and we are looking forward to working with you.
Randy and Helge, as we say in the Navy; "Fair winds and following seas!", and "Bravo Zulu", two signal flags which convey a hearty well done from the Commander.