U.K. Army General Sir James Everard, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, visits the NATO Strategic Direction South Hub, Jan. 24. The NSDS Hub is under the roof and lead of JFC Naples. (Photo by French Navy Petty Officer Sébastien Laurent)
NAPLES, Italy – U.K. Army General Sir James Everard, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, looks forward to seeing progress made this year as concepts and plans are brought to fruition at Allied Joint Force Command Naples and NATO.
"I think commanding, directing, supporting and serving troops on NATO's missions, operations and activities is, and always will be, the priority," said Everard. "But, more broadly, in 2017 we saw the year of Alliance solidarity. I think 2018 is the year of action."
Everard touched on a variety of opportunities for JFC Naples during his Jan. 23 to 24, visit to the southern Italy-based headquarters.
The 34-year U.K. Army veteran highlighted priorities of Allied Command Operations, such as progress on the NATO Command Structure Adaptation, NATO Strategic Direction South Hub and training at all levels to deliver truly ready forces. ACO, with its headquarters at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe near Mons, Belgium, is responsible for the planning and execution of all NATO military operations and is headed by Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
The last priority Everard highlighted was one that touches on Exercise Trident Juncture 2018, the NATO Response Force 2019 certification exercise for JFC Naples and its designated component commands. The upcoming October exercise, the largest live exercise for NATO since 2015, will feature 35,000 troops deploying to central and northern Norway, and it will test the rapid deployment of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and supporting troops.
Everard looked back to Trident Juncture 2015, the last exercise on a similar scale, to highlight the value of the upcoming live exercise and command post exercise.
"What that showed you is a demonstration of intent, but when you do things at scale, when you experiment at scale, that's when you learn the big lessons," said Everard.
He also spoke about the possibility and future of the NSDS Hub, a new center that held its grand opening Sept. 5, 2017.
The NSDS Hub, under the roof and lead of JFC Naples, is designed to focus on a variety of current and potential issues to include destabilization, potential terrorism, radicalization, migration and environmental concerns. A role of the new center is to also coordinate and work alongside agencies outside of the NATO and national military structures as they concentrate on southern regions to include the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel, sub-Saharan Africa and adjacent areas, waters and airspace.
"I think it is exciting, and you almost go back to U.S. doctrine of four, five years ago, which recognized that the problems that the world faced are so big that no single organization can solve them," said Everard. "Success is all about working with alliances, coalitions, partners, friends...you know the wisdom of crowds. Of course a lot of that wisdom doesn't sit in the military sphere."
Everard acknowledged the growing pains of the Hub, and he looks forward to seeing more manning come through for the new center so that people will be even more eager to back it.
Everard also serves as the Operational Commander of European Union Force Althea. The military Operation Althea was launched in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in 2004 and has contributed to the maintenance of the safe and secure environment in BiH ever since.
"The Western Balkans is a strategically important area for NATO and the EU, actually all us, because stability and security there makes life better," said Everard. "I think of all those countries, and many of them made really good progress, Bosnia and Herzegovina faces the biggest challenge because there are really intractable political problems, and it requires political actions to unpick them."
Everard cited his forces' ability to contribute, with a relatively small force, to the safe and secure environment in BiH with training, demining and ammunition and weapons disposal.
JFC Naples has similar operational control of four security assistance missions in the Balkans, including NATO Headquarters Sarajevo.
When discussing the NATO Command Structure Adaptation, Everard envisions the existing JFC Brunssum in probably a more traditional role through the graduated response plans with a focus on defence and deterrence against the Russian threat, he thinks JFC Naples faces newer challenges with projecting stability and counter-terrorism.
"I think your part in the plan is probably the more challenging, and I look forward to seeing how that progress goes," Everard said.
Having spent his formative years in the U.K. Army on the Rhine as a Chieftain tank troop leader and later a reconnaissance troop leader, he's able to compare threats from his eight years in Germany up to the end of the Cold War and current challenges NATO faces.
Everard said back then in Germany there was a single focus, single threat and a fully enabled area of responsibility. He said it's simple compared to today's multiple 360-degree threats and an area of responsibility that is far from enabled.
"People always shout at you when you try and make comparisons to the Cold War, but I think we can learn a lot from looking at the way we set ourselves up in the Cold War, which is partly what the new NATO Command Structure Adaptation work gets to, and take that work forward," Everard said.
While he currently dons the badge of Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe, he spoke of his collection of military badges from around the world.
Everard quipped that being the deputy to the Supreme Allied Commander is the best job in the world for a collector, because he can add about 10 a week to his massive inventory.
"I have probably several thousand, but the one that I really cherish, because it was given to me under unusual circumstances, is a cap badge of the President's bodyguard in India," said Everard. "It's very small, very smart and I love it."
It's been a year ago, almost to the week, since Everard first visited JFC Naples.
"We've done a lot since then, so you have to remind yourself that against this backdrop of thinking through all these problems, people are making massive progress," Everard said.
Story by JFC Naples Public Affairs Office