2004 began with the initial transition of AFSOUTH towards the new organization and the new mission which the Headquarters was to pass to its successor headquarters, Joint Force Command Naples. Selected staff members began to assume new responsibilities to parallel their duties in the anticipated new structure and – as a very symbolic introduction of a transition into the future – a ground breaking ceremony was conducted on 28 January 2004 at Lago Patria, some 20 kilometers west of Naples, at the site where a completely new facility will be built to host Joint Force Command Naples.
The impact of the new NATO Command Structure on AFSOUTH – which, together with AFNORTH, comprised NATO's second level of command – was the conversion to a Joint Force Command (JFC), responsible to establish a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) HQ for its expeditionary missions. These NATO-dedicated force headquarters would mount a smaller Deployed Joint Task Force (DJTF) as the "seed” for larger command and control formations which various missions may require. As part of the conversion, NAVSOUTH was to become the Maritime Component Command (MCC) as CC-Mar Naples and remain in Naples; a Land Component Command (LCC) was to be established in Madrid, Spain as CC-Land Madrid; and AIRSOUTH was to convert to the Air Component Command (ACC) and relocate to Izmir, Turkey as CC-Air Izmir.
With the establishment of the CC-Air Izmir, the Combined Air Operations Centers (CAOCs) at Poggio Renatico, Italy and Larissa, Greece, will remain in operation while those at Eskisehir (Turkey), Monsanto (Portugal), and Torrejon (Spain) will close as NATO CAOCs.
The Joint Sub-Regional Commands that were established in 1999 at Izmir, Turkey, Larissa, Greece, Madrid and Verona, Italy are to stand-down.
The NRF was officially activated on 15 October 2003, with rotational command responsibility assigned to AFNORTH, to be relieved by Joint Force Command Naples on 1 July 2004. The close deadline imposed an acceleration of the preparations to meet the associated DJTF responsibilities as DJTF members must be able to report within 48 hours and to deploy within five days. DJTF Staff, totalling 90 personnel, were identified within the AFSOUTH functional areas and started their training, especially planning and Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team (OLRT) procedures. Several training opportunities and exercises were scheduled, or adapted to the additional training objectives. Initial training at AFSOUTH began 6 October 2003 with Dynamic Action, a two-week staff writing program and seminar. During the first week, a series of workshops developed the standard operating procedures for the development and deployment of the Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team, DJTF and CJTF. Week two featured a series of seminars for NRF orientation, the operational planning process and the development of vignettes and operational scenarios. Battle staff training followed from 24 November to 4 December and eventually continued with deployment of the DJTF staff to the Joint Warfare Centre at Stavanger, Norway in early February.
The AFSOUTH compound at Bagnoli was formally activated on 4 April 1954, the day of the 5th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty. Nearly fifty years later, on 2 April 2004 a ceremony at Bagnoli marked the deactivation of Allied Forces Southern Europe and the activation of Joint Force Command Naples, effective 4 April 2004. Nearly fifty-three years after Adm. Carney assumed duties as CINCSOUTH on 21 June 1951.
More than half of a century during which AFSOUTH HQ moved from being the headquarters of the so-called soft underbelly of the Alliance to becoming the spearhead of NATO's transition into the new operational missions which make the Alliance more relevant than ever to peace, security and stability for the entire world, well beyond the area defined by Article 6 of the Treaty.
Always ready to assume new missions and responsibilities, AFSOUTH was for many years the spearhead of NATO's initiatives and changes along the pattern which assured peace, stability and growing prosperity to the whole NATO's southern region. Through its engagement activities it projected its values beyond borders, wherever there were people who ready to share with AFSOUTH the essential goal of assuring a better and more peaceful and prosperous future to the next generations. This is the heritage the AFSOUTH staff proudly left with the Joint Force Command Naples.