On 15 July 2021, Allied Joint Force Command Norfolk declared Full Operational Capability and marked the occasion with a ceremony presided over by its Commander, Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis. General Milley, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also attended the ceremony.
NATO’s newest operational command, established in July 2019 as part of the Alliance’s command structure adaptation, is the first NATO headquarters dedicated to the Atlantic since 2003. Its mission is to protect the Strategic Lines of Communication across all domains, protect sea-lanes between Europe and North America and enable the reinforcement of Europe
Opening the ceremony on-board the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), Vice Admiral Lewis acknowledged the importance of this achievement. “The security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex – particularly in the Atlantic. JFC Norfolk demonstrates NATO’s dedication to security and stability in the region and sends a strong message of reassurance to both North Americans and Europeans, while serving as a powerful signal to deter any potential adversary”.
Since achieving Initial Operational Capability in September 2020, the 150 staff members – from 21 NATO and Partner Nations – have been relentlessly training and practising an array of tasks and assignments to identify shortfalls and address them. This will enable the command to more efficiently support the Alliance by contributing to NATO contingency planning; developing high readiness capabilities to respond in an emergency crisis; providing coherent command arrangements for Allied forces; maintaining situational awareness; and drawing up operational plans covering vast geographic areas. Furthermore, by successfully leading phase 1 of Exercise Steadfast Defender, earlier this year, JFC Norfolk demonstrated its ability to actively plan and participate in multi-national exercises. This was the last step before declaring Full Operational Capability.
The Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Bauer extended his heartfelt congratulations to Vice Admiral Lewis and his staff on achieving this milestone. “Housed in the world’s largest Navy base, this joint multi-national operational command plays a huge role in NATO’s maritime security – protecting sea-lines of communication and enabling transatlantic reinforcement in support of allied deterrence and defence”.
NATO Defence Ministers decided in June 2018 to adapt the Alliance’s command structure with a new Atlantic command in Norfolk, and a command for support and logistics in Ulm, Germany. JFC Norfolk is one of three regionally focused joint, operational-level commands reporting directly to Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the only operational NATO command based in North America. The other two existing Joint Forces Commands are located in Brunssum, Netherlands, and Naples, Italy.