SC 128 Transatlantic Link Field Study: ACT (Norfolk, VA)
Senior Course 128ís Transatlantic Link Field Study commenced with a very successful visit to the United Nations in New York City, followed by a sombre but professionally rewarding tour and briefing at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Clifford Channing, Senior Vice President for Education and Public Programs, delivered a moving and relevant lecture on the global significance of the 9/11 tragedy and its impact upon NATO, which resonated very well with all present.
The course then proceeded to Norfolk, Virginia to visit NATO's Supreme Allied Command Transformation. This visit began with a welcome address by Adm Manfred Nielsen, Deputy SACT, followed by an introductory briefing by RADM Peter Gumataotao, DCOS Strategic Plans & Policy, who emphasized the six focus areas through which ACT is pursuing Transformation of the Alliance (C2, logistics & sustainability, partnerships, collective training & exercises, human capital, and capabilities). Cdr Chris Godwin (GBR N) and LtCol Vlasta Zekulic (HRV A) then spoke about the Command's perspective on countering hybrid warfare threats and building Alliance and member state resilience, encapsulated in a very promising new Alliance strategic initiative that they are crafting.
LtCol Sean Killeen (US MC), SO Joint Force Trainer, Training & Exercises and Programming, presented an update on NATO's current and future exercise programme, outlining the growing ambitions and scope of Alliance training in the face of Hybrid threats and the requirement for enhanced Deterrence and effective Collective Defence postures.
The culmination of the visit was a Panel consisting of seven Flag and General Officers (ADM Manfred Nielson, DSACT; Ambassador Karen Stewart, POLAD ACT; VADM Javier Gonzalez Huix, DCOS JTF; Air Marshal Graham Stacy, COS ACT; MG Grzegorz Sodolski, DCOS Resources & Management; BG Xavier Watteeuw, ACOS C2DS; and BG Henrik Sommer, ACOS CEI). The Panel demonstrated a welcome willingness and frankness in answering some difficult questions from the Course Members. SC 128 was left with a positive impression of the role and purpose of ACT and the importance of their work.
During a hosted lunch at ACT HQ, LtGen John E. Wissler, Commander U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, informed SC 128 what specifically U.S. Marine Forces Europe are doing to support and enhance NATO activity and force posture, an important topic that is not well advertised. The Senior Course then received a guided tour of the USS George Washington, one of the U.S. Navy's most storied aircraft carriers. After nearly eight years of continuous operational service, her 97,000 ton mass of "floating diplomacy" is now entering a period of refit. Her ship's company proved to be professional, generous and well spirited, giving SC 128 a real sense of our Transatlantic Link during the final event in the visit to Norfolk.