Graduation Ceremony of Senior Course 142 and Change of Command at the NDC
On 13 July 2023, the NATO Defense College celebrated the graduation of Senior Course 142 and the Change of Command from Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann to Lieutenant General Max A.L.T. Nielsen.
The NDC Commandant, Lieutenant General Rittimann, welcomed Lieutenant General Nielsen to the College and proceeded to hold a bilateral meeting with him in the Commandant’s Office. At the same time, a bilateral meeting took place between the Chair of NATO’s Military Committee (CMC), Admiral Rob Bauer, and the Italian Chief of Defence (CHOD), Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone. After that, the four of them were joined by Danish CHOD General Flemming Lentfer and Vice-Admiral Daniel William Dwyer, Commander of Joint Force Command Norfolk, for an Office Call.
From 9.30 a.m. onwards, Ambassadors to Italy, various authorities and Defence Attachés as well as Course Members’ families who were invited to attend the SC 142 Graduation Ceremony and the NDC Change of Command began arriving and were welcomed to the College.
The NDC Commandant opened the Graduation Ceremony with introductory remarks. He observed that SC 142 had actually been the first Course since the COVID-19 pandemic to “fully live the NDC experience”, as SC 142 Course Members were able not only to benefit from the academic lectures but also to go on Field Studies to a number of countries. He commended the Course Members for their dedication and hard work, highlighting the essence of the NDC Senior Course, which is the transformation of individuals into a cohesive team. The Commandant then introduced the Guest of Honour, the Chair of the Military Committee (CMC), Admiral Rob Bauer.
Admiral Bauer delivered the Graduation Address, in which he thanked the graduating Course Members for all their hard work at the College and for the Alliance, saying “you challenged each other and debated different views on the current security climate. You visited twelve countries, including the Vatican, creating bonds and friendships that will last a lifetime. Throughout your career, you will benefit from what you have learned here in Rome”.
Admiral Bauer’s address was followed by a farewell speech delivered by Course President Colonel Piotr Bieniek, from the Polish Armed Forces, and Vice-President Professor Kjell Inge Bjerga, from the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. During their speech they walked the audience through the past five months – their NDC routine, their accomplishments and their favourite moments from the time spent at the College. In the words of Vice-President Prof. Bjerga, speaking about the outcome of this Course: “Building consensus with many different nations and points of view is an art. We gained unique insights into how NATO works and makes decisions”.
After the speech, the ceremony continued with the recognition of the Course Members who had written the best Individual Papers. Then came the announcement of the Eisenhower Prize for the best Committee Study Project, which was awarded to Committee 1 for their Project entitled “Enabling Technology: How Can NATO Support Nations’ ‘Emerging Disruptive Technologies’ Development and Implementation?”.
The Graduation Ceremony concluded with the Conferment of Diplomas to the 75 Course Members, representing 32 NATO and partner nations.
After the diplomas were formally handed out to the Course Members, the Change of Command Ceremony began with Lieutenant General Rittimann’s last speech as NDC Commandant. He began by praising the staff working under his supervision for the past three years, whom he described as “a great team of professionals, a perfect mix of permanent civilians, interns, contractors and rotating military, all of them dedicated to our mission: keeping the College as the Alliance’s premier education institution”. He looked back on his time as Commandant, stressing that it had been “a fantastic human experience, which I have not encountered many times in my career with that level of intensity”, and concluding with those words: “I wish you all, you the Course Members, but especially you the Faculty and Staff, good luck and I hope you are enjoying your career as much as I enjoyed mine!”
This was followed by an address by the CMC, Admiral Rob Bauer, who paid tribute to Lieutenant General Rittimann for his leadership at the NDC: “You are appreciated and liked by everyone, across ranks and nationalities. You will be sorely missed here.” He then gave a warm welcome to Lieutenant General Nielsen as the new Commandant of the College. “We know each other well, as you recently left your position as the Danish Military Representative in the NATO Military Committee”, said Admiral Bauer. “In my farewell to you in May this year, I praised you for your humble, pragmatic, loyal and warm personality. I look forward to continuing to work with you in this new capacity.”
It was then time for the symbolic handover of the NDC flag from the outgoing Commandant to the incoming Commandant.
In his first speech as Commandant, Lieutenant General Nielsen talked about the importance of the College: “The NDC has been instrumental to NATO’s strategic education, research, and outreach and engagement. This is what we do and who we are. And this will continue. As we pursue our mission here at the NDC, we will never forget why we are here. Ultimately, to protect our core values. Individual liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”
Lieutenant General Nielsen, a graduate and Course President of Senior Course 118, joined the Danish Air Force in 1983; he rose continuously in his military career to reach various senior positions, such as Commander Tactical Air Command Denmark (2014), Vice Chief of Defence (2017), and Danish Military Representative to NATO and the EU, his latest assignment before becoming the 33rd Commandant of the NDC.