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RN personnel at NATO prepare for major exercise

Rear Admiral Andrew Betton, front, with some of his team in Virginia, USA
30 November 2020
Royal Navy personnel based with NATO in the USA are preparing for a milestone exercise next year.

Among the Brits serving at Allied Joint Force Command, Norfolk, Virginia, is Lieutenant Grace Allum, who serves as the aide-de-camp to the Deputy Commander, Rear Admiral Andrew Betton.

Here she writes about the work carried out at Norfolk.

Across the Atlantic, nestled within the largest naval city in the world, is Allied Joint Force Command Norfolk, NATO’s newest operational command.

The command was created in response to NATO’s 2018 review and adaptation of its command structure that identified the Alliance’s need for a stronger linkage between Europe and North America, in response to increasing threats within the North Atlantic region.

Having achieved initial operational capability in September 2020 and programmed to reach full operational capability (FOC) at the end of 2021, JFC Norfolk is taking on a core-coordinating role in assuring the security of the Strategic Lines of Communication across the Euro-Atlantic area, through the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap and into the Arctic.

This is the first major NATO LIVEX in three years and I anticipate that it will be hugely successful.

Commander Neil Loughrey

Leading Writer Lee Kearney said: “It’s an exciting time to be in NATO as we adapt the Allied defences to meet the historic, current and evolving future challenges.”

JFC Norfolk is much leaner than the sister Joint Force Commands in Brunssum in the Netherlands and Naples in Italy. At full complement, there will be 135 peacetime posts, including 30 dual-hatted US staff members, plus space for an additional 15 liaison officers from various NATO commands.

Staff are currently drawn from 16 of the 30 Allied nations stretching from Canada to Turkey. The UK is the second largest contributor with 15 positions, seven of which are filled by personnel from across the spectrum of the Naval Service, from Leading Hand to Rear Admiral. Altogether, the joint international staff provide invaluable perspectives and subject matter expertise to form a 360-degree all-domain understanding of JFC Norfolk’s area of responsibility.

Deputy Commander, Rear Admiral Betton, said: “we are an agile, operationally focused staff of multi-national military professionals, driven to deliver effective deterrence and robust defence on behalf of the Alliance.”

With a dual-hatted US Commander, who is also in command of US Second Fleet, there is a strong integrated relationship between the staffs: that share the same building and combine battle rhythm events where appropriate, in order to drive efficiency and effectiveness.

The goal is to develop a seamless HQ, which can cohere national level activity whilst planning and executing multi-national Alliance activity in peacetime, crisis, or conflict.

Exercise Steadfast Defender (STDE21) will be a significant milestone in achieving FOC, demonstrating JFC Norfolk’s competence and readiness to fulfil its roles and responsibilities.

As a SHAPE-sponsored operational and tactical level live exercise, STDE21 will train and evaluate a wide range of NATO and national force elements. Focused on the reinforcement of continental Europe from North America, NATO will exercise its ability to secure the Strategic Lines of Communication which link our continents.

Commander Neil Loughrey, who leads training and exercise planning, said: “With a very small team, we’ve had to be creative in our approach.

“This is the first major NATO LIVEX in three years and I anticipate that it will be hugely successful; it will certainly demonstrate our coherence and integration with US Fleet Forces, sister JFCs, NATO Allies and Partners.”

JFC Norfolk is just one of the many diverse locations across the globe, where small pockets of Royal Navy personnel contribute to wider Defence, supporting our Allies and Partners.

If interested in an exciting role at the cutting edge operational level of NATO, contact your Career Manager for details.

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