by NATO Deputy Secretary General, Amb. Claudio Bisogniero at the change of command ceremony of the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation

  • 09 Nov. 2007
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  • Last updated: 05 Sep. 2008 15:31

Distinguished Guests,

We are gathered here today on an impressive ship to bid farewell to an impressive soldier.  We are saying goodbye to General Smith -- paying tribute to the distinguished service he has given to our Alliance -- and welcoming General Mattis.

General Smith, two years ago you became only the second person to assume the post of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, and you arrived at a critical time for the NATO Alliance.  New threats and challenges were emerging, and new doctrines, new capabilities and new techniques were required to deal with them.  And the Alliance looked to you, and to Allied Command Transformation, for the answers.

You arrived in Norfolk with an outstanding combination of military experience, leadership skills and political acumen – and you have used all these impressive qualities most effectively over the course of these past two years.  It is extremely difficult to do justice to all your achievements during your time in command here, but as you prepare to hand over your responsibilities, let me highlight for the many people gathered here today some of your achievements that we believe to be most significant.

You have taken a young NATO Strategic Command, and guided its growth and its development.  ACT is the most diverse Command in NATO and includes areas such as capability development, education and training, as well as the identification and implementation of lessons learned.  You, General Smith, have given these different elements a common identity, and concretely helped to consolidate the transformational focus that is so important for our Alliance.

You have drawn on your extensive operational experience, as well as your previous high responsibilities in training and education facilities, to balance the Command’s twin requirements.  Yes, the Command has an important role to play in looking into the crystal ball and identifying how to meet the challenges of the future, but it also has a vital role to play in supporting the requirements of current operations.  General Smith, we commend you on achieving this balance so successfully.  And I know that our service personnel deployed on operations around the globe are equally appreciative of your hard work and tireless energy in finding solutions to their urgent and real-life operational requirements.

You, General Smith, have championed the need for rethinking the way that NATO approaches its training responsibilities.  And as a result, NATO’s Military Authorities are already in the early stages of a comprehensive review of NATO Training, which has the potential to make significant and far-reaching recommendations on how Training can be better tailored to the current and future strategic and operational environments.

In a similar vein, you and ACT have consistently argued the need for a better NATO approach to capturing Lessons Learned, a theme echoed by the Secretary General during the recent SACT Seminar.  It is encouraging that work is now under way to develop a better, NATO-wide approach to this vital area of our activities.

You, General Smith, have also been an innovative leader of your command.  You have taken time to consider carefully how ACT could be better structured to deliver its outputs more coherently and efficiently within the financial and manpower resources available.  Your proposals will be taken forward as part of the ongoing PE Review, and they will no doubt greatly assist your successor and ACT in the coming years.

Under your guidance, and frequently with your personal involvement, Allied Command Transformation has built partnerships with industry and with the local community that, I am sure, will become increasingly important for the Command in the future.  I know that you took a similar approach when you were the Commandant of the NATO School in Oberammergau in Southern Germany all those years ago, and you are still very well remembered in that small village today.  I am quite certain that Norfolk will also continue to remember you with affection for many years to come.

General, I am aware that you will be retiring shortly and moving to North Carolina to spend as much time as possible on the Pinehurst golf courses.  And if the determination you have shown in your appointment as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation is anything to judge by, then I would not be at all surprised to see you on the first tee at Pinehurst Number 2 when the US Open is played there in 2014.

General Smith, you can be rightly proud of everything you have achieved – both for your country, and for our Alliance.  I should therefore like to take this opportunity to wish you and Linda the very best of good fortune for a long and thoroughly well deserved retirement.  And I can think of no better way of marking the end of your successful period in command here in Norfolk, as well as your tremendous service to the Alliance, than by the presentation, on behalf of the Secretary General and  the Alliance, of the NATO Meritorious Service Medal.  Congratulations.

[ Present medal ]

Again, General Smith, thank you for your achievements and congratulations.

Distinguished guests,

As in all walks of life, when one chapter closes, another one opens.  And in General James Mattis, NATO is fortunate, once again, to welcome to one of its key Commands an officer with a wealth of experience.  This new post will be a challenging one, General Mattis, as I am sure General Smith will have told you.  But I am sure that he will have also told you how rewarding it will be.

Allied Command Transformation has a key role in keeping up the transformation momentum.  We count on you, General Mattis, to continue to bring energy, commitment and fresh ideas to the process.  Your vast experience as a military leader will allow you to continue to enhance ACT’s relevance to our mounting operational requirements, and to make transformation more comprehensible and tangible for the political authorities at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.  On behalf of the Secretary General and the entire NATO community, please accept our very best wishes for your new command.  We very much look forward to working closely with you.

Thank you for your attention.