by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the ACT change of command ceremony
[Ministers] [Generals, Admirals] [Excellencies]
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be with you all today.
And it is an honour to preside over this change-of-command ceremony.
Today we are here to pay tribute to two men who have dedicated their lives to maintaining Euro-Atlantic security.
General Palomeros and General Mercier.
General Mercier, you are now the latest in a growing line of exceptional French officers to take this command.
Like General Palomeros, you were first a fighter pilot.
Flying over 180 combat missions.
Then, as part of a long and glittering career, you have served as:
Commander of the French Air Force Academy.
Senior military advisor for the Ministry of Defence.
And Chief of Staff for the French Air Force.
But perhaps even more important than this extraordinary experience is your passion for the Air Force and for the men and women who serve within it.
It is that passion that makes you the ideal man for the job of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
You join us at an important moment.
We are now just over half way between our Wales and Warsaw Summits.
A great deal has happened since Wales.
But there is still a lot to do before we can truly deliver on our commitments.
However, I know that in your hands, NATO and Allied Command Transformation, have a formidable leader.
And I have every confidence that you will achieve everything we have set out to do.
So, on behalf of everyone in NATO, I would like to wish you and Agnes a very warm welcome.
And I very much look forward to working with you.
You will soon discover the warmth and friendship with which this Command has been embraced by the local community.
A community that has welcomed and supported the men and women of the NATO Alliance for more than six decades.
I know that you are no stranger to these shores.
I hope that living here, in this community, will be everything you hope it will be.
And I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the people of Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area for everything you do for those stationed here.
Many are far from home.
But you make them feel at home.
And I thank you for that.
Today, we also bid a fond farewell to our friend, General Palomeros.
And to your wife, Agnes, who has done so much within the local community.
Especially with the Spouses and Partners Club.
And will be sorely missed.
General, yours has been a long and distinguished career.
Your bravery under fire was exceptional.
Your reputation as a leader – both within the French Air Force, and within NATO – is exemplary.
It was NATO’s privilege that you were appointed as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
And thanks to your leadership, the Alliance is now in a better position to face the future.
Jean-Paul, here at Norfolk, as at every stage of your career, you have embodied the fine traditions of the French Air Force.
You have acted with dedication, determination and the utmost professionalism.
I will leave you with the words of one of your most treasured authors, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
“It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man finds his supreme joys.”
On behalf of all Allies and all NATO staffs, I would like to thank you for your outstanding contribution to our Alliance.
And it is now my honour to present you with the NATO Meritorious Service Medal.