by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Change of Command Ceremony at the Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Mayor of Norfolk,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is really a great pleasure for me to be back in Norfolk.
And I am glad that we can all gather here.
To honour two men, who are not only experienced pilots and commanders, but also great leaders committed to our transatlantic Alliance.
General Lanata and General Lavigne.
France is a strong and highly valued NATO Ally, with cutting edge capabilities and highly professional forces.
For over a decade, France has nominated its best officers to take this command.
General Lavigne, you are part of that fine tradition.
You started your career as a fighter pilot.
Flying combat missions in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and Iraq.
Contributing your experience and your expertise to train and teach fellow pilots.
And to help to plan and conduct operations,
notably in Haiti, and in South Asia after the tsunami.
You were also in Afghanistan, where you commanded the airport in Kabul.
You have had an extraordinary career.
Including as France’s Air and Space Force Chief of Staff.
Your experience and professionalism make you the perfect person to take over as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
You join at a pivotal moment for our Alliance.
As we now are preparing NATO for the next decade and beyond.
On behalf of everyone at NATO, I wish you a very warm welcome.
And I look forward to working with you.
And I am sure you will quickly discover the extraordinary warmth and friendship of the local community in Norfolk.
The people here have welcomed and supported the men and women of NATO for many decades.
And I would like to thank them for all that they do for those stationed here.
No matter where they are from, the people of Norfolk make this feel like home.
So thank you so much.
At our Summit in June, our leaders agreed NATO 2030 – an ambitious agenda for our future security.
A future that has already been shaped by the man we say goodbye to today.
Our good friend, General Lanata.
For NATO to be future-proof,
we need to keep up with the rapid pace of technological change.
Accelerate innovation, so that we remain competitive.
And retain our edge.
General, this is precisely what you have been doing.
Under your leadership, ACT has made significant contributions to the Alliance’s work on Emerging and Disruptive Technologies.
In particular on Artificial Intelligence.
ACT has also laid the foundations for the Alliance’s development of the new Defence Innovation Accelerator - DIANA.
Let me also highlight your significant contribution to the development of the NATO warfighting capstone concept.
Which will guide our Alliance’s capability development to 2040.
Your work has left its mark on this Alliance.
And this work will be taken forward by your successor as we continue to adapt.
André, when you return to France, I know that you will miss the many friends you have made here at ACT.
But know that they will miss you just as much.
They will remember your extraordinary vision, particularly with regard to capability development.
They will also remember your laser focus, and relentless engagement on innovation.
And they will remember your pride and passion for your native Island of Corsica.
So General Lanata, it has been NATO’s privilege to have you serve as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation.
So 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.