Updated: 28-Nov-2006 NATO Speeches

Rīga, Latvia

28 Nov. 2006


by the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, General Ray Henault
at the opening of the NATO Summit transformation exhibition

28-29 Nov. 2006 - NATO
NATO Rīga Summit

Thank you President Vike-Freiberga, and Mr. Secretary General, for your remarks. I am very pleased to be able to offer a few short observations on transformation from the military perspective.

Much has been said and written about the technical tools, the capability enhancements, the modernisation elements required for military forces to be more expeditionary, more connected, and more precise……none of this is particularly inexpensive, but it is all important to the conduct of modern operations. Some of that is on display here at this exhibition today.

But what is also very much on display today is the human dimension of military transformation, and that is really at the heart and soul of national and Alliance efforts to re-tool for the security challenges of today and tomorrow.

When you walk through the exhibits, now, or later on your own time, I encourage you to stop and talk with the military personnel. They know their business. They represent the real face of the dramatic change that is already underway in the Alliance. And they are proud of what they do.

The art and science of the military profession is enormously different than when I commanded a helicopter squadron in central Europe in the late 1980’s. Huge improvements have been made across the Alliance, and continue to be made, in how we recruit, train, and pay; how our forces are structured; where they are located; how we get there, and how we support ourselves in the field, at sea, or in the air.

The business and work of changing mindsets, paradigms and force structures does not have the same “wow” factor as a physical asset like the C-17 aircraft, that some of you walked through yesterday.
But consider for a moment the skill sets required by today’s military members deployed on Alliance operations, Afghanistan being but one example.

The modern-day officer or non-commissioned member in Afghanistan needs the intellectual ability and aptitude to work with counterparts from 37 Alliance and partner nations, an array of international agencies, non-governmental organizations, tribal elders, local citizens and Afghan government officials at every level.

He or she is a little bit soldier, policeman, reconstruction and development worker, psychologist, sociologist, teacher, and technologist.

And, he or she needs to have the personal fortitude to work for extended periods of time far away from home and family, in a difficult, complex, demanding and dangerous environment. That person is entrusted with lives of military men and women, and some very expensive military hardware. That person is very aware that his or her actions on any given day, in any given situation, can have profound consequences on the mission and the lives of others, including local populations. As a result, that person is also very aware that actions and reactions continually need careful assessment and judgement, with decisions sometimes having to be made in the blink of an eye.

This strength of spirit and dedication in our military forces is the real fruit of Alliance transformation. That NATO is so successful on its operations, including those far beyond the traditional Euro-Atlantic area, is testiment to how far we have come in a short period of time. The proud forces of NATO nations remain committed to continuing down this path of transformation, and doing all that is necessary to project security and stability wherever we are called upon to do so.

Enjoy your walk-through of the exhibition.


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