Updated: 19-Jun-2013
News > 2013  

Force Command Madrid holds Deactivation Ceremony

Written by Manuel GORDO, OF4 ESP A
Photos by Christian VALVERDE, OR7 FRA N

From 12 to 14 June, Headquarters Allied Force Command Madrid (HQ FCMD) held a series of events to mark its deactivation. This deactivation is part of a major reform process in NATO’s Command Structure to make it more efficient, flexible and responsive. The responsibility for Land Operations readiness and support has been transferred to Allied Land Command in Izmir, Turkey.

The events were planned to cover different aspects ranging from the presentation of “The Retamares Headquarters Historic Book”, the formal deactivation ceremony and an emotive lowering of the flags. Additional activities were also held such as the Commander’s Challenge Cup and the International Food Festival.

The Historic Book presentation was conducted on the 12th and was attended by NATO authorities, FCMD personnel, former Commanders and HQ staff, national militaries and representatives from civilian institutions with whom the Retamares HQ has maintained relations during its operating period.  The purpose of this publication was to serve as a tribute to the work done, from the establishment as Joint Sub Regional Command Southwest on 30 September 1999 to the deactivation of Force Command Madrid on 1 July 2013, by all the personnel at this HQ, for NATO, promoting peace and stability.

Colonel Romero, Executive Officer to the Commander and chairman of the working group tasked to write it up and one of the authors, addressed an interesting speech comparing FCMD’s activities with the twelve labours of Hercules.

After these words the book was ready to be picked up by attendees. A selection of pictures covering the 14 years of this history decorated the walls of the hall, where some of the veteran actors had the opportunity to explain the facts linked to these photographs.

On 13 June, the central event took place: the Deactivation Ceremony. Previously, the Commander had called for an intimate ceremony in which he bade farewell to the troops, addressing his last speech to them highlighting the goals achieved and the Unit’s cohesion.

The Deactivation Ceremony was presided by Commander Allied Joint Force Command Naples Admiral Bruce W. CLINGAN and attended by the Spanish Chief of Defence, Admiral Fernando GARCÍA SÁNCHEZ, among many others. The families of serving soldiers and civilian staff were also present at the ceremony. The formation, commanded by Major General Joel RIVAULT, was made up of the Music Unit and Escort Honours Company from the Spanish Marine Corps; Deployable Joint Staff Elements 1 and 2; plus a Miscellaneous Block with the National Support Elements, the NATO Communications and Information Agency and the Joint Projects Coordination Office.

A brief historical review of Retamares Headquarters preceded the four-part ceremony. After this the first part started with the arrival of the Spanish Flag: the Pennant of Force Command Madrid and the NATO Flag were already present, occupying a preferential position. Immediately after the arrival of the official party Lieutenant General Alfredo Cardona addressed a heartfelt speech stressing the two clearly defined sentiments that overwhelmed FCMD personnel: “the sad knowledge that we will commence our deactivation when FCMD is at its highest level of operability” and “however, we understood […] that our disappearance was a decision taken by our superior echelons of command”.

Admiral CLINGAN followed with an address in which he referred to FCMD stating that “closing the book of any Command is not a joyous occasion […] NATO is willing to transfer and adapt to the evolving secure environment in the interest of peace and stability, freedom and security, and eager to deploy its expertise to meet the needs of the Alliance […] the enthusiasm, unparalleled dedication and tireless efforts of its personnel has resulted in a job well done”.

The next day, 14 June, FCMD conducted the Flag Lowering Ceremony. There is no need for us as soldiers to be reminded of the importance of our national flags, the history they enclose, the emotions they embody, the respect they deserve. All of us have devoted our lives to defending what these flags represent, and the emotion was visible on the faces of the participants in the ceremony. After being lowered, the flags were delivered to the Senior National Representatives for custody.

Now, only the flags of NATO and Spain, the host nation, remain flying against the Madrid sky.

A closure team of about 60 staff, under the command of Colonel Roland GOEBEL, will manage the transfer of buildings and facilities to the Spanish Army, which will be completed no later than December 2013.