NATO’s latest command, Joint Force Command Norfolk (JFCNF), reached its initial operational capability (IOC) in a ceremony on Sept. 17.
Reaching IOC means the commander of JFCNF determined it is ready to begin initial tasking from NATO’s operational headquarters in Europe.
JFCNF is headquartered in Norfolk, Va., and is part of the NATO command operations structure. It will provide a U.S.-led joint multi-national operational command responsible for the North Atlantic, High North, and adjacent littoral areas. It is collocated with the U.S. 2nd Fleet and is led by the same commander, Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis.
It is the first NATO headquarter dedicated to the Atlantic since 2003 and the only operational NATO command in North America.
“This ceremony marks a significant milestone in providing a new, crucial location and link to the Alliance, ultimately ensuring a 360-degree approach for our collective NATO defense and security,” Lewis said in a statement.
The ceremony was held at the organization’s headquarters on Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads and streamed online to other NATO participants.
“The shared history and beliefs of NATO allies and our commitment to one another cement the Euro-Atlantic as the cornerstone of global security. To Team Lewis and all the men and women of JFC Norfolk, congrats on your achievements. You leave no doubt, vigilance endures,” Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), said via virtual video conference.
In June 2018 NATO defense ministers decided to adapt the alliance’s command structure with this new command in Norfolk to increase their readiness across the Atlantic Ocean, strengthen trans-Atlantic bonds between allies and partners, deter aggression, and increase readiness to defend allies and partners in the North Atlantic and High North regions.
The command explained its “primary mission is to ensure the trans-Atlantic strategic lines of communication between Europe and North America remain open, in turn, JFC Norfolk will be marked by extensive maritime expertise, which includes air, surface and subsurface capabilities.”
Rear Adm. Andrew Betton, Royal Navy, Deputy Commander of JFCNF, said in a statement that a small group of “operationally and tactically focused planners” will serve as the initial staff and have been responsible for establishing a command structure and developing the command capabilities.
Joint Force Command Norfolk is expected to eventually grow to about 150 personnel from across NATO members over the “next couple of years,” Betton added.