Brunssum, The Netherlands – On 28th May, Colonel Michel Gelders, Belgian Air Force, represented Joint Force Command Brunssum (JFCBS) at a Media Day organised on the Amphibious Assault Ship USS Kearsage during her port visit to Tallinn, Estonia.
NESH clearly demonstrates NATO's ability to swiftly and efficiently integrate high-end US maritime capabilities into NATO's Command Structure
The ship currently serves as the command platform for a US Amphibious Ready Group and its Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG-MEU), which are sailing under NATO control as part of Vigilance Activity Neptune Shield (NESH 22). This marks the first time in history that the United States has transferred not only a US Carrier Strike Group operating in the Mediterranean, but also an ARG-MEU in the Baltic Sea into the NATO Command Structure.
With NESH 22 activities taking place across almost the entire European continent, NATO planners were required to coordinate joint actions across vast distances. As Col Gelders put it, "NESH clearly demonstrates NATO's ability to swiftly and efficiently integrate high-end US maritime capabilities into NATO's Command Structure, and its ability to project Air, Land and Sea Power across the entire NATO Area of Responsibility."
To support NESH 22, JFC Brunssum fully exploited its network in the Baltic Sea Region in order to integrate with existing NATO and national activities. This included Exercise Hedgehog in Estonia, in which Harriers from the Kearsage delivered airstrikes in the Baltic States and Poland with long-range air support provided by F-18 fighters launched from the USS Harry S. Truman thousands of miles away in the Mediterranean Sea. The Truman's F-18s flew with the aid of NATO air-to-air refuelling over the European mainland while being challenged by Italian Eurofighters acting as opposition forces.
The successful execution of Neptune Shield represents the 'best practice' in integrating Allied capabilities under a unified, multinational command structure. As such, it clearly demonstrates NATO's capability and determination to defend its member states.
When combined with the ongoing reinforcement of the Alliance's Eastern flank, NESH 22 shows that NATO Allies stand shoulder to shoulder, ready to respond to any kind of aggression and fully prepared to defend every inch of the Alliance territory.
NESH 22 concludes on 31st May.