NATO’s New Command Reaches First Operational Milestone

Story by U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe, Public Affairs Officer

NORFOLK, Va. — NATO’s newest command, Joint Force Command Norfolk, has reached its initial operational capability (IOC) in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sept 17, 2020. In reaching IOC, the JFCNF commander has determined that the command is ready to take on initial tasking from NATO’s operational headquarters in Europe, on behalf of the Alliance’s 30 member nations.

Royal Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Betton, deputy commander of Joint Force Command Norfolk, (left) and U.S. Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the command, cut the ribbon during an Initial Operational Capability ceremony on Thursday. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theodore Green/U.S. Navy

This new command is part of the allied command operations structure and headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. It will provide a U.S.-led, joint multi-national operational command, supported by component, Allied and partner commands, responsible for the North Atlantic, the High North and adjacent littorals.

“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,” said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of Joint Force Command Norfolk (JFCNF). Lewis also serves as the Commander of U.S. Second Fleet.

The ceremony was held at the headquarters on Naval Support Activity (NSA) Hampton Roads and streamed online with participants from other NATO’s commands, including Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) who offered his congratulations and support on this achievement via virtual video conference from his office in Mons, Belgium.

“The shared history and beliefs of NATO allies and our commitment to one another cement the Euro-Atlantic as the cornerstone of global security,” said Wolters. “To Team Lewis and all the men and women of JFC Norfolk, congrats on your achievements. You leave no doubt, vigilance endures.”

Other speakers at the ceremony included: Adm. Chris Grady, commander, United States Fleet Forces, Vice Adm. P.M. Bennett, chief of staff, Supreme Allied Command Transformation, and Rear Adm. Andrew Betton, deputy commander, Joint Force Command Norfolk,

NATO Defense Ministers decided in June 2018 to adapt the Alliance’s command structure with a new Atlantic command in Norfolk in order to increase NATO’s readiness across the Atlantic, strengthen the trans-Atlantic bonds with Allies and Partners, increase readiness to defend NATO’s Allies and Partners in the North Atlantic and High North, and ultimately, deter aggression from any potential adversaries.

The command will plan, prepare and conduct operations across air, land and sea. One of JFC Norfolk’s primary missions 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.

Several service members representing NATO partner countries also took part in the ceremony and will be instrumental in further developing the capabilities in the coming months and years.

“A small group of operationally and tactically focused planners serve as the initial staff who have been responsible for establishing the command structure and developing JFC Norfolk’s capabilities. The command is expected to grow to approximately 150 personnel from across the allied nations within the next couple of years,” according to Deputy Commander, Joint Force Command Norfolk, Rear Adm. Andrew Betton, OBE Royal Navy.

JFCNF is co-located with Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet on Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads in Virginia. Photo by U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe, public affairs officer.

JFCNF is the only operational NATO command in North America and its establishment and location in Norfolk, Virginia, embodies the enduring trans-Atlantic commitment to collective security and defense of our Allies and Partners.

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Joint Force Command Norfolk focuses on joint and multinational operations in the Atlantic, with close coordination across all warfighting domains.

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