Germany participates in enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) and commands a Battle Group in Lithuania. BwJFOCOM is responsible for the national, operational level of command over this multinational Battle Group. Consequently, there is close cooperation between BwJFOCOM and MNC NE. It was his first visit to Multinational Corps Northeast (MNC NE) in Szczecin as Commander Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command (BwJFOCOM).
During his visit, Lieutenant General Pfeffer gave us the opportunity for an interview. We wanted to know which impressions he will take with him to Potsdam after his visit in Szczecin. General Pfeffer underlined that MNC NE plays a very special role within the framework of collective defence in the north-eastern region and that, "as we are the Framework Nation in Lithuania, it is only natural that – despite having two different perspectives on the same topic – we are working in close consultation and coordination in order to jointly fulfil our mission." He continued that "what I have experienced here was a distinctively positive picture: a professional headquarters that knows what it is doing; that knows what its mission is; that knows where it has to go and where the challenges are. I have thus received good information and good advice what we should pay attention to from a national point of view. At the same time, I realized that our picture and our assessments concerning challenges and need for action – how we are going to further optimize eFP but also the entire system of the new collective defence to which we contribute – are a good common understanding and that we know where we want to go together."
The special role of MNC NE
With regard to the importance of other corps headquarters of the NATO Force Structure for the Bundeswehr Joint Forces Operations Command on operations, he emphasized that, as a rule, the multinational corps headquarters always play a role on operations by forming nucleus staffs within the multinational headquarters, thus ensuring the command and control capability – particularly within the NATO Command Structure. The best example for this was Afghanistan, where MNC NE was also involved multiple times, and it applies in the same way for other corps headquarters. For him, the main difference in cooperating with MNC NE lies in the special role of the Corps within the context of collective defence. "This permanent task that not only affects a considerable part of the headquarters but the complete headquarters including its support elements is what makes the significant difference. Within the framework of eFP, we are entering into a permanent cooperation and a permanent dialogue for a fixed mission for which this Corps is optimized at its core. For me, this is also the reason behind the importance of dialogue, of cooperation and of my visit here in Szczecin today."
Further development of multinationality and thus interoperability
The presence of the German-led Battle Group will have its first anniversary soon. In the course of this, General Pfeffer was also able to gain experience concerning the multinational cooperation within the eFP Battle Group. For him, multinationality is something that naturally belongs to deployments. He emphasized that the German contingents already bring a lot of experience in multinational cooperation with them. This is particularly true for the partners with whom they cooperate in the multinational Battle Group. This multinationality developed further and further over the years and, in the course of this, was increasingly consolidated at a high level from its relatively generic state. In this regard, he particularly highlighted that "we can therefore build on a very good foundation of multinational cooperation. From my point of view, we are also entering a new chapter through the multinational cooperation within the framework of this eFP Battle Group, because we are now also able to try out things within the context of training and exercises. We are not in an immediate operational environment there, which means that it is OK if something goes wrong sometimes. This is not possible in an operational context, which is why I consider eFP to be a catalyst for interoperability as it is an excellent opportunity to consolidate interoperability way beyond the standard we currently maintain as well as to try out new things. Also because we are in constant cooperation with our partners and thus successively drive forward really all aspects of multinationality – not just those required for a specific operation. This being the case, eFP is of particular importance to me when it comes to the further development of multinationality and by that interoperability."
As the Christmas season is now officially approaching as of 1 December, we asked General Pfeffer if there is something that he would like to tell the soldiers of the 29 NATO partner states and especially the soldiers on deployments around the world. "I would like to wish all soldiers that they are able to enjoy Christmas, no matter where they are – be it in home assignments, in NATO headquarters or on deployments abroad – while at the same time hoping that we not only maintain the level of excellent cooperation we experience in NATO contexts, which is also a big prerequisite for our deployments and especially for the cooperation with other partners, but continue to cultivate it as we have been so far. This is due to the fact that my experiences from deployments clearly show me that multinationality in cooperation does not primarily mean additional work but mainly an additional benefit regarding the content and especially the social level."