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Jul 11 2017

For Latvia and NATO

The end of June marked the official Change of Command in NATO Force Integration Unit Latvia (NFIU LVA). On this occasion, both Commanders – the incoming and outgoing – sat with us to talk about their experiences and plans. Colonel Eriks Naglis and his successor, Colonel Janis Gailis, stressed that NFIUs are important pillars bracing the structure of European security and increasing the speed of NATO's rapid-reaction forces.

Personally, how was it to take on a task of such magnitude and step into a whole new pathway as – back in 2015 – NFIUs were completely new structures. What were the thoughts you had on "day one"?
Colonel Eriks Naglis: This assignment was not a pre-planned part of my military career and came as a surprise to me. At the beginning of 2015, I was still working as Chief of the Operations Department in the Latvian Joint Headquarters. One day I was called to the office of the Chief of Defence and walked out as a newly nominated NFIU Commander. It was, indeed, like stepping into a new pathway, looking over the horizon and thinking: "Where will this road take me?" What proved to be very helpful was my previous engagement in the development of the NFIUs' Implementation Plan together with a great team from Joint Force Command Brunssum (JFCBS), led by Colonel Hans Houf. I knew what NFIUs were meant to be, but a lot of practical work remained to be done before this brand-new NATO entity would become fully operational in Latvia.

How about you, Sir? With what attitude are you stepping into this new position?
Colonel Janis Gailis: It is an honour and a responsibility at the same time. From now on, I represent not only my home country but also NATO. I truly believe that we will be able to carry on from where Colonel Naglis left off. I am hoping to get into gear very quickly. My staff – now I can say "my" – are very dedicated and professional subject-matter experts. Of course, it might take some time before I am fully settled in, but with their support I am sure I will get up to speed soon.

Moving back to Colonel Naglis, what were the most important achievements of your tenure?
Colonel Eriks Naglis: First and foremost, the certification of NFIU LVA as a fully capable unit in summer 2016. It took an enormous effort of the whole team and every single staff member. We had to develop the NFIU's Standing Operating Procedures, organize an effective workflow for every branch, section and speciality within the unit, establish contacts and channels of information exchange, and start an education campaign about NFIU. All this was happening at the same time with receiving new personnel, material and working in temporary HQ premises. Through a focused, dedicated and selfless effort of every single staff member, we were able to build a cohesive and capable team – the NFIU LVA family.

What made NFIU Latvia an efficient unit? What does it take?
Colonel Eriks Naglis: I have already mentioned one reason – the people, the team. Secondly, I am really thankful to General Manfred Hofmann, Commander Multinational Corps Northeast (MNC NE), for his support, advice and leadership. It was important to know and feel that my superior commander had trust in me and gave me enough freedom and flexibility to find the best ways on how to accomplish my mission. Although all NFIUs have the same structure and tasks, the situation in each country is different in many ways and requires an individual approach. Last but not least, you have to believe in what you do. From day one, I believed in the idea of NFIUs and was aware that these units were not isolated structures but part of a bigger whole – NATO's Assurance and Deterrence concept. They have already significantly contributed to boosting the security of my home country Latvia and the Alliance as such.
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LEFT TO RIGHT: COL ERIKS NAGLIS, LTG MANFRED HOFMANN, COL JANIS GAILIS

Is there something that you learned from this experience as a senior military leader?
Colonel Eriks Naglis: It was my first-ever true NATO experience and the first-ever multinational unit under my command. This position required constant engagements with high-ranking officials, both military and civilian. In such an environment, you learn a lot about diplomacy and you train yourself in tolerance and patience. Most importantly perhaps, I have learned how important communication is. Effective communication should be one of the top priorities for any leader at any level.

Colonel Gailis, you have already worked within the multinational environment. Could you please expand on these experiences?
Colonel Janis Gailis: Whatever position one takes, they should learn from their past experiences. I held the positions of Deputy Chief of Staff Support Multinational Task Force Centre (KFOR), Deputy Commander Provincial Reconstruction Team Meymaneh (ISAF), Deputy Military Representative to NATO and EU. I believe it will be advantageous to have had the experience of working within the multinational environment. I was privileged to cooperate with very skilful and well-educated officers from across NATO. Today, I am really looking forward to starting working further with our NATO allies.

What is the goal that you want to achieve for NFIU LVA as its new Commander?
Colonel Janis Gailis: It is very important to proceed with the tasks that were initiated by my predecessor. I am not intending to change something that functions so well. For sure, I would like to reinforce mutual understanding amongst all partners and entities that could be involved in the rapid deployment of NATO forces to Latvia if needed. It is our common mission. All of us have to look in the same direction.

Finally, Colonel Naglis, what is it that you wish NFIU LVA and your successor?
Colonel Eriks Naglis: Long live NFIU! Keep up the great work and do not lose the team spirit.

Story by Multinational Corps Northeast Public Affairs Office

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