Excellences, Admirals, Generals, Honoured Guests, Fellow Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers, Ladies and Gentlemen, Corps Members!
First and foremost, I would sincerely like to thank you for joining us today, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast. We feel honoured and delighted that you have chosen to spend this special day together with us. Anniversaries have their own symbolism, per se. Today, it is the third time that we, as Corps celebrate our birthday here at Wały Chrobrego – a place emblematic of Szczecin. We’ve turned twenty, which means that many of you might not have even been born, when the Corps was established, and might not remember our beginnings. For us – the Corps Headquarters – it means that we’ve reached the age of maturity, and this anniversary gives us an opportunity to reflect and ask ourselves: Where did we come from? Where are we going?
20 years ago – the favourable security situation in Europe, as well as the ensuing advantageous geopolitical situation, prompted Denmark, Germany and Poland to establish a Corps Headquarters in Szczecin. The initial aims were to facilitate the introduction of the Polish Armed Forces to the NATO Command and Force Structure and to retain corps level capabilities. However, we need to remember that this decision was made on the heels of the long and successful trilateral cooperation between the 12th Polish, the 14th German and Danish divisions. Moreover, MNCNE’s foundations were based on the only multinational corps in NATO of that time, namely Allied Land Forces Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland – LANDJUT. From the very beginning, the Corps’ development has been tightly connected to, and has been reflecting NATO’s transformation. Every five years, the Headquarters has been given new responsibilities and adjusted itself to growing expectations. This is why, over the years we have grown from 3 to 24 Allied and partnering nations, and we have operated both inside and outside of NATO’s area of operations. The number of personnel has nearly tripled, and our readiness status has been significantly raised. Interestingly from today’s vantage point, the first Corps Concept of Operations, based on optimism and hope for anticipated future, and yet signed by its first commander in 1999 in Rendsburg, described collective defence – actual combat operations in the region – as the least likely scenario.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since the security environment in our region took a sharp turn for the worse in 2014 and as various NATO summits have acknowledged the need for response to the existing and upcoming challenges, the Corps has remained at the centre of adaptation and change. Today, deterrence and collective defence are therefore at the forefront of what we plan, exercise and prepare for. HQ Multinational Corps Northeast of today is the headquarters, permanently ready for operations at short notice – and tasked with being both – a Corps headquarters and a regionally focused Land Component Command. We are to be the first NATO responders in the region, in case of a possible crisis and – if required – we are responsible for directing and integrating combat operations in the regional land domain. Consequently, Multinational Corps Northeast is no longer only about the Headquarters. The Corps’ chain of command now includes Command Support Brigade in Stargard, the Headquarters Multinational Division North-East in Elbląg – and in the near future the Headquarters Multinational Division North in Latvia. We also include four multinational enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups, integrated with the National Home Defence Brigades of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and – at least as of today – six NATO Forces Integration Units, as well. We are now a true and integral part of NATO deterrence and defence.
In the military world, the principle is that the one who is able to think, plan and act faster than his opponent, is the one who prevails. And, to invoke the evolution theorem, natural selection leaves only those who are able to adapt to the requirements of the surrounding environment. Hence, we take our roles and functions seriously, and we acknowledge that we shall not stop where we’ve been brought to, by the situation and circumstances. We have the ambition to constantly evolve and adapt according to challenges and needs. Our Structures, our Command Post concept and the internal processes of the headquarters are currently being reviewed and are to be experimented with, in order to be optimised. There are also ongoing efforts to acquire cohesion among Corps’ troops in our area of responsibility and to further integrate with national, regional and NATO entities – as required. In fact, all of this reflects the real spirit of what this Headquarters has in its motto: Ready Today – Prepared for Tomorrow Adapting for the Future. The Corps does not exist in a vacuum. We are here for – and on behalf of – the Baltic Sea Region and NATO. For that reason, the support we receive from our framework nations, from the countries of the region, from all the troop contributing nations, and, last but not least, from our local environment is paramount, not merely to our existence, but principally to regional security.
Residents of Szczecin,
On behalf of the Corps, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the city of Szczecin – our hometown. Corps Northeast is often called the Szczecin’s Corps. Our very soul is based on this soil and its people. Without their support, your support, without the support of governmental and non-governmental agencies, the clergy, academia and many, many other entities that co-operate with us, without their openness, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we have ve accomplished in the past twenty years. Let me emphasise, as a person born in Western Pomerania, that I am proud to stand here in front of you today, as the Corps Commander, and I would like to say, from the depth of my heart, thank you! For all of us, your support is a clear sign and symbol of stability, co-operation, openness and success.
Excellences, Distinguished Guests, Friends of the Corps,
In concluding this address, I want to express my special appreciation to our colleagues and guests from Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One. Thank you very much for visiting us today. Your presence here is a strong signal, and conveys a cohesive multiservice and multinational Allied approach to ensure security throughout the Baltic Sea region. And, the expected aircraft flyover, coordinated by NATO air authorities, takes place to demonstrate that we are able to see beyond the horizon of the Corps’ formally defined tasks. Soldiers and civilians who make up the Corps – I would like to thank you for dedication to your duties. Your efforts instil confidence in Allied presence in the region. Deployed often away from your home countries, with your families, you are writing – page by page – the positive history of the Corps and you are building its true legacy. People come and go – traditions, structures, formations and units tend to stay around much longer. Therefore, I wish us that together, during the time that we are here; we can contribute to a successful future for Multinational Corps Northeast. And finally, I wish all of us to enjoy festive celebrations, here in Szczecin, over the next couple of days.
So, troops. Are you ready?
Griffins! – Guard!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your attention.