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Nov 1 2020

Two years of hard work

In his interview with honvedelem.hu, Lieutenant General Sławomir Wojciechowski, the Commander of NATO's Multinational Corps Northeast, discussed the achievements and way ahead of Headquarters Multinational Division Central.

20201021-lipinska-kozera-jmed-9222h1/  Lieutenant General Sławomir Wojciechowski (PhD), the Commander of  Multinational Corps Northeast
Photo: Ensign Lajos Szabó

In October 2020, Lieutenant General Wojciechowski visited Hungary for the second time. He held talks with Lieutenant General Gábor Böröndi, Deputy Commander of the Hungarian Armed Forces, and with leaders and staff members of NATO Force Integration Unit (NFIU HUN) and Headquarters Multinational Division Central (HQ MND-C) based in Hungary.

Perhaps less well known in Hungary, Multinational Corps Northeast (MNC NE) was established in September 1999. The Corps plays a very important role in securing the north-eastern flank of the Alliance, specifically Poland and the three Baltic States. The Corps Headquartes directs the training, cooperation and operations of ground forces deployed in the above mentioned area of NATO. MNC NE switched to being a High-Readiness Force after the events in Crimea in 2014. The exercise 'Brilliant Capability' held in June 2016 demonstrated the MNC NE preparedness to command and control the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).

In addition to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the responsibilities of the Corps Command also extend to Slovakia and Hungary, which is why the Commander visited Hungary again.

It is no easy task to integrate the Corps Headquarters, which now includes soldiers from 25 nations, or the overall organization itself, i.e. its two divisions, four brigades and enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Groups in the four countries as well as the six NATO Force Integration Units, acknowledged LTG Wojciechowski.  In accordance with this duality, the responsibilities of the staff and the commander are also twofold. The latter is a particular challenge, as forces of many nations, including their different armaments, capabilities, organizational structures and military traditions, need to be harmonized. "Building the right cohesion benefits everyone: the ground forces of each nation learn what leadership they can expect," the Lieutenant General added. He considered it very fruitful to meet with Lieutenant General Gábor Böröndi, with whom he also had professional talks on his first visit two years ago.

As Lieutenant General Wojciechowski pointed out, there are many commonalities between the goals, direction and development ideas of NATO and the Hungarian Armed Forces. "It was useful to share our experiences, and it was important for me to get to know how the Hungarian Armed Forces see our mutual cooperation," the Corps Commander added. Regarding the developments within the Hungarian Armed Forces, Sławomir Wojciechowski highlighted that flexible mindset is as important as technical interoperability. However, this very challenge is faced by all European members of NATO: it is a common experience that forces have to perform their increasingly complex tasks in a fast changing environment. "Armed forces reflect the society they are in," the Lieutenant General stated. "Not only our societies and the organizational culture of forces, but also NATO itself is undergoing a change. The Allied militaries have an important role and task in this. Twenty years after joining NATO, we need to be proactive, drive innovation and shape decisions," he said with regard to Central and Eastern European countries.

"I believe that Headquarters Multinational Division Centre, as a new NATO organization, needs to grow rapidly in order to be able to carry out its regional integrator responsibilities effectively. The responsibilities and tasks of HQ MND-C are much bigger than its area of operations," said Lieutenant General Wojciechowski. He also reminded that one of the very important but little mentioned aspects of multinational interoperability is intellectual and conceptual cooperation and joint work. "They are on the right track and have good plans for the future. Yet, it is always worth remembering that there are no given manuals that offer instant solutions for real-life problems and challenges. They must write these manuals themselves for their own headquarters."

Story by Balázs Trautmann

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