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Apr 27 2021

NATO Force Integration Unit Hungary prepares for evaluation exercise

SZCZECIN, Poland – NATO Force Integration Unit Hungary (NFIU HUN) located in Székesfehérvár is facing a significant challenge. In May, they will carry out their evaluation exercise PRECISE RECEPTION 21. The unit will have to prove their capability to perform duties in support of NATO’s deterrence and defence at any time. But what exactly is the NFIU task?

NFIU HUN staff members observing a multinational exercise (picture taken before the pandemic outbreak)

Going back to the very beginnings, NATO Force Integration Units (NFIUs) were established in 2014 across the countries of NATO’s eastern flank. In the first round, six such elements started operating. In 2016, when Slovakia and Hungary joined the initiative, the number increased to eight. In a nutshell, the NFIUs main task is to support the Reception, Staging and Onward Movement (RSOM) of the NATO Response Force and follow-on-forces. It all sounds simple, but in reality is - obviously - much more complex than that. “The NFIUs perform their day-to-day tasks in a state of continuous readiness,” indicates Colonel István Topor, Commander NFIU HUN. “I would like to illustrate the nature of our work with an example. Recently, Lieutenant General Sławomir Wojciechowski, Commander Multinational Corps Northeast, has visited us. After listening to my report, he asked: ‘Is the organization ready, if a task needs to be performed today?’ I replied: ‘Yes.’ ‘And will that be the case next week?’ he continued. I confirmed again. In real life, we are basically preparing for two different scenarios every day of the year. It is either a deployment of NATO forces to Hungary or facilitating their transit through the country,” explains the Commander. Supposing NATO forces deploy to Hungary, usually a preparatory survey team arrives and has to be supplied with most recent details about the country. The NFIU, therefore, is able to speed up the deployment process by providing latest information.

I used to say that we actually serve as an information hub. We independently carry out very detailed surveys, analyses of roads, airports, train stations and other objects, and can provide it to the Alliance whenever necessary,

says COL Topor, "For example, if a sub-unit needs a specialistic crane, our logistic staff officers can tell you from which organization such equipment can be sourced, and they will also coordinate the process. We refresh our databases continuously. Most recently, we went to the Hungarian Defence Forces’ (HDF) 59th 'Szentgyörgyi Dezső' Air Base to compare our data with the actual situation. Additionally, it is no less important that we work closely with various non-governmental organizations. One of them is the Hungarian Public Roads Corporation. Following our agreement, we can get a live feed of a traffic situation through their system whenever needed,” expands the Commander. He adds that they are also in daily contact with a U.S. Cavalry Squadron currently stationed at the HDF Bakony Combat Training Centre.

COL István Topor (Hungarian Army), Commander NFIU HUN
Signing of the cooperation agreement between NFIU HUN and Hungarian Public Roads Corporation (picture taken before the pandemic outbreak)

In terms of its organizational structure, the NFIU is no different to other NATO entities. In the same way, one can find different "J" branches, only that on a smaller scale.

“Among other things, our daily routine comprises meetings, briefings, drafting daily and weekly reports and evaluations. We organize courses and trainings for staff officers serving here, both at home and abroad. This is an excellent opportunity for them to expand their knowledge in specific areas. In our organization, officers rotate every two or three years, so the preparation of new colleagues is also a continuous process. Because many of them visit Hungary for the first time in connection with their service, we help them integrate into the new country.”

In addition to being constantly prepared for possible operational tasks, we also take part in exercises at the level of the Hungarian Defence Forces and NATO as often as the epidemic situation allows it,

COL Topor gives an insight into the NFIU everyday life. "With the evaluation exercise ahead, this daily routine is expected to change significantly. It is a common knowledge that different levels of NATO headquarters need to be evaluated every three years. Having reached Full Operational Capability, we completed our very first evaluation exercise with an excellent rate in 2017. We do not want to do any less than that this year, either. Interestingly, the conducting of evaluation exercises is the Host Nation responsibility - in this case the Hungarian Defence Forces. NATO sends their observers, who carry out inspections in cooperation with Hungarian experts, based on a system of criteria developed and approved by the Alliance. This system is very complex and rigid; it covers all disciplines, outlines requirements, forming the complete evaluation system. Intensive preparations and training have already been underway, in coordination with our existing IT systems, we are planning a preliminary exercise for ourselves. The evaluation is otherwise divided into two parts."

“The first part is administrative, where inspectors examine all documents needed to carry out our mission. In the practical part based on a fictitious scenario, we have to prove that we are able to perform our operational tasks in real conditions,” COL Topor describes the course of the evaluation.

It is worthwhile to note that, according to the preliminary plans, the NFIU HUN evaluation was meant to be tied to a NATO exercise involving real team movements, but the COVID-19 epidemic overwrote also this plan.

(picture taken before the pandemic outbreak)
NFIU HUN premises in Székesfehérvár, Hungary

Story by Gábor Kálmánfi ( / English version edited by Multinational Corps Northeast Public Affairs Office

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