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Apr 3 2023

NATO Force Integration Hungary sums up over six years under Multinational Corps Northeast

By Major Gyula HARNÓCZ, NATO Force Integration Unit Hungary

In the world of military organizations, command is a crucial element that determines the effectiveness and success of any operation. Therefore, the handover of one NATO military organization between different higher commands is a significant event that requires careful planning and execution. On March 31, 2023, following more than six years of exercising its command function over NATO Force Integration Unit Hungary (NFIU HUN), Multinational Corps Northeast handed over command to Headquarters Multinational Division Centre. 

The Activation Request for NATO Force Integration Units in Hungary and Slovakia dated June 17, 2016, stated the following: "Multinational Corps Northeast (MNC NE) will be responsible for the NFIUs in HUN and SVK to include support to assurance measures. Operational Control (OPCON) over NFIUs will be delegated to MNC NE as of September 1, 2016. MNC NE will then exercise delegated Command and Control as well as a coordination function for all NFIUs in the Northeast."

This era, however, is ending and a new one is dawning in Székesfehérvár, Hungary.

There are only few who doubt that NATO is still needed in 2023. For almost 75 years throughout its history, the Alliance has been ensuring the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic region. It keeps promoting transatlantic cooperation and dialogue, stability and security in other regions of the world. It enhances military interoperability and efficiency, and promotes democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. As the world continues to face various security challenges, NATO remains a critical tool for addressing those challenges and ensuring our peaceful and prosperous future.

In fact, recent and significant changes in the Euro-Atlantic security environment made it necessary for NATO to again display its unmatched capability to continuously adapt to arising challenges and tailor its deterrence and defence posture accordingly. As a result, Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C) was activated last year, and it will take over command of NFIU Hungary and NFIU Slovakia – all according to plans.

A ribbon cutting at the entrance of NFIU HUN during the unit's opening ceremony, November 28, 2016, Székesfehérvár, Hungary © NFIU HUN
NFIU HUN's 5th anniversary, September 2021, Székesfehérvár, Hungary © The Hungarian Defence Forces 

Since their establishment in 2016, these NFIUs have been operating to continuously facilitate the fast and effective reception, staging and onward movement (RSOM) of Allied forces, especially the VJTF, and the subsequent Follow-on Forces, just like the other NFIUs throughout NATO’s Eastern flank. Furthermore, the NFIUs are also involved in collective defence planning, and they play an important role in the preparation and execution of those NATO and international exercises conducted in Hungary that are linked to the mission of the NFIU in both their nature and volume. 

During the past more than six years under the command of MNC NE, NFIU HUN has been involved in a large number of different activities and so far we’ve managed to fully meet the requirements and expectations imposed upon us,

says Colonel István Topor (HUN Army), who took over command of the unit during the summer of 2018. “I think one of the reasons behind the fact that our staff is capable of steadily delivering on every occasion is that a strong cohesion is not only palpable between the Allied nations, but that the same level of cohesion has always been present within our unit as well. There is one very clear common aim in front of us, and even though our staff members have been rotating through the years, the enthusiasm and dedication to fulfill our core purpose remains unchanged.”     

Colonel István Topor, Commander NFIU HUN © NFIU HUN
NFIU HUN's staff at the farewell lineup with Commander MNC NE, March 31, 2023, Székesfehérvár, Hungary © NFIU HUN

Besides its daily activities, NFIU HUN organized different engagements for higher NATO commands throughout the years and provided a platform for various high-level meetings and discussions, including the visit of MNC NE’s Engagement Team, official visits by ambassadors, and different Hungarian and international civilian authorities. The unit also completed two recurring evaluation exercises so far, finishing both with flying colours, reaching the highest “Excellent” qualification. The next similar challenge is called exercise PRECISE RECEPTION 2024, and it will be conducted next year, but this time it will happen under the new command of HQ MND-C.

Thanks to their vicinity in Székesfehérvár – a city of long and diverse military history – the two NATO organizations have already established a good working relationship. Great care has been taken to pave the way for future success and to avoid any potential gaps in leadership that could lead to confusion, misunderstanding, or miscommunication. 

"More than two years ago, this project was initiated by three relatively small nations with the intent to contribute to the overall capabilities of the Alliance, strengthening regional security and thus demonstrating their readiness and determination to effectively deter any adversary and defend the eastern borders of the Alliance," Major General Denis Tretinjak (CRO Army), Commander MND-C, elaborates. "HQ MND-C was activated, with the status of International Military Headquarters, in NATO Force Structure on May 3, 2022. We participated in numerous international exercises in and outside of Hungary and we are now in that respectable position to send NATO monitors to support other entities' and nations' exercises. 

Today, when I look at the members of HQ MND-C, I can see the uniforms already from eight countries, and I am proud of our achievements, the result of the hard work and dedication of the women and men from Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Türkiye.

"On March 31, we do not celebrate only the declaration of our Initial Operational Capability but also, the historic moment when we welcome the Hungarian and Slovakian NFIUs in the HQ MND-C family. I am confident to say that the great cooperation we already have will grow stronger together so we can better contribute to the Alliance's defense and deterrence efforts."

MG Tretinjak, Commander MND-C delivers an address at the transfer of operational conrtol ceremony, March 31, 2023, Székesfehérvár, Hungary © HQ MND-C
GEN Christopher Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (first on the right) attends the transfer of operational control ceremony, March 31, 2023, Székesfehérvár, Hungary © HQ MND-C

"The handover of our command from MNC NE to HQ MND-C is a significant moment in our history. Understandably, keeping the continuity of our mission is our first priority these days, but we have no reason to doubt our own capabilities and we believe it will be a very smooth transition. There will be some new procedures we will need to adapt to, but we will definitely keep operating as required. HQ MND-C is a great partner in this, our staff members are talking, coordinating with each other on a daily basis," says Colonel Topor.

Despite his tight schedule around the end of the month, Commander MNC NE, Lieutenant General Jürgen-Joachim von Sandrart (DEU Army) found the time to visit NFIU HUN for the last time as its NATO superior. Representatives of NFIU Slovakia were also present when in his farewell address to the staff LTG von Sandrart thanked the NFIU commanders and their staffs for their unfailing support and professionalism in the past, but also provided guidance for the future.

"I am thankful to be able to be here with you and to say farewell at this sad and also joyful moment. Sad, because as a commander, I have to let you go, but happy because it is good to see you start a new journey. There are changes in the world and we all need to adapt. You have come a long way adapting to those changes, but that process is still to be completed in your new command and control relationships. 

But we are still one family and together we have a chance to change the future, and I would like to see you continue along that path.

"Regardless of the handover today, our well-established linkage will not be broken. Remember MNC NE and use our common lessons!" When drawing his remarks to a close, von Sandrart added:

"We have the responsibility to ensure peace and security in liberty for our next generations, our kids and grandchildren. No one can do it alone, hence we have to do it together, collectively. Effective and accountable readiness will prevent war because it will be recognized by our opponents. This means deterrence and reassurance. If we fail, we increase the risk to get war imposed because we failed. You, we all together will not allow this. We are NATO, we are stronger together."

From the left: LTG von Sandrart, Commander MNC NE, GEN Guglielmo Luigi Miglietta, Commander Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum and COL Topor, Commander NFIU HUN proceed with the transfer of operational control ceremony, March 31, 2023, Székesfehérvár, Hungary © NFIU HUN
LTG von Sandrart meets with NFIU HUN's staff, March 31, 2023, Székesfehérvár, Hungary © NFIU HUN

Summing up the experiences gathered under the command of MNC NE, Colonel Topor shares the following impressions: "The time spent together with MNC NE as its subordinates has been valuable in so many ways. Our cooperation with MNC NE during the past more than six years has been crucial and decisive for us."

We have learned a lot from each other, and as our collaboration developed, we were able to maintain very strong relationships not only on the organizational, but I believe on the personal level as well.

"I think both organizations can look back on their common past as a time of special significance, and today, when we say goodbye to our first NATO command, I believe that we do it not only as military subordinates, but as good friends as well," Colonel Topor summarises.

Story published by Multinational Corps Northeast Public Affairs Office

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