NATO assessed its alert procedures for the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) for the first time during Exercise NOBLE JUMP from 7-9 April 2015, involving over 1,500 personnel from 11 Allied nations. Germany, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia tested their Headquarters’ response to alert procedures and high-readiness units from The Netherlands and Czech Republic physically deployed equipment and troops to airports and railheads.
EINDHOVEN, The Netherlands — This activity represents an important milestone as NATO continues to respond to emerging security challenges. The exercise has its origins in last year’s Wales Summit, where NATO leaders collectively agreed to establish the VJTF, or what some call the ‘NATO Spearhead’ force. These developments are part of wider enhancements to the NATO Response Force in order to address instability on NATO’s southern and eastern flanks.
“NATO military planners have been working tirelessly to enhance NATO’s Response Force and implement the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and today our progress is manifested in the rapid deployments we see happening in locations across the Alliance,” said General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). “These measures are defensive, but are a clear indication that our Alliance has the capability and will to respond to emerging security challenges on our southern and eastern flanks,” he said.
For the last several months, NATO has been developing the concepts behind the VJTF and established an interim force early in 2015. Exercise NOBLE JUMP marks the first time that high-readiness units have physically tested their response to rapid ‘orders to move’ under the new VJTF framework. The training event marks a learning process that will allow NATO military staff to identify both successes and shortfalls as the Alliance continues to refine its high readiness capabilities.
Czech and Dutch High-Readiness Troops Put to the Test
In the afternoon of 7 April, the 11th Air Mobile Brigade in The Netherlands and the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade in the Czech Republic were given orders to rapidly prepare to deploy their troops and equipment.
“In the hours that ensued, Dutch and Czech formations recalled their military personnel to base, conducted hasty movement planning, briefed personnel, prepared and verified equipment, weapons, supplies, and vehicles,” said Colonel Mariusz Lewicki, the head military planner for the VJTF at SHAPE. “The lead troops were able to move in under eight hours, with all elements moving in under 48 hours, so our initial impression is we are very pleased with the results,” he added.
The Commander of the Dutch 11th Air Mobile Brigade, Brigadier-General Kees Matthijssen, also felt that Exercise NOBLE JUMP achieved its aims.
“So far we are satisfied, our men and women responded well to the alerting and we managed to send off the first troops as scheduled. We are sure that we will be able to meet our goals, which were to move all troops and equipment within 48 hours,” said Brigadier-General Matthijssen. “Of course, we have noted some things to improve during the exercise, but this will definitely lead to further refinement and improvements of our high readiness plans,” he said.
A total of 900 German soldiers were also recalled to their units in Marienberg, Gotha, Idaroberstein and Bad Salzungen during Exercise NOBLE JUMP. These troops conducted similar planning and alert verifications in their respective garrisons.
The overall aim of Exercise NOBLE JUMP was to improve and refine alert and deployment procedures for the VJTF. In the coming weeks NATO military staff will conduct an analysis of the results from this exercise and Allied units will refine their tactical procedures. Lessons will be shared and NATO will continue to refine the overall alert and deployment process, and ensure it is integrated in overall plans for the NATO Response Force.
“Moving military units at short notice is a highly complex process that requires careful planning and constant refinement and practice to maintain capability,” said Colonel Lewicki. “We’ve had a very good start this week, but much work remains and we will continue exercising these concepts throughout 2015 and 2016,” he said.
Increasingly complex exercises, trials, and evaluations will be conducted in order to develop, refine and implement the VJTF concept into the framework of the Readiness Action Plan and the NATO Response Force. Examples of future training activity include part two of Exercise NOBLE JUMP, 9-20 June 2015, where units assigned to the VJTF will deploy to the Zagan Military Training Area in Western Poland, as well as Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2015 in Italy, Spain and Portugal from 21 Oct – 6 Nov 2015.
Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office