From Nov. 17 to Nov 22, 2018, 1st German / Netherlands Corps (1GNC) hosted a 45-person team from Allied Land Command (LANDCOM), with augmentation from NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - Italy (NRDC-ITA), European Corps (Eurocorps), and Multinational Division South-East (MND-SE). The team deployed to Jørstadmoen, Norway, to evaluate the combat readiness of 1GNC in preparation for their assumption as the Land Component Command (LCC) in the NATO Response Force (NRF) 2019. This portion of the evaluation, called Phases 2 and 3, was the final stage of 1GNC’s Combat Readiness Evaluation (CREVAL). The CREVAL climaxed when U.S. Army Lt. Gen. John Thomson, the LANDCOM Commander, declared 1GNC "combat ready!”
Overall, the CREVAL process consists of two stages: Preparation and Execution. While the Preparation Stage begins at the Initial Coordination Meeting 12 to 18 months prior to execution, the preparation efforts begin as soon as a directive is issued by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) either by Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) Annual Guidance Exercise Training (SAGE) or separate correspondence. The evaluated headquarters (HQ) must immediately consider the scheduling implications regarding the required exercise venue and how to structure their preparation with respect to the other evaluation events, as well as their ongoing commitments. In the case of 1GNC, SHAPE issued specific guidance for their CREVAL in SAGE 18 (Aug. 23, 2016), thus making 1GNC’s entire CREVAL process a full 27 months.
Especially for a HQ CREVAL, the simplicity of the Formal Report in declaring Combat Readiness does not adequately convey how much time and resources are required to get there. A HQ CREVAL involves much more than a Distinguished Visitor Day and a ten-page report. It is the culmination of at least 12 months of detailed preparation and training across all functions of the Evaluated HQ, coupled with the assessment, guidance, and dialogue of an Evaluation Team of more than fifty officers and NCO subject matter experts (SME) from LANDCOM and multiple Graduated Response Force (Land) (GRF(L)) HQs. The Formal Report is the sum of several months of documentation review and three directly-observed evaluation events totalling at least 20 days "on the ground.” For the Evaluation Team, the Officer-of-Primary-Responsibility (OPR) is designated at least one year in advance, Area Leaders begin their work 12 months before Phase 2, and more than 30 SMEs begin their individual training and HQ documentation review several months before the Execution Phase begins. A "Combat Ready” statement for a brigade or higher-echelon HQ signifies an investment of at least one year, successful demonstration of more than 1,200 performance measures, tens of thousands of man-hours, and a substantial expenditure of funds.
In addition to being a forcing mechanism for the Evaluated HQ to review and update their Standard Operating Procedures / Standing Operating Instructions to conform to the most current NATO doctrine, the CREVAL pushes the entire HQ to work towards a common goal: Combat Readiness and an associated High Readiness Force (HRF) status. The process demands that each function analyze the requirements and formulate a detailed plan to achieve the established NATO standards. Centralized control via the Operational Assessment Cycle allows the HQ Commander to mitigate risks and focus efforts within the given timeframe. Self-evaluation is a critical tool in preparing for a CREVAL; discipline and humility are required to address weaknesses. This internal reflection, the necessary critique by the Evaluation Team, and the sheer scale of work involved are why CREVALs are often described as having their true value in the journey, not necessarily the destination.
The benefits of each HQ CREVAL influence not only the Evaluated HQ, but also the greater NATO land community. In general, each Evaluation Team sources approximately one-third of the SMEs from the previously evaluated HQ, the next evaluated HQ, and additional GRF(L) HQs as necessary. Observer teams from HQs of future evaluations attend CREVAL events to enhance their knowledge as they begin their own preparations. This methodical cross-pollination of experience, coupled with the Lessons Learned function, allows the CREVAL to serve as a tool to identify positive or negative trends across forces volunteered to NATO, possible adjustment or update of doctrine, and the collection of unique solutions and best practices.
1GNC’s formal CREVAL process began in March 2018 when a five-person team from LANDCOM, led by the CREVAL OPR Romanian Army Maj. Claudiu Salavastru, evaluated its planning ability in their role of LCC. This was the first time when the Crisis Response Phase (CRP) was formally part of the evaluation process.
The next phase of 1GNC’s CREVAL occurred six months later, in September 2018, with 1GNC’s in-barracks inspection. This time, Maj. Salavastru coordinated a much larger 30-person team to 1GNC’s HQ with the objective of evaluating 1GNC’s Peace-time Establishment (PE) policies, operations, logistics, command information systems, and administration. 1GNC performed well during the evaluation, thus setting the stage for the aforementioned third, and final, stage of the evaluation, which occurred in Norway in conjunction with Exercise TRIDENT JUNCTURE 18.
Maj. Salavastru is nearly a three-year veteran of the G7 Evaluation Section, having participated in five previous CREVALs. His expertise, experience, and leadership across many different domains and separate commands helped ensure that LANDCOM upheld its reputation as the preeminent advocate for NATO Land Forces.
By Romanian Army Maj. Claudiu Salavastru, LANDCOM G7