ISTANBUL – NATO Rapid Deployable Corps (NRDC) Turkey assumed responsibility as NATO Response Force (NRF) land component for 2021 in a ceremony at their headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday, January 12, 2021.
They take over for the Strasbourg, France-based Eurocorps who had the mission for all of 2020.
NRDC-Turkey's official preparation began during LANDCOM-led Exercise Eurasian Star in late 2019, and culminated last December during Exercise Steadfast Jupiter-Jackal 2020 where they were declared combat ready. NATO Allied Land Command Commander, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Roger L. Cloutier, presided over the handover ceremony held on the headquarters grounds of NRDC-Turkey.
Lieutenant General Roger Cloutier, Commander for NATO Allied Land Command, hands the NATO Response Force land component pennant to Lieutenant General Kemal Yeni, Commander of NATO Rapid Deployable Corps-Turkey, during the NRDC-Turkey/Eurocorps handover takeover ceremony.
Today, as we attend this ceremony, we face adversaries who actively look to destabilize, create disorder and gain military advantage over the Alliance,
said Lieutenant General Cloutier. "What I have seen, during the preparation of NRDC-Turkey for their NRF Combat Readiness Evaluation, sends a very strong message to any adversary who thinks they can challenge NATO."
Lieutenant General Roger Cloutier, Commander for NATO Allied Land Command, delivers his keynote address during the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps-Turkey/Eurocorps handover takeover ceremony.
The ceremony marks Eurocorps' official transition from the role as the ready stand-by force – the NATO land headquarters on-call to respond on short notice to a crisis, contingency, or operation – to the role of the trained stand-down force.
"I feel very proud and deeply honored to stand here today to transmit the NATO NRF Land Component Command pennant to NRDC-Turkey's Commander. This ceremony marks the smooth hand over take over between our two headquarters and highlights how continuity, and readiness are serious within NATO," said Eurocorps' Commander, French Army Lieutenant General Laurent Kolodziej.
Lieutenant General Laurent Kolodziej, Eurocorps Commander, prepares to hand over the Nato Response Force land component pennant to NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Turkey.
"The NRF is, for me, one of the most important missions with our alliance for two main reasons: First, this unique, ready-to-go set of forces is the first at hand to respond to any unforeseen crisis," said Lieutenant General Laurent Kolodziej. "Second, it is also a 360-degree crisis response system that needs to be flexible, mobile, adaptive, equipped, trained, and motivated. In a nutshell, this is called readiness."
Turkish Army Lieutenant General Kemal Yeni, NRDC Turkey Commander, embraced this new role for his Corps Headquarters, and gave credit for his Corps' hard work to the nations that make up the Alliance.
Lieutenant General Kemal Yeni, NATO Rapid Deployable Turkey Commander, delivers remarks following assumption of the NATO Response Force land component mission from Eurocorps.
"Your countries have committed your own sons and daughters to work in this headquarters; prepared to fight a common enemy as a demonstration of your commitment to the Alliance and a collective defence," said Lieutenant General Yeni.
LANDCOM, as NATO's advocate for land domain expertise, is responsible for enabling land domain readiness, interoperability, standardization, and competency across Allied land forces. Part of the way they do this is through Combat Readiness Evaluation, or CREVAL, for NATO Land Forces.
Execution of this CREVAL was not without its challenges. LANDCOM's Italian Army Colonel Massimo Crocco, who led LANDCOM's evaluation team in Istanbul during Exercise Steadfast Jupiter Jackal, emphasized that some adaptations were applied during the CREVAL due to COVID restrictions.
"COVID issues only partially reduced some capabilities [during execution of the CREVAL] – as in everywhere in the world – but the essential actions and the scheduled training program was accomplished without any major concerns," he said.
The three NATO Commanders march onto the ceremony grounds to mark the beginning of the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps-Turkey/Eurocorps handover takeover ceremony.
The evaluation team itself conducted evaluation operations in several locations, working to provide the proper analysis and assessment, both in the physical evaluation location and remotely. They did so by leveraging the physical linkage between the members deployed in Istanbul and the remote affiliated entities at LANDCOM headquarters in Izmir, NRDC Italy near Milan, and Rapid Reaction Corps France in Lille.
There was learning across the board throughout exercise execution.
"NRDC-Turkey has an excellent culture of continuous improvement, a learning organization. This is a trend observed in all levels of the staff," said Colonel Crocco. "They conducted an effective exercise, studied all recommendations from the LANDCOM CREVAL team, and implemented corrective action plans to refine their procedures and processes before the execution phase began."
He went on to emphasize that the CREVAL team engaged in peer-to-peer coaching with the NRDC-Turkey staff throughout the exercise.
The NRF was established in 2002 to provide the Alliance with an immediate and credible response capability for the range of military operations. Though it has evolved over the past 18 years, readiness remains at its core. The decision to use the NRF requires political consensus taken on a case-by-case basis by the North Atlantic Council.
NRDC-Turkey is not the only Turkish army unit designed to respond to crisis or conflict on a moment's notice for 2021.
"NRDC-Turkey assumes the NRF land component command role alongside our own 66th Mechanized Brigade, who with their allied partner units, are held as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force," said Lieutenant General Yeni.
The Turkish army officially took the lead of NATO's VJTF January 1, placing thousands of soldiers on standby, ready to deploy within days.
A group photo of the key leaders and attendees for the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps-Turkey/Eurocorps handover takeover ceremony.
Lieutenant General Yeni highlighted the fact Turkey has made substantial investments into the unit, making it among the most mobile in NATO, particularly in the area of logistics and ammunition requirements planning. In addition, the latest models of Turkish armed vehicles, anti-tank missiles and howitzers have been allocated to the force.
After presiding over the transfer of NRF land component responsibilities, Lieutenant General Cloutier stressed NRDC-Turkey's critical new role in the protection of the Alliance.
"NRDC-Turkey and their assigned formations are ready to deter, defend and defeat anybody who threatens or attacks the Alliance's territory," he said.
Lieutenant General Yeni also emphasized his organization's readiness for the mission.
"NRDC-Turkey HQ is today capable of commanding and controlling activities, missions, and operations throughout peace, crisis, and conflict," he said.