“My expectation for Exercise TRIDENT LANCE is to have a realistic, multi-echelon training event that employs the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI),” says U.S. Army Lieutenant General Frederick "Ben" Hodges.

During his first official visit to Norway from 10 to 13 March, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Frederick "Ben" Hodges, Commander Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) Izmir, first met with Norwegian Air Force Lieutenant General Morten Haga Lunde, Commander National Joint HQ, and observed the ongoing exercise COLD RESPONSE 14 in the counties of Harstad and Bardufoss (Northern Norway), before heading off to NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger.

On the path to Full Operational Capability

Upon his arrival in Stavanger on 12 March, Lieutenant General Hodges was welcomed to the Centre by U.S. Air Force Brigadier General John W. Doucette, JWC’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander.

The official programme for the visit included a series of meetings and briefings where the focus was on defining a detailed planning process, scenario development and coordination for Exercise TRIDENT LANCE (TRLE 14), which will take place in December this year.hodges web small

Directed by the JWC, the exercise constitutes a significant milestone for LANDCOM in achieving its Full Operating Capability as NATO’s most senior land forces command.

The exercise dates also happen to coincide with NATO’s end of combat mission in Afghanistan.

The future-focused exercise will also reinforce the added value that LANDCOM brings to the collective and joint operational capability of the Alliance within the new command structure.

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Lieutenant General Frederick "Ben" Hodges

Thank you General for giving us this interview opportunity. You are responsible for the certification and high readiness of NATO’s land forces so that they can confront the future challenges. As we transition from defence to security, how do you see LANDCOM’s role and what are the priorities?

As NATO makes the transition from ISAF to Resolute Support, the main priority is to ensure we do not lose the lessons learned after the 10+ years of combat operations. We must ensure we get this transition correct even as we undergo our own transformation with an ever decreasing budget and military drawbacks.

LANDCOM has three major roles in the current NATO Command Structure. The first is to facilitate NATO Land Forces' interoperability and effectiveness. In essence, be the tissue that links various nations and training exercises together. Secondly, we focus on Land Advocacy throughout the Alliance. We help facilitate doctrine, concept developments, and lessons sharing. Third, and in large part of why we are here at JWC now, is to be ready to deploy as the Land Contingent Command for Major Joint Operation +, with three NATO Corps HQs under our command.

What is NATO 3.0. and what role does training play, especially after Afghanistan?

NATO 3.0 is post ISAF, beyond 2014. Training plays a vast role in NATO 3.0 as we look to maintain interoperability; especially as Nations look to scale back budgets and military capacities. One way we do this is through the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI). The Alliance must look at how to maintain training opportunities and uphold standards during budget constraints. Interoperable CIS and NATO Standards allow for training to be maximized for each Nation.

The JWC plays a vital role in developing and creating various training scenarios for NATO units. JWC’s development of these scenarios is essential to the success of each exercise year in and year out. We want to be a part of that to help grow and enrich the fidelity of the sophistication of the scenarios.

This was your first visit to the JWC. Could you tell us about it?

My visit to JWC has been very productive and encouraging. The staff is extremely professional and it is evident in the products they create for each training event. The Centre itself is much larger than I realized and well equipped to take on the many training challenges the future holds. I hope many NATO units get the opportunity to not only visit JWC, but also train at one of their superb complexes.

What are your expectations from Exercise TRIDENT LANCE? What have been some of the areas of interest and emphasis during this visit?

My expectation for Exercise TRIDENT LANCE is to have a realistic, multi- echelon training event that employs the Connected Forces Initiative and allows for interoperable training amongst several distributed units. If we can achieve this, I will be very happy with the outcome of the event. I want to show that the Alliance can do high-end sophisticated, multi-echelon training that is affordable, but will require changing some mindsets about CIS and training.

How important is the concept of connected forces and readiness mindset in reinforcing the NRF or NATO’s forces in general?

Extremely important. As I stated earlier, as Nations deal with reduced defence budgets and military capacity, it is very important we utilize the Connected Forces Initiative. None of us are going to operate alone in the future. We are always going to operate as an Alliance or Coalition and that Coalition will almost certainly consist primarily of NATO Members. Readiness is also incredibly important in reinforcing the NRF. SACEUR himself stated that we must make the transition from deployed operations in Afghanistan to a more contingency, training mentality within NATO. The NRF readiness remains forefront as threats and security issues still remain throughout the world.

WATCH Exercise COLD RESPONSE 14 Interview with Lieutenant General Frederick "Ben" Hodges: