Approaching the end of his tour as one of NATO’s two Strategic Commanders, French Air Force General Stephane Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), visited the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) on 5 September 2012.

During his visit, General Abrial received detailed mission briefings on JWC’s ambitious agenda and future requirements as NATO’s premier operational-level training provider, with particular focus on the Centre’s new Training Facility in Jatta. On the afternoon of his visit, following the guided walking tour of the new training facility, General Abrial delivered a keynote address to JWC staff, where he shared his views and experiences as SACT, a position he took over in 2009.

General Abrial started off his speech with a special thank you to Norway for graciously hosting the JWC in Stavanger. He also praised Norway’s contribution to NATO as a Member Nation. “I first visited Stavanger 15 years ago when I was a Colonel in the NATO International Military Staff. I then visited the JWC in December 2009 as my first ‘Triple J’ visit after assuming the position of SACT. And you are basically my last visit now before I leave Norfolk,” the General said.SACT 2012 EDITED2

General Abrial noted that his current visit was a “very good one”. Referring to the new training facility, General Abrial said: “Now we have to envisage how to make the best use this impressive facility for the existing and, maybe, other possible Training Audiences.”

He then highlighted the JWC’s contribution to demystify NATO’s transformation process and make ACT’s work relevant to Alliance needs. General Abrial commented on JWC’s exceptional achievements and reaffirmed its reputation within NATO for improving operational-level combat effectiveness through an advanced training and exercise program as well as filling voids in doctrine and supporting experimentation and concept development.

General Abrial said: “JWC has become an essential force for transformation throughout NATO. Your role is crucial in our collective strive to improve the operational-level combat effectiveness of our forces: and we should never forget that this is the final aim of everything we do in NATO. I am grateful for the invaluable role the JWC has had in making the NATO Response Force (NRF) an essential driver for a new NATO; in facilitating joint and combined training exercises; in ensuring that NATO forces are well prepared and commanded by HQ staffs and have been put through realistic and demanding scenarios; and in innovating the use of modeling and simulation technology in order to put military leaders into realistic training environments. I think the media training prepared by the Joint Exercise Division’s Media Section is a good example of what can be achieved in this respect --- very modern and innovative. Thank you also for contributing to the NATO capability development and for assisting in military experimentation development efforts. All these in my mind are outstanding achievements.”

SACT 2012 3Describing the new challenges, General Abrial stressed the importance of strategic thinking, training and capability development. “The requirement for NATO forces to adapt to the new threats will call for a wide spectrum of new, innovative ways of training. Indeed, threats are growing way more complex, more networked, more hybrid. The boundaries between conventional war, guerilla warfare, terrorism and common criminality are blurred, with wide-ranging consequences in the field of training. We need to be prepared to face deep changes in our strategic environment, which will require innovative thinking,” he said, adding: “We are currently working on the future training concept for NATO and it takes into account all the aspects I raised, plus technology. In this respect I have full confidence in JWC’s proven ability to keep facing these challenges superbly in the years to come and adapt and evolve its training mission in order to meet today’s challenges as well as preparing for tomorrow’s.”

General Abrial then underlined the way ahead for NATO's long term strategic goal, Connected Forces Initiative, and JWC's key role in it. He said: "Connected Forces Initiative rests on three pillars: Education and Training as well as Enhanced Exercises and better use of Technology. If you look at these three pillars, you will see how much we will be involved and will become one of the main actors for NATO. This is all the more true today because, beginning on 1 July this year, we started transferring the responsibility for collective exercises from ACO to ACT. You are at the forefront of two of these three pillars. You will implement them and be there when NATO expects us to be."

Referring to NATO’s three core missions, which are Collective Defence, Crisis Management and Cooperative Security, General Abrial said that we all need to make sure that we can address all the possible missions of NATO as the Alliance’s premier training establishment. “This is a huge effort and I know that you are exactly in the middle of our endeavors, making ACT stronger every day, and making sure that the two pillars of the Connected Forces Initiative are implemented the best possible way,” General Abrial said.

SACT 2012 4 EDITEDAt the end of his speech, General Abrial gave his full support to JWC’s forward-looking vision before welcoming the new SACT, French Air Force General Jean-Paul Palomeros, in his new position. A Change of Command Ceremony will be conducted on 28 September 2012, in Norfolk, Virginia, United States. The General said: “I will not be with you to live through all this significant times but I would like to thank you for your contributions all these years and for your continuing efforts in the future. I assure you that in the same way that you got my full support for all your endeavors, you will also get the full support of my successor, General Palomeros, who is a very good friend and an excellent soldier with excellent leadership skills and great operational experience to guide you to the future.”

General Abrial’s speech received an enthusiastic response from the audience and ended with a very fruitful question and answer session.

About the visit, JWC Lessons Learned Analyst, Mr Paul Sewel said: "It meant a lot to me that our Supreme Commander came to see us across the Atlantic. The fact that he came to visit the JWC during his final weeks of service as SACT, where his time is limited, made it even more impacting. His address really gave me a sense of his strong vision for NATO Transformation and how we in the JWC play a key role in this. Also, his openness and candour during the questions period showed his depth of knowledge and authenticity, which is so important in leadership. These are the qualities we demand in the Supreme Allied Commander and we were not disappointed. His visit was a great boost for our HQ."