By Adm. James G. Foggo III
Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa
“How do we engage in dialogue and deter and defend?” asked the 18-year old German midshipman. This question was asked of me during the week of August 13th, when I was invited to speak with students at the Leadership Academy in Hamburg, Führungsakademie, and midshipmen at the Naval Academy in Flensburg, Marineschule Mürwik. I was impressed by both groups – these leaders are some of the best and brightest, and I know the armed forces of the alliance will be in good hands
There is an immense tradition of military academic thought in Germany, just think of Carl von Clauswitz and Otto von Bismarck. The Bundeswehr has boldly embraced history and looks to the future. As I stood in front of the impressionable young midshipmen in Murwik, these words were on the wall behind me – Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit: Unity and Justice and Freedom. This is the opening line from the German national anthem. Our transatlantic alliance works to create this vision every day-a Europe whole, free and at peace. The midshipmen, and all members of the German Armed Forces, embrace the concept of Citizen Soldier, Innere Führung. Being a citizen comes first.
This is the power of our defensive alliance. The armed forces of our 29 allied nations train, man and equip to protect our populations. We work to protect the citizens of our homelands and the homelands of our allied sisters and brothers. This demands ethical and professional service as well as competent and compassionate leadership.
On the trip to Germany, I also made a visit to Berlin where I was delighted to meet U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell and Chief of Defense General Eberhard Zorn. It was particularly inspiring to meet with friends and key Allies next to the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall. Later that afternoon, Vice Adm. Rainer Brinkmann, Vice Adm. Hubertus von Puttkamer, Lt. Gen. Dieter Warneke, and I discussed the past, present and future. I must admit, I was envious of admirals Brinkmann and von Puttkamer’s early command experience on “Schnellboot” prying the waters of the Baltic Sea. We agreed that we can all do well to study the lessons of history to chart our way forward as a credible, defensive alliance. In particular, The Rules of the Game by Andrew Gordon discusses lessons learned during the battle of Jutland. We can learn from the approaches to tactics, strategy, and readiness even though this epic battleship battle occurred over a century ago.
As Sixth Fleet commander I wrote “Our Wake is the Fleet’s Path” during BALTOPS 2016. NATO had to face the real challenge of Mines in Misrata, Libya during Operation Unified Protector. As operations officer (J3) for the Joint Task Force, I had the very real challenge of neutralizing mines. Minesweeping is a cornerstone capability of NATO maritime forces: keeping the sea lines of communication open. In this key capability, German Navy contributes significantly to the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Groups (SNMCMG). The alliance depends on keeping the seas open for commerce for all nations.
Lt. Gen. Erich Pfeffer walked with me through the harrowing Grove of Remembrance outside his Joint Forces Operations Command in Potsdam. This serene site memorializes the service and sacrifice of German Armed Forces in theaters of deployment, including Afghanistan and the Balkans. Since 1955, more than 3,200 civilian and military members of the Bundeswehr lost their lives in the course of their service to their country. Many of these missions were under the NATO flag.
Overall, the trip to Germany was an inspiring one. I told the midshipmen that I may see some of them during Exercise Trident Juncture, where the Bundeswehr will deploy over 8000 soldiers, sailors and airmen to Norway with over 240 tracked vehicles and 13 transport ships. This is our message to all audiences: We are Stronger Together. #WeAreNATO Wir. Dienen. NATO.