Spain takes the driver’s seat

The NATO Rapid Deployable Headquarters (HQ NRDC-ESP) in Bétera, Spain, has started its year-long rotation as the Land Component Command of the NATO Response Force (NRF) 2016. It must be ready to deploy its first soldiers within 10 days and the entire force within two months of an alert.

Spain takes the Land Component Command of the NATO Response Force for 2016

Spain takes the Land Component Command of the NATO Response Force for 2016

The military base near Valencia, midway along Spain’s Mediterranean coast, will also host NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), also known as the Spearhead Force, one of the measures taken at the Wales Summit in September 2014 to enhance the NRF in response to changes in the world’s security environment.

Spain is the first country to assume the lead role for the VJTF. France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom will also assume this role on a rotational basis in the coming years. In addition, these countries, together with Greece, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, and the USA contribute to the Spanish NRF HQ which is also certified as NATO’s first Joint Task Force Headquarters for Land Heavy Operations.

Should the Spearhead Force be activated, it has a maximum 48 hours to be deployed to the conflict zone. “We have an extremely short time from the moment we get the deployment alert to the moment when we have to be operational on the ground; that is why there is an enormous amount of work to harmonise and unify our procedures, especially with our allies,” Lt. Colonel José María Leira, commanding officer of Spain’s Light Infantry Brigade (BRILAT), told the Spanish Ministry of Defence’s official publication Revista de Defensa.

If deployed during 2016 the NATO forces will be commanded from Bétera. “Even if we are a land HQ, we also have the capacity to command a joint operation,” the NRDC commanding officer, Major General Juan Montenegro, says in the January 2016 issue of the magazine.

About 3,000 Spanish soldiers will be on permanent alert, ready to be deployed anywhere in the world. But they will not be playing cards while they wait. They will be undertaking a series of training exercises to ensure that the VJTF is operationally capable by June when the NATO summit takes place in Warsaw. A command post exercise in northern Spain will start in a few days, followed by a number of others, culminating in May with the Brilliant Jump exercise in Poland.