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NATO Exercise Naming Convention

What’s in a name? According to Shakespeare a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but for NATO, a name says a lot.

If it’s a NATO exercise, quite a lot! NATO exercises follow a specified naming convention to delineate the responsible headquarters and the focus of the exercise. This convention can occasionally lead to some interesting exercise names, but there is a method to the madness.

The first word in the name of a NATO exercise identifies the responsible headquarters. For example, any exercise starting with the word STEADFAST is run by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). There are also set “code names” for a variety of Ally elements, such as French, Italian, Spanish and U.K. maritime forces.

Exercise Naming Conventions - First Word
HQ SACT - Allied Command TransformationTRIDENT (TR)1 GNC - German-Netherlands CorpsSWORD (SW)
SHAPE - Supreme Heaquarters Allied Powers EuropeSTEADFAST (ST)ARRC - Allied Rapid Reaction CorpsARRCADE (AR)
JFCBS - Joint Force Command BrunssumBRILLIANT (BR)EUROCORPS - European CorpsCOMMON (CO)
JFCNP - Joint Force Command NaplesNOBLE (NO)NRDC ESP - NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - SpainVALIANT (VA)
JFCNF - Joint Force Command Norfolk FORCEFUL (FF)NRDC ITA - NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - ItalyEAGLE (EA)
JSEC - Joint Support and Enabling Command COMBINED (CO)NRDC GRC - NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - GreeceGORDIAN (GO)
AIRCOM - Allied Air CommandRAMSTEIN (RA)NRDC TUR - NATO Rapid Deployable Corps - TurkeyEURASIAN (EU)
LANDCOM - Allied Land CommandLOYAL (LO)RRC-FRA - Rapid Reaction Corps FranceCITADEL (CI)
MARCOM - Allied Maritime Command DYNAMIC (DY)MNC-NE - Multinational Corps NortheastGRIFFIN (GR)
UK JFAC - United Kingdom Joint Force Air ComponentSILVER (SI)MND-NE - Multinational Division NortheastAMBER (AM)
TUR JFAC - Turkey Joint Force Air ComponentVULKAN (VU)MND-N - Multinational Division NorthKNIGHT (KN)
FRA MARFOR - French Maritime ForcesCATAMARAN (CA)MND-SE - Multinational Division SoutheastDACIAN (DA)
ITA MARFOR - Italian Maritime ForcesMARE APERTO (MA)

ESP MARFOR - Spanish Maritime ForcesFLOTEX

UK MARFOR - United Kingdom Maritime ForcesJOINT WARRIOR (JW)

The second word in a NATO exercise communicates the function, domain or capability of the exercise. This is the purpose of the exercise, what NATO teams will practice and build proficiency in. So, if SHAPE is running a maritime domain exercise it might be named STEADFAST MONKEY, because maritime domain exercises will always start with M. Similarly, if it was a SHAPE commanded military engineering exercise it may be called STEADFAST ENIGMA, since names for exercising the function of military engineering start with EN.

Exercise Naming Conventions - Second Word
Joint exercises are multi-domain and cross-functional.  2nd word starts with a J like Joint.
Functional Area activities focus on one Functional Area.  The second word starts with the letter bolded below.Domain activities four on one domain and are cross functional.  The second word starts with the letter bolded below.
Civil Military Cooperation and Civil Military InteractionAir Operations
Consultation, Command and ControlCyberspace Operations
Counter-Improvised Explosive DevicesLand Operations
Education, Training, Exercises and EvaluationMaritime Operations
Intelligence (including Meteorology and Oceanography)Nuclear Operations
Joint TargetingSpace Support to Operations
LogisticsSpecial Operations
Medical SupportCapability Development
Military EngineeringBallistic Missile Defence
Military PolicingFederated Mission Networking
Operations Planning, Operations Assessment and Alternative AnalysisMission Execution Enhancement
Strategic CommunicationsBuilding Integrity
Weapons of Mass Destruction / Chemical Biological Radioactive Nuclear DefenceCounter-Terrorism

Energy Security

Gender in Military Operations

Military Contribution to Peace Support

Does NATO ever stray from this naming convention? Yes. But why would we do that?

For  SHAPE-led exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER the traditional naming convention for the second word wasn't followed. The second word should have begun with a J as it was a joint exercise. This decision was made to identify the close alignment of NATO Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER with U.S.-led Exercise DEFENDER EUROPE.

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