MONS, Belgium - During this pandemic, NATO continues to deliver deterrence and defence. “Our ability to conduct operations has not diminished and our forces remain ready,” said newly appointed Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), General Tim Radford. It is and remains NATO’s primary responsibility. “At the same time,” he added, “NATO is also rising collectively to the additional challenges present by COVID-19.”
Our ability to conduct operations has not diminished
For this purpose, and next to the many efforts and examples on how Allied nation’s armed forces are supporting each other and their national civilian authorities, NATO has taken on the task to further contribute, coordinate and assist in combatting the global pandemic.
Earlier in the week, the Allied Command Operations Task Force was enabled, led by Vice Chief of Staff (VCOS) of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann.
"We are in this crisis together,” said Lieutenant General Rittimann. “By leveraging NATO’s experience conducting strategic coordination with multiple partners, we are enhancing the ongoing combined actions of our allied forces.”
We are in this crisis together
The Task Force is determined to use NATO’s experience, planning capabilities, expertise coordinating and executing large scale operations around the world, and preparedness to work together during the pandemic.
For example, they will utilise the coordination of airlift capacity coordinated by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) and NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Centre, which ensures that medical supplies are delivered in a number of Allied nations. The NSPA is currently supporting NATO nations and partners with urgent COVID-19 supply acquisition. Supplies include personal protection elements, intensive care units, vehicles and a variety of other vital equipment. The current disruptions on health supply chains, competitive high demand and restrictions in the transportation domain are posing important obstacles for nations to get their much-needed medical supplies and equipment. For that reason, many nations have entrusted NSPA to manage the acquisition on their behalf and in some cases, the transportation as well.
Next is the implementation of simplified procedures for Rapid Air Mobility, in coordination with EUROCONTROL, using the NATO call sign for military flights. Another example of the coordination between NATO and a multitude of international partners working together.
In Kosovo, soldiers supporting NATO Mission KFOR, delivered personal protective equipment to the municipalities of North and South Mitrovica in Kosovo. Some 4000 non-sterile gloves, 200 sterile gloves, 20 boxes of N95 face masks, 350 patient face masks, 100 patient gowns, 54 bottles of hand sanitizer, and other sanitizing supplies were delivered.
There have been many examples this week that display the unity and preparedness to boost our activities aiding one another. Some of these include the multinational cooperation to airlift crucial supplies to the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, Romania and Slovakia, NATO’s delivery of field hospital tents to Luxembourg and US medical deliveries to Italy. Here are some highlights of what many Allied nations’ armed forces are doing to support relief efforts:
Albania: Hundreds of Albanian women from the armed forces continue to help the local communities and advise citizens on the protective measures against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While Albanian doctors are in Italy in support of the Italian hospitals.
Belgium: Belgian armed forces from all domains, continue to help the civil authorities where needed, and military personnel and equipment are being used to distribute medical supplies.
Bulgaria: Bulgarian armed forces continue to assist civilian authorities with controlling the movement of people amid the outbreak.
Canada: Canadian armed forces continue preparations to support civil authorities, as needed. Nearly 60,000 troops are in isolation to be ready to assist local communities and nationwide initiatives and activities.
Croatia: Croatian government aircraft with Croatian and German military medical teams supported Lithuania and Croatia with medical equipment and expertise.
Czech Republic: The Czech Republic are assisting France by treating a number of COVID-19 patients in local hospitals. The Czech Army is helping to receive cargo with critical medical supplies for hospitals, continuing to build field hospitals and testing sites. Some 3,565 Armed Forces personnel - fighters, paramedics, doctors, epidemiologists, nurses, drivers, planners, chemists, logisticians and analysts are deployed to fight the pandemic.
Denmark: The Danish government offered ventilators and military field hospitals, and made a financial contribution to the Italian Red Cross to assist in the fight against the virus.
Estonia: Estonian armed forces have set up a field hospital on the island of Saaremaa, in order to reduce the strain on the medical facilities in the entire Baltic region.
Germany: Medical personnel from the German armed forces contributed to setting up a temporary hospital in Hannover in the fight against COVID-19 and started to treat patients from France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Spain. Germany has donated ventilators to Spain, and expanded its strategic airlift transport capability, as part of the SALIS programme with Antonov cargo planes. Many Army reservists joined the fight against COVID-19, and with the armed forces, have delivered some 38,000 surgical masks and almost 50,000 respirator masks around the country. Army soldiers are volunteering to take care of shopping for vulnerable demographics.
France: Various armed forces helicopters are mobilised and continue to transport patients to hospitals in France, as well as to hospitals in the French West-Indies with helicopters from a French Amphibious Helicopter Carrier. French Land Forces participated in the implementation of advanced receptions at a hospital in French Guyana to facilitate the treatment of patients by hospital staff, in order to quickly treat patients potentially carrying COVID-19, and the French Armed Forces Biomedical Research Institute joined diagnostic chain for COVID-19 testing.
Hungary: Hungarian armed forces have deployed a special military task force to support and monitor some 140 state companies providing critical services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Italy: Italian armed forces continue to support civilian authorities in various domains in the fight against COVID-19. Now more than 19,000 military personnel are deployed to fight the spread and help distribute protective masks to medical personnel and provide accommodation for a number of Italian agencies to produce more protective equipment, such as masks. The Celio military hospital is reorganised into a dedicated COVID-19 hospital and the Italian Air Force continue to transport medical supplies to different parts of the country. They have received medical aid from both Qatar and Ukraine.
Latvia: National armed forces are providing support to the State Border Guard patrolling the various borders.
Lithuania: The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence and the Army used a Boeing 747F aircraft as part of military airlift cooperation platform of Movement Coordination Centre Europe to bring medical supplies from China to Lithuania. Lithuania has also allocated humanitarian aid, manufactured by Lithuanian companies to Italy and Spain.
Luxembourg: Luxembourg armed forces continue lending a helping hand to their civilian counterparts in various fields such as medical transport and the distribution and provision of medical equipment. Through a request from Spain via NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre mechanisms, Luxembourg provided Spain with almost 1,500 kilos of TYVEK material, which is used to make protective equipment, notably suits. Different from many logistic deliveries from and to other countries, this material was delivered by road.
Montenegro: Montenegrin armed forces continue to support the local government by disinfecting critical installations.
The Netherlands: Dutch armed forces continue to support civilian authorities in a variety of fields. Medical staffs are augmenting hospitals across the country, armed forces personnel support food distribution centers, have set up a number of field hospitals in the Caribbean in support of local hospitals and continue to assist local and Belgian authorities with border inspections. With the help of the Strategic Airlift Capability programme (CAT), the Netherlands successfully delivered two intensive care units to the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten using a C-17 Globetrotter cargo plane.
North Macedonia: Armed forces in North Macedonia constructed a role-2 (advanced) field hospital in support of civil authorities in the fight against COVID-19.
Norway: Norway donated a field hospital now in use in North Macedonia, doubling capacity at the Infectious Disease Centre at Skopje’s largest hospital in the combat against COVID-19 and 30 Norwegian doctors and nurses, both civilian as well as military will be heading to Italy to support local hospitals.
Poland: A Ukrainian cargo plane carrying over 100 tons of medical supplies, including masks, gowns and gloves arrived in Poland under the NATO SALIS program. Polish troops dispatched a shipment of medical supplies and fresh food to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and Tailored Forward Presence in Romania. A truckload of disinfectants from Poland was sent to Verona, Italy
Portugal: The Portuguese Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces remain committed to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. They continue to increase resources and infrastructures, operational capacity and to implement new measures in order to guarantee health and safety for all citizens, employees and operational personnel involved.
Romania: Romanian soldiers distributed food and hygiene products to the war veterans and elderly people in remote areas. Eleven Romanian doctors and seven nurses from Romania arrived in Italy to support Italy’s hospitals. Romania received 45-tons of medical supplies delivered by the SAC Program in support of fighting the virus in Romania and around 70 servicemen operated 11 self-cleaning decontamination units in the country.
Slovakia: Armed forces in Slovakia have started to help police units with (border) patrols and render general assistance to the population.
Slovenia: Slovenian Defence Forces sent personal protective equipment to North Macedonia, and delivered a military medical team to NATO and EUFOR HQ in Bosnia and Herzegovina to assist in testing programmes and the treatment of potential COVID-19 patients.
Spain: Spanish soldiers continue to support their civilian authorities, such as with the decontamination of common areas at Madrid Barajas airport in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. Spanish Armed Forces have begun training personnel from fire brigades, forest brigades and Civil Protection to increase disinfection efforts, and continue to use their military hospital to treat civilian patients in Madrid. Spain has converted a military aircraft into a flying hospital to support critical patients and has begun using it.
Turkey: Turkey has supported a number of Allied and surrounding countries, such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Spain, with critical medical supplies. It has supported Romania with the delivery of protective gear, using a Romanian Airforce C-27 J Spartan aircraft to transport 100,000 masks. Turkish Armed Forces are increasing COVID-19 awareness in rural populations, and have opened up Army houses and military guesthouses for health workers. Turkish armed forces are also supporting Izmir-based NATO Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) and together took measures for a more sterile working environment in order to prevent any outbreak in the headquarters.
United States: Nearly 28,400 National Guard service members continue to fight the coronavirus in the country in a variety of domains. They have been disinfecting public spaces, handing out food, and providing transportation and logistics support. Two Military Sealift Command Hospital ships are deployed to provide medical assistance and will be able to assist local hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. USNS Comfort is one of them and is helping out in New York. The Department of Defense will make available up to 5 million respirator masks and other personal protective equipment from their own strategic reserves to Health and Human Services for distribution. Meanwhile, the U.S. has covered the costs of a medical delivery from South Korea to Romania.
United Kingdom: British Armed Forces continue to help civil authorities. The Ministry of Defence has deployed almost 2,700 military personnel around the UK, with thousands more on standby. This number has expanded in the last week. They are supporting a number of initiatives from building hospitals and driving ambulances, to assisting other government departments as well as purchasing ventilators and other medical equipment. A variety of military helicopters are being used in supporting the UK’s response to the coronavirus. Furthermore, the United Kingdom’s Embassy in North Macedonia donated equipment for the North Macedonia armed forces in support of their activities to fight the further outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, NATO is constantly assessing and adapting. In order to respond, we must continue to stand together, work together and support each other. Allied Command Operations is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis in order to prioritise mission critical activities and sustain the readiness that maintains deterrence.
Allies remain committed to their contributions to NATO including our contributions to the Multinational Battle Groups in the East of the alliance, NATO Air Policing, our maritime deployments and our missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo. NATO’s ability to conduct operations has not been undermined. Our forces remain ready and our crucial work safeguarding Allied nations and partners endures.
For more information and updates from SHAPE leadership, follow the links below:
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Tod D. Wolters:
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR) General Tim Radford: https://bit.ly/2XoW9Su
Chief of Staff (COS) General Markus Kneip:
Vice Chief of Staff (VCOS) Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann: