MONS, Belgium – In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO continues to deliver credible deterrence and defence. Our ability to conduct operations has not been undermined, our forces remain ready, and our crucial work goes on, and so is the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic the world is facing.
At the same time, NATO recognises the importance of credible information. As military forces, we have an obligation to be truthful, timely and accurate in what we say and what we do. Especially in this time of crisis, transparency is vital. NATO continues to work towards neutralizing misinformation and delivering accurate and truthful facts.
What we can bring is the skills we have, the structures we are operating and the professionalism of our teams
The recently installed NATO COVID-19 Task Force continues to coordinate military support to ensure NATO Allies use its military resources most effectively. The Task Force, led by Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann, Vice Chief of Staff at Allied Command Operations, SHAPE in Belgium, is determined to use NATO's experience, planning capabilities, expertise in coordinating and executing large-scale operations around the world and preparedness, to work together during the pandemic.
"What we can bring is the skills we have, the structures we are operating and the professionalism of our teams. We have teams whose job it is to do crisis management," said Lieutenant General Rittimann. "The approach is more in a military sense, but if we have the resources and the directives and the guidance to conduct a crisis planning, we have all the professionals to do so", he added to explain that the Task Force is determined to continue to do Strategic Coordination with international organisations and agencies around the world that are working together with NATO to fight this crisis. "We do this for a living, and we do this to accomplish our mission."
This week, there have been many examples that display Alliance unity in aiding one another. Here are some highlights of what many Allied nations' armed forces are doing to support relief efforts:
Belgium: Belgian troops continue national support providing medical staff to homes for the elderly and also distribution of sanitisation supplies in the community of Peutie, Belgium.
Bulgaria: Dozens of soldiers from Kazanlak donated blood. The blood drive was organised by the Center for Transfusion Hematology of the Military Medical Academy.
Canada: Canadian Armed Forces are assisting Public Health Ontario by conducting contact tracing phone calls to personnel potentially exposed to COVID-19. They are providing the contacts with support and improved understanding of the virus. Thirty Canadian Armed Forces dental personnel trained to support COVID-19 relief efforts as needed.
Czech Republic: Czech Republic Defence Forces have deployed throughout the country to support local COVID-19 testing and relief efforts. Mobile teams in the Moravian-Silesian region collect test samples while the Czech Military's medical staff continued assisting local hospitals. There are also teams throughout the country providing support to the elderly providing meals and disinfecting efforts.
Estonia: Estonian Defence Forces sent approximately 2000 meals ready to eat (MRE's) to the European Union training mission in Mali to increase food stock during the COVID-19 pandemic.
France: The Ministry of Armed Forces are supporting efforts to develop artificial respirators dedicated to treating COVID-19. As part of Operation Resilience an A400M ATLAS arrived in French Polynesia to provide strengthening of resources of the overseas sovereignty. The plane can transport up to 35 tonnes of weight and also provide medical evacuation support. Since the start of COVID-19 relief efforts, French Armed Forces carried out 429 missions as part of Operation Resilience setting up 8 Army training hospitals helping with resuscitating more than 400 patients. Furthermore French soldiers are providing hospital staff with logistical support to allow hospital personnel to focus on patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
French military personnel provide logistical support to hospitals allowing hospital personnel to focus on patients during the coronavirus pandemic – Photo by Armée de Terre
Germany: The largest plane in the world arrived in Germany from China bringing urgent medical supplies as part of efforts to help curb the spread of the coronavirus on April 27, 2020. The Antonov-225 cargo plane which carried 10,000,000 protective face masks arrived at Leipzig/Halle airport and was welcomed by German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. To carry out the radiological diagnosis of COVID-19 suspicions in the university hospital Göttingen, the German armed forces provided a mobile computed tomograph. German troops assigned to NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Lithuania supported local disinfection efforts. Meantime, German Army paratroopers prepare to evacuate German citizens from crisis areas while a Supply Battalion produced over 1,500 protective masks over the last 2 weeks.
Hungary: A Globemaster C-17 aircraft, part of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency supported Strategic Airlift Capability Programme arrived in Budapest, Hungary on April 24, 2020 carrying 45 tons of medical protective equipment to support Hungary in its fight against COVID-19. Meantime, Hungary, along with several other Allied nations, provided equipment to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Furthermore, Hungary delivered medical supplies to the Republic of Moldova. Over 100.000 masks and 5,000 protective were handed over to the Moldovan authorities. Hungary's bilateral support to the Republic of Moldova was in response to a request for assistance through NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC).
Italy: Italian military personnel are busy throughout the country with a number of initiatives including, transporting medical supplies to Italian hospitals, sanitising public areas, assembling a field hospital in record time in Piacenza, Italy, inaugurating a COVID-19 hub of the Celio Military Polyclinic. Furthermore, the Italian Air Force assisted in relocating COVID-19 patients from one hospital to another to the balance the burden on institutions. Meantime, the hospital in Taranto received a batch of 3D-printed face shields donated by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency.
Lithuania: A plane from the Spanish Air Force took off from the Lithuanian Air Force Base near Šiauliai (Lithuania) on April 27, 2020 to deliver critical medical supplies to Spain, as part of ongoing Allied efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The delivery consisted of Lithuanian-made facial protection shields, medical gloves and disinfectant and was provided through a bilateral arrangement between Lithuania and Spain. Lithuania also donated 10,000 masks and respiratory equipment to Italy, through a bilateral arrangement.
A Lithuanian Soldier loads boxes of medical supplies including facial shields, medical gloves and disinfectant to be donated to Spain as part of COVID-19 relief efforts. A plane from the Spanish Air Force took off from the Lithuanian Air Force Base near Šiauliai (Lithuania) to deliver critical medical supplies to Spain.
Luxembourg: Luxembourg Army seamstresses produced masks to support local organisations and service members. The Army also supported the packing and distribution of masks to embassies and institutions throughout the country.
Montenegro: A Montenegrin Army helicopter transported three members of the Croatian Army from NATO's KFOR base to Split. Armed Forces continue their decontamination efforts for health facilities throughout a number of northern municipalities.
Netherlands: Dutch Soldiers provided meals to hundreds of residents in several Hague neighbourhoods. With four mobile satellite kitchens approximately 30,000 kilos of food were delivered to the elderly and those affected by COVID-19. For the first time the Military Rehabilitation Center in Doorn treated a patient with post intensive care syndrome due to the COVID-19 virus. Meantime, the Dutch military sent troops to St. Maarten to provide relief efforts if needed.
North Macedonia: Various organisations donated 10,400 protective masks and 1,000 visors to the Red Cross in honour of North Macedonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Day.
Norway: Norway's Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness continues their progress toward developing a safe vaccine for COVID-19. NATO Support and Procurement Agency also provided the Norwegian Armed Forces fighting COVID-19 with 600 kilos of protective equipment.
Poland: Poland sent 75,000 litres of disinfectant, 100,000 masks and essential medicine to Belarus to support COVID-19 relief efforts. This week Slovenian and Polish military medical units are exchanging experiences and best practices in their respective fights against COVID-19. The Polish medical team deployed to Chicago, USA continue to provide support to COVID-19 relief efforts. Meantime, American and Polish service-members distribute food to local authorities and medical facilities in Monki, Poland.
Soldiers from Bravo Company, 418th Civil Affairs Battalion, 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, 1st Infantry Division Forward, 353rd Civil Affairs Command, worked with Polish forces from 1st Brigade, Territorial Defense Force. The U.S. Soldiers and Polish service-members distributed food to local authorities and medical facilities on April 28, 2020, in Monki, Poland, in support of Operation Resilient Spring (ORS). (Photo by Sgt. Anna Churco)
Portugal: The Portuguese Armed Forces distributed 1500 meals to homeless people around the country. Portuguese Army Airbase No11 adapted its reception centre to accept COVID-19 patients and with the support of more than 400 military personnel from the Armed Forces, disinfection actions will be carried out in hundreds of schools around the country.
Romania: The Romanian Armed Forces transported 90,000 protective masks to Italy. Soldiers joined the 'Charm of Life' Association to distribute food packages to veterans and war widows.
Slovakia: Military personnel are taking care of the homeless in the quarantine town on Golden Sands. Military paramedics are also onsite to assist with supervision and provision of health care. 250 beds, 250 sleeping bags and hygiene products were provided.
Military Medical Unit of Slovenian Armed Forces exchanged experiences and best practises in the fight against COVID-19 with their Polish counterparts. The Veterinary Unit of the Slovenian Armed Forces continues disinfecting grounds, equipment and vehicles for NATO's KFOR mission. Furthermore, this month Slovenia facilitated the start of COVID-19 preventive testing of EUFOR personnel at Camp Butmir in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tests began April 8, 2020 with a visit from a team of medical specialists from Slovenia. Members of the Military Medical Unit of the Slovenian Armed Forces collected more than 100 swabs. Then on April 16, Slovenia delivered tents, field beds, sleeping bags, electric heaters, blankets and other items to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Troops from the Veterinary Unit of the Slovenian Armed Forces support COVID-19 relief efforts by disinfecting equipment and vehicles. - Photo by the Slovenian Armed Forces
Spain: Spanish Army Logistics Support group transported 41 pallets of food to the Caritas Madrid organisation. Defence Forces continued efforts to combat COVID-19 by disinfecting hospitals, health centres and nursing homes. Since the start of Operation Balmis the Spanish Air Force has carried out 34 air transports with medical supplies and protective equipment.
Turkey: Turkey dispatched a military cargo plane carrying personal protective equipment to the United States in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. Equipment including: 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 2,000 litres of disinfectant, 1,500 goggles, 400 N-95 masks and 500 face shields left from an airbase near Ankara on April 28, 2020. Meantime, the second part of medical aid supplies for the United States has departed Ankara on board a Turkish Armed Forces aircraft. Furthermore, Turkey will also be delivering medical aid supplies to the Republic of South Africa. Throughout the crisis Turkey has dispatched equipment aid to a total of 55 countries. Soldiers also continue to support national relief efforts by delivering meals and supplies to elderly citizens and veterans.
A pallet delivered by a Turkish Airbus A400M Atlas filled with medical supplies arrives at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Apr. 28, 2020. The Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., the Turkish Defense Attaché to the U.S., and other Turkish Embassy staff members greeted the arriving Turkish crew when the plane arrived as well as a State Department delegation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Spencer Slocum)
United Kingdom: Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel are helping the National Health Service (NHS) by manning emergency vehicles. The five two-man vehicles, and two rapid response cars, are crewed by co-responders, volunteers from various trades across the force who have trained in life-saving techniques and attend emergencies outside of their RAF duties. Furthermore, RAF eXperimental innovative digital unit has been testing a smartphone app for the NHS designed to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The United States, through U.S. European Command, provided medical supplies to the Podgorica Clinical Centre in Montenegro including 3 Dräger Vista 120 patient monitors, 210 infusion sets and one infusion pump. Montenegro requested assistance through the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre, NATO's principal disaster response mechanism. Meantime, the Republic of Moldova also received respirators, protection suits and other medical items from the United States on April 23, 2020 in order to deal with the COVID 19 pandemic. The items were delivered through the United States European Command and donated to the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Moldova. They were further distributed to first line rescuers and responders in the quarantined areas of the country. The donations included 500 respirators, 379 protection suits and other items.
The NATO-led Resolute Support mission (RSM) continues its support for Afghan security forces as they work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring security for the Afghan people. Over the last two weeks, RSM helped to provide critical supplies to Afghan security forces in 14 provinces, including more than 63,000 masks, over 31,000 pairs of gloves, more than 35,000 bottles of sanitizers and disinfectants, thousands of sets of personal protective equipment for medical providers and patients, more than 3,000 sets of protective eyewear and dozens of infrared thermometers.
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.