NORFOLK, Va. – NATO's newest headquarters is now fully operational in Norfolk.
Joint Force Command Norfolk, has reached Full Operational Capability (FOC) and held a ceremony on Thursday at 10 a.m., to mark the occasion.
This new command is part of the allied command operations structure, the Navy said. It will provide a United States-led, joint multi-national operational command, supported by component, Allied and partner commands, responsible for the North Atlantic and the High North.
Its mission is to protect the Strategic Lines of Communication across all domains, and enable the reinforcement of Europe, according to the Navy.
Military leaders said China and Russia are upping their presence in the Atlantic. "Both have increased their presence in the Atlantic region from the Arctic Circle to the South Pole and that requires a proactive approach," said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, the commander of JFC Norfolk.
The new headquarters is the first on US soil and military officials say is key to protecting the Atlantic. "To be fully operational means we can do our mission that we are assigned," said Lewis.
The military's top officer came to Norfolk for the event. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley stressed the importance of NATO. "The U.S. does not fight wars alone. We have an incredible network of allies about the world," said Milley. "[The headquarters] is representative of what is needed in the future to maintain the deterrence, to maintain the great power of peace, and prevent great power war."
Gen. Milley warned about future military technologies and their potential impacts on war. He said the first country to discover them and fully utilize them will have a leg up in a war, comparing the situation to World War II. "If we don't get there firstest [sic] with the mostest [sic] and we don't put the pedal to the metal - if we don't get this right over the next 10-15 years, we are condemning a future generation to what happened 76 years ago," he said.
That's why military leaders say the new headquarters is so important. "Our mission is to prepare for every possible crisis or crises that could develop throughout the Atlantic region, so that the alliance has options in both forces and how to employ them," said Lewis.
The ceremony was held onboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) at Naval Station Norfolk.