Earlier today, the command responsibility of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany, passed from the German Air Force to the Belgian Air Force.
In a short ceremony at the CAOC the Commander of Allied Air Command, U.S. Air Force General Frank Gorenc, received the unit flag from outgoing Commander, German Air Force Lieutenant General Joachim Wundrak, to hand it over to the incoming Commander, Belgian Air Force Major General Thierry Dupont.
General Gorenc praised General Wundrak for an impressive list of accomplishments and said, "These accomplishments plus an
incredible intensity and the commitment to the potential of NATO air made
General Wundrak a force of nature in the NATO community. Plus personally he has been
steady counsel, a great friend and a
courageous advocate of Air." Welcoming Major General Dupont, he added: "All of your command looks forward to
working with you. My only advice to you is to enjoy each and every day of your
command, because before you know it, it will be over."
"I am very proud and grateful to have been
your commander for such a great time," Lieutenant General Wundrak said during his speech. He could not but admire the fantastic
picture and perfect arrangement of all the different
uniforms "representing proud nations and NATO's leading edge air command and
we have come a long way. When I arrived here in 2012 we started to analyse the
lessons identified from NATO operations over Libya and in Afghanistan and translated them
into a new education and training system for NATO Air Command and Control.Until my last day today, education and training
was and is our absolute focus and it became our ambition not to send amateurs
to operations and exercises, but true and certified professional," General Wundrak said after more than 4 years at the helm of NATO’s northern CAOC. However, he is going to remain in the area since he will continue to be the Commander of the German Air Operations Command and the Executive Director of the Joint Air Power Competence Centre, both located at Kalkar only a few kilometres away.
The incoming Commander, Belgian Major General Thierry Dupont, has served in different national and NATO Headquarters, in 2013he attended the NATO Defence College in Rome. As a fighter and test pilot he has logged more than 2,500 flight hours on 30 different types of aircraft. "We will have to prove our strength and partnership on various occasion,” he said during his remarks, shortly before receiving the CAOC Uedem flag, "I have no doubt we will rise to any
challenge that presents itself defending NATO and the principles that
underpin the Alliance. To achieve this we have to use the strengths brought from
all diverse cultural backgrounds and go on to achieve success in any task given
to us by higher authorities. I hope to enjoy the same unwavering support that you
have shown to General Wundrak."
CAOC Uedem is headquartered at the Paulsberg site just outside the town of Uedem in the northwest of Germany near the Dutch border. Within the new NATO Command Structure, CAOC Uedem has 185 positions from 23 different nations. NATO Partnership for Peace members Sweden and Finland also have a liaison officer each at CAOC Uedem. Furthermore, the CAOC hosts a NATO Communications and Information Agency CIS Support Unit. The post of the Commander is filled by Germany and Belgium on a rotational basis, while Poland and Germany take turns providing the Deputy Commander who is presently German Air Force Brigadier General Ralf Raddatz.
Per the guidance of the Commander of Allied Air Command, CAOC Uedem is responsible for Peacetime Air Policing over 15 European Nations north of the Alps.. NATO’s CAOC in the south is located at Torrejon, Spain, and has identical missions and tasks inside its area of responsibility. Both CAOCs contribute specialist personnel to the stand-up a JFAC at AIRCOM in Ramstein, to plan, direct, task and co-ordinate Air operations of allocated NATO forces as and when required.
Find photos of the event here