SIGONELLA, Italy – A Change of Command ceremony was held at the Italian Air Base Sigonella, Sicily, on Monday, September 10, 2018. Brigadier General Phillip A. Stewart, United States Air Force, took over his duties as the new Commander of NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force.
After taking over from interim Commander Colonel Pedro Renn, Brigadier General Stewart is the first Commander of NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in its permanent structure. That said, the ceremony indicated a major milestone of the Force's built-up-process, which began in September 2015. While the Staff Element Implementation Office in Mons, Belgium closely coordinated the Force's requirements with NATO agencies and industry, a team at Sigonella Air Base, Italy began to build up the Force itself.
During his farewell speech Colonel Renn took a look back: "In September 2015, the first twelve people at Sigonella had minimal equipment and infrastructure, but tons of motivation. Since then, we've come a long way" he said. Describing his experiences building up a flying force from scratch, he added: "From creating and realizing an idea from the bottom up the men and women of the force did more than only a pioneer's work. They proved the potential of a vision within an Alliance, driven by dedication and professionalism."
Newly appointed Commander Brigadier General Philip A. Stewart addressed the ceremony's guests, stating: "The Alliance Ground Surveillance Force will provide clarity in time of crisis. I'm proud and humbled to have the honor to contribute personally to the security for the approximately 1 billion civilians living under the protection of NATO by leading this outstanding Force."
The ceremony was attended by more than 200 guests and personnel, and was presided over by the Commander of NATO's Allied Air Command, General Tod Wolters. Allied Air Command, as NATO's single command for all Alliance air and space matters, is delegated operational control over the Alliance Ground Surveillance Force from the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Fully equipped the Force will consist of five remotely piloted Global Hawk aircraft and five command and control base stations. It will enable the Alliance to perform persistent terrestrial and maritime surveillance operations, over wide areas from high-altitude, long-enduring under any weather or light conditions. The main operating base will be located at Sigonella, Italy which will serve as a NATO Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance deployment base and data exploitation center.
Story by NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force Public Affairs Office