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 Jun 16 2020

Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón under new command

TORREJÓN, Spain – During a change of command ceremony held on 15 June at NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejón, Spain, Major General Fernando de la Cruz Caravaca was inaugurated as the unit’s new commander. He is replacing Lieutenant General Ruben C. García Servert who has been the commanding officer for more than 7 years.

The ceremony was co-presided by General Jeff Harrigian, Commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command and Air General Miguel Angel Villarroya Vilalta, Spanish Chief of Defence. Amongst the distinguished guests was General of the Air Javier Salto Martínez-Avial, Chief of Staff of the Spanish Air Force. In respect to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, precautionary measures were taken for all attendees of the ceremony.  

“It´s an honour to be appointed as Commander of Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón” Major General Caravaca said in his speech during the ceremony. “It is a great responsibility that I will assume with devotion and a special dedication. I am fully committed to accomplish the mission assigned to Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón together with this outstanding team” he added, addressing distinguished guests and his new staff. Major General Caravaca has served in several command positions throughout his career in the Spanish Air Force and was Commander in Chief of the Canary Island Air Command before taking over his position at Torrejón.

Lieutenant General Servert is now retiring after 45 years of service. During his seven years as Commander at Torrejón he was responsible for six thousand square kilometers of airspace across 17 countries in NATO’s Southern European Area of Responsibility. “It is clear to me that for the future of our nations we all have to work together because alone there is nothing we can do” he said in his farewell speech, expressing his firm believe in a strong Alliance.

After handing over his command, Lieutenant General Servert was awarded NATO’s Meritorious Service Medal, NATO’s highest award, in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the Alliance. The award was presented by General Harrigian, Commander Allied Air Command.

It´s an honour to be appointed as Commander of Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón.

Along with the Commander’s position, the position of the Deputy Commander saw a turnover as well. Brigadier General Panagiotis Dimopoulos handed over his responsibilities to his Greek Air Force colleague Brigadier General Athanasios Sextos after 3 years. Before moving to his new position Brigadier General Sextos was Head of the Evaluation and Inspections Directorate at the Hellenic Tactical Air Force Headquarters. A fighter pilot by trade he has also served in various commanding positions throughout his career. Brigadier General Dimopoulos is now also going to retire.

NATO’s southern Combined Air Operations Centre is responsible for air operations over all southern European NATO members. Most prominently it is routinely tasked to execute NATO’s Air Policing mission in its area of responsibility, providing a 24/7/365 watch over the security, safety and integrity of NATO members’ airspace.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

Left to right: Major General Fernando de la Cruz Caravaca (new Commander),
General Jeff Harrigian (Commander Allied Air Command),
Air General Miguel Angel Villarroya Vilalta (Spanish Chief of Defence),
Lieutenant General Ruben C. García Servert (outgoing Commander). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic all participants of the ceremony wore face-masks as a precautionary measure.
Photo courtesy of Spanish Air Force.
Lieutenant General Servert (second from right) handing back the flag of Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón to General Harrigian (third from left).
Photo courtesy of Spanish Air Force.


General Harrigian (front second from left) handing over the flag of Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón to Major General Caravaca (front left).
Photo courtesy of Spanish Air Force.

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