TORREJÓN, Spain – In a brief ceremony on March 29, 2023, Lieutenant General Juan Pablo Sánchez de Lara was introduced as the new Commander NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at (CAOC) Torrejón.
The Spanish Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral General Teodoro López Calderón, and the Commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command, General James B. Hecker, officiated the change at the helm of NATO’s CAOC overseeing Allied air operations for all southern Alliance members and inaugurated General Sánchez de Lara to his new position.
CAOC Torrejón is a critical node of NATO's warfighting capability. This responsibility requires a talented leader like Fernando and now Juan Pablo
Admiral General Calderón commended the outgoing Commander, Lieutenant General Fernando de la Cruz, and the achievements his CAOC Team has made during his tenure and welcomed General Sánchez de Lara to his new command position.
"CAOC Torrejón is a critical node of NATO's warfighting capability," said General Hecker. "This responsibility requires a talented leader like Fernando and now Juan Pablo. General Sánchez, we are delighted to welcome you to the team," he added.
Commander Allied Air Command, General James B. Hecker, receives the CAOC Torrejón flag from outgoing Commander, Lieutenant General Fernando de la Cruz, marking the beginning of the change of command process.
Photo courtesy Spanish Defence Staff.
Spanish Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral General Teodoro López Calderón, hands the CAOC Torrejón flag to Commander Allied Air Command, General James B. Hecker, who prepares to pass it to incoming CAOC Commander, Lieutenant General Juan Pablo Sánchez de Lara. Photo courtesy Spanish Defence Staff.
The new CAOC Torrejón Commander Lieutenant General Juan Pablo Sánchez (left) and the former Commander
Lieutenant General Fernando de la Cruz during the ceremony Photo courtesy Spanish Defence Staff.
Operators inside the CAOC Torrejón Air Operations Centre watching over the NATO airspace in the southern parts of Europe including in the Black Sea region 24/7/365. Photo by Allied Air Command
The ceremony was attended, among others, by Chiefs of Staff of the several Allies including Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, the Commander of NATO’s northern CAOC at Uedem, Germany, and representatives from Spain and the international community.
The outgoing Commander, General De la Cruz, thanked his team for the loyalty and performance shown to him and to NATO in these last three years. The incoming Commander, General Sánchez de Lara, is a fighter pilot with more than 3,500 flight hours; his last assignment was that of Commander of the Air Force Canary Islands Command. He expressed his commitment to the new task and assured that the CAOC will continue to contribute to ensuring the peace, security and protection of the airspace in its area of responsibility 24/7/365.
Under the command of NATO’s Allied Air Command, the CAOCs are responsible for planning, assigning tasks, directing, coordinating and supervising the air operations of aircraft assigned by member countries in their area of responsibility. CAOC Uedem oversees areas such as Iceland and the Baltic Sea, and CAOC Torrejón is responsible among other for the Black Sea region; both CAOCs work with the corresponding national alert and control centres, to fulfil the mission of safeguarding NATO airspace throughout Europe.
The Spanish Armed Forces make an important contribution of 120 military personnel to the staff of CAOC Torrejón.