Naval leaders from 19 European nations and various NATO and U.S. commands met at U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) and U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) headquarters in Naples, Italy, to discuss regional maritime security during the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) Flag Course, Nov. 14-18, 2022.
The course was co-hosted by the U.S. Naval War College and NAVEUR-NAVAF/SIXTHFLT.
Participants in the CFMCC course included flag and general officers from the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, as well as leaders from the NATO Alliance and NATO Allied and partner nations, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye and The United Kingdom.
“CFMCC [helps] deepen my knowledge about the NATO structure and the operational planning process,” said Polish Navy Rear Adm. Krzysztof Jaworski, commander, Polish Maritime Operations Center. “I think it shows our unity and cohesion…and makes us stronger when we can develop our relationships.”
This year’s iteration of the CFMCC course comes during a year of historic maritime partnership in the European theater, such as the NATO-led Project Neptune series of vigilance activities, and numerous operations of Allies and partners operating alongside one another in the High North, Baltic Sea, and Mediterranean Sea.
Enduring and effective communication and cooperation among naval leaders is key to sustaining this high operational tempo at sea. The strength of this cohesive cooperation lies in mutual trust and shared vision, a point emphasized by Adm. Stuart Munsch, commander, NAVEUR-NAVAF and commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, during his opening remarks.
"Deterrence and defense require us to accelerate our warfighting advantage as an Alliance, with the biggest gains to be made in the near-term on deepening interoperability," said Munsch. "That interoperability, ranging from de-confliction to interchangeability where we need it, can only deepen on a firm foundation of trust - knowing one another and understanding how we work together."
CFMCC attendees shared experiences, national and maritime objectives, and participated in a variety of notable topics and panels throughout the week, including maritime planning, strategic interests, and regional perspectives. Participants discussed current challenges and opportunities with an eye toward continued enhancement of interoperability and interchangeability.
“The most important thing I learned during this course is that all Allies in NATO share common problems on a different level,” said Bulgarian Navy Capt. Pavlin Petkov, Chief of Staff, Bulgarian Naval Flotilla. “If we work together, we can get stronger…to get fully integrated and fully interoperable.”
The knowledge, experience, and procedures discussed at CFMCC pave the way for premier maritime exercises like BALTOPS, Formidable Shield, Project Neptune, and routine operations with Allies and partners on a daily basis. Shared understanding bolsters the contributions of individual nations to the Alliance and improves overall cohesion with Allies and partners.
“I’ve learned a lot of new things about the Alliance, NATO, its structures, procedures and processes,” said Finnish Navy Cmdre. Jukka Anteroinen, Chief of Staff, Finnish Navy. “In order to build cooperation, we need, of course, a thorough understanding of each other…and one part of trust building is getting to know each other in person, but also knowing and understanding the different perspectives of nations.”
In his closing remarks, Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, commander, SIXTHFLT and commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, echoed many sentiments felt by CFMCC participants during throughout the course. He detailed the strong trust, teamwork and camaraderie exhibited by NATO Allies and partners and also urged them to continue strengthening their collective warfighting advantage.
“We invest in our future by taking the lessons learned this week back to our countries and commands, using the lessons learned to train the next generation of maritime leaders,” said Ishee. “The established and new relationships developed this week continue to strengthen the interoperability and high-end combat capability of the Alliance.”
CFMCC is the international equivalent of the Navy’s executive level professional military education course. It develops and strengthens relationships based on trust and confidence among allied and partner nation leaders and helps to foster a unified vision for achieving collective security in a dynamic environment.
Established in 1884, NWC is the oldest institution of its kind in the world. More than 50,000 students have graduated since its first class of nine students in 1885, and about 300 of today's active duty admirals, generals and senior executive service leaders are alumni.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.