A French Air Force officer, Gen. Stéphane Abrial, will succeed US Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT) in a ceremony aboard the US aircraft carrier USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN-69) on Sept. 9, 2009, in port at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
This position has traditionally been held by a four-star military flag or general officer from the United States. While in the past, non-US officers have filled the position temporarily, this announcement represents the first time in NATO’s 60 year history that a non-US officer has been permanently assigned as one of NATO’s two Supreme Allied Commanders.
Gen. Abrial is formerly the Chief of Staff of the French Air Force. Following the SACT change of command, GEN Mattis will retain command of the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), a position he now holds concurrently with his role as SACT.
“NATO is an Alliance of equal partners representing 28 member nations. The Alliance’s political leaders have determined that a French officer will provide leadership to the men and women of Allied Command Transformation as they work to improve NATO’s military capabilities,” said Vice Adm. Robert G. Cooling, UK Royal Navy, HQ SACT’s Chief of Staff. “The entire HQ SACT team is determined to support this transition between leaders in a seamless, transparent manner.”
As part of a multinational military and political organization, the personnel assigned to HQ SACT routinely report to leaders of different nationalities. Accordingly, the transition between leaders from one nation to another is not expected to result in a significant change in the day-to-day business of the headquarters’ staff.
“As it would with any new leader, the HQ SACT team looks forward to serving with and implementing the vision of its new commander,” said Vice Adm. Cooling.
NATO has two Strategic Commands, Allied Command Operations in Belgium, which oversees all Alliance military operations, and Allied Command Transformation in the United States, which conducts pre-deployment training, and develops and improves military capabilities for the Alliance.
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