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Army General Takes Over Joint Forces/NATO Commands

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6, 2000 – Transforming America’s armed forces is a complex proposition that involves far more than purchasing new weapons systems, said the new commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command and NATO's Allied Forces Command, Atlantic.

Army Gen. William Kernan, who assumed the dual command Sept. 5, said transforming the military also involves developing doctrine and building a truly joint force.

Kernan, the first Army general to hold the Norfolk-based commands, replaced Adm. Harold Gehman, during a ceremony aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Kernan said he would continue to build on Gehman’s foundation. He said both commands must be agents for change. "Today, America has the best-equipped, best- trained, and most versatile armed forces on Earth," he said.

"We also have an excellent blueprint, known as Joint Vision 2020, which provides a template for the capabilities each service should develop over the next decade. The key to attaining this vision is clear -– we must maintain the advantage we currently enjoy while accommodating change."

Kernan came to Norfolk from the XVIIIth Airborne Corps in Fort Bragg, N.C. He was commissioned into the Army in 1968 and served as a rifle platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. He led the 75th Ranger Regiment on its combat jump into Panama during Operation Just Cause.

During the ceremony, Gehman stressed that the mission of Joint Forces Command centers around change. The command started as U.S. Atlantic Command and morphed into Joint Forces Command last year. “Our missions are two-fold,” Gehman said. “First, [our mission is] to raise joint operations to a new higher level.

“[Joint Forces Command is] to be the change agent that transforms the U.S. military into one that can win the next war rather than one that merely polished the brass of the equipment that won the last war,” he continued. “Being the Joint Force trainer, integrator and force provider are the means that enable us to meet our mission.”

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said Gehman and Joint Forces Command have spearheaded “a sea change of tidal proportions.” The command is to peer into the battlefields of tomorrow and to build the joint warfighting force and to “transform our forces by experimenting and innovating to create a new art of warfare.”

In addition, Joint Forces Command has been charged with developing doctrine to help U.S. law enforcement agencies “help communities respond in the event of a chemical or biological attack on American soil.”

The mission of Allied Command, Atlantic, is simpatico to this mission, according to Lord George Robertson, secretary- general of the alliance. “NATO must continue to develop and maintain the best and most relevant defense capability in the world,” he said.

“The Allied Command, Atlantic, calls for NATO nations to modernize, to restructure, to retrain and to explore new doctrine have been heard.” The changes Gehman have instituted, and the proposals for the future will have a far-ranging effect, he said.

Robertson told Kernan that he enters the NATO command facing a host of new challenges. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and problems brought on by human flight from disaster areas or war zones are among the problems he will confront as the commander of Allied Command, Atlantic, Robertson said.

But, he said, NATO also has a “chance to strike a new balance between North American and European halves of the alliance, building a more stable foundation for our long- term commitment toward each other. We must overcome the voices on both sides of the Atlantic that would push Europe and America apart.”

Both Cohen and Robertson praised Gehman and the commands for their efforts during Operation Allied Force. Robertson said the command’s contributions to victory are still being studied and will be used to modernize NATO for years to come.

Cohen agreed with these sentiments. He said Gehman has established a sound foundation for the command and that his contributions really have not ended. “Years from now Hal Gehman’s legacy will be measured in the technologies that have been harnessed, the lives saved and the victories won,” he said. (Editor’s note: Navy Lt. Brenda Malone contributed to this story)

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