Myers Awards Legion of Merit to NATO Committee Chief
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 7, 2005 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff awarded a senior NATO officer the Legion of Merit today during a Pentagon ceremony.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, awards the Legion of Merit to German Federal Armed Forces Gen. Harald Kujat at the Pentagon on April 7. Kujat received the medal for his work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Federal Republic of Germany. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said German Gen. Harald Kujat, the chairman of NATO's Military Committee, has helped ensure NATO changed with the times. The Legion of Merit, Degree of Commander, is the highest decoration U.S. officials award to foreign military members, personnel officials said.
Myers said that when Kujat took over as chairman of the Military Committee, NATO's highest military authority, in July 2002, many pundits questioned whether NATO was relevant in the new threat environment.
"If you think about where NATO was and where NATO is today, the change has been absolutely dramatic," Myers said. "In many cases, it probably ensured that NATO survived as a military alliance. It was a big question. I think NATO answered that question, and a lot of the credit goes to Harald Kujat."
Kujat pushed for a viable alliance and a robust transatlantic link, Myers said. He helped persuade member nations to update their capabilities and accept new missions.
"He pushes, and sometimes it's pushing uphill," Myers said. "It's getting the reluctant and recalcitrant to go along with what's good for the alliance and the transatlantic alliance. We could not have had a better leader. The leadership that Harald has brought to the job has been truly remarkable."
During Kujat's tenure, which ends in June, NATO took on a major role in Afghanistan and is working to grow that mission, Myers said. NATO personnel are involved with training Iraqi security forces both in Iraq and in other countries. The NATO Response Force took shape and achieved its operating capability. "Like all things in NATO, (taking on these new missions) requires a lot of energy, and Harald has been a dynamo," Myers said.
The citation for the award praised Kujat's leadership of the 26-member Military Committee. "General Kujat guided the Military Committee and the entire NATO military establishment along the path of transformation critical to success in addressing future challenges," the citation read in part.
Kujat said he was surprised, "honored and moved" by the award. The German four-star entered the service in 1959. He said that during his career NATO was always important, but "not only the alliance but specifically the transatlantic link was always my No. 1 item on the agenda. I think this is very important ever more for the future than in the past."
Kujat is in Washington for talks with U.S. military officials.