First change of command since the inauguration of the NATO Force Integration Unit Lithuania (NFIU LTU) has taken place. Colonel Jakob Sogard Larsen (Danish Defence) farewells Lithuania after having led the NATO unit in Vilnius since 2015.
“The NATO Force Integration Unit enables to prepare properly and to take care that the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force deploys in Lithuania expeditiously in the event of necessity. The unit under Col J. S. Larsen’s command has done and is doing incredible work, therefore, we have an elaborate interoperability with the higher NATO commands and we are very well prepared to host allied forces in the country,” says Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas.
Col J. S. Larsen will be formally thanked and awarded at a NFIU change of command ceremony Thursday. The incoming NFIU LTU Commander is also a Danish officer, Colonel Peter Nielsen, who served in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Afghanistan, and most recently, as Brigade Deputy Commanding Officer until the current appointment.
The NATO Force Integration Unit in Vilnius is a mediator that ensures interoperability between the national and allied forces in the region. The unit contributes to joint training and exercises with the allies and maintains the communication with NATO operations headquarters.
The small NATO headquarters was established on the basis of the NATO decision to respond to the grown Russian threat following the unlawful annexation of Crimea. Over the six years at the helm, J. S. Larsen has put together the staff representing 14 NATO allies and the headquarters is appreciated across the Alliance for its commitment to lasting peace in the Baltic region ensured through support to NATO deployments and allied forces in case of a crisis or conflict. .
“NATO forces are training in exercises alongside the Lithuanian Armed Forces every year – the allied troops are feeling very welcome here any time because Lithuania is an excellent host. The allies have not only excellent training conditions in Lithuania, but also an opportunity to learn about this beautiful country and meet great people,” says Col J. S. Larsen and adds that he will never forget the experience he brings from Lithuania.
“I have lived in Lithuania since August 2015 and I have to admit that I am rapt with the country. First of all, since my arrival, Lithuania has tripled the amount of defence spending and is now a role-model for other NATO allies. Not only the resolve to meet the 2% of GDP defence spending commitment is exemplary but also the fundamental steps and prudent decisions that Lithuania takes to improve its security and deterrence. Lithuanian military capabilities have been developed excellently in the recent years, and I am delighted to be able to serve in a competent team.
“As a NATO representative who has lived and worked in Lithuania, I can say that I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve in this country and I am very proud of it – this has been an experience I will never forget,” assures Col J. S. Larsen.