June 17, formal ceremony of change of command at the NATO Force Integration Unit (NFIU) took place at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in Vilnius. Colonel Jakob Søgård Larsen, the first Commander of the NFIU, relinquished the colors, mission and responsibilities of the unit to incoming Commander Colonel Peter Nielsen. The formal ceremony held at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was attended by representatives of the Minsitry of National Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lithuanian Armed Forces, Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, and Foreign Attachés, Ambassadors of NATO member states to Lithuania, Commander Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, and other foreign guests.
“The NATO Force Integration Unit makes every effort to ensure that in case a threat arrives, the deploying allied forces would integrate into the regional defence seamlessly and would be able to complete their tasks effectively. Colonel Larsen knew how to communicate and explain it to the Lithuanian society and authorities and thus fortified the understanding of the role of the NATO alliance in the defence of our country,” said Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšys at the ceremony. The outgoing NFIU Commander was presented the Medal for Distinguished Service for his exceptional personal contribution to the success of NFIU activities.
“I wish to express my profound gratitude to Colonel Larsen for his hard work and achieved results. I am impressed by your dedication and competence. Your strong leadership and experience has made the NFIU Lithuania the best NFIU in the Alliance. That is a true success story,” said Minister of National Defence A. Anušauskas to Col J. S. Larsen.
Col J. S. Larsen has been the commander of the NATO Force Integration Unit Lithuania since its inauguration in 2015. The headquarters staff carries out its functions to ensure interoperability and cooperation between the Lithuanian national forces and the allied forces deployed in the region. The small NATO headquarters in Lithuania supports exercises of allied forces and other security assurance measures, contributes to the Lithuanian defence planning, maintains communication with state and regional leaders, municipalities, ensures that the society receives clear information about the NFIU mission, and joins a variety of national projects with Lithuanian colleagues by supporting NGOs.
The new NFIU Commander, Col Peter Nielsen began the career with the Danish Defence in 1982. He held various positions over the time, hos last duties before the current appointment were that of Brigade Deputy Commanding Officer. Col P. Nielsen also served in the multinational missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Afghanistan and holds numerous commendations and awards.
The changes in NATO’s security environment after the events in Ukraine of 2014 opened its eyes to the scope of the threats in the East and South, hence NATO provided a swift and firm response to the new security challenge. The NATO Readiness Action Plan was passed at the Wales Summit in September 2014: it included a comprehensive and coherent package of measures that demonstrated NATO resolve to respond to any threat to its integrity. Establishment of NFIUs was part of the plan. The headquarters was inaugurated officially on 1 September 2015. The NFIU comprises the staff of 41 soldiers from 14 countries. Its primary mission is facilitate deployment of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Lithuania in case of necessity.
Information credit: Lithuanian Armed Forces
Photo credits: Sgt Spc 1st Class Ieva Budzeikaitė