Already Drowning in Bureaucracy, NATO Creates More

September 9, 2020 – The Royal Navy has committed to supporting Germany setting up a new headquarters for NATO operations.

It has signed a binding agreement with its continental counterpart – which includes providing a liaison officer to the new German Maritime Force (DEU MARFOR) taking shape in Rostock.

From the middle of this decade, the headquarters will not only be the hub of German Navy operations, but also be available to the UN, NATO and EU for operations and exercises they wish to direct.

Warfare officer Lieutenant Commander Thomas McPhail is the trailblazer as the first Briton assigned to the fledgling command centre.

The Germans are building an impressive new headquarters building at the Hanse Barracks in the western suburbs of Rostock.

Back in 2016 allied nations decided a new naval headquarters was required to direct larger-scale NATO formations.

The result is DEU MARFOR, established last year and fully operational in 2025 when it will be able to take charge of NATO’s maritime response force, joining an exclusive club, including the UK’s own Strike Force.

Lt Cdr McPhail was the first international officer assigned to the HQ, joining its operations branch in May last year.

Last month Britain’s Naval Attaché in Berlin, Captain Andy Ewen, signed the official agreement, securing this position and relationship for the future.

The German Navy has planned and run operations and missions for decades – but its focus has been on lower-intensity operations directed by three smaller front-line headquarters.

In creating the new command centre, it’s merged those HQs as well as welcoming experts from international allies.

“As we further our relations with Germany, it is important to play our part in this headquarters. We now have the experience of five nations, including France and Lithuania, and I recommend others to work in multinational and NATO staffs in the course of their careers”, Lt Cdr McPhail said.

As well as helping to run a 50-unit exercise last autumn – Northern Coasts – he and his comrades helped direct the German Navy’s response to the pandemic – mirroring the UK Armed Forces in supporting the civilian population and regional/local governments.

After moving into their new building the next major milestone for Lt Cdr McPhail and his colleagues is a large-scale exercise pencilled in for May 2022, Griffin Marker – the first real-time test of all the procedures and new infrastructure and systems.

“DEU MARFOR still has a long way to go, which can only be achieved with the support of the German Navy as a whole, but also all its partners,” said Lt Cdr McPhail. “But with the headquarters, the German Navy clearly stands out from the crowd within NATO and shows the strong will to take on more military responsibility as a reliable ally.”

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