NATO’s Special Forces Network

The skills and exper­tise of Spe­cial Forces are valu­able assets to NATO oper­a­tions. But where­as Spe­cial Forces are often seen as a nation­al pre­rog­a­tive, the transat­lantic Alliance also has a NATO Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Head­quar­ters (NSHQ) where Spe­cial Forces work togeth­er.

Source: NATO

Locat­ed at SHAPE Head­quar­ters in Mons, Bel­gium, the NSHQ was set up to coor­di­nate NATO’s Spe­cial Oper­a­tions and to opti­mise the employ­ment of Spe­cial Forces. It has one of the most diverse multi­na­tion­al com­po­si­tions with­in NATO. NATO Part­ner­ship for Peace (PfP) mem­ber Aus­tria and the NATO ‘con­tact coun­try’ of Swe­den have also recent­ly assigned per­son­nel to the NSHQ

“The main advan­tage of the NSHQ is to bring all SOF — Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Forces — nations from NATO and from part­ners togeth­er to sit around the table and to pro­mote and improve the nation­al SOF capa­bil­i­ties and to assure inter­op­er­abil­i­ty. The capa­bil­i­ty to work togeth­er like in Afghanistan cur­rent­ly,” says Colonel Fritz Urbach. 

Although the major­i­ty of what the NSHQ does is at the strate­gic and oper­a­tional lev­el, the NATO Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Head­quar­ters is also the place for train­ing and edu­ca­tion. At their train­ing facil­i­ty at near­by Chièvres Air Base, Spe­cial Forces from NATO and part­ner nations train together. 

Niek, a Dutch Marine Corps Major and course mem­ber at the NATO SOF School explains, “You work with the same process and you get taught on the same method, so every­body is aligned. It is an advan­tage when you run up to each oth­er in the­atre, you will recog­nise each oth­er, you know each oth­er and you have the same pro­ce­dures and the same back­ground.” Con­nect­ed Forces 

By con­nect­ing the dif­fer­ent forces, the NATO Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Head­quar­ters cre­ates a net­work of Spe­cial Forces peo­ple who train togeth­er and who know and trust each oth­er. Once they deploy on a multi­na­tion­al oper­a­tion they can build on a trust­ed rela­tion­ship. Build­ing this Spe­cial Forces com­mu­ni­ty is a key ele­ment, accord­ing to Colonel Fritz Urbach. 

“We try to build this human net­work, not only on the com­man­ders’ lev­el, but also on the oper­a­tors’ lev­el,” says Colonel Urbach. “ And every­body who has attend­ed one of the cours­es in Chièvres Air Base is auto­mat­i­cal­ly part of the SOF net­work where he can keep con­tact with his course mates, exchange infor­ma­tion and stay updat­ed,” he adds. 

Last year the NATO Spe­cial Oper­a­tions School had almost 1000 grad­u­ates. And with a total of 2500 grad­u­ates so far, NATO’s Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Net­work is steadi­ly growing. 

Allied Com­mand Oper­a­tions

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