WIESBADEN, Germany (Oct. 3, 2013) – Senior land forces commanders from 35 European partner nations, the U.S. and Canada convened here, Sept. 30, to discuss the future of cooperative European security, during the 21st Annual Conference of European Armies.
The theme of this year’s three-day conference, co-hosted by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and U.S. Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., focused on opportunities to address common security challenges.
“The United States and its allies and partners share common interest in maintaining a Europe that is safe, secure and prosperous,” said Campbell. “The Conference of European Armies enhances this common interest and supports a foundation for the strong relationships we share in the region.”
Most of the participants are their nation’s’ equivalent to the U.S. Army chief of staff. In addition to their partnership with U.S. Army Europe, known as USAREUR, for regional security, most of the countries participating in the Conference of European Armies, or CEA, provide forces to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. According to figures released by International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in August, CEA participants comprise nearly 60 percent of ISAF contributing nations, and have more than 20,000 troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
The conference sessions, led by officer participants from across the spectrum of nations represented, included presentations and discussions on current and future transatlantic and European security threats; coalition operations, military transformation; multinational training and interoperability; expanding shared lessons learned and exercises; and building new capabilities with leaner defense budgets.
“I feel confident in the fact that this conference was a strong pillar for the lasting ties that allows our forces to continue their great work together,” said Campbell. “Whether in partnership training or multi-nation operations, we will work together again as we work toward lasting security solutions in the European and Eurasian regions.”
Campbell emphasized that events such as the CEA and shared planning, training and operations help to maintain strong relationships with USAREUR’s European allies and partners, and continually improve the mutual strategic and tactical awareness that are essential to U.S., regional and global interests.
“The bonds made here only continue to deepen the lasting friendships that can be trusted in times of uncertainty, which we know the future holds much of,” said Campbell.
Odierno said he believes security cooperation is vital for future military and contingency operations, and that European partnerships have set the standard for alliances for regional and global security.
“As we look at potential future operational requirements, the way forward will be to develop multinational solutions to complex problems,” said Odierno. “This Conference of European Armies is one piece of that.”
Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, also attended the CEA, where he made remarks to participants, Oct. 1, joined in group sessions and engaged in bilateral discussions of shared concerns. In an interview during the conference, Breedlove said the value of events such as CEA and multinational security cooperation is impossible to calculate.
“We have fought together now for 12 years,” said Breedlove. “Our cohesion, interoperability and tactics, techniques and procedures are at a pinnacle in NATO’s history and our challenge now is going to be: how do we stay at that.”
USAREUR organizers said that the CEA has been the USAREUR commander’s premier general officer-level theater security cooperation event since 1988, providing a venue for creating shared training opportunities and establishing relationships between European ground forces and contributing to regional and global understanding, peace and stability.