On 22 and 23 May, NATO Joint Force Training Centre celebrated its 20th anniversary. The two-day event, gathered highest regional and local authorities, numerous Ambassadors to the Republic of Poland, high-ranking military representatives, former JFTC leaders, many Centre’s partners and friends, and, on the first day of celebrations, also hundreds of citizens of Bydgoszcz.

“Looking back on the JFTC history and the last three years I feel very satisfied with what we have achieved together with the men and women, military and civilian, working shoulder to shoulder in our Centre”, said Major General Norbert Wagner, NATO Joint Force Training Centre Commander during the official part of celebrations of the JFTC 20th anniversary. “All JFTC members, thank you very much for your everyday commitment and professionalism. It is a pleasure to be a part of such an experienced, dedicated and at the same time diverse but cohesive organisation.”

The NATO Joint Force Training Centre, was the first NATO Command Structure installation in Central and Eastern Europe. It directly supports the mission of the Allied Command Transformation and the Allied Command Operations. Officially established in 2004, JFTC quickly became a significant player within the NATO training community. Over the 20 years, the Centre has had a number of training roles, including its essential support to NATO-led operations and Land Forces exercises. Applying cutting-edge technology to NATO training requirements, JFTC has significantly contributed to the transformation of the allied forces, preparing them for the wide range of NATO missions and tasks.

Official Ceremony at JFTC

The official part of the JFTC 20th anniversary celebrations took place on 23 May at the NATO Joint Force Training Centre’s compound.

“As part of Allied Command Transformation, JFTC has throughout its existence contributed significantly to our efforts, as we transform ourselves into a data-centric MDO-enabled Alliance”, wrote General Philippe Lavigne, the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT). Major General Robert Głąb, the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation Deputy Chief of Staff, who represented the JFTC’s superior command during the official ceremony, presented SACT’s address. The SACT thanked all those who contributed to the JFTC’s ‘first and highly successful twenty years’, including the 170 soldiers and civilians working at the Centre today under the leadership of Major General Norbert Wagner. He also added: “I know the Centre will continue to live up to its ‘Transformation through Training’ motto and I look forward to another twenty years of achievements, in service of our great Alliance.”

The future years of JFTC and the whole Alliance were highlighted in a keynote speech, delivered by H.E. Mr Viktor Elbing, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Poland.

“A lot of work is already being put into and is still ahead of us when it comes to comprehensive military preparations during peacetime. The execution of warfighting headquarters exercises, especially here at the JFTC, is of greatest importance, supporting and enabling us to defend our allied territory and our values”, said the Ambassador. He also added:

“General Wagner, let me congratulate to you and to your whole JFTC team – not only on the anniversary itself, but especially on the fact that your mission, reflected in your motto Transformation Through Training, is an essential, and in these demanding times, a crucial one. Today, proven by the presence of numerous NATO nations, the JFTC in Bydgoszcz is a symbol of cohesiveness.”

The NATO Joint Force Training Centre’s mission would be more challenging if it were not for the unprecedented support from the Host Nation and its regional and local authorities. General Wagner thanked them for their positive impact on JFTC’s work. In response, Mr Rafał Bruski, the Mayor of the JFTC’s host city, stressed: “I can assure you that we are willing and happy to continue our cooperation on projects that help the centre in its development and everyday operation in the area of building our collective feeling of safety. May all the efforts of your dedicated service always bring you deserved gratitude and personal satisfaction.”

The official ceremony was also a perfect opportunity to recognise excellence within the command. Two staff members received awards from the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and fourteen others were recognised with the NATO Joint Force Training Centre Long Service Recognition Award.

The 20th anniversary celebrations concluded with an unveiling of a commemorative plaque that links the history of the JFTC’s current location, which dates back to 1884, with the Centre and its mission.

The ceremony gathered JFTC staff members and close to 100 distinguished guests, including Mr Michał Sztybel, the Voivode of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship, Mr Piotr Całbecki, the Marshal of Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship, numerous ambassadors to the Republic of Poland, and military attachés. Also former JFTC Commanders, to include Lieutenant General Adam Joks, the current Commander of the 2nd Polish Corps participated in the event. Close friends of JFTC, Major General Artur Kępczyński, the Commander of the Polish Inspectorate for Armed Forces Support and Commodore Fernando Artilheiro, the Commander of the Joint Analysis and Lesson Learned Centre, also attended the ceremony along with many other Centre’s partners.

A concert of the Bydgoszcz Military Band, supported by their international friends from the Czech Republic, France and the United States, as well as a performance of the French Military Orchestra at the end of the event completed the day.

Military picnic

For the past 20 years, NATO Joint Force Training Centre has become an integral part of the Bydgoszcz’ landscape. While fulfilling its critical training mission, JFTC is consistently fostering relationships and cooperation with local authorities and population. The support, the Joint Force Training Centre has received from the Host Nation, Poland, the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship, the City of Bydgoszcz and from local citizens has been marvellous and has never ceased. This is why, the NATO Joint Force Training Centre wanted to celebrate its anniversary also with the local community.

On 22 May, JFTC, supported by the Inspectorate for the Armed Forces Support, together with the City of Bydgoszcz organised a military picnic. The event was held at the Bydgoszcz Old Market Square and on the Mill Island.

“Today’s celebrations have been planned in a form of this big, outdoor event, to thank you, citizens of this beautiful region and city to support us to feel at home here and for making our work easier and finally our nations safer. Everybody in Bydgoszcz should be proud of their individual important contribution to ensuring peace and freedom”, said Major General Norbert Wagner, the JFTC Commander, addressing the citizens of Bydgoszcz at the Old Market Square.

The celebrations were opened to the public, with performances by ceremonial units and military bands from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and the United States. Also, there was a display of military vehicles, a great attraction not only for children. Many of those who attended stayed until the end of the event despite heavy rain.