Secretary Braithwaite, General Wolters, Air Chief Marshall Peach, General Townsend, General Harrigian and General Vollmer, General Farina, General Petrescu, General Floros, General Kolcaku, Admiral Cavo-Dragone, Admiral Prazuck, Admiral Jehan, Admiral Atallah, Admiral Rafinelli, Defense Minister Cuica, Ambassadors Eisenburg, Zuckerman, Talo, consul generals of many nations, our own Consul General Avery from Naples, Italy, fellow flag officers, ladies and gentlemen, buongiorno. Welcome to JFC-Naples. I want to thank all of you for coming today to honor Dr. Barbara Burke, Admiral Burke, Cindy Foggo, and myself. I know that you traveled long distances and it's even been more complicated with the coronavirus.
On the RSVP list today, I count at least 20 service secretaries, combatant commanders, chiefs of defense, and service chiefs. It's just incredible and you cannot know how much that means to Cindy and me.
And what a great Naples day – perfect time for a time-honored tradition marking the change of command! I can truly say that Cindy and I have loved our time here in Bella Napoli – what a perfect capstone to our naval career that has spanned almost four decades. It has been my greatest honor to serve as Commander of Naval Forces Europe, Naval Forces Africa and Allied Joint Force Command Naples. It has been an incredible three years and I want to thank my teammates for such a fantastic tour.
First, on the NAVEUR/NAVAF side, I’ve served with two fantastic 6th Fleet Commanders—Admirals Chris Grady and just departed Lisa Franchetti. I said goodbye earlier this week to our Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Matt Zirkle and I’d be remiss not to mention Rear Admirals Dwyer, Tynch, Gumbleton, Houston, Kott, Baze, Lacore, Williamson, and Lindsey, who have made my job so much easier in their significant contributions to U. S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa!
On the NATO side, I’ve been blessed with two of the finest Canadian deputies ever—Lieutenant Generals Christian Juneau and Omer Lavoie right here with me today. And like my two venerable Italian Chiefs of Staff here today— Lieutenant Generals Luciano Portolano and Antonio Vittiglio who serves in that sea today. And their performance, General Vecharelli, Sir, has been nothing short of unbelievable, and I thank you for the great Italian leadership you have sent here.
My NATO Flag and General Officers from the J1 to the J9 who stand before us represent the best and brightest strategic minds of NATO.
But at the tactical level, the staffs of ALL THREE organizations, the J-Codes, N-Codes, directorates—both military and civilian shipmates—have performed nothing short of miracles for our two U.S. Combatant Commanders and the NATO Chairman of the Military Committee and the Secretary of the Navy on the DAIS here today.
Special thanks to the entire OCOM staff, my staff from Commander Delmy Robinson and her team and protocol that put all this together. Command Sergeant Major Juergen Stark, Major (Promotable) Bill Gumabon--congratulations, Bill, Commander Johnnie Green and Lieutenant Colonel Sergio Cannes of the Italian Air Force, Sir, another great Italian officer. My Enlisted Aides, Master Chief Ferdi Garcia, back in the United States, Chief Manny Davilla who's here and CS1 Caroleeta Smith who is here today. Your incredible support has been instrumental in the achievements of our command and leading this team in the OCOM office has been my stalwart executive assistant for over three years, Captain Greg Pekari and his lovely wife Ebru who are about halfway down in the crowd there.
Thanks also to the Quartier Generale Italiano (QGI) and the Base Support Group (BSG) headed by Commander Marcello de Bonis and Colonel Antonio Galantino for their tremendous support. To Brigadier General Paolo Tarantino, I see him out there, and Colonel “Smurf” Ferramondo of the Italian Air Force, GRAZIE MILLE for your absolutely SUPERB support to both flight ops at Capo and utilization of the beautiful Air Force Academy facilities in Pozzuoli. While we were driving around last night in the commander’s barge and we went by the Air Force Academy, the Secretary of the Navy took note. Wow. What a great place to put an Air Force Academy.
Finally to the Navy regent and Captain Todd Abrahamson who was our NSA Commander who was flying COVID samples in his spare time all over the theater and Signor Francesco Coppola of Mirabella, which is the corporation that keeps our base in Gricignano running and has done absolutely incredible things throughout the coronavirus. Thank you. The International Club headed by Carolyn Deakin who's siting back there with her husband Gary Deakin. And the MWA, I can't thank you enough for your unfailing support keeping the MWA open and the food flowing out the door and medical supplies flowing out the door. And two major food drives, a couple of tons of food to charities of the Catholic church and families in downtown Naples.
Your performance during the coronavirus pandemic was unmatched. Bravo Zulu to all of you for a job well done. We've accomplished much together and I've had the honor of being stationed in Europe as the Secretary said five times. Three times here in Bella Napoli to include Commander Submarine Group 8 and Allied Submarine South. U.S. Naval 6th Fleet Commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO in Lisbon, Portugal. As you know, I am a staunch transatlanticist. Our Alliance is an enduring one. NATO has ensured 71 years of security, stability, peace in Europe. General Wolters talks about deter and defend in the Euro-Atlantic theater and shape and NATO are all about that. And we try to help them with that.
We had the distinct honor of welcoming our 30th member, North Macedonia to the Alliance with a ceremony here at the headquarters this spring. We are truly stronger together. As I look across the audience, I see incredible men and women representing the Alliance. It has been my greatest honor to be your commander. This headquarters, you right your own history. You have put Naples back on the map in the last three years. Together we've achieved historic milestones. I've been continually impressed by your resolute commitment, innovation and steadfast adherence to the ideals of the Alliance. We have faced many challenges and crises together. Each time our team has responded militarily. This is one of the most kinetic theaters in the world. We as Americans, partnering with Allies to face four of the five challenges listed in our U.S. National Defense Strategy, Russia, China, Iran and violent extremist organizations.
Allies launched kinetic strikes in Syria against a brutal regime violating international law by using chemical weapons against innocent civilians. We patrolled the seas from the Arctic to the Cape of Good Hope ensuring freedom of navigation so that trade can move swiftly and freely around the world. We flawlessly executed the largest exercise of the Cold War, the Article VI Collective Defense Scenario Exercise Trident Juncture. Fifty thousand Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, 70 big ships, 10,000 tracked and rolling vehicles all over the country of Norway. This included the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. The first time a U.S. carrier had operated north of the Arctic Circle in decades. Those of you that were here for Trident Juncture can attest to the fact that it wasn't easy.
We moved a tremendous amount of people, equipment, fuel, food and ammunition. Seven equivalent brigades in 30 days, and we did it during some pretty challenging weather and in some pretty remote areas. But we had a great team, that's all of you and we sent a powerful message as General Wolters gave us credit for. NATO is committed, capable--an Alliance ready to defend and deter anywhere, anytime. Our forces continue to prove that throughout the theater. We just completed Dynamic Trident, five ship surface action group with the United Kingdom up in the Barents Sea. First time that's been done in more than three decades.
And that presence is important because in the past decade, there've been some dramatic changes in this theater. Russian -- Russia has gone from participating, as exercise participants, in things like BALTOPS to demonstrating unjustifiable aggression as we saw in the Crimea and as we're now seeing with the militarization of the Arctic and the Black Sea. NATO remains committed to preserving peace and stability within its 360 degree approach. You heard SACEUR and CMC talk about that. We just had two war ships, U.S. war ships in the Black Sea, USS Porter and USS Oak Hill. We maintain a Black Sea presence for about two-thirds of the year and that's important. Our NATO Allies in the region are doing a terrific job.
Romanian Minister of Defense Nick Cuica, formerChief of General Staff and a friend of mine, Chief of Defense Daniel Petrescu of Romania are here today representing many of the Black Sea nations. Gentlemen, thank you for what you are doing. I was in awe of you and your generals during my battlefield circulation, during Naples blueprint where we all came up for a staff ride and a run through of GRP in your country. I was particularly impressed with NATO, Southeast and Multinational Division Headquarters soon to be a multinational division corps in Bucharest. We're seeing progress meanwhile in the western Balkans with our four security assistance missions. Working with institutions and Kosovo and our partners in the EU, UN, and OSCE, KFOR contributes to a safe and secure environment and helps ensure freedom of movement.
I've worked with four great Italian commanders, again, hats off to General Pacarelli, Generals Fungo, Cuoci, D’Addario and Risi who couldn't be here today. My hat’s off to Italy again for their professionalism and leadership. We've seen improvements in the Balkans as a result in public safety, epic relations and airspace normalization. We've seen great work in Headquarters Sarajevo, NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade and the Liaison Office in Skopje ultimately bringing North Macedonia into the Alliance. We've also established a NATO mission in Iraq and have brought NMI from initial operational capability to full operational capability as a training mission and part of the long standing relationship between the Alliance and Iraq.
NMI has a unique mission with both the non-combat training and capacity building focus designed to help strengthen Iraqi security forces and build military education institutions. Tremendous leaders like Canadian Generals Dany Fortin and General Jennie Carignan our first woman commander are downrange today and have led the way, and I'm very, very proud of our team there and we did -- I did my last video teleconference with them and Admiral Burke’s first yesterday. We've seen Russia and China vastly increase their activity in the Middle East and North Africa and that's why we're focused on the southern flank. Chairman of the military committee brought that up in his remarks.
We have the headquarters for NATO's Strategic Direction South, the Hub right here at JFC-Naples. We've seen quite a difference from the initial operational capability in 2017 to final operational capability and beyond. Each one of our Hub directors, again Italians General Angius, General Lax and now General R, have built upon the achievements of their predecessor, operating under the old African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ‘Nuff said!
The Hub brings people together through our webinars, study days, affiliation with think tanks and economic and military organizations on the continent. We're working with the African Union as we develop African solutions to African problems. It was right here that I met the most impressive Her Excellency Josefa Sacko from Angola, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture on the African Union Commission, one of only eight.
She asked for NATO's help with climate change, the blue economy and an African Early Warning System to take preventive action for things in the future. Disasters like the tropical cyclone which hit Mozambique hard about a year and a half ago. And we are doing just that ladies and gentlemen. Last November, we hosted delegates from the AU to include my friend Commissioner Smail Cherqui. We reinforced our relationship moving from support to cooperation, signed the first ever memorandum agreement to strengthen political and practical partnerships with the African Union. And we now have the NATO African Cooperation Project approved by the North Atlantic Council to move forward. It's not just ending there. Last fall, we hosted over a dozen FEMWISE members at this headquarters, right here in this parking lot from African Union.
The African Union started with the wise men and the wise council of Africa. They formed a committee called FEMWISE of professional women, diplomats and educators from all over Africa. They came here and we built the bridge with Claire Hutchinson, Special Representative of the Secretary General's Women in Peace and Security. Together, this bridge, just like the Transatlantic bridge, the bridge from Europe to Africa make for an incredibly, powerful combination. Through my Naval Forces Africa hat, we're working with countries in Africa to help protect their maritime domain. General Townsend has been a tremendous advocate and thank you for everything you've done, Sir.
I was in Ghana last July and working with our steadfast partners like Rear Admiral Seth Amoama and the Ghanaian -- he's the Ghanaian head of Navy and Ghana's Defense Minister Dominic Nitiwul. And we couldn't ask for a better relationship. It was a special trip for me. It was a big event down there and a jubilee celebration and Admiral Amoama gave me the most humbling compliment. I don't mind telling you about it. He remarked on my commitment to the African continent and the maritime domain for over a decade. He said, “Foggo, ten years. You're one of us. What day were you born on?” I said, “Well I was born on September 2, 1959.” He said, “No, what day?” I had to look it up on Google. I said, “Wednesday, Sir.” He goes “Wednesday. Well 10 years with us, you should have an African name.” I said, “thank you very much. I'm flattered.” He goes, “Your name will be Kwaku.” I said, “Kwaku,what does that mean, Sir?” He said, “The man who was born on Wednesday.” And I wear that name with incredible pride. You don't know how that -- how much that meant to me. I took one of our Petty officers, LS1 Tasoba from the Ashanti region of Ghana, with me.
The young man had been in the Navy, he'd only been an American citizen for about nine years and he had a rack of ribbons up to here and he was going to Bahrain to work for the Navy Seals. And it was their Defense Minister Nitiwul that told me, thank you for bringing this young American who came from the Ashanti region of Ghana. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate success stories of our people in your country like that, what a remarkable example of talent and diversity in our great Navy. And we've seen a significant difference in the maritime domain in awareness and maritime security and maritime law enforcement in Africa this past decade. Our Africa partnership station express series exercises are helping African partners build their own capabilities. Our own Chaplin Griffin who just departed the pattern spent time on the continent spearheading community relations, projects and things that are force multipliers alongside our CNE-CNA band.
Music brings us all together. We're committed to supporting our partners in the maritime domain and projecting and protecting their blue economies from threats such as illegal fishing, elicit trafficking and piracy. We've got a U.S. Coast Guard cutter coming over soon to participate in those activities in Cabo Verde. We ignore Africa at our own peril, and so this work must continue and I ask Admiral Bob Burke to do just that. We can only be successful by working together, and I started off today by telling you the men and women of Naval Forces Europe and Africa and JFC-Naples that you write your own history. And you have done so right here at JFC-Naples. My friend and author Magnus Nordenman of the Atlantic Council has a new book out.
It's actually doing very well. It's called “The New Battle for the Atlantic.” Chapter 11 is about you. It's what I've long called the Fourth Battle of the Atlantic. We must be ready for an era of increasing geostrategic competition. It will be vital for us to reaffirm our commitment to allies and partners and it makes NATO the bedrock of European and Transatlantic security. I can tell you from my role as commander, NATO Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy and commander, Naval Forces Europe and Africa, that we are definitely stronger together. Remember, for the Americans in the crowd. The only time Article V after 9/11 was when -- it was after 9/11 when our NATO allies were quick to contribute to the missions against tyranny and terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There is even a 9/11 memorial at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. It has metal from the World Trade Center in that memorial. Our Allies stood firmly with us then and they continue to do so today. So to all of you, my teammates, thank you for your hard work. I'm confident you'll continue your record of success in the capable hands of my good friend Admiral Bob Burke and Bob, I know you and Barbara will be met with the same incredible hospitality and impressive camaraderie that Cindy and I have enjoyed here in Bella Napoli. Thank you all again for being here, for making the time to be a part of the greatest team in NATO and while I don't have time to thank everyone and forgive me if I left anybody out.
Because I was told to be brief, I want to make a special thank you today to our Ombudsmen Sabrina Horacek and Michelle Middleton for the tremendous support that they have given to our Naples community. Ladies, please accept these flowers on behalf of a grateful community of Naples that you have served so well. Would you please give them a round of applause.