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European edition, Wednesday, August 29, 2007

IZMIR, Turkey — Lt. Gen. Maurice “Lee” McFann doesn’t expect to be leading an allied air campaign anytime in the next 10 months.

From now until July 1, 2008, the Allied Air Component Command Izmir — under McFann’s leadership — will serve as NATO’s Response Force, meaning if something bad happens, the Turkey-based unit will lead the alliance’s aerial reaction. For instance, an attack on a NATO member could trigger an air campaign.

But “that is extremely unlikely these days,” McFann said. The alliance hasn’t participated in such an action since 1999 in the skies over Yugoslavia.

“Not going to happen,” he said. “But you have to be prepared for that. That is why we do the exercises and train.”

While McFann believes such a conflict is unlikely, he sees a much greater chance of his command taking charge of a different kind of mission.

“If there is a natural disaster, and NATO decides to become involved and there’s an air part to it, this command will lead the way,” he said during an interview in his office on Monday.

Since the inception of the Response Force, the alliance’s two major missions have been to assist earthquake victims in Pakistan and to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

If such an event happens during NRF 9 (July 1 through Dec. 31) or NRF 10 (Jan. 1 to July 1, 2008), NATO will rely on three component commands to organize and direct its assets. Izmir would manage the air response, while similar commands in Naples, Italy, and Madrid, Spain, will handle the maritime and land assets, respectively.

During each Response Force rotation, alliance member nations are expected to supply enough troops to fulfill requirements. McFann, who took over the command in Izmir last summer, said the actual number of troops committed to the current rotation is only about half what it’s supposed to be.

That’s because he believes alliance countries would quickly contribute the necessary forces if they are needed, he said. Having the full complement of forces identified, though, would probably save some time if a crisis occurs. It would also allow more opportunities for joint training for the troops already committed.

“That really bothers a lot of people,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me.”

While the current NRF rotations have become a main focus of the command in Izmir, it is still responsible for coordinating daily flights over the Balkans and routine air security over member nations along the Mediterranean.

McFann said that while much of his command’s time is spent planning for scenarios that might not occur, it is involved in a variety of daily missions that often turn out to be routine.

Migrated
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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