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MARCOM - Admiral Sir Clive Johnstone Change of Command Speech


SACEUR, First Sea Lord, Ambassadors, fellow Commanders, Ladies and Gentlemen, MARCOM, may I first wish you the very warmest welcome to this bitter sweet moment for Ali and I – the Change of Command Ceremony of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command. 

Bitter because this is a Command of which I am deeply proud  and fond and I am heavy hearted to handover the reins, BUT sweet because Ali and I are handing over the command to a really wonderful new Command team – to Vice Admiral Keith and Deborah Blount. 

I can’t think of a better wingman to handover something so precious nor a team so well prepared and so equipped for the task. 

Keith and Deborah our very warmest welcome and congratulations.

70th Anniversary.

And it’s also a celebration, a celebration of an Alliance on its 70th Anniversary.  70 years of peace – an incredible achievement and legacy.

Thank you.


May I second say thank you; to SACEUR and First Sea Lord for being present and presiding over this ceremony;

to the Royal Marine Band, to the Royal Air Force Honour Guard for making this so special – ladies and gentlemen this was maritime and air power at its most splendid – you are a credit to your Uniforms and Service.

To you all, especially Ambassadors, National Commanders and Representatives for making the time to attend today – for honouring Keith, NATO and myself and the whole maritime enterprise. Your presence makes me deeply respectful and proud.

If I can be deeply personal for a moment I would like to thank my ‘battle buddy’ Admiral Lisa Franchetti – Commander of the Striking Force NATO and US 6th Fleet for changing her programme to be here;

My long term and very dear friend Admiral Ron Lloyd the Commander of the Canadian Navy for flying to this ceremony yesterday and flying back tomorrow – Ron, you have had a fabulous command yourself and it is so good to see you.

And Donnato Marzano – CHINCNAV of the Italian Navy – terrier of the Mediterranean – than you for escaping the fires of Rome for a day to be here. 

Finally it is a great honour to be joined by Mr Jan Koperniki and his lovely wife Jennifer  - Jan is my wisest, most trusted and most important of mentors; Jan, thank you for finding the time to be here.

Finally thank you to my MARCOM team for organising this and for making my departure, these past couple of weeks so special.  Herve, Eugenio, Gunnar, Rob, Jim and Warrant Officer Lee Carr as well as all the Protocol team – Thank You.

I was honoured some 10 days ago to attend the Change of Command of SACEUR himself. 

In it, the outgoing SACEUR – the wonderful General Curtis Scaparrotti, one of the greatest leaders I have ever worked for, noted that he was proud of the heavy lifting that NATO had achieved. 

That despite politics, bureaucracy and friction NATO had woken up and had modernised.

He was right – under his leadership we have changed the very heart of NATO.

In MARCOM and right across the Maritime Enterprise we now focus on Operations; just think there are six NATO Task Groups at sea patrolling all waters around the Euro-Atlantic Area; I haven’t counted today but I suspect it will add up to 25 or so submarines and warships on patrol – protecting our freedom.  They are present and credible ….. quite a force.

We have changed our behaviour like an athlete wanting to win  – we are leaner, fitter, and more focussed.

We offer Nations presence, reassurance, deterrence  and protection – but also value for money, and a return on investment – ships, people, aircraft and submarines join NATO and return to their respective nations better, more experienced and sharper. 

We have done this together – across the seas and the oceans, with friends and allies. 

I am incredibly proud of my relationship with Admiral Franchetti and Admiral Woody Lewis (the new Commander of the US Second Fleet and NATO’s Commander of the Joint Force Command Norfolk); proud of NATO’s Maritime Higher Readiness Force Commanders and Staff and proud of friendships across the Alliance and with some of our partners.

And we have done this together – ladies and gentlemen – your people, our people are fantastic.  I now understand the meaning of talent – it’s not lantern jawed and arrogant – it comes in every form you can imagine and always delights and surprises.  Diversity makes it strong, difference makes it exciting.

This has been formidably hard work – it’s needed patience, resilience and the odd spot of raw courage. We have re-set the equation BUT – and this is why there is the prayer at the back of your leaflet – a prayer that I always carry in my notebook – we must recognise that we are only at the beginning. Any thoughts that we are done are sadly misplaced.

To quote perhaps the greatest leader of modern times – Winston Churcill – "Now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end.  But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

At the same change of command ceremony another commander who holds my deepest respect and real friendship – our SACEUR, General Tod Wolters highlighted the importance of freedom and its value and cost.

He and I have spoken about this many times before – that we cannot assume that freedom is a gift that we can expect for the next 70 years – we need to earn it and we need to understand that this will come at a cost.

This includes our whole hearted commitment to the protection of peace, our preparedness to operate at the margins, outside of our own expectations of ability, outside of the constraints of vulnerability, national caveats and anxieties.

This needs a new life force to take it forward, a new Commander – new leader’s new staff officers with renewed commitment. 

So I now step down, proud of what we have achieved but just as proud to handover to a friend who I know will carry the Flag of Command right into the heart of the cauldron of the battlefield.

Before I finish, no thank you will ever suffice for my Commander in Chief – my rock, my confidant.  I have always had a friend standing beside me on the Bridge as we have sailed into battle.   As I relinquish this command in MARCOM I humbly submit my orders to her – to My Alison Johnstone.

To her and to you all,

Thank you.

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