CASTEAU, Belgium — Allied Forces North Battalion bid farewell to Lt. Col. Bonnie S. Kovatch and welcomed Lt. Col. Joseph H. Johnson III during a ceremony June 9 at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
“In these moments of change or acceleration, I think it is helpful to pause and remind ourselves of who we are and where we come from,” said Kovatch during her farewell speech to her command.
“We are the AFNorth Battalion! We are 495 Soldiers, civilians, and our families supporting 15 separate NATO organizations in 22 different locations across 13 countries - at the same time.
“That's hard. That's complex. That's incredible!
“And when I think about how we win, I think of each of you, of the values that forge us together - the values depicted in our unit's insignia, of which I have grown quite attached.
“The shield and sword depict the unity of Europe's Armed Forces, and their readiness to act, if required. Readiness to act means we are good teammates.
“We are supportive and accountable to each other, this unit, our sister battalion in the South, our higher headquarters, and our NATO partners.
You are all good teammates; you all wear a few different hats, carry a few additional duties, volunteer within your communities, and do the important, often unnoticed, under appreciated work of running this battalion.
“Readiness to act also means we are actually ready - that we are disciplined, individually, and as a collective to maintain ourselves, our equipment, and our daily practices as we prepare for the future.
“The black and silver throughout the insignia emphasize this point by symbolizing around-the-clock vigilance and military preparedness. Over the last 24 months we have demonstrated that vigilance by not only ensuring our Soldiers within NATO's Rapid Reaction Corps were deployable but by creating and training our own procedures around their deployment.
Kovatch goes to the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at Fort McNair followed by an assignment at Department of Defense J3 at the Pentagon.
Johnson comes to AFNorth from the Pentagon where he served as the chief of officer accession at Department of the Army G1.
“Thank vou for placing your trust and confidence in me to lead AFNorth Battalion Soldiers, civilians and the care of their families,” said Johnson. “I am humbled and blessed. It is truly an honor.
“I am thrilled to be standing here as your AFNorth battalion commander. It's a blessing to be here in Belgium again. We are very excited to integrate with the SHAPE community and the communities throughout the AFNorth footprint.
“Lieutenant Colonel Kovatch, thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you've done to ensure we had a successful transition.
“You are exceptional to our corps, and a genuine professional in every sense.
“You have truly set the bar as a leader, and I am honored and blessed to have spent this short time working with you.
“I want to thank everyone who had a hand in putting this ceremony together.
“Although the Soldiers in formation only represent a small portion of this great organization.
“You look great, and your execution on the field demonstrates the discipline and professionalism of our great Army.”
Col. Troy V. Alexander, U.S. Army NATO commander, served as the presiding officer for the ceremony.
“Thank you all for sharing in this momentous day and attending this important occasion marking the transition moment of two amazing leaders,” said Alexander.
“Today, Allied Forces North Battalion, one of two leading U.S .Army battalions responsible for ensuring the readiness, care and support of personnel assigned to the complex, geographically dispersed NATO formation and their families is saying goodbye to their commander, Lt. Col. Bonnie Kovatch, and welcoming a new leader, Lt. Col. Joe Johnson III.
“When you look at AFNorth’s accomplishments over the last two years, it’s apparent that Bonnie and her team have contributed vastly to the readiness of not only the USA NATO team, also the greater NATO environment and international community here in Europe.
“Under LTC Kovatch’s leadership, the battalion has been recognized for everything from their forward-thinking training concepts to top-notch preparation and active family and unit support.
“Under LTC Kovatch's leadership, the battalion created mission essential tasks that focused training efforts and developed battalion battle drills that ensured her unit was prepared to support NATO's increasing mission needs.
“Further, she initiated the battalion's deployment operations rehearsal of concept drill, which became the standard for the deployment of the 1st German-Netherlands Corps, Rapid Reaction Corps-France, and the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, United Kingdom as these deployable corps shared rotations as NATO's Strategic Reserve headquarters.
“These mission focused, people oriented initiatives are a true reflection of the caliber of caring leadership that Bonnie has as well as the can-do spirit of the Soldiers, civilians and families of AFNorth despite the tyranny of distance.
“Bonnie, I am incredibly proud of you and your team’s accomplishments over the past two years! Well done.
“Now as we say farewell, we also say welcome.
“Today, the AFNorth battalion will be gaining a truly great leader as we welcome Lt. Col. Joe Johnson III and his family.
“Joe is a proven leader who has demonstrated consistent potential in volatile, uncertain and complex times, Joe is an alum of the USA NATO environment and is known to be a leader that respects and values his team
“I am confident he'll bring great ideas and enthusiasm to the AFNorth Battalion and we can feel confident that this battalion is getting an outstanding new commander.”