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A significant moment in military history

Text: Péter Snoj | Photo: by the author |  12:56 April 3, 2023

On 31 March, the attainment of Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of the Hungary-based Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C) was declared in the framework of a solemn ceremony held in Székesfehérvár, where – besides several Hungarian and international invitees – also in attendance were Defence Minister of Hungary Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky and Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD, Chief of the General Staff of the Hungarian Defence Forces.


Among those visiting Hungary to attend the event were General Christopher G. Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Luigi Gugliemo Miglietta, Commander, NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, Mario Banožić PhD, Minister of Defence of Croatia, Admiral Robert Hranj, Croatian Chief of General Staff, Marian Majer, State Sectetary of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, Lieutenant General Ľubomír Svoboda, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Slovakia and the leaders of NATO HQ MNDs.

On 30 March, the first day of their two-day visit to Székesfehérvár, the participating members of international and Hungarian delegations paid a visit to Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C), where their introduction to the headquarters was headed by Major General Denis Tretinjak, Commander, HQ MND-C, who provided them with information about the road from the establishment of the organization to its achieving Initial Operational Capability. The report of Major General Tretinjak to MoD Parliamentary State Secretary and Deputy Defence Minister Tamás Vargha, HE Dr. Mladen Andrlić, Ambassador of Croatia and Marian Majer, State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic also outlined what needs to be done in order to achieve the next milestone, Full Operational Capability (FOC).


Next day, the Hungarian and foreign political representatives were welcomed with military honors in Városháza Square, Székesfehérvár. In what followed, the formal declaration of the Initial Operational Capability attained by the Headquarters Multinational Division Centre took place during a ceremony held in the Szent István Cultural House. In his speech, Major General Denis Tretinjak underlined the utmost importance of the day to all members of the headquarters, since it marked the completion of nearly three years of work. He recalled that the project had been initiated by three nations with a view to contributing to regional security. He added that the headquarters, at which they can look with pride today, had been built from scratch. Speaking about attaining Initial Operational Capability, he stated that the achievement of this goal at once provides opportunity for further development.


In his speech, Defence Minister Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky called the day a significant moment in military history and highlighted that Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Christopher G. Cavoli’s personal presence was not only honorable but also conveyed a message, as it shows that we are on the right track, and assures us that Hungary is a valuable member of the Alliance. He also pointed out that Hungary has been a NATO member country for more than 20 years now, and during these two decades, it has built up its presence in the Alliance step by step. He also noted that the security of Europe has fundamentally changed, which, among others, has also induced NATO to change. This process can be detected even today, for example in the successes of the HQ MND-C. The Minister of Defence of Hungary said thanks to all those nations whose members have contributed to and worked for the establishment and development of this headquarters.


Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić expressed his pride when he said that it was a great pleasure for him to see the Croatian, Hungarian and Slovak officers and NCOs working together. He added that this cooperative work is exactly what the Alliance needs. Also referring to the supporting nations, he stated that the headquarters shows well how unified this Alliance is.


According to Slovak Defence State Secretary Marian Majer, the challenges we are facing today are such that we have never thought that we would have to tackle them someday. With reference to the risks posed by the Russo-Ukrainian War, he added that for this reason, we need to further strengthen security and our eastern borders. He said that HQ MND-C is a very important building block in allied cooperation and in the strengthening of regional security.

This milestone at once meant the official organizational handover-takeover of the Hungarian and Slovak NATO Force Integration Units (NFIU HUN and NFIU SVK) to HQ MND-C. To symbolize this significant event, the commanders of the involved military organizations handed over the unit colors of the two NFIUs. Speaking about the event, General Luigi Gugliemo Miglietta, Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum said that the day was a milestone of utmost importance, and it had taken only ten months for the headquarters to achieve it. All this shows the dedication and aptitude of all the women and men serving at HQ MND-C. Moreover, General Miglietta also thanked Hungary for hosting this special military organization.


While speaking at a press conference that closed the visit of foreign delegations to Hungary, the Minister of Defence of Hungary stated that not only has Hungary been a member of NATO, but the Alliance has come to Hungary as well. “Today we are writing military history: just as we did in 2019, when the then government made a very important decision about establishing the Headquarters Multinational Division Centre”, stated Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky. He underlined that this had been a wise and good decision, which showed great foresight. Since then, this headquarters has achieved Initial Operational Capability. From now on, the goal will be the attainment of Full Operational Capability.

Slovak State Secretary Marian Majer thanked Hungary for all its efforts made in the interest of establishing the Headquarters Multinational Division Centre. He called the attainment of Initial Operational Capability a very important step taken in the interest of enabling our nations to defend the Central European region. He stated that the framework nations (Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia) stay committed to the continuation, and added that we are also prepared for defending the region.


The Headquarters Multinational Division Centre is a tactical-level command and control element, which ensures the integration of the arriving NATO units and capabilities into a larger tactical formation. Beyond that, it is capable of contributing to allied and regional security through providing command and control across the full spectrum of land operations. In October 2022, the headquarters received the document proposing the declaration of Initial Operational Capability – signed by Lieutenant General Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi PhD, Chief of the General Staff of the Hungarian Defence Forces, Croatian Chief of Defence Admiral Robert Hranj and Slovak Chief of Defence General Daniel Smeko. In February this year, the SACEUR declared the attainment of the capability.