The Székesfehérvár-based Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C) and its support element demonstrated their preparedness on the international Exercise Strong Bastion 2023 in late June. The VIP Day of the large-scale event was held in Varaždin, Croatia on Thursday, 29 June with the attendance of Lieutenant General Dr. Gábor Böröndi, Chief of the HDF General Staff, his Croatian counterpart Admiral Robert Hranj and Slovakian Deputy Chief of Defence Major General Peter Babiar.
Some two and a half years ago, three Central European countries launched a project of outstanding significance in the field of defence, with the intention of contributing to NATO’s general capabilities, strengthening regional security and demonstrating their preparedness to represent effective deterrence in the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. To this end, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia initiated the establishment of Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C) as a tactical-level command and control (C2) element.
HQ MND-C is currently in the last phase of the Combat Readiness Evaluation (CREVAL) process that started this February, the central element of which is the international Exercise Strong Bastion 2023, being conducted by the organization between 19–30 June at venues in Croatia and Hungary. This computer-assisted command post exercise (CAX-CPX) is based on a fictitious scenario: the staff of HQ MND-C is planning, organizing and controlling the operations of a division-level military element. The activity of the more than 220 participating soldiers drawn from the personnel of HQ MND-C is being assessed by 50 NATO evaluators. The Headquarters NATO Rapid Deployable Corps – Spain (HQ NRDC-ESP) is playing the role of the Higher Control (HICON), while the staffs of the Lower Control (LOCON) are made up of Slovakian, Croatian and Hungarian soldiers.
“Some years ago, we started setting up Headquarters Multinational Division Centre. Five to six years have passed since the idea until the present evaluation of our operational capability. I think that this is a very quick tempo, but at the same time, we should not forget that it was preceded by solid professional work. The support received from the Croatian side, as well as the joining of the Slovakian partner and the other nations – for example, Turkey and Spain – were very important factors” – told Lieutenant General Dr. Gábor Böröndi, Chief of the HDF General Staff to the press on the VIP Day of the exercise in Varaždin, where Major General Denis Tretinjak, Commander, HQ MND-C gave a comprehensive update.
“What have we been able to achieve with this? On the one hand, we have demonstrated that our staff officers are suitable for a division-level capability, and on the other hand, that together with the partners, the founding nations, the Hungarian Defence Forces are able to establish and operate a headquarters that is not only an important matter. I could say that several years ago, we already envisaged the future, since the Russo-Ukrainian War is now going on in our neighborhood, and NATO did not earlier have any division-level C2 elements in this region”, said the Hungarian Chief of Defence in answer to a question from the press, and went on noting that besides and as part of their preparation, the soldiers of the ten nations had to face challenges such as the war that broke out on 24 February 2022, which has prompted never-before-seen planning processes in the Hungarian Defence Forces and in NATO as well. “At the same time, we can see that our well-trained soldiers can take this division-level headquarters to Full Operational Capability with adequate commanders until the deadline that is the end of this year”, added the lieutenant general.
According to the Chief of the HDF General Staff, this exercise is at once a kind of examination in the world of the military. “We could say that the exam tests have been given on this occasion, too, since the exercise setup for the soldiers involved an unfolding armed conflict near the borders of Hungary. They have successfully demonstrated how the Slovak, Croatian and Hungarian forces can ward off armed clashes and what positions they take. Today, our staff officers and staff NCOs have shown that they are adequately prepared for performing the task. Our soldiers and comrades gave outstanding reports in English. They have acquired, know and interpret the NATO procedures. As chief of defence, it is a great honor and pleasure for me to see Hungarian soldiers working and using English at such a high level in international environments”, said Lieutenant General Dr. Gábor Böröndi in praise of the personnel.
Besides the military leaders, also in attendance on the open day were CSM Zoltán Kaszab, Command Sergeant Major, Hungarian Defence Forces, Brigadier General Tibor Králik, Deputy Commander, HQ MND-C and Lieutenant General Krzysztof Król, Chief of Staff, Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum.