NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) has been certified as the alliance's Warfighting Headquarters - the first time there has been such an HQ since the Cold War.
The Corps was given the status after completing Exercise Loyal Leda, proving its ability to command tens of thousands of multinational troops in support of the alliance.
The three-week exercise involved troops showing proficiency across all five military domains - air, land, sea, cyber and space.
Nearly 25 years ago, ARRC deployed on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia and the completion of Exercise Loyal Leda means they could again be sent on operations of a similar scale.
Lieutenant General Roger L Cloutier Junior, Commander of Allied Land Command, stressed the importance of the milestone to the alliance.
"As ARRC assumes its role as the NATO Warfighting Corps Headquarters we need to put it through its paces, and the exercise was a multidomain exercise focused against a near-pier adversary, that tested all the warfighting systems within the Corps Headquarters," he told Forces News.
"Everything from employing fires, artillery and aviation, to logistics, you name it.
"The Corps had to work hard, fight through many challenges and the exercise is complex, it’s challenging and it’s designed to get them ready to assume this role.
"This is the first time since the end of the Cold War that NATO has certified and put a guidon in the hands of a Warfighting Corps Headquarters, so by doing that we certify that Allied Rapid Reaction Corps is NATO’s Warfighting Corps Headquarters and it stands to watch, ready to respond in the event of crisis."
ARRC Commander, Lieutenant General Sir Edward Smyth-Osbourne, explained why this was the only time certification has been given since the Cold War.
He told Forces News: "The Allied Rapid Reaction Corps owes its immediate origins to First British Corps which was part of the British Army of the Rhine.
"Given the circumstances of that time, that was generally seen to be a Warfighting Corps Headquarters and since the fall of the Berlin Wall that requirement changed.
“And although we have trained and certified many headquarters in NATO over the last 30 years, they tend to have been optimised for what we call crisis response operations and they have fulfilled different roles that were specific to the challenges and the security threats of the time.
"This is different because 30 years on, we are once again using some of the tactics, the techniques, the procedures that we applied during the Cold War but it’s back to the future with a difference.
"We are dealing with a different environment, a different challenge and a very significant development of technology and information."
Lt Gen Smyth-Osbourne added: "Many would say that in recent years we have seen the return to great power competition, but without the rules and we are part of the underpinning security blanket that allies and partners, if required, could rely on should the need ever arise."
The ARRC will maintain high readiness until January 2022 when it will hand over the role and the Warfighting Corps guidon to NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps in Spain.