SHAPE Celebrates 60 Anniversary

Since its official activation in Paris on 02 April 1951, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) has been a pillar of strength and security for the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Today, SHAPE celebrated its 60th Anniversary with a ceremony during which Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), addressed the SHAPE military and civilian personnel and their families.

"We have moved into an era where we have found ways to cooperate with former foes,” Admiral Stavridis told the crowd packed into the PAO Auditorium on SHAPE. "This is part of the legacy of SHAPE moving forward. The world has moved on, but our ability to impact it and be a force for good continues.”

During his speech, Admiral Stavridis underscored the significant role that SHAPE has played over the years, especially highlighting some of SHAPE and NATO's major accomplishments following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Cold-War.

Admiral Stavridis touched on NATO's expanding role in the international arena, such efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, and creating partnerships and taking part in humanitarian efforts around the world. Afghanistan remains NATO's top operational goal, and Admiral Stavridis spoke of cautious optimism about progress being made there. NATO's role continues to expand with its recent decision to take over operations in Libya in support of the United Nations Security Council Resolution to provide humanitarian assistance, enforce the arms embargo and no-fly zone and protect the people of Libya.

Not only has SHAPE played an important role in contributing to 60 years of collective security, but it continues to be engaged and relevant. "The operational expansion of SHAPE and NATO is very significant and tells the story of the extraordinary hard work that happens here,” Admiral Stavridis said. "Collective defence is what this alliance is about. But NATO is also a force for good in the world. That is part of the legacy of SHAPE.”

At the end of the speech, Admiral Stavridis took a moment to recognise 12 officers at SHAPE for their outstanding work in the strategic operation planning group. The entire SHAPE community was then invited to a reception following the event.

As SHAPE celebrates, it has a chance to look back on a proud history of service to NATO during the Cold War, but especially this even busier period afterward. During the more than two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, SHAPE has faced new challenges, taken on new missions, integrated new members, worked with new partners, and emerged as one of the key assets of the international community in efforts to restore stability in crisis areas in Europe and elsewhere.

SHAPE was officially founded on 2 April 1951 as part of an effort to establish an integrated and effective NATO military force. It soon set up its first headquarters at Rocquencourt, France under SACEUR Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1967, after France's withdrawal from NATO's integrated military structure, SHAPE was relocated to Casteau, Belgium. During its six decades, SHAPE has had 16 SACEURs overseeing its military operations. Each SACEUR has been charged with guiding SHAPE's military efforts through the Cold War and beyond, and made an indelible impact on the overall security and defence of the Alliance. SHAPE saw the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961 during the heart of the Cold War, and the momentous opening of the wall on 9 November 1989, marking the beginning of a completely new and radically different era for the military headquarters. Over the years, the military headquarters has overseen a number of important military operations and missions to safeguard the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty and beyond, including current operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, counter-piracy off the horn of Africa, counter terrorism in the Mediterranean, and most recently Operation Unified Protector, NATO's response to protecting the civilian population in Libya.

As SHAPE celebrates 60 years, it continues to take on key roles in ensuring Alliance security and stability. SHAPE has taken on new missions, has integrated new members, worked with new partners, and emerged as one of the key assets of the international community in efforts to restore stability in crisis areas in Europe and elsewhere.

[Source: OTAN, Allied Command Operations, 01Apr11]

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