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emarks by General Tod Wolters at Defender Europe 21 Opening Ceremony and Distinguished Visitors Day
May 4, 2021

A U.S. Air Force officer speaks at a podium outdoors in front of a display of U.S. and Albanian flags

President Meta, Prime Minister Rama, ministers, distinguished guests, flag officers, and most important, the wonderful citizens of Albania. It is an honor to be in your presence and so nice to be home in a nation who treats its guests just like their brothers and sisters and sons and daughters.

Let me extend my heartfelt thanks to this great nation for what you’ve done and what you will continue to do to generate peace in the region and throughout Europe. Let me offer my condolences to all of those impacted by COVID-19 and let me thank this great nation for its discipline and its vigilance in leading from the front to ensure that this pandemic does not materialize into a security crisis. And as you know better than I, we still have a long way to go, but with your demonstrated expertise to beat the pandemic, we will be successful. This pandemic will not morph into a security crisis.

I want to extend my thanks to the military and to the nation for its willingness to host this international military exercise. As you well know by now, the task is daunting and what we’re attempting to do is improve our strategic transparency and alignment, something that hasn’t been done with this scope and scale since the 1940s.

As we stand here on this tarmac and we look at the shoreline, we can’t help but remember what took place in World War II, the Sicily landings, D-Day, the Normandy invasion, ship to shore logistics. As we look at the pieces and parts and stand and sit on this tarmac, we realize what a daunting and difficult task it is and what we will demonstrate today is wet ship to shore logistics, joint wet ship to shore logistics, very, very complicated.

We do so in typical NATO fashion with sound force protection provided by this nation and with U.S. and UK soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines engaging in a demonstration to improve their readiness. Our hope is this: that after today’s demonstration and after this exercise, each and every one of us are a little bit more responsive, a little bit more resilient, and a little bit more lethal, and I’m convinced that we will accomplish this task.

As has been stated before, Defender Europe 21 spans over 30,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines from numerous NATO allies and nations, well over 25 countries and its purpose is to test our mettle in the full gamut of experiences that we engage in in the military. Throughout Defender Europe 21, we’ll take a look at what’s called joint forcible entry, we’ll improve our integrated air and missile defense, we’ll engage in live fire exercises and we’ll culminate with a command post exercise. And those events force us to improve our muscle and our intellect, but at the end of the day, we hope and we know that we will improve our readiness in all domains.

Let me close by thanking this nation for what you do. This nation is an exporter of security, and the reason we can comfortably say that is the campaign momentum that you have demonstrated, from your accession into NATO in 2009 to the present, has provided us a more secure Albania, a more secure southern hub, a more secure Balkans, a more secure Mediterranean, and a more secure Atlantic.

We are safer today than we ever have been. You prove day in and day out that we are stronger together. Thank you very much.