French Air Force Colonel Eric Asselin, center, deputy director and acting director of the NSD-S Hub, briefs staff during an Aug.18, 2017, meeting. British Royal Navy Commander Alex Bush, top left, and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Michael Nunziato, top right, were both members of the Hub’s Implementation Assessment Team.(Photo by U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Mark Patton)
Story by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Patton
NAPLES, Italy – With the past six months spent figuring out the structure, manning, budget and workings of the NATO Strategic Direction South Hub, the staff of the new center are now ready to focus on results and making connections.
The NSD-S Hub, under the roof and lead of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, is designed to analyze a variety of complex issues to include destabilization, potential terrorism, radicalization, migration and environmental concerns. The new center will concentrate on southern regions to include the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel, sub-Saharan Africa and adjacent areas, waters and airspace. The Hub aims to foster relationships and work with agencies outside of traditional NATO military structures.
"There’s this wonderful African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” said U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard, commander of JFC Naples.
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Michael Nunziato, who started working with the Hub in February as part of the Implementation Assessment Team and will continue on with the new center providing analysis, said involving stakeholders outside of the military structure is critical to the Hub in providing holistic analysis and recommendations.
"That proverb is about expanding the team and expanding the team on a level that we’ve never thought about before,” Nunziato said.
Hub officials cite Article 2 of the 1949 NATO treaty and say the new center should be an organization that aims to create security, foster a stable environment and promote well-being around the globe.
"It’s an organization, I think, that’s going to do something different than what NATO is normally used to, and that’s bridging the gap between the military way of thinking and the diplomatic way of thinking,” said Nunziato about connecting with actors from a variety of backgrounds such as regional development and crisis handling experts, academics and non-governmental organizations.
British Royal Navy Commander Alex Bush said the key to the Hub’s success is the relationships formed with these groups.
"Non-NATO entities, non-military actors and partner nations bring a wealth of experience and knowledge that we can’t envisage necessarily from a western point of view,” Bush said.
He also touted the team’s already demonstrated ability to work together towards a goal.
"If we encourage an environment where nobody has the monopoly on good ideas, then you’ll create an environment for success,” Bush said.
Nunziato said the first words that new members of the Hub team are told are ones of a mind change.
"You’re in the Hub because of your experience and your skillset, but we want you to use that experience and skillset to think outside the box now,” Nunziato said.
The former naval flight officer turned foreign area officer also said building trust and asking the non-NATO stakeholders what the Hub can do for them is going to be a crucial step as the new center develops.
Canadian Army Chief Warrant Officer Dean Griffin will act as the Hub’s senior enlisted leader, and he attended the European Security Seminar-South in Germany earlier this year. It was at this seminar where Griffin said he realized his strictly military take on events was just one piece of a complex puzzle.
"It’s a different perspective, which is very enlightening,” Griffin said of the non-NATO speakers and attendees at the event. "The attendees of the seminar itself were exactly what the Hub is looking for.”
Bush said being a part of the Hub’s IAT team and eventually a knowledge fusion manager in the Hub is a unique challenge.
"It’s a great opportunity which not many people get to do in military circles or NATO, and that’s to start something from concept and develop it, grow it and see it through to the final stages,” said Bush. "The enormity of the task with the relatively few people we’ve had just goes to show the dedication, commitment and enthusiasm of the team.”
U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Leverion Wynn agrees.
"Everything that I have done during my 20 years of service had already been done before,” said Wynn. "It’s an exciting experience seeing everything come together within the Hub from scratch.”
The Hub has its opening next month, and the NSDS- Hub is on pace to reach final capability at the end of the year.
"Now, we’re getting into the chair ready to go,” said Griffin. "There’s a job description, but there’s no history because we’re building it.”