Australian NATO embed juggles 1200 positions
4 September 2018
It is human resources with a multinational flavour for an Australian officer deployed to Afghanistan.
Headquarters Resolute Support Deputy Chief of Personnel, Wing Commander Ivan Benitez-Aguirre, is responsible for management of about 1,200 NATO personnel in the headquarters of the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
With 41 troop-contributing nations working across the country, his main role is to ensure the positions are suitably manned by participants with the correct skills.
Wing Commander Benitez-Aguirre liaises with senior national representatives daily to ensure their nations’ interests are met, such as gaining more military experience in operational roles.
“I also manage the civilian personnel who work for NATO in Afghanistan, which includes providing support for their honours and awards, casualty reporting and performance management,” he said.
“I work with a team of five military and five civilian personnel and our role is challenging and exciting.”
The structure of Resolute Support is reviewed yearly in March through the operations, planning and institutional development divisions who look at the requirements for the mission.
The revised structure is then sent to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe which broadcasts the available positions to the contributing nations.
In May each year the nations meet at the Global Force Generation and Manning Conference, where the positions are established to be manned by July.
At the latest summit, NATO welcomed the two new troop-contributing nations, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Wing Commander Benitez-Aguirre said Australia’s enduring commitment to Afghanistan began with the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force mission in 2001.
“Resolute Support was established in 2015, as a non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, who assumed nationwide responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.
“Its purpose is to help the Afghan security forces and institutions develop the capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner,” he said.
Australia contributes about 300 personnel under Operation Highroad to Resolute Support.
“There are around 40 Australians embedded within Headquarters Resolute Support which includes Army, Navy, Air Force and Defence civilians,” he said.
“We have personnel who are planning, operations, intelligence and communications experts in the main branches of the headquarters.
“These range from a senior clerk who provides support to billeting through to senior officers who provide direct assistance to Commander Resolute Support, Gen John W. Nicholson Jr.”
Wing Commander Benitez-Aguirre said the Australians’ skills and influence were valued.
“The feedback I get from other nations is the Australians are motivated, multiskilled, have a strong work ethic, are good leaders and think outside of the box,” he said.
“We also have a good sense of humour which helps us generate camaraderie and make great friends.
“It’s satisfying to hear how the NATO headquarters staff appreciate the work done by the Australians.”
Wing Commander Benitez-Aguirre said the structure of the Headquarters Resolute Support had changed in the last six months.
“At the recent NATO Summit, Allied leaders committed to sustaining the mission until conditions indicate a change is appropriate instead of a timeline and agreed to support the financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces through 2024,” he said.
“This meant the original headquarters structure was not what was needed and was redesigned.
Headquarters Resolute Support is now based on operational effects, such as strategic guidance, institutional development, regional development, future reintegration of internal combatant forces and election support.
More than 16,000 personnel from NATO member states and partner countries are deployed in support of Resolute Support.
The Resolute Support mission is the NATO-led non-combat, train, advise, assist mission in support of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in particular the Afghan National Defense Security Forces and relevant Afghan institutions, to develop their capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner.