Dunford Presents Legion of Merit to NATO Military Committee Chairman

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the Legion of Merit to Czech Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, during a ceremony here today.

More than 250 service members participated in the ceremony at Whipple Field. The clear, cold day gave great views over Washington and next door Arlington National Cemetery. The Legion of Merit is the highest award American leaders can bestow on foreigners.

Pavel has served as chairman of the Military Committee since June 2015 and his time as chairman coincided with NATO reemphasizing deterrence in the face of a growing Russian threat. The alliance also had troops in contact in Afghanistan and joined the effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Leading Through Challenges

His first mission was to shepherd the decisions made at the 2014 Wales Summit through the Military Committee to ensure the implementation of those decisions was on course. This included the alliance readiness action plan to ensure the allies were prepared for the challenges of collective defense in the 21st century.

Pavel’s time also marked NATO’s growing cooperation with the European Union. Cyber operations, increasing reliance on space assets, discussions about needed military capabilities are just a few of the issues Pavel steered through the committee.

He is the first chairman to come from a nation that was part of the Warsaw Pact. Before serving in Brussels, he was the chief of the general staff of the Czech army.

“General Pavel superbly navigated NATO’s Military Committee, including national military representatives and national chiefs of defense, through the most challenging period in the alliance’s recent history,” the Legion of Merit citation states.

Pavel will relinquish the job of chairman to British Air Marshal Stuart Peach on June 29.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)