Saturday, 1st October 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the inauguration of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), the first NATO Rapid Reaction Land Force Headquarters.
The end of the Cold War brought optimism. However, with the chances of a cold war style threat receding uncertainties remained and quickly became apparent.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the collapse of Yugoslavia highlighted the need for collective security. It was clear that the threat was no longer solely in Germany facing east and would require a force that was able to travel “out of area” in order to react most appropriately.
A Rapid Reaction Corps was proposed by the British to meet this requirement. Formed from the remnants of the 1st British Corps the UK provided the framework, staffing sixty percent of the headquarters (HQ) roles and coordinating subordinate formations from Britain, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium. From its beginnings in Rhinedahlen, Germany, the ARRC has truly fostered the multinational unity of the Alliance, allowing expertise and relevance to be maximised.
A British soldier patrolling alongside German troops in Bosnia.
The ARRC’s first challenge came in November 1995 as part of the Implementation Force (IFOR), responsible for maintaining the ceasefire in Bosnia following the end of the civil war. Commanding three multinational divisions from France, the United States and Britain the ARRC ensured compliance amongst the warring factions along the 180km long ceasefire line.
1998 saw a rise in violence in Kosovo, and by the summer it seemed increasingly likely that intervention would be required. Five Brigades from France, Germany, Italy, the United States and the UK were initially allocated with a second Brigade added by the UK later, to bolster the force. Under the title of Kosovo Force (KFOR) the Corps deterred further Serbian intervention whilst establishing refugee camps and providing aid. The withdrawal of Serbian forces left a power vacuum which required command and control of agencies and militias to maintain the peace. ARRC provided that function until tensions calmed, and normalcy returned.
In 2006 the ARRC assumed responsibility for the HQ of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan bringing with it more firsts. It was the first time that all of the sectors of Afghanistan came under the command of a single HQ; the first time since World War 2 that a sizeable contingent of United States forces (45,000) came under a non-American commander in a time of conflict and the first time NATO forces had fought a combined arms battle when it attacked the entrenched Taliban position south of Kandahar. In order to undertake this task, the size of the HQ had to be doubled. Once again, the ARRC found itself working beyond the tactical.
Today, the ARRC is the UK’s largest deployable Land HQ it remains the UK’s contribution to NATO’s High Readiness Forces (HRF(L)) structure and is unique amongst all other HRF(L)s by falling under the direct Operational Command of Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) during peacetime.