Former Sheffield student who became UK armed forces chief lands top role at NATO

A former University of Sheffield student who went on to become head of the UK's Armed Forces has been elected into a top NATO role.

Monday, 18th September 2017, 3:45 pm
Updated Monday, 18th September 2017, 3:50 pm
Sir Stuart Peach. (Photo: PA).

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chief of defence staff, will take over as chairman of the organisation's military committee from June next year.

The role involves chairing meetings of all the alliance's military chiefs as well as advising secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "That Air Chief Marshal Peach has been elected to this position by his fellow chiefs of defence across Nato underlines the esteem in which he is held by his peers.

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"No one understands better the challenges that Nato faces and I am sure that he will serve the alliance with the same professionalism and rigour with which he has furthered Britain's interests throughout his distinguished career.

"While Sir Stuart's appointment is testament to his ability and achievements, it is also a demonstration of the leading role that the UK plays in Nato and the importance of the alliance to the UK."

Sir Stuart, a father-of-two from the West Midlands, was commissioned into the RAF in 1977, and flew Canberras and Tornados, serving in Iraq, Belize, Hong Kong and Germany. In 2011, he was in command of the UK's intervention in Libya.

Sir Stuart graduated from the University of Sheffield in 1977 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Geography, Economic and Social History – receiving the G P Jones prize in Economic and Social History.

Not long after his graduation, he was commissioned into the RAF - his first major role involving flying photographic and strategic reconnaissance missions. He later led British Forces in Kosovo in 1999 for which he was decorated.

Since 2000 Sir Stuart has worked in intelligence, providing mission support for RAF operations. In 2013 he was elected Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff and in 2016 went on to succeed General Sir Nick Houghton as Chief of the Defence Staff.

Throughout his career, Sir Stuart has always valued education, completing a Master of Philosophy degree at the University of Cambridge, acting as Director of Defence Studies for the RAF, and editing and publishing numerous articles.

For his contributions to UK defence and to NATO peacekeeping operations in the Balkans, he was the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Sheffield in 2007. He was also awarded a GBE (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire) in 2015.

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, said: "At a time of significant tensions and conflict around the world, the role of Chairman of the Military Committee for NATO carries with it the upmost responsibility.

“Having served as the Chief of Defence Staff for the United Kingdom's Armed Forces, Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach brings with him to this task enormous experience and a commitment to European security. I wish him the very best as he carries out this crucial responsibility.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said: “It is a huge honour to have been chosen to be the next Chairman of the Military Committee, one of the most important positions in NATO, central to European security.

“I am excited to take on this next challenge at such an important time for NATO, at a time when the alliance must modernise to face new and ever adapting threats.”

It will be the first time a Briton has been chairman of the military committee, a role currently held by Czech general Petr Pavel, for 25 years.