Stavridis Assumes Top European Command Post From Craddock
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2009 Adm. James Stavridis today became the first Navy officer to assume the top post at U.S. European Command.
Left to right, Navy Adm. James Stavridis, Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates share a light moment prior to a change-of-command ceremony at U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, June 30, 2009. Craddock relinquished command of Eucom to Stavridis, who also takes over as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Stavridis also will serve as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.
Speaking during change-of-command ceremonies at Patch Barracks here, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praised Stavridis, former commander of U.S. Southern Command, as a visionary leader to carry forward important groundwork laid by the retiring Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock.
“Jim Stavridis is a true sailor-scholar whose strategic vision and diplomatic expertise make him the leader we need at this command at such a critical junction in the history of the transatlantic alliance,” Gates said.
Gates called this year’s 60th anniversary of NATO an opportunity to take stock of the member nations’ shared history, challenges and sacrifices – and their current mission in Afghanistan.
“Today, the transatlantic alliance faces new challenges, and new stresses and strains that will test our credibility, resolve and shared purpose,” Gates said. “An alliance that never fired a shot during four decades of the Cold War now has thousands of troops deployed thousands of miles from the heart of Europe, many coming under fire as we stand here today.”
Conceding that the outcome and duration of the war in Afghanistan remain uncertain, Gates said he’s confident Stavridis “will lead our brave men and women with honor and do right by them, just as General Craddock has over these past three years.”
Gates offered high praise for Craddock’s accomplishments during the past three years at the helm of Eucom and NATO.
“His tenure since taking command at Eucom and NATO has been one of steady professionalism and forward-thinking leadership during a time of great consequence for the United States and our allies and partners in Europe,” Gates said.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared Gates’ assessment of the “simply amazing” evolution within NATO and Eucom under Craddock’s leadership.
During Craddock’s tenure, NATO became a more expeditionary force, deploying and conducting missions far from its traditional borders, Gates said. Meanwhile, NATO expanded its role in combating nontraditional threats such as narco-trafficking and the proliferation of deadly weapons. Albania and Croatia entered the alliance, and the mission in Kosovo transitioned from United Nations to European Union management. NATO also reformed its command structure and redesigned its response force.
Meanwhile, Craddock assisted in the standup of U.S. Africa Command to focus specifically on the African continent. Mullen recognized Craddock for contributing talent and resources from his own staff to stand up the new command.
But particularly significant, Gates said, has been Craddock’s support for the mission in Afghanistan. During the last two years, 36 countries in the Eucom area of responsibility have increased their assistance to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
“General Craddock accomplished all this while having nearly half of Eucom’s forces deployed in direct support of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gates said.
“The trajectory of General Craddock’s career, in many respects, tracks some of the most important missions the U.S. military has undertaken over the past two generations,” Gates said. “Through solidarity and steadfastness of purpose – and the service and dedication of millions of allied men and women in uniform like John Craddock – that famous gap to our east was never breached.”
Craddock paid tribute to the more then 84,000 servicemembers assigned to Eucom – troops he said “have worked hard day in and day out,” setting a standard of excellence for others to follow.
Calling his people “ordinary people doing a hero’s job,” he told them their contribution has been significant. “You have made a huge difference,” he said.
As Stavridis takes the helm at Eucom, Mullen said, he’ll bring the same ability to see issues from other culture’s perspectives that he demonstrated at Southcom. “He taught commitment by showing commitment to people of the region,” he said.
“Partnership is what this command is all about,” Stavridis said, noting that the partnership here is built on trust, confidence and shared experience. The challenges facing the region, he added, will only enhance those partnerships.
Stavridis said he was humbled to accept his new post, looking back on the long legacy of generals who have gone before him.
“I can’t help but think about the height of the bar I must achieve,” he said, joking about his own short stature.
Turning to Craddock, he thanked the general for “walking point” here and at other shared junctures in their careers. “We can only hope to build on what you have accomplished here,” he said.