Admiral Takes Over Operations in ‘Vibrant, Important, Exciting’ Region
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
MIAMI, Oct. 19, 2006 Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis today took over U.S. Southern Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in 30 countries over 15.6 million square miles -- roughly one sixth of the surface of the world.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, right, commander of U.S. Southern Command, receives the unit guidon from Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a change-of-command ceremony Oct. 19 at the command's headquarters in Miami. The ceremony marks the first time an admiral assumes duties as commander of the unified command responsible for U.S. military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo by Spc. Mitchell Miller, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Dignitaries including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace attended the ceremony and praised Stavridis and outgoing commander Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, who will now assume command of U.S. European Command and of NATO military forces. High-level military and diplomatic officials from several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean also attended the ceremony.
“This is an area of the world that has incredible responsibility and significant challenges,” Stavridis said after assuming leadership of the command during a ceremony at the SOUTHCOM headquarters here. “It’s vibrant; it’s important; it’s exciting. My goal is to strengthen the bonds between the United States and all of our friends and neighbors to the south.”
Stavridis, most recently Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, drew the crowd’s attention to the colorful display of flags from nations within the command’s area of responsibility. The semi-circle of flags flapped in a rainbow of colors in the bright South Florida sun. “Just look at all those flags out there. Look at the colors. Think about the diversity, and the richness, the vibrancy of this incredible hemisphere,” he said.
Craddock praised SOUTHCOM servicemembers for their strong efforts to help others in the region. He noted that in his two years at the helm, SOUTHCOM troops have provided medical and dental treatment to nearly half a million people, completed 53 humanitarian construction projects, and responded to six significant natural disasters, providing hundreds of tons of relief supplies.
“In short, your efforts matter. They save lives, and they provide hope,” he told the assembled troops.
Rumsfeld was full of praise for both men, whom he has worked closely with. Craddock was Rumsfeld’s military assistant before Stavridis.
“Whether it’s counternarcotics or gangs or hostage taking or counterterrorism, each of these 21st century problems, difficulties, challenges require a very close working relationship among our nations,” Rumsfeld said. “A great many countries in our hemisphere understand this today, and they have come to understand it in no small part because of the leadership of General John Craddock in the Southern Command. His ability to make things happen has contributed to an era of growing cooperation here in this hemisphere.”
Rumsfeld said that over the past two years he has come to rely on Stavridis’ “counsel and his sound judgment, to my great benefit and to the benefit of the Department of Defense.”
“Jim, you are the right man for this important post, and it is an exceedingly important post and I know you will do a superb job for our country,” Rumsfeld said.
Pace, who led U.S. Southern Command before being appointed vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2001, also praised both the incoming and outgoing commanders and the “incredible civilians and military who work so hard here.”
“This command has been under General Craddock and will be under Admiral Stavridis in incredible hands,” Pace said.
In a brief news conference following the ceremony, Stavridis reiterated that he is thrilled to assume command of operations in such a vibrant region. “We are doing some amazing things in this part of the world,” he said. “I’m very focused on increasing our interaction with partners, on traveling in the region, connecting with counterparts, and doing everything I can to bring the Americas together.
“This is a terrific region of the world,” he added. “One in which the United States and all of our partner nations share a common heritage.”