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Cohen Announces New Chiefs for Europe, Korea Commands

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, Republic of Korea, July 30, 1999 – Defense Secretary William S. Cohen has announced command selections for U.S. European Command and U.S. Forces Korea.

Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, currently vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will succeed Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark as commander in chief, U.S. European Command, and as NATO's supreme allied commander, Europe. Ralston will assume the position in April 2000.

Army Gen. Thomas A. Schwartz, currently commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., will succeed Army Gen. John H. Tilelli Jr. as commander of U.S. Forces Korea. Tilelli is scheduled to retire Dec. 9.

These are the first of several commander in chief positions opening up next year at the military's nine unified commands, according to a senior defense official. Based on standard two- year rotations, Atlantic Command, Central Command, Southern Command, Special Operations Command, Strategic Command, and Transportation Command are all due for new leaders soon. Not affected are Space Command and Pacific Command.

Clark, a native of Little Rock, Ark., served as commander, U.S. Southern Command for a year prior to becoming European Command's chief in July 1997. He was due to leave the position in July after serving a two-year term and a one-year extension. Cohen elected to cut Clark's extension short by a few months, however, to retain Ralston, who was slated to retire Feb. 29.

"I made a determination that Gen. Ralston would be the appropriate person to fill the SACEUR's position next year," Cohen said during a late-July trip to Japan and the Republic of Korea.

As vice chairman, Ralston is the nation's second highest ranked military officer. By regulation, the general could only be kept on active duty for 60 days without assuming another command. Ralston, who had intended to retire, had made it clear to the secretary that the SACEUR position was one of the few jobs he would accept to remain on active duty, the official said.

At a July 28 press conference in Tokyo, Cohen commended Clark for his outstanding performance in his dual-hatted role as U.S. European Command chief and NATO's top commander in Europe. The secretary specifically praised Clark for all his work in bringing stability to the Balkans.

The Army armor officer was on the team that helped negotiate the Dayton peace accord to end the war in Bosnia. As SACEUR he's commanded the peacekeeping force in Bosnia, as well as the successful air campaign against Yugoslavia to end the killing in Kosovo. The secretary also praised Clark for commanding the peacekeeping force in Kosovo, which is playing such an important role in bringing stability to that province.

Cohen said he chose Ralston as Clark's successor because the Air Force general possesses the same strong diplomatic skills and war fighting capabilities. "I believe that General Ralston, if confirmed for that position, would also bring the same talents to the position," the secretary said.

Ralston entered the Air Force in 1965 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program. His career includes operational command at squadron, wing, numbered air force and major command as well as a variety of influential staff and management positions at every level of the Air Force. He also held a variety of positions related to the requirements and acquisition process.

Prior to assuming the vice chairman's position in March 1996, Ralston served as commander of the Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va. A command pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours, including 147 combat missions over Laos and North Vietnam, he holds a master of arts degree in personnel management from Central Michigan University.

Cohen announced Tilelli's retirement during a July 29 visit to Seoul. Like his successor, Tilelli headed Forces Command prior to taking command in Korea. At a press conference following meetings with local government leaders, Cohen saluted the outgoing commander, from Holmdel, N.J.

"For nearly three years, General John Tilelli has worked hard and successfully to improve cooperation and to strengthen our combined forces," Cohen told reporters. "He has distinguished himself during some very difficult times. I want to take this opportunity to thank him for the extraordinary contribution he has made to peace and stability."

Cohen said President Clinton will soon nominate Schwartz to succeed Tilelli. The secretary said the Army four-star is "another fine military officer" who agrees with his predecessor's philosophy that strength is achieved through alliance. "Let me say that our alliance has never been stronger, and that in large part is also due to General Tilelli's magnificent services to our country and to the security of the region," Cohen said.

Prior to assuming command at Forces Command, Schwartz served as commander, III Corps and Fort Hood, Texas. The St. Paul, Minn., native graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1967 and was commissioned an infantry second lieutenant. He holds masters degrees in education, personnel management, and national security and strategic studies from Duke University, Salve Regina and the Naval War College.

Schwartz served as a platoon leader and company commander in Vietnam with the 82nd Airborne Division and as a tactical officer at West Point. In past tours, he served as operations officer with 1st Battalion, 31st Infantry [Mechanized]; as chief of staff, Combined Field Army ROK/U.S.; and as commander of the 4th Infantry Division [Mechanized] and Fort Carson, Colo.

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