Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove took command of U.S. European Command here today during a ceremony at the command’s headquarters with Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter presiding.
Breedlove succeeds Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the first sailor to hold the command. Stavridis is retiring following a 37-year career and has been named dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
Stavridis also will relinquish his NATO position as Supreme Allied Commander Europe to Breedlove in a ceremony scheduled for later this week.
Throughout his career, Stavridis has been one of the “most influential, creative, and forward-thinking leaders of his generation,” Carter said at today’s change of command ceremony.
Carter joked that Stavridis has always been quick to adopt new technology.
“When Jim was born, his first words to the world were, ‘You can friend me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube,’” the deputy defense secretary said.
Carter harkened back to the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, noting Eisenhower once said, ‘The peace we seek and need means much more than mere absence of war. It means the acceptance of law and the fostering of justice in all the world.’”
Stavridis’ leadership has brought the world closer to the peace that Eisenhower spoke of, Carter said.
“You have left an indelible mark on the Navy, NATO, and the United States of America,” Carter told Stavridis at the ceremony.
The deputy defense secretary said he’s confident that Breedlove “will represent the Air Force, EUCOM, and soon, NATO, with honor, distinction, and the highest standards of professionalism.”
Carter added, “Phil’s no stranger to Europe, and I know that our NATO allies and partners are looking forward to working with him again in his new role.”
Europe and the NATO alliance are “absolutely” important to the United States, Stavridis said. NATO, he said, is “the bedrock of security for Europe.”
Noting the extensive commercial and strategic ties between the U.S. and Europe, Stavridis said European values constituted the most important cargo that made the journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
“[They] came from the Enlightenment -- democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of education -- those are the values we share with this incredible pool of partners,” the admiral said. “For all of those reasons … we will always be joined with Europe.”
Breedlove was most recently commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Air Forces Africa and Allied Air Command and director of the Joint Air Power Competence Center. He was responsible for Air Force activities, conducted through 3rd Air Force, in an area of operations that included 105 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East covering more than 19 million square miles.
During his first assignment to Germany, Breedlove said, he learned how joint operations could be a force multiplier. Integrated, joint teams have proven to be the path to success many times throughout his career, he said.
In Europe, joint war fighting is now the rule, rather than the exception, Breedlove said.
“A well-trained, equipped and synchronized force is far better than the sum of its parts,” he said. “The U.S.-Eucom team demonstrates that by working together … we achieve huge success on behalf of our alliance and our respective nations and their citizens.”
Eucom was established in 1952 and is responsible for military operations and international military and interagency partnering to enhance transatlantic security and defend the United States forward.
It does this by establishing an agile security organization able to conduct full spectrum activities as part of whole-of-government solutions to secure enduring stability in Europe and Eurasia.