U.S. Army Gen. Carter F. Ham assumed command of U.S. Africa Command from Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward during a ceremony March 9 at the Stadthalle in Sindelfingen.
Ham is the second commander of U.S. Africa Command, which was established in October 2007. In October 2008, AFRICOM became the U.S. military’s sixth and newest unified combatant command, coordinating U.S. military relations with more than 50 nations in Africa.
“Those of us who are privileged to serve today often say that we have the great honor [of] walking in the footsteps of giants. Today, as Christi and I follow Kip and Joyce Ward, that phrase has never been more meaningful to me,” Ham said.
“I know we’ll face many challenges — some of those we can see very clearly today, while others will emerge in unexpected ways and in unexpected places. I remain wholly confident that the Africa Command team will meet each and every one of those challenges with agility, imaginative thought and unselfish dedication. My fundamental belief is that we can and will accomplish more when we work together with our African partners,” he added.
Ham brings diverse experience to the command from his former positions, including serving as the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducting peacekeeping operations in Macedonia and commanding troops in northern Iraq. In his most recent position, he served as the commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, headquartered in Heidelberg.
The change of command ceremony was attended by approximately 700 people, including staff members and dignitaries from the U.S., Germany, and other European nations.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright provided opening remarks.
“When we first announced the creation of AFRICOM, with its regional focus and institutional inclusion of [the Department of] State and USAID personnel, there was, to put it mildly, a certain amount of skepticism,” Gates said.
“Some feared the command represented the first steps to a major U.S. military presence in Africa; others, that it would lead to an unacceptable militarization of U.S. foreign and development policy. But, as I said then, and still believe, when crime, terrorism, natural disasters, economic turmoil, ethnic fissures and disease can be just as destabilizing as traditional military threats, we need to fuse old understandings of security with new concepts of how security, stability and development go hand in hand.
“From the moment he took command, Kip Ward demonstrated the worth of this concept by keeping his eye on the mission — promoting African security by building the capacity of partner nations and organizations,” Gates continued.
Cartwright talked about how Ward and his wife, Joyce, always recognized people as the priority — both in Africa and at the command.
“Africa: It’s a vast continent with tremendous natural resources, but its treasure is its people. And that is something that Gen. Ward has brought to this command since its stand up in October of 2007. This continent has over 50 countries, over a billion people. But its people are where he focused this command, and where this command has led from the front,” Cartwright said.
In his last address as U.S. AFRICOM commander, Ward thanked the many people who supported and contributed to the creation of the command, giving special mention to those who were there from the beginning in the command’s early establishment phases.
He also emphasized that U.S. military engagement and relationship-building have shown significant results through people-to-people contacts.
AFRICOM has undertaken “a series of military engagements where Soldier by Soldier, Sailor by Sailor, Airman by Airman, Marine Corpsman by Marine Corpsman, Coast Guardsman by Coast Guardsman, we make a difference,” Ward said.
The difference is “not because we teach someone how to shoot straight or how to drop a bomb accurately or how to drive a ship in the right direction, but because by partnering with our friends and teammates, they see the best of America — an American service man or woman. They get to know us, and they say ‘Hmm, that is OK.’ And there is no greater evidence of that today than what is going on in the northern tier of this continent,” he added, referring to recent upheavals in several northern African nations.
During the change of command ceremony, Gates quoted Ward in noting that “African leaders are no longer asking, ‘Why is AFRICOM there?’ but ‘What can AFRICOM do to help?’”
Gates presented Ward with a Defense Distinguished Service Award for his leadership and accomplishments as the AFRICOM commander.
Ward’s wife, Joyce, an active volunteer in the Department of Defense and local Stuttgart community, also received a Distinguished Public Service award.
Joyce Ward championed quality-of-life initiatives for military service members and their families to include an annual forum called the U.S. Africa Command Families on the African Continent that gives command staff and U.S. military family members living in Africa a venue to express quality-of-life challenges and provides them with updates on the command’s activities.
She also frequently traveled to Africa with her husband in support of a variety of humanitarian efforts.