A soft drizzle didn’t dampen spirits May 10 as U.S. European Command welcomed its new commander, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, and bid farewell to Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, who is retiring.
Hundreds of military members and European dignitaries gathered at Washington Square on Patch Barracks for the mid-morning ceremony, presided over by Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense.
“Today we transfer command responsibility from one outstanding leader to another and recognize the accomplishments of the men and women of U.S. European Command over the past four years,” Carter said.
Ceremonial artillery fire marked the occasion with a 19-gun salute, punctuating the notes of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
Afterward, the battery commander presented Stavridis with a ceremonial artillery shell.
Carter explained how Stavridis is the first naval officer and the first Greek-American to serve as commander of U.S. Southern Command, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.
He described Stavridis as a “renaissance admiral.” Carter called Stavridis, a sailor, a statesman and a scholar.
“He’s one of the Navy’s most influential, creative and forward-thinking leaders of his generation,” Carter said.
Stavridis, a 1976 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, made his career as a surface warfare officer, spending 10 years at sea. He has led EUCOM and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe, since summer 2009.
As sunlight illuminated high clouds, a light mist fell. Stavridis, a Florida native, said where he’s from, that’s called “liquid sunshine.” He then turned to his successor with words of encouragement.
“You’ve had a lot of great seats in your life, in your high-performance aircraft and on your Harley,” Stavridis told Breedlove. “You’re about to sit at Eisenhower’s desk, in the seat of a lifetime. You will be superb, and I’m proud to turn this command over to you.”
With that, Fleet Master Chief Roy Maddocks, Jr., who served as Stavridis’ senior enlisted advisor, cased the admiral’s flag and uncased Breedlove’s flag.
During his remarks, Carter praised Breedlove for his previous leadership accomplishments, to include his most recent assignment commanding U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa.
“I have every confidence that he will represent the Air Force, EUCOM and soon NATO, with honor, distinction and the highest standards of professionalism,” Carter said.
Breedlove, a native of Forest Park, Ga., previously held U.S. Air Force leadership roles in Italy and Germany. During his speech, Breedlove highlighted the importance of cooperation with partners and allies in Europe.
“I will endeavor to continue the tremendous work of Adm. Stavridis to foster and strengthen partnerships both locally and across the region,” Breedlove said.
Afterward, in a discussion with reporters, Breedlove emphasized the role of family in military life overseas, using the analogy of a triangle — the mission is at the top, but the family is at the base.
“If we take care of our families and give them the things they need, it allows the [service members] to go forth and do their missions without worrying about what’s going on at home,” Breedlove said. “That’s the way I thought about every command I’ve had.”
For more photos of the change of command, visit the U.S. European Command website at www.eucom.mil.