STUTTGART, Germany — A soft drizzle didn’t dampen spirits 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 May 10 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.
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 Air Forces Africa at Ramstein. Breedlove will now also serve as supreme allied commander, Europe.
“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.
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.
Stavridis, a 1976 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, made his career as a surface warfare officer, spending 10 years at sea. He’s led EUCOM and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe since summer 2009.
As sunlight illuminated high clouds, a light mist fell. Stravidis, a Florida-native, said where he’s from, that’s called “liquid sunshine.” He turned to his successor with word 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 Stravidis’ senior enlisted adviser, cased the admiral’s flag and uncased Breedlove’s flag.
Breedlove, a native of Forest Park, Ga., highlighted the importance of cooperation with partners and allies in Europe.
“I will endeavor to continue the tremendous work of Admiral 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.”
To see more images from the event, visit www.eucom.mil/media-library/photos.