STUTTGART, Germany — Six U.S. European Command deputy commanders spent the past two days visiting their former headquarters and brainstorming on ways to make the command better.

The six commanders who attended the roundtable discussions dated back to retired U.S. Air Force Gen. George Eade, who was a deputy commander from 1972 to 1975.

“The changes are amazing, but transformation was always a part of EUCOM,” said Eade. “We were always thinking about transformation … even during the Cold War. EUCOM has always been a growing organization.”

During the 1970s, for example, EUCOM was looking at new ways to be responsive to situations in Africa and the Middle East, he said.

Bringing back the retired generals — this is the third time EUCOM has had such a reunion — is a good way for the current command to recall its history, they said.

Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Lawson said the visit was akin to showing “those who are taking care of the trees now … how the root got there and what started it.”

In addition to Eade and Lawson, the other former deputy commanders who attended were retired Navy Adm. Charles Abbott, retired Air Force Gen. Thomas Richards, retired U.S. Air Force Gen. W.Y. Smith and retired Air Force Gen. James P. McCarthy.

They also talked about how the emerging threat to the United States has changed from the Soviet Union to terrorists, and that they were more comfortable with the former Soviet Union in that role.

“They were predictable,” Smith said. “But now the world is much more unpredictable.”

The deputy commanders said they knew the former Soviet Union would eventually implode, they just thought it would happen later in time than when it did.

Smith, who was deputy commander from 1981 to 1983, said that during his tenure EUCOM was working on transforming as it looked at forging ties in North Africa with Morocco and Egypt. Increased ties with Morocco followed after Spain joined NATO.

One of the most interesting things the former commanders said they discovered during two days of briefings was how strongly advances in technology have affected the command, particularly in communications and command and control.

McCarthy said the advances are important because they have given the current EUCOM DCINC an edge his predecessors never had in being able to make decisions with his staff quickly.

Although the primary focus of EUCOM has gone from fighting the Cold War to combating terrorism, the role of the headquarters remains the same.

“Headquarters has the same responsibility although the mission has changed,” McCarthy said. “Headquarters does what it’s supposed to do, but what has changed is the speed of how you plan how to do it.”

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