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Vice Adm. Richard K. Gallagher, deputy commander of U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said that EUCOM will focus on shoring up security issues in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former Soviet states.

Vice Adm. Richard K. Gallagher, deputy commander of U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said that EUCOM will focus on shoring up security issues in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and former Soviet states. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

STUTTGART, Germany — The Pentagon in recent years has taken thousands of troops away from Europe and moved them to the U.S.

That left the U.S. European Command with fewer boots on the ground to carry out its missions.

It established a new military command — Africa Command — that will take away 42 African nations from EUCOM’s area of responsibility.

Even with fewer troops to utilize and less land mass to oversee, the command still has plenty to chew on. Some nations of eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the strategic former Soviet states are still taking baby steps toward democracy.

For the remaining 95,000 or so troops of EUCOM, working with those nations and helping them become stable will be a primary job for years to come.

“That (stability) is what’s good for us, good for business, good for the United States’ central interests,” Vice Adm. Richard K. Gallagher, EUCOM’s new deputy commander and former head of its operations directorate, said Thursday in an interview with Stars and Stripes.

“Kinetic operations (war-fighting) are not what we desire, and is not the major feature of what we do on a daily basis. We of course have to be prepared for the uncertainties of the future.”

If EUCOM forces are succeeding, Gallagher said, then war-fighting is less likely. Nations are talking with each other, commerce is free-flowing but regulated, and people are too safe and satisfied to warmonger.

“We think in a regional sense, to help those individual nations and their militaries increase their capabilities,” Gallagher said.

More multination exercises are desired, such as “Combined Endeavor,” where troops practiced together on jobs such as command, control and communications, and “Rescuer,” where troops practiced disaster response.

The command this year has asked the Pentagon to stop removing troops from Europe.

“I’m not sure that I would subscribe that peace has broken out everywhere (in Europe), and everybody needs to come home to the United States,” Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. Army Europe, said last week.

Gallagher said troops based in Europe are better located to work on European-based missions such as military-to-military training while at the same time being available to deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan or other war zones.

Sometimes that would mean deploying with the very troops with whom the United States’ Europe-based troops are training.

“The need to operate in a coalition environment is going to always remain,” Gallagher said. “We don’t fight alone. We have very good friends and allies alongside us now and who will be alongside us in the future. That needs to continue.”

The 55-year-old command, along with the NATO alliance, was steeled during the Cold War of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

The war-focused alliance had 300,000 or more U.S. troops based in Europe to protect West Germany, France and other nations from the former East Germany and the Soviet bloc.

In the future, the slimmed-down European Command plans to be peace-focused by helping nations to be able to secure borders, protect seaways and disrupt terrorists and other criminals.

“If they are increasing their (gross domestic product), if they’re making supply lines more secure, more stable, faster and more efficient from a business case, it’s better for us,” Gallagher said. “You decrease the instability and worrying and concern in an area.”

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