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HEIDELBERG, Germany — Many generals are paid to be diplomats. But increasingly, younger troops will be relied upon to make friends through military good will, too, according to Army Lt. Gen. William E. Ward, the incoming deputy commander for the U.S. European Command.

“[Military diplomacy] is just as vibrant and strong throughout the different echelons,” Ward said.

“I’ve had a chance to observe it firsthand at many levels and in many places. Quite frankly, the sincerity of our most junior servicemen and women is as evident in the things they do as it is in our more senior members.”

Ward, most recently the U.S. Army Europe’s second-in-command, is scheduled to start his new job on Wednesday, succeeding Air Force Gen. Charles Wald.

Training missions in Eastern Europe and northern Africa in recent years have become a staple of the command’s desire to address what it calls the new “arc of instability,” which is east and south of the old arc posed by the former Soviet bloc.

Ward, 56, a Baltimore native and former infantryman, has experience dealing with instability. He was tabbed by the State Department to be U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He also served as a commander in the Balkans.

When younger troops have been called on to shoot bullets and break bread with people from places like Malia and Romania, Ward says they’ve been up to the job.

“It’s important for these nations, these militaries that we deal with,” to know that they will be treated with dignity and respect, Ward said. “I think that fact does a lot for opening doors.

“There is no question that when our young men and women engage with servicemen and women from other nations,” Ward said, “you get a relationship that’s absolutely heartfelt and sincere, and our partners know it.”

Part of Ward’s goal is to improve relations with existing allies and make new ones, “so that those of us with like-minded ideals and ideas continue to move forward in the best possible way.”

The U.S. has had mixed success in building and sustaining coalitions, at least when fighting wars.

The number of non-U.S. troops in Iraq has decreased from 50,000 after the U.S.-led invasion three years ago to about 24,000 currently, or about one-sixth the number of U.S. troops there, according to the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. The number of nations contributing decreased from 38 to 28.

In Afghanistan, the coalition is more balanced, with 35 nations having 9,000 troops deployed under the NATO flag, together with 19,000 U.S. troops.

Ward said that as long as the military treats its troops and families well, he believed they will be enthused about being sent to far-flung locales, whether it’s to fight wars or prevent them.

“They’re staying busy, but they doing what they came into the Army to do,” Ward said, speaking from his current perspective.

“As long as they’re being well-cared for and well led, and their well-being is there, we will see them perform in ways that says, ‘this is OK.’”


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