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Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command.

Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command. (Micahel Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

STUTTGART, Germany — Adm. James Stavridis assumed control of U.S. European Command on Tuesday, marking the first time a naval officer will lead the Army-dominated forces in Europe.

Stavridis, an advocate of so-called "smart power," is viewed within defense circles as one of the military’s more forward-looking commanders and leading intellectuals. Known for his penchant for learning the languages of the regions he’s working in and leveraging social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get his message out, Stavridis is frequently described as an innovator.

"The importance of seeing issues from the vantage point of another culture, I can tell you nobody works harder at this than Jim Stavridis," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said during the change of command at Husky Field.

Stavridis said he intends to draw upon his experiences abroad and from his previous post as leader of U.S. Southern Command for his new assignment.

"My whole life I’ve focused on trying to learn and understand other cultures, and I think that’s an important component in this world," he said.

Stavridis, who replaced Gen. John Craddock as commander of EUCOM, will need to employ all of those diplomatic skills when it comes to his role as supreme allied commander Europe, which he assumes Thursday.

Getting more NATO partners to step up for the fight in Afghanistan has proven difficult, with some member nations limiting the number of troops they are willing to commit and setting severe restrictions on the ones they deploy.

Following Tuesday’s ceremony, Stavridis said he hoped to get more contributions but that it was too early to take on any new initiatives.

"I’m very interested in finding additional and alternative ways the allies can contribute," Stavridis said.

Stavridis said he would soon make a trip to Afghanistan to meet with Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the International Security Assistance Force commander. Securing the local population and limiting civilian casualties will be the linchpin to success there, he said.

"The metrics (for success) are not in body counts," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who presided over the change of command, said Craddock should be credited for his "steady professionalism and forward-thinking leadership during a time of great consequence for the United States and our friends and allies in Europe.

"Under his leadership NATO has become a more expeditionary force, able to deploy in missions far from its traditional borders," Gates continued.

Related story:EUCOM comes under new command

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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