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U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Kirk W. Smith has been selected for the grade of major general and as commander, Special Operations Command Europe and director, special operations, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Kirk W. Smith has been selected for the grade of major general and as commander, Special Operations Command Europe and director, special operations, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany. (NATO)

STUTTGART, Germany — Air Force Brig. Gen. Kirk W. Smith has been tapped to serve as the next head of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, bringing recent NATO experience to the Stuttgart headquarters, the Pentagon announced Friday.

Smith, who has been selected for promotion to major general, now oversees NATO special operations efforts in Afghanistan out of Bagram Air Base.

Smith will replace Maj. Gen. Mark Schwartz in Stuttgart later this spring. Schwartz, who assumed command of SOCEUR in June 2016, will next serve as deputy commander for the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Smith comes to Germany at time of transition for U.S. Europe Command, which contends with a resurgent Russia in the east and instability to the south.

Along NATO’s eastern flank, U.S. special operations forces have been a quiet but steady presence as troops conduct a range of training missions with allies.

Smith graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1989. Before his current posting in Afghanistan, he was director of force management and development at U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters.

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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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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