Wolters looks to push 'competitive advantage' in Europe
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 2, 2019
STUTTGART, Germany — Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters assumed command Thursday of U.S. troops in Europe, where the military has expanded its mission in recent years to counter a more aggressive Russia.
During a change-of-command ceremony at U.S. European Command’s Stuttgart headquarters, Wolters said his aim is to build on gains in combat readiness over the past three years.
“We are excited about maintaining this positive campaign trajectory,” Wolters said. “We will continue to fortify our stance and stead and push our competitive advantage as high as humanly possible.”
Wolters, previously the U.S. Air Force commander in Europe, replaced a retiring Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti. On Friday, Wolters also will formally take up his dual position as NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe.
For three years, Scaparrotti led U.S. and NATO forces in a mission that has focused largely on deterring an increasingly assertive Russia. To that end, the U.S. has boosted its presence along the alliance’s eastern flank, with rotational forces and multinational battle groups in Poland and the Baltics. Under Scaparrotti’s leadership, allies also have expanded operations in the Black Sea region.
The ceremony in Stuttgart was officiated by Army Secretary Mark Esper, who 25 years ago served as a company commander under Scaparrotti, who was then a battalion commander based in Vicenza, Italy.
“I was impressed with his leadership then,” Esper said.
Esper described Scaparrotti as a visionary leader who “revolutionized” the Army’s global response force as a commander with the 82nd Airborne Division, held key commands during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and led U.S. Forces Korea during a turbulent time.
“As you’ve always done you’ve made it matter at this command too, adapting it to the challenges of the time and strengthening EUCOM’s network of allies and partners,” Esper said.
Esper presided in Stuttgart in lieu of Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, who remained in Washington to monitor the crisis in Venezuela.
Scaparrotti, a 1978 West Point graduate, said the past three years have been about preparing NATO forces to fight and defend alliance territory.
“During this time we enhanced our military posture for effective deterrence and defense,” Scaparrotti said. “Our ability to fight and control our forces and allies in high intensity conflict significantly improved.”
Scaparrotti called Wolters a “brilliant leader and experienced warrior” who was the right choice to carry the mission forward.
Wolters told the forces assembled at the Stuttgart parade ground that their mission is unchanged.
“As this formation well knows, these activities — deter [aggression] and generate peace — are solemn perpetual goals,” he said.