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The outgoing commander of U.S. European Command, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, left, watches as Army Secretary Mark T. Esper passes the command's colors to incoming commander Air Force Gen. Tod. D. Wolters at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019.
The outgoing commander of U.S. European Command, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, left, watches as Army Secretary Mark T. Esper passes the command's colors to incoming commander Air Force Gen. Tod. D. Wolters at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
The outgoing commander of U.S. European Command, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, left, watches as Army Secretary Mark T. Esper passes the command's colors to incoming commander Air Force Gen. Tod. D. Wolters at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019.
The outgoing commander of U.S. European Command, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, left, watches as Army Secretary Mark T. Esper passes the command's colors to incoming commander Air Force Gen. Tod. D. Wolters at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Servicemembers of the U.S. European Command salute during the change of command ceremony in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019.
Servicemembers of the U.S. European Command salute during the change of command ceremony in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper and Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters enter the parade grounds at the beginning of the U.S. European Command change of command ceremony in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Wolters took over the command from Scaparrotti at the ceremony.
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Army Secretary Mark T. Esper and Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters enter the parade grounds at the beginning of the U.S. European Command change of command ceremony in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Wolters took over the command from Scaparrotti at the ceremony. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Outgoing U.S. EUCOM commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti receives a ceremonial shell casing from the salute battery at the U.S. European Command's change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019.
Outgoing U.S. EUCOM commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti receives a ceremonial shell casing from the salute battery at the U.S. European Command's change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
The new commander of the U.S. European Command, Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, speaks at the change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Wolters took over the command from Scaparrotti at the ceremony.
The new commander of the U.S. European Command, Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, speaks at the change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Wolters took over the command from Scaparrotti at the ceremony. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
The U.S. European Command color guard marches off at the conclusion of the change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Watching the proceedings at left in the background is the new EUCOM commander Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters who took command from U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.
The U.S. European Command color guard marches off at the conclusion of the change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Watching the proceedings at left in the background is the new EUCOM commander Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters who took command from U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Sgt. 1st Class Andre Goncalves, the drum major for the joint U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Air Forces in Europe band at the U.S. European Command change of command ceremony salutes as distinguished visitors leave the parade field at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, following the ceremony.
Sgt. 1st Class Andre Goncalves, the drum major for the joint U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Air Forces in Europe band at the U.S. European Command change of command ceremony salutes as distinguished visitors leave the parade field at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, following the ceremony. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
The incoming commander of  U.S. European Command, Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, salutes during the playing of the German and American national anthems at the change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019.
The incoming commander of U.S. European Command, Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, salutes during the playing of the German and American national anthems at the change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, Thursday, May 2, 2019. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)

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.

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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