Subscribe
Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges , commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, the new commander of the 21st, ride in a jeep while trooping the line at the TSC's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges , commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, the new commander of the 21st, ride in a jeep while trooping the line at the TSC's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges , commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, the new commander of the 21st, ride in a jeep while trooping the line at the TSC's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges , commander of U.S. Army Europe, and Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, the new commander of the 21st, ride in a jeep while trooping the line at the TSC's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

National and Army flags and colors of various units of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command are brought together during the unit's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

National and Army flags and colors of various units of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command are brought together during the unit's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble the incoming commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, and outgoing 21st commander Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, salute the American flag during the playing of the national anthem at the TSC's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble the incoming commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, and outgoing 21st commander Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, salute the American flag during the playing of the national anthem at the TSC's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges hands the colors of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command to its new commander, Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, during the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges hands the colors of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command to its new commander, Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, during the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, speaks at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe, speaks at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, speaks at the unit's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. O'Connor is retiring from the Army after 30 years in uniform and two years as commander of the 21st.

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, speaks at the unit's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. O'Connor is retiring from the Army after 30 years in uniform and two years as commander of the 21st. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

A dog handler tries to calm his military working dog during a change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the U.S. military's largest logistics unit in Europe.

A dog handler tries to calm his military working dog during a change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, for the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the U.S. military's largest logistics unit in Europe. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble gives his first remarks after taking command of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command in a ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble gives his first remarks after taking command of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command in a ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing head of the Army's 21st Theater Sustainment Command, watches as his former soldiers march by at the end of the unit's  change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Maj. Gen. John R. O'Connor, outgoing head of the Army's 21st Theater Sustainment Command, watches as his former soldiers march by at the end of the unit's change of command ceremony Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Kaiserslautern, Germany. (Matt Millham/Stars and Stripes)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The unit behind the Army’s efforts to combat Ebola in Africa and amass tanks and other equipment to counter Russian aggression in Europe got a new commander Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble replaced Maj. Gen. John R. O’Connor as commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command — the U.S. military’s primary logistics unit in Europe — in a ceremony that was by turns serious and funny.

The change came a day after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the U.S. would position a brigade’s worth of Abrams tanks, artillery and other equipment from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea in a bid to reassure allies in the east and curb Russian aggression.

U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told the hundreds of personnel, civilians and allies in attendance that he was sure nobody on the field wanted to wind up in an emergency situation.

“And I am convinced that the best way to make sure that there never is an emergency, that we never have to actually execute any contingency, is by demonstrating that we are always ready.”

One small move in that direction is a plan to repaint all of the vehicles in Europe from the desert tan used for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan back to camouflage green, which most Army vehicles in Europe had before the wars.

“Remember, we used to have paint sheds all over the place. And we repainted vehicles once a year,” Hodges told the crowd, which included dozens of German officials and military officers. “I don’t think there’s three liters of green paint in Europe anymore, at least something that doesn’t violate 20 EU regulations.”

A battalion from the 21st has been tasked to NATO’s new Spearhead task force, established in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year, because NATO members “want American logistics,” Hodges said.

Hodges and O’Connor, who is retiring, both cracked jokes about a military working dog that jumped and strained at its leash in formation during parts of the nearly hourlong ceremony. A canon salute sent the dog into a frenzy, while another dog in the formation lay quietly through the commotion.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I draw your attention to those two beautiful dogs to your front, especially you, Duane,” O’Connor said, calling his replacement’s attention. “If you look to the right, the brown one, that was me 24 months ago. Full of energy. Jumping all around. Ears pointing north. Excited to be held by my handler, the CG. And today, look at the dog on the left. That’s gonna be me, T-minus 12 hours.”

O’Connor spent two years as head of the 21st, the first overseeing the unit’s reorganization and the movement of equipment back to the U.S. as forces in Europe drew down.

“Then, the second year hit,” he said. “We saw emerging threats in Europe and we had to reset our readiness posture again, looking at how we would support the defense of Europe with fewer assets than before.”

TSC soldiers were the first Americans to deploy to Africa to establish Ebola treatment centers. The unit also established and ran the U.S. transit hub in Romania after the U.S. lost its lease on a similar base in Kyrgyzstan, which handled the lion’s share of troops redeploying from Afghanistan. Since opening in February 2014, 172,000 personnel have passed through the Romanian hub, O’Connor said.

“Quite frankly, this is exactly where I wanted to command at the two-star level,” Gamble said in an interview after the ceremony.

Gamble, who earlier served under Hodges in the 101st Airborne Division, is coming from the Pentagon and previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. “I think the team here, to include the whole USAREUR team, is operating in the way we see the whole Army operating in the future … small, decentralized engagement with partner nations and allied nations, and we’re getting to do that right here every day.”

The unit will “have a big part” of the U.S. plan to base heavy equipment in the Baltics and other parts of eastern Europe, he said.

millham.matthew@stripes.com Twitter: @mattmillham

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up