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STUTTGART, Germany — Chief Master Sgt. Craig Adams took the helm on Wednesday as U.S. European Command’s senior enlisted leader, a position that involves everything from ensuring the welfare of U.S. troops in Europe to bolstering partnerships with allies across NATO.

Adams, who previously served as the top enlisted airman at U.S. Air Forces in Europe-U.S. Air Forces Africa, replaces Fleet Master Chief Roy Maddocks Jr., a Navy SEAL, who served in the EUCOM post for four years.

“This is an awesome responsibility,” said EUCOM commander Gen. Philip Breedlove, who presided over Wednesday’s ceremony at Patch Barracks.

Breedlove told Adams he has big “frogman flippers to fill” in his new job, a nod to Maddocks’ many years spent as a Navy special operator.

“Fleet has made an impact on a global scale,” Breedlove said.

Adams, in remarks directed at his enlisted troops, said their safety and welfare will always be a priority.

“I believe in an open door policy,” Adams said. “What that means is, I’m always available to anyone at any time. I want to hear from you.”

Long referred to as the backbone of the military, an empowered noncommissioned officer corps is what separates the U.S. from its adversaries, he said.

“Our enemies can buy similar equipment, but what sets us apart is our enlisted leadership making critical decisions at the lowest levels,” Adams said.

Wednesday’s changeover also served as a retirement ceremony for Maddocks, whose 36-year career began in the post-Vietnam era when the military was in a state of disarray.

In his speech, Maddocks recalled those years and how far the military has come.

“It wasn’t the professional force we know today,” Maddocks said. “In the late ’70s, we had race riots on base. Drug use was rampant. Hazing was common practice.”

As a SEAL, Maddocks was involved in operational missions stretching from Afghanistan and Iraq to Bosnia and Kosovo.

Though the morale challenges of the post-Vietnam era have passed, new ones have emerged, he said.

“The reduced budget is presenting major challenges for all of us — the need to be smarter about how we do business and prioritize better,” Maddocks said. “What do we need to do versus what do we want to do?”

Adams said part of his job will be working through those fiscal hurdles.

“We need our folks to stay focused on the mission,” Adams said. “Challenges come our way every single day. And we face them every day and we always find a way to get through them. We’ve been through lean times before and we’re going through it now. I know we’ll come out on the other side just fine.”

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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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