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Air Force Gen. Wolters takes over from Army Gen. Scaparrotti as EUCOM and SACEUR head

In ceremonies in Germany on Thursday, May 2, and in Belgium (SHAPE HQ) on Friday, May 3, Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters is taking over from Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti in the dual roles of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and head of U.S. European Command.

Air Force Gen. Wolters succeeds Army Gen. Scaparrotti as EUCOM and SACEUR head Former commander of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, left, Secretary of the Army, Dr Mark T. Esper, centre, and in coming commander EUCOM Gen. Tod D. Wolters salute the colours during the official change of command ceremony May 2, 2019 on Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters assumed command from U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti (Picture Source: U.S. Army photo by Rey Ramon)

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had planned to attend the ceremonies but cancelled just hours before his scheduled departure from Washington on Wednesday. A Shanahan spokesman said he decided he should remain in Washington for consultations with the White House and the State Department on the crisis in Venezuela and the situation on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Curtis Scaparrotti, who is retiring, spent his tenure’s final months dealing with U.S.-Turkey tensions triggered by Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian S-400 air defence system. The U.S. and other NATO allies see the deal as incompatible with Turkey’s continued participation in the Pentagon’s F-35 stealth fighter program, and even its future in NATO. The two countries have been sharply at odds over U.S. support for Kurdish fighters in Syria. Wolters already made clear his view that the fielding of the Russian S-400 air defence system by a NATO ally is unacceptable: “If Turkey proceeds down a path to procure and operate the S-400, they should not get the F-35,” he said at his Senate confirmation hearing on April 2. “I would contend that we all understand that Turkey is an important ally in the region, but it’s absolutely unsustainable to support co-location of the F-35 and the S-400.” What would happen to the two F-35As already delivered to Turkey but operated by Turkish pilots on U.S. soil remains uncertain. Same question about the Turkish defence industry involved in the spare parts production.

EUCOM’s area of responsibility includes 21 million square miles across Europe – but also including Russia and Israel – and the command coordinates military activities alongside 51 U.S. partner nations in the European Theater. The NATO SACEUR is responsible for all NATO military operations and plays an important public-facing role as the senior military spokesperson for Allied Command Operations. The role is dual-hatted with U.S. EUCOM and has always been assumed by a U.S. commander.

Before taking his two new commands, Wolters was responsible for air and missile defense of the 29 NATO member states and for commanding U.S. air power across more than 19 million square miles and 104 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Arctic. Previously, Wolters served as Director for Operations (DJ-3), Joint Staff and in headquarters staff positions for U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Space Command. He commanded the 19th Fighter Squadron, the 1st Operations Group, the 485th Air Expeditionary Wing, the 47th Flying Training Wing, the 325th Fighter Wing, the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, and the 12th Air Force, fighting in operations Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.