by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the change of command ceremony for NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR)
Admirals, Generals and Air Marshals,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Sixty-five years ago, General Eisenhower was appointed the very first Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
And the job instantly became one of the world’s most challenging and most respected military posts.
Those who have had the honour to serve as SACEUR have helped to keep the nations of Europe and North America safe from harm.
They helped the Alliance to stand strong during the Cold War.
They have led many different military operations, most notably in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.
And they lead our militaries to protect us from a dangerous and unpredictable world.
Today we honour two of these men.
General Breedlove and General Scaparrotti.
General Breedlove, Phil, under your watch, we successfully completed our combat mission in Afghanistan.
We handed full responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to its own national forces.
We launched our Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist those forces.
And we remain committed to supporting Afghanistan, building strong security forces and pushing back against violent extremists.
During your three years as SACEUR we have also witnessed the most significant change to European security since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Russia’s actions in Ukraine have changed our security landscape.
And NATO is responding.
With your leadership, we have devised and implemented the Readiness Action Plan, strengthening our forces and our command and control.
This has put NATO on the front foot, able to respond with strength and speed to any threat.
We need to go further to strengthen our deterrence.
And again, General, you have been central to developing our plans to have a new substantial, rotational and multinational forward presence in the eastern countries of our Alliance.
Plans that will be agreed at our Summit in Warsaw in July.
We also face instability and violence across North Africa and the Middle East. This has led to mass migration and human tragedy.
NATO is playing our part by sending ships to the Aegean to work alongside the Greek and the Turkish coast guards and with the European Union.
And we are responding by supporting partners such as Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia.
Throughout these difficult times, your vision and your leadership have helped to make us more resilient.
Increased our level of readiness.
Strengthened our deterrence.
And enhanced our partnerships.
Phil, I would like to express my personal thanks for what you have done.
I have very much enjoyed working with you.
And I have the greatest respect and admiration for everything you have achieved during your distinguished career.
Your humour, your positive attitude and your advice have all been invaluable.
You have proved yourself, beyond any shadow of a doubt, a true “Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer.” That’s you.
And I would like to thank you; Cindy, your wife; and your three children – Samantha, Rebecca and Daniel – who have given you such incredible strength and support throughout your career.
On behalf of the whole of the NATO Alliance, I thank you and I wish you and your family the best for the future. Thank you.
Now it is time for the baton of responsibility to pass to General Scaparrotti.
Mike, in your illustrious career, you have commanded forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, Bosnia, and Liberia.
Most recently as Commander of United Nations and US forces in Korea.
And you have held what General Breedlove has described as the “toughest job in the Pentagon”, Director of the Joint Staff.
General Scaparrotti, in the months and years ahead, you will command forces from across our great Alliance.
And lead a remarkable team at SHAPE.
Helping to meet the challenges to the east as well as to the south.
I know that you will do so with the same dedication, intelligence and professionalism you have shown throughout your impressive career.
And I hope that both you and Cindy will have a wonderful and fulfilling experience during your time with us.
So welcome to Belgium, and welcome to the NATO family to both of you.