by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Allied Command Operations change of command ceremony
Ladies and gentlemen.
We are here today to honour two outstanding military leaders.
General Tod Wolters, United States Air Force.
And General Christopher Cavoli, United States Army.
Our current and our next Supreme Allied Commander Europe,
To be called SACEUR is to serve.
And one billion people.
To be called SACEUR is to lead.
The millions of women and men in uniform across our Alliance.
And the tens of thousands of troops under your direct command.
To be called SACEUR is to protect.
An area that extends from the northern tip of Norway.
To the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
And from the Atlantic coast.
To the eastern border of Türkiye.
And to be called SACEUR is to defend.
Our democratic values and our way of life.
This is one of the most important military jobs in the world.
At one of the most pivotal times for our security.
So, General Wolters, Tod.
It is a pleasure to be here today with you and your wife, Charlene.
Your selfless commitment to our Alliance has helped us navigate through difficult moments.
Ensuring the COVID health crisis did not become a security crisis.
Transitioning our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
And responding with speed and strength to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
All while leading the development and execution of an entirely new family of NATO defence plans.
And generously offering your time and expertise to ambassadors, ministers, and Allied leaders.
You truly are a 21st century commander.
Who has put in place a comprehensive and integrated war prevention strategy.
That makes our Alliance stronger and more agile.
Now and for the future.
Because if we want peace, we must prepare for war.
The new NATO deterrence and defence strategy allowed us to reinforce the eastern flank of our Alliance within hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
And it paved the way for the transformative decisions we took at our Madrid Summit last week.
To keep NATO strong and agile.
And to defend every inch of Allied territory.
From any threat, at any time, across all domains.
Thanks to you, Tod, every NATO commander and soldier knows exactly what he has to do and has a clear vision
of how they contribute to our freedom and security.
That is leadership.
When General Eisenhower concluded his time as our first SACEUR,
he described his task as a “noble charge.”
One that requires constant watchfulness, hard work, cooperation, and sacrifice.
Tod, you have fulfilled this noble charge with honour and distinction.
You were – quite simply - the right leader, at the right post, at the right time.
The son of an accomplished air force pilot,
himself a commanding general.
Your father would no doubt have been immensely proud of everything you have achieved during your highly distinguished 40-year military career.
From your days playing football at the Air Force academy,
and having 5,000 flying hours in fighter aircraft,
to your command here at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe,
your self-discipline and team spirit have clearly served you – and all of us – well.
Not least, because you are not afraid to compete.
As all good Air Force Generals do,
you will soon return to San Antonio, Texas.
The operational base for the Wolters family for many years.
Where your wife, Charlene, has already started to set up your new home.
You will have the chance to spend more time with your children and grandchildren,
who will not be far away.
And to indulge in your sporting passions.
And the Dallas Cowboys!
Tod, from myself and the whole of the Alliance,
thank you for your leadership,
and your steadfast counsel.
You leave NATO stronger.
And our one billion people safer.
Thank you so much!
And now it is time to hand the baton back from the Air Force to the Army.
General Cavoli, Chris.
It is my honour to welcome you,
your wife Christina,
and your family members,
I know you will continue to serve NATO with the same leadership and dedication you have always shown.
Born in Germany during the Cold War.
Raised in Italy.
And a French, Italian and Russian speaker.
You have a lifelong connection to Europe.
Your 35-year military career has spanned the globe.
From Bosnia, to Iraq and Afghanistan.
From commanding infantry units.
To strategy roles in Washington.
Most recently, as Commanding General of US Army Europe and Africa,
you have overseen the largest reinforcement of US presence in Europe in decades.
With over 100,000 troops.
And you have commanded major multi-national exercises.
That demonstrate our readiness and our ability to operate seamlessly together.
You join us at a turning point for transatlantic security.
Marked by rising strategic competition.
And the return of brutal war in Europe.
Together with the incredible team at SHAPE,
I know you will continue to rise to the challenges and opportunities we face.
Not least as we prepare to welcome Finland and Sweden to our Alliance.
Two new NATO Allies with formidable military forces and capabilities.
So on behalf of all NATO Allies,
congratulations on your new role as Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Welcome to the NATO family.
And a happy 4th July to all our American friends and colleagues!