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A new beginning

By Sgt. Peter Fitzgerald
First published in
SFOR Informer#122, September 19, 2001

Lt. Gen. John Sylvester officially took over as the new commander of the Stabilisation Force (COMSFOR) Friday, Sept. 7, at SFOR headquarters in Camp Butmir. A change of command ceremony was held to welcome the new commander to his post and to bid a fond farewell to Lt. Gen. Michael Dodson, the departing COMSFOR.

Camp Butmir - A host of dignitaries, government officials and military representatives gathered in front of SFOR headquarters for the ceremonial change of command, which featured a military parade representing all the multinational divisions and participating SFOR nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
"I am truly excited to be here, to serve in this force that continues to provide a safe and secure environment," Sylvester said at the ceremony. "I am proud to serve on this team. I'll do my best to continue to build this team, which ultimately provides hope, encouragement and opportunity to those Bosnian people, the citizenry."
Admiral James Ellis, Allied Forces South commander and guest speaker for the ceremony, welcomed Sylvester to his new post and said BiH is "on the road to a new beginning of hope and promise." Ellis also commented on the performance of the departing COMSFOR.
"Under the leadership of General Dodson, SFOR troops have been doing an outstanding job in helping to create that new beginning and in carrying out the will of the international community," he said. "The results of his performance and the performance of the troops he led are there for all the world to see - the absence of war, enhanced stability and continued progress on the road to a brighter future for all the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Dodson, speaking at the ceremony, called it "a day of thanks and hope." In thanking all those he worked with and became friends with during his mandate as COMSFOR, the general paid particular appreciation to the troops - "… the troops who represent 35 nations, who work tirelessly for the betterment of this country. I can tell you that I have never met a single soldier who doesn't believe that what he's doing is important and he is not making a contribution to the future of this country."
Dodson said his hope for the country was "like everyone else's."
"I hope for a normal life for all the citizens. I hope that children can grow without hate, to have a good education, to have jobs and continue to build this great country," he said.
In relinquishing command, Dodson said he was "delighted" that Sylvester was taking over the leadership of SFOR.
"I have been a soldier with John for a long time and I can assure you that there is no one better to take SFOR through the next year," he said.
Sylvester, former chief of staff of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, is beginning his third tour in BiH. He previously served as assistant chief of staff for SFOR military operations and also as deputy chief of staff for operations during Operation Joint Endeavour.
"I am proud to serve again on this magnificent multinational team which is represented by the soldiers in this formation," Sylvester said. "As their new commander, I am truly grateful to each and every troop-contributing nation for providing a part of their national treasure - the men and women who serve in SFOR."
The parade formation, led by Regimental Sgt. Maj. Graham Highet, represented all the multinational divisions and the 35 nations participating in the Stabilisation Force. The parade included a colour guard that carried the official SFOR flag, which was passed on to Sylvester during the ceremony. The U.S. Army Europe Band was also on hand to provide music for the event.
In his closing remarks, Sylvester said he was "optimistic" about the challenges ahead.
"I have the greatest confidence in the professional men and women of SFOR who will continue to provide a safe and secure environment, and all of the assistance, within our means, to the Bosnian peoples and to the international community as together we forge our partnership to move Bosnia and Herzegovina forward," he said.

More photos from the parade

Related link: Historic moments