A new chief for SFOR

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Thierry Domin
First published in
SFOR Informer#149, October 10, 2002

Lt. Gen. William E. Ward officially took over as the new commander of the Stabilisation Force (COMSFOR) Tuesday at SFOR headquarters Camp Butmir. A Transfer of Authority ceremony was held to welcome the new commander to his post and to bid a fond farewell to Lt. Gen. John B. Sylvester, the departing COMSFOR.

Camp Butmir - A host of dignitaries, government officials and military representatives gathered in front of SFOR headquarters for the ceremonial Transfer of Authority that featured a military parade representing all the multinational divisions and participating SFOR nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Honoured and privileged
"I am honoured and privileged to serve as Commander of SFOR," said Ward at the ceremony. "I assume command at a propitious and promising time. For the first time since their tragic war, the people of BiH have organised and conducted their own free and fair elections."
Admiral Gregory G. Johnson, Allied Forces Southern Commander and guest speaker for the ceremony, welcomed Ward to his new post and also commented on the performance of the departing COMSFOR.
"I want to recognise General Sylvester's untiring support of the international community. Indeed his leading passion has been finding ways to make all those involved in our efforts here more effective in creating a better life and more just society for every citizen of every ethnic group in BiH," he said. "An area that deserves special mention relates to SFOR's long-term vision. General Sylvester has recognised and accepted the necessity for change and has moved to tailor SFOR's force posture in line with the still emerging realities. There is no question that the security and stability of BiH are vastly different from those days in 1996 when General Sylvester first set foot in this country. Important strides have been made in the development of political, civil and military institutions because of that vision."
In thanking all those he worked with and became friends with during his mandate as COMSFOR, Sylvester paid particular appreciation to the soldiers, "… who, on hundreds of patrols every day and night here protect and serve the people of BiH. The bridges built, the school grounds cleared of the detritus of war and prepared for students again, the roads built to allow families to return to their villages, the security provided to countless Non Governmental Organisations to move building materials. The railroads repaired, the ammunition safeguarded, the weapons of war by the thousands of tons that have been collected and destroyed, the minefields cleared, the military downsized."
No ordinary job
Sylvester said his hope for the country was "… to see a self-sustaining peace here that will allow us to take our huge international presence, including our troops, home."
"The short answer could be… tomorrow. But then come all the 'ifs'. If there was tolerance. If there was ability to chart a future promising security, jobs and education for their children. If there was forgiveness. And if there was the political will," he said.
In relinquishing command, Sylvester warned Ward: "Beware, this is no ordinary job. It will have a profound effect on you and your life as it has for me," he said.
Ward, former Vice Director for Operations, J-3, at the Joint Staff in Washington D.C. since November 2000 is beginning his first tour in BiH. He previously served three times in United States Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany.
"To the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and civilians of SFOR, I salute your accomplishments. I ask you for your continued support in keeping SFOR an instrument of peace," Ward said. "I pledge to you, the members of the International Community and the people of BiH, my very best efforts to move the process forward with unity of purpose and hasten the day when the SFOR mission will be completed."
The parade formation, led by Regimental Sgt. Maj. Ian Ison, represented the multinational divisions and the majority of the 35 nations participating in the Stabilisation Force. The parade included a colour guard that carried the official SFOR flag that was passed on to Ward during the ceremony. The 76th U.S. Army Band was also on hand to provide music for the event.
Ward concluded his speech regarding the challenges ahead.
"The progress that has been made makes today's missions and challenges significantly different than those of the earlier days. But I assure you that both SFOR's and my personal commitment remain as great as it has always been," he said.

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Related link: Historic moments

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Photo: PO Richard Moss

The military parade in front of SFOR Headquarters Camp Butmir.

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Photo: Sgt Diego Ropero Pastor

AFSOUTH Admiral Gregory G. Johnson congratulates the new COMSFOR Lt. Gen. William E. (Kip) Ward.

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Photo: Combat Camera

Former and new Commanders together salute the SFOR flag.

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Photo: Combat Camera

The new COMSFOR greets a soldier at his welcoming party.

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