COMSFOR Transfer of Authority

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2nd Lt. Oliver Rolofs
First published in
SFOR Informer#167, November, 2003

2nd October 2003 marked the transfer of Commander SFOR authority from Lieutenant General William E Ward to Major General Virgil L Packett II. The ceremony was performed in front of a parade of troops from all the MNBs and MSU and witnessed by many distinguished guests including General James L Jones, SACEUR, Admiral Gregory G Johnson, CinC AFSouth and Lord Paddy Ashdown, the High Representative.

Butmir - In the last days of the Bosnian summer a large audience of high ranking guests from NATO and BiH military and political circles gathered to oversee the Transfer Of Authority ceremony (TOA) and to express their personal gratitude to General Ward for his considerable assistance that he gave to BiH whilst acting as COMSFOR. The parade also welcomed in the new Commander, General Packett. On the stroke of 2 o'clock, Regimental Sergeant Major Ravacini smartly called the MNB, SFOR HQ and MSU detachments to attention and the ceremony began.
Having received permission from the SFOR Deputy Commander, Brigadier Young, to stand the parade at ease, the RSM brought the troops back to attention with the arrival of the senior officers, Generals Jones, Ward and Packett and Admiral Johnson. General Ward then inspected each of the platoons, stopping to talk to many of his soldiers, and whilst he did so the US Army Europe band, under the command of LTC Palmatier, played the anthems of units in which Gen. Ward had previously served.
"Colour Party to Advance, Slow March!"
With the inspection complete, RSM Ravacini marched the Colour Party forward and, taking the SFOR Colours from the Colours Bearer, he proudly handed them over to General Ward. To symbolise that he was relinquishing his position as COMSFOR, General Ward passed the Colours to Admiral Johnson. With warm words of congratulations, the Admiral passed the Colours on to General Packett, thus publicly and formally announcing that General Packett had assumed Command SFOR with effect 2nd October 2033.
In front of the parade and distinguished guest, General Ward thanked the soldiers and civilians for their outstanding work. "You are actually the ones who perform the work of SFOR and achieve the results of progress. Without you, all of this would not have been possible", praised the Three-Star-General. "For me, it was an exciting and grateful task to be the Commander of such a professional unit, it is you that make this SFOR mission a success", General Ward proudly emphasised to the soldiers. He stated that during his term there had been some remarkable challenges. These challenges including preparatory works for the reform of the nation's armies and working in co-operation with the Office of the High Representative to guide BiH along the Partnership for Peace programme. There were other operations, such as Operation Balkan Vice designed to impose sanctions on those elements of society that provided assistance to PIFWCs, Operation Backbone that was initiated in support of local authorities and judges in their efforts of gathering information on and prosecuting war criminals as well as Harvest Operations to confiscate hundreds of tons of illegal weapons and ordnance in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"Excellent work"
"And yet, there is still quite some work left to be done in order to apprehend war criminals like Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic and then lead the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina into a progressive future", General Ward stressed that these kinds of activities would be continued by his successor. "We're getting closer to the very day, when this beautiful country finally has found irreversible peace", emphasised the General. The highest ranking NATO Commander General Jones praised General Ward, "As a true military leader who has performed excellent work".
The new SFOR Commander, General Packett, having the experience of various NATO missions, none more pertinent than his previous assignment as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Regional HQ, Allied Forces South-Europe, immediately took up the gauntlet thrown down by his predecessor. In his speech he focused on a continued progression of BiH towards Trans-Atlantic integration. "In addition, we spare no efforts to assist this country in achieving progress, thereby enabling it to improve law and order and win the fight against organised crime and war criminals, to support the return of refugees and to reform the economic system. I assure you, that NATO will continue to achieve what will turn out to be the best for this country and its people."
Final Duty
With the speeches over and the parade complete, General Ward had one more official duty to perform before taking up his new post as Deputy Commander of the US Forces Europe - he had to challenge Lord Ashdown to push ups!


Photo Album from the Ceremony

COMSFOR Biography