SHAPE, Belgium – United States (U.S.) Army General Christopher Cavoli assumed command from U.S. Air Force General Tod D. Wolters as the 20th Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) during a ceremony held at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) on July 4, 2022.
NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presided over the ceremony.
You were the right leader, for the right post, at the right time. You leave NATO stronger, and our one billion people safer - Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Secretary General Stoltenberg thanked General Wolters for his selfless commitment to our Alliance. "You were the right leader, for the right post, at the right time. You leave NATO stronger, and our one billion people safer," Stoltenberg said.
SHAPE, Belgium -- SHAPE holds a change of command ceremony where incoming Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Christopher Cavoli assumes command from SACEUR General Tod D. Wolters. During the ceremony General Cavoli became the 20th SACEUR in a ceremony presided over by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. (NATO Photo by NIC Edouard Bocquet)
SHAPE, Belgium -- Incoming Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Christopher Cavoli speaks during a change of command ceremony at SHAPE on July 4, 2022. During the ceremony SACEUR General Tod D. Wolters turned over command to incoming SACEUR General Cavoli. (NATO Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brett Dodge)
During General Wolters' tenure at SHAPE, he influenced multiple key moments in NATO history including: maintaining operational effectiveness through the COVID-19 Pandemic, ACO's participation in Steadfast Defender 2021, the largest NATO exercise in more than a decade, the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and supporting the evacuation of NATO affiliated Afghans, NATO's ongoing mission in Iraq, DDA structure to better counter potential threats to the Alliance and ensure peace, security and prosperity to Allied nations and the Allied response to the ongoing Russian Invasion of Ukraine.
During his change of command speech, General Wolters reflected on his time as SACEUR sharing his appreciation for his team having navigated through some the Alliance's most dynamic security threats in history.
"For the last three years, you have sincerely poured your blood, sweat and tears into generating peace. And as the Secretary General said, we've had some tough challenges along the way. None were too big and none ever forced us to be in a position to ever relent. It is because of that relentless drive to generate peace that we are in the situation we are today and working very hard to improve conditions," Wolters said.
Secretary General Stoltenberg welcomed General Cavoli. "You join us at a turning point for transatlantic security, marked by rising strategic competition and the return of brutal conflict to Europe," said Secretary General Stoltenberg. "I know you will continue to serve NATO with the same leadership and dedication you have always shown."
General Cavoli comes to SHAPE from U.S. Army Europe and Africa Command in Wiesbaden, where he served as Commander of the consolidated U.S. Army Europe and Africa from October 2020 through June 2022. From January 2018 until the consolidation, General Cavoli served as the commander of U.S. Army Europe.
During the ceremony, General Cavoli expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to lead NATO's oldest military headquarters.
"Thank you all for coming here today. Your presence does us honor but more your presence illustrates the unity of this alliance, the greatest alliance in the history of mankind. It is a representation of the bond that holds us together," General Cavoli said.
Following the ceremony, the Chairman of the Military Committee (CMC), Admiral Rob expressed the important role of SACEUR as NATO's top military leader.
"General Wolters has shepherded SHAPE and US EUCOM through unprecedented turmoil. With his boundless efficiency and energy, he was able to work with both a big-picture vision and microscopic detail. With his relentless work on our 'deter and defend' strategy and subsequent plans, he has left NATO stronger than he found it. He will be remembered for being a wartime military leader with a potent blend of intellect, exceptional strategic judgment, impeccable and measured military advice. As well as a leader of compassion, charm and veins of steel. We have all been safer with him at the helm," Admiral Bauer said.
General Wolters will officially retire from the U.S. Air Force later this year with over forty years of military service.