(STUTTGART, Germany) – Service members, family and friends of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe took part in a change of command ceremony, 12 June, at Patch Barracks, during which U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Mark C. Schwartz relinquished command to U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Kirk W. Smith.
SOCEUR employs Special Operations Forces across the United States European Command area of responsibility to enable deterrence, strengthen European security collective capabilities and interoperability, and counter transnational threats to protect U.S. personnel and interests.
Presiding over the ceremony was U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commanding general of USEUCOM and NATO Supreme Allied Commander.
In his remarks Scaparrotti highlighted the accomplishments of SOCEUR under the command of Schwartz.
“Under Mark’s watch you remained EUCOM first responders providing rapid, flexible, options in contingence planning and crisis response,” said Scaparrotti.
Scaparrotti then pointed out three accomplishments that impressed him during Schwartz’s tenure.
“Mark helped increase collective readiness in EUCOM, and strengthened our relationship with our Allies and partners,” said Scaparrotti. “SOCEUR has taken significant steps in adapting to the new reality of the changing security environment.”
Scaprrotti also highlighted SOCEUR’s recent completion of exercise Trojan Footprint.
“The exercise included over 2,000 participants from 13 different nations,” said Scaprrotti. “This was a clear demonstration of the Alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy SOF operators into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.”
Trojan Footprint is a biennial U.S. Special Operations Command Europe-led exercise that incorporates U.S., NATO and European partner special operations forces.
Scaparrotti then welcomed Smith as the commander of SOCEUR.
“In Kirk, SOCEUR will have a combat-tested leader who is accomplished in strengthening relationships with our NATO Allies and partners,” said Scaparrotti. “We are pleased to welcome him and we are confident that he is ready to take charge of SOCEUR’s forces.”
U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, attended the event and also addressed the audience.
“SOCOM remains extremely committed to this theater and its objectives,” said Thomas. “We greatly appreciate the active and effective integration of SOF which occurs daily. I’ll tell you flat out, our SOF thrives in [EUCOM].”
Thomas spoke about the unique challenges every Theater Special Operations Command faces.
“The TSOC commanders have the burden of answering to two four-star commanders,” he said. “But the talented officers we place to lead these organizations constantly find ways to affect the necessary coordination and more importantly achieve extraordinary mission success in some of the most complex situation on the planet.”
Schwartz also commented on the progress made by the command in the past two years, specifically the assistance provided to Allies at the operational and strategic level.
“The defense institution building we’ve been doing with Ukraine, Romania and several other allies and partners is our greatest collective contribution during my command,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz thanked EUCOM and SOCOM leadership for their guidance during his time in command.
“The past few years have been an honor to command SOCEUR,” he said. “I’ve grown personally and professionally because of the leadership that Gen. Scaparotti and Gen. Thomas has provided.”
After assuming command, Smith took to the podium to address the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines he will lead.
“After twenty-nine years in the military, I still feel that the military is family,” said Smith. “I look forward to continuing to build relationships, partnership, and friendship in the future.”
In closing remarks, Smith assured Scaparotti, Allies and partners of his commitment to the relationship and interoperability between nations.
“I am honored and privileged to take command of SOCEUR and continue this great progress that Gen. Schwartz has set in motion,” said Smith.