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Wolters takes command of USAFE, AFAFRICA, Allied Air Command

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein presents Gen. Tod Wolters the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa guidon during a change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 11, 2016. Wolters is coming from an assignment as the director of operations on the joint staff at the Pentagon. USAFE-AFAFRICA executes the Air Force, U.S. European Command and U.S. Arica Command missions with forward-based airpower and infrastructure to conduct and enable theater and global operations.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tryphena Mayhugh)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein presents Gen. Tod Wolters the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa guidon during a change of command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 11, 2016. Wolters is coming from an assignment as the director of operations on the joint staff at the Pentagon. USAFE-AFAFRICA executes the Air Force, U.S. European Command and U.S. Arica Command missions with forward-based airpower and infrastructure to conduct and enable theater and global operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Tryphena Mayhugh)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Gen. Tod Wolters took command of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Air Forces Africa and Allied Air Command from Gen. Frank Gorenc during a ceremony here Aug. 11.

Gorenc, whose retirement ceremony will be on Aug. 9 after 37 years of Air Force service, emphasized the stark changes in the theater since he assumed command in 2013.

“When I arrived three years ago, European and African stability and security for the most part seemed to be unchallenged and appeared to be everlasting,” Gorenc said. “Back then, an aggressive Russia, a rising ISIS, and a devastating Ebola epidemic erupted simultaneously.”

Gorenc said his experiences as commander have solidified his view on the indispensable role of airpower.

“No one knows what will happen in the future,” Gorenc said. “But I do know this, when our nations choose to respond, we must respond rapidly with precise combat power from the air. Airpower is like oxygen. When you have enough, you don’t think about it. When you don’t have enough it is all you can think about.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein spoke about Gorenc’s incredible accomplishments and welcomed Wolters to the command. Goldfein thanked Gorenc for his steadfast leadership.

“USAFE-AFAFRICA’s warfighters stand taller with you in the lead. True to your vision, they are forward, ready, now, for any challenge, combat to humanitarian, and all the contests in between,” Goldfien said. “On your watch our Airmen never flinched, and they certainly never failed.”

Gorenc was Goldfein’s cadet squadron commander at the United States Air Force Academy when Goldfein and Wolters were freshmen in 1978. Goldfein expressed his confidence in his former classmate.

“Gen Wolters brings the perfect blend of operational expertise and proven combat leadership necessary to take this command to even greater heights.”

Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, stressed the importance of Allied Air Command in today’s security environment.

“From northern Norway to southern Italy, and from the Azores to eastern Turkey, Allied Air Command provides combat ready forces and maintains vital access to three continents,” Scaparrotti said. “And it does it all because of a can-do attitude that thrives on innovation and adaptation in Europe’s ever-changing environment.”

Scaparrotti praised Gorenc’s accomplishments, highlighting the command’s crucial role in building and growing relationships with allies and partners.

“The scope of what Gorenc has done in his many responsibilities while leading the air forces of the 28 nation alliance through a dynamic period is truly impressive,” Scaparrotti said. “This command has conducted 383 partnership engagements with 58 nations spanning Europe and Africa.”

Wolters accepted the guidons for USAFE, AFAFRICA and the Allied Air Command, a symbolic gesture of receiving his new commands.

As the new commander of USAFE-AFAFRICA, Wolters is responsible for a full-spectrum of Air Force war-fighting capabilities in a theater spanning three continents, containing 104 independent states possessing more than one-fifth of the world's population and more than a quarter of the world's gross domestic product.

Speaking to an audience of more than 700 service members and allied partners, Wolters addressed the crowd for the first time as the USAFE-AFAFRICA commander.

“To the warriors of USAFE, NATO, and AFAFRICA, our next, best, first step is to add to the incredible momentum that has been achieved by you in the areas of trust and teamwork with our coalition partners,” Wolters said. “We have that trust, we have that teamwork, we have that integration; our adversaries don’t.”

Wolters ended his address with a challenge for the Airmen of USAFE, AFAFRICA and Allied Air Command.

“We have to work harder, we have to be ready,” he said. “You are; our adversaries aren’t. I look forward to serving at your side.”