MONS, Belgium -- U.S. General Tod Wolters has been sworn in as the top military officer of the NATO military alliance.
Wolters became supreme allied commander in Europe, a post always held by a U.S. military officer, at a ceremony on May 3 at NATO's military headquarters in Mons, Belgium.
At the ceremony, NATO's top civilian official, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, said the command is "one of the most challenging and most important military positions in the world."
"It is time to pass the baton of leadership to General Wolters. Tod, as an Air Force pilot you have fought in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The leadership, professionalism, and dedication to duty you showed in the air has been an essential part of your career on the ground," Stoltenberg stated.
Wolters, who replaces U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, will also be commander of U.S. forces in Europe.
"Fifty-seven years ago my dad, then-Captain [Thomas] Wolters, was a NATO F-102 pilot out of Bitburg Air Base, West Germany, and he was responsible for securing West German skies. Thirty-two years ago, this Captain [Tod] Wolters was a NATO F-15C pilot out a Bitburg Air Base, West Germany, responsible for achieving local air superiority in the vicinity of the East German border. NATO had changed, yet the prospect of surviving a conflict in dad's F-102 and my 1987 F-15C was a challenge," Wolters said at the ceremony.
He takes over at a time when the alliance is preparing for the likely demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a U.S-Russian disarmament pact that has protected Europe for the past three decades.
Wolters had served as commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe -- Air Forces Africa based at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Wolters is a fighter pilot by training, with more than 5,000 hours through his nearly 32-year military career, according to his Air Force biography.