U.S. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, formerly head of the U.S. military command responsible for Guantanamo Bay, took charge of its European Command on Monday.
Craddock, who is also taking over as supreme allied commander of NATO forces, replaced retiring U.S. Marine Gen. James L. Jones at a ceremony in southwestern Germany.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, presiding over the ceremony in a gymnasium at command headquarters in Patch Barracks near Stuttgart, told Craddock that while "you have some very large shoes to fill ... we are blessed to have someone of your caliber and leadership."
Craddock vowed to continue Jones' work "laying the foundations for peace and prosperity."
The U.S. military's European Command, or EUCOM, oversees U.S. operations in 92 countries spanning Europe, Africa and Israel. It currently comprises 98,000 troops based mostly in Germany, Italy, Britain and Turkey. About 20,000 of those are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Craddock was the senior military assistant to outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld before becoming commander of U.S. Southern Command in November 2004.
That command is responsible for the controversial detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as U.S. military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, reports AP.
Craddock was an armor battalion commander during the 1991 Gulf War. He is a former commander of the 1st Infantry Division and is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College.
Jones, who began his military career in 1967 and is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war, had been commander of NATO and the European Command since January 2003.
Jones cedes his role as NATO commander to Craddock on Thursday.