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Fletcher Grad Tapped to Head NATO

Fletcher Grad Tapped to Head NATOThe recommendation of Navy Adm. James Stavridis to the post is the latest honor in a career of distinguished service.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.27.09] On Mar. 18, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced his recommendation to President Barack Obama to nominate Fletcher School graduate and Admiral James Stavridis, current head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), to head U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and NATO. If confirmed, he would be the first naval officer to hold the post-a distinction he also held when he took on his current role in 2006.

"I would say that Jim Stavridis, both in terms of knowledge of how things work in the inter-agency here in Washington, but also in terms of his diplomatic skills, is probably one of the best senior military officers we have," Gates said in his announcement.

Stavridis received his MALD and PhD from The Fletcher School in 1983 and 1984, respectively. Retired Vice Adm. Kevin Green, noting that Stavridis wrote his doctoral thesis on NATO security issues, said the Fletcher graduate would be well prepared for the job.

"This is a fellow who does his homework," Green told National Public Radio's "All Things Considered.""And that process is in high gear."

"Stavridis is something of a new breed among commanders," according to the Associated Press. "He has gained a reputation for being less wedded to convention, more open to engaging with the news media and the public, an advocate for creating civilian and even private partnerships for the military. And as a military chief, he is an outspoken believer that 'smart power' can trump traditional firepower."

As NATO commander, Stavridis will be charged with the critical task of handling NATO operations in Afghanistan, where conflict is ongoing.

Stavridis, the Agence France Presse (AFP) reported, "earned a reputation for innovation and diplomatic acumen as head of Southern Command, overseeing operations in Latin America." His experience handling drug trafficking issues in Latin America could prove useful in tackling the burgeoning poppy trade in Afghanistan, the AFP added.

In addition, Stavridis also gained attention for his role in facilitating the rescue last summer of three American civilians held captive by Colombian rebels for the past five years.

When Stavridis became head of U.S. Southern Command in 2006, the four-star admiral transitioned some major responsibilities from military control to civilians and diplomats, the Miami Herald reported. He could bring similar changes in his new role.

"His penchant for combining humanitarian and military missions could prove useful at NATO, as Washington and its European allies plan a 'civilian surge' in Afghanistan," wrote the AFP.

A naval warship commander, Stavridis has authored two books, "Destroyer Captain" and "Command at Sea," on the subject. He also maintains a blog on the SOUTHCOM website. The multilingual Stavridis speaks French and Spanish, as well as some Portuguese.

Throughout his career, Stavridis has frequently referenced his Greek heritage. The Greek community responded positively to the announcement of his recommendation to head EUCOM and NATO.

"We are thrilled to hear news of Admiral Stavridis' appointment," Ike Gulas, head of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, said in a statement. "We are extremely proud of his outstanding accomplishments, and we are confident, upon his confirmation, that he will serve our nation and lead the Alliance with excellence and distinction." Stavridis received the 2006 AHEPA Medal of Freedom Award.

Lawrence Di Rita, an aide to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who attended the U.S. Naval Academy at the same time as Stavridis, believes the admiral is well suited for the job.

"He's an intellectual and warfighter, and from the day he was commissioned those of us who knew him knew him as a future national leader," he told the Associated Press.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who fielded testimony from Stavridis in mid-March, called him "one of America's truly outstanding leaders," according to the Miami Herald.

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