General Wolters Replaces Senator Scaparrotti as Supreme Allied Commander Europe

Posted: 28 Jun 2019 09:00 AM PDT

When people talk about NATO, they often refer to the Alliance as a unitary actor that supports certain values and undertakes specific actions. Sometimes they discuss the policies of its member states. There is nothing wrong with referring to NATO as a single actor or as a group of states; an alliance is meant to bring together like-minded nations to pursue common goals. However, such rhetoric can disregard the accomplishments of NATO's valuable leaders who ensure that the NATO Command Structure can function seamlessly. This article seeks to shed light on one such leader: the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).

On May 3rd, US Air Force General Tod D. Wolters replaced US Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti as SACEUR at the change of command ceremony at the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium. Scaparrotti – who has been SACEUR for the past 3 years – will soon retire from the US Army after over 40 years of service. At the ceremony, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described Wolters' new role as "One of the most challenging and most important military positions in the world."


In order to understand the role of SACEUR, one must understand NATO's structure. The Military Committee, which consists of the Chiefs of Defence of all NATO members, is the Alliance's highest military authority. It presides over NATO's Command Structure, which comprises of two strategic commands: Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation. The latter is based on Norfolk, Virginia and led by the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. The Command is responsible for education, training, and interoperability. SACEUR commands the Allied Command Operations, which is in charge of designing and executing NATO military operations and making operational recommendations to the Military Committee. SACEUR is also a spokesperson for the organization and conducts frequent visits to NATO members and partners.  Allied Command Operations is headquartered in Mons, has two Joint Force Commands in Naples and Brunssum, and three tactical level commands in Izmir (land), Northwood (maritime) and Ramstein (air).

The SACEUR position was created in April 1951 and occupied by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. SACEUR has always been in charge of SHAPE. For half a century, the Supreme Allied Commander was responsible for NATO operations in Europe. In the early 2000s, SHAPE was put in charge of all NATO operations and subsequently, the geographical scope of SACEUR activities was expanded (though their names stayed the same). There is no set term for SACEUR; terms have ranged from 1 to 8 years, though most officials hold the post for 2 or 3 years.

The position is always held by an American military officer, who also becomes the head of US European Command (EUCOM). As such, SACEUR is nominated by the American president, confirmed by the Senate and appointed by the North Atlantic Council. Wolters was sworn in as EUCOM Commander in Stuttgart a day before the change of command ceremony in Mons, placing him in charge of US operations focused on improving Euro-Atlantic security.

The 19th SACEUR

General Wolters brings immense expertise to his new position. He was trained as a fighter pilot and graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1982. Since then, the decorated leader has served on nine overseas tours and held multiple operational commands and staff positions around the world, including Commander of NATO's Allied Air Command, Commander of US Air Forces in Europe, Commander of US Air Forces in Africa and Director of the Joint Power Competence Centre.

Stoltenberg commended Wolters' predecessor Scaparrotti for confronting Russian aggression and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa, bolstering collective defense initiatives, developing the Hub for the South and increasing activity in Eastern Europe. It is likely that Wolters will share Scaparrotti's priorities; he has already discussed the importance of deterring Russian aggression, strengthening NATO's relationships, encouraging unity among the Allies and adapting to a rapidly changing security environment.

In Mons, Wolters stated that "Vigilance endures." There is little doubt that he will put his experience and expertise to good use and work with NATO members, partners and leaders to make the alliance more vigilant and secure in the face of increasingly complex transnational threats.

Featured Picture: Secretary General attends SAUCER change of command ceremony. General Tod D. Wolters, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and General Curtis M. Scaparrotti (outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Europe) (May 3 2019) by NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.  

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed in articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.

“We were finally fighting back and it was exhilarating”: Reflecting on the Stonewall Uprising, 50 Years Later

Posted: 28 Jun 2019 07:00 AM PDT

Today – June 28th, 2018, marks 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising or, as some LGBTQ historians and demonstrators at Stonewall tend to call it, the Stonewall Rebellion. The notorious uprising sparked the Gay Liberation Front  movement and completely changed the lives of generations to come. In 1969, the time of the uprising, consensual homosexual relations between men or between women were illegal in every U.S. state except for Illinois, which had repealed the law in 1961. Across the country, gay people were not permitted to serve in the military or in any position in the federal government, and, furthermore, coming out as gay could restrict one from pursuing careers in law or medicine.

            NYC Mayor, John Lindsey, launched a crackdown on gay bars in the summer of 1969. In the early morning hours of June 28th, 1969, NYPD police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a small, mafia-run bar located on Christopher Street  in New York City's Greenwhich Village that served as a haven for members of the LGBTQ community. Police raids on Stonewall were certainly not an abnormal occurrence. Typically, the bar owners would be levied a light fine by police officials and, in turn, they would open the bar again the following night. 

            Yet, there was something unusual about the raid on June 28th. The raid began as most did, with police officers entering the building, arresting employees, and throwing the customers onto the street. The crowd outside Stonewall was growing at a rapid rate. The energy was heightened, with everyone cheering each time a patron was forced from the bar. People were laughing and joking around, reports Robert Bryan, who arrived at the scene following the raid. However, Bryan accounts, the festive mood shifted after a drag queen was attacked by a police officer after hitting him with her purse. Following this, the police officers retreated back to Stonewall and began beating those inside. The number of demonstrators  escalated  and, soon after, there were several hundred gathered outside. "We were finally fighting back and it was exhilarating," recounts Bryan. The demonstrators trapped the police officers in the building. As a result, riot police arrived at Stonewall to rescue their colleagues. One police officer was treated in the hospital for head wounds and thirteen demonstrators were arrested. 

            Following wide-spread media coverage of the event, thousands of protestors clashed with riot police over the next six days. The aftershock of Stonewall saw an explosion in the gay rights movement. Martha Shelley, a prominent gay rights activist and writer, climbed onto a water tower near Stonewall with an important message for the crowd – come out and "walk in the sunshine." Following this proclamation, and others from prominent activists, the crowd marched toward Stonewall Inn. This was the first time in New York history that gay people, demanding equality and calling for "Gay Power", had marched openly. 

            Perhaps one of the most important impacts of the Stonewall Inn riots was the creation of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). On October 13th, 1970, one year after the creation of the GLF in New York, another branch was created in London. It was composed of merely 19 people meeting in a basement at the London School of Economics. However, the GLF moved on and grew to become a defining feature of the gay rights movement.  In a newsletter from 1970, the GLF stated their shared goal of radical idealism, "The Gay Liberation Front is a militant coalition of radical and revolutionary homosexual men and women committed to fight the oppression of the homosexual as a minority group and to demand the right to the self-determination of our own bodies." They believed in freedom from hate and oppression and, more specifically, freedom from homophobia. The GLF revolution embodied the notion of non-violence. It questioned and challenged everything from marriage to monogamy to the war in Vietnam. They were not just calling for equality within the status quo, rather; they desired to change the fragmented and oppressive status quo for something more inclusive, both for LGBTQ people and for everyone else. It is understood now to have been an anti-capitalistanti-imperialist  movement, striving for emancipation for the good all of humankind. 

            In the decade that followed the first gay-pride march, the federal exclusions on lesbians and gays were lifted and medical centers overturned their long-held belief that homosexuals needed psychiatric treatment. However, gay marriage was not recognized federally in the United States until 2015. Even now in 2019, there are still significant barriers that need to be broken. Gay people are still at risk of being fired in many U.S. states and members of the LGBTQ community continue to face social ostracism, discrimination, and even violence. A 2010 report by Statics Canada regarding police-reported oppression and hate-crime data ratifies that LGBTQ people continue to be the most server form of hate crimes in Canada. David Carter, author of Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution, affirmed that it is "very rare in human history that something that's a totally spontaneous act changed the course of human history for the better." The Stonewall Riots has impacted generations, and its stories of courage and might will continue to spark inspiration and drive for generations to come.  

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed in articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the NATO Association of Canada.

Featured Image: Members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) protesting at Trafalgar Square in Central London. (2012) via Wikimedia. Public Domain.