STUTTGART, Germany - Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, met this week with U.S. troops and visited several locations in U.S. European Command's theater before meeting with senior leaders at Headquarters EUCOM.
Gen. Pace's visit included a stop in Pristina, Kosovo with KFOR troops and a Dec. 5 meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to discuss support by the Georgian military to coalition military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
"I wanted to introduce myself, I wanted to listen, and I wanted to learn how the U.S military and the Georgian military can work together in the future for the betterment of both of our countries," Pace said in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
After meeting with Mr. Saakashvili, Pace confirmed EUCOM planning to begin a training mission with Georgian troops called, Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program. While details are still being worked, the new mission builds on the Georgia Train and Equip training conducted by Special Operations Command Europe and Marine Forces Europe between May 2002 and April 2004. The new program will involve sustaining the GTEP trained troops by training and equipping their parent unit, the 11th Brigade staff and equipping two additional Georgian infantry battalions, two logistics battalions, training some separate companies from the Georgian 11th Brigade and some command and control elements that will plan, coordinate and execute Georgian deployments to Iraq.
"It's a great honor to be a partner with the Georgian Armed Forces in a country that has struggled for your own freedom," he told reporters during a press briefing, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security policy James MacDougall.
In Stuttgart, Pace met with EUCOM deputy commander, Gen. Charles Wald, and received briefings on EUCOM engagement in Africa and the Caspian and Caucasus regions. The Marine general called the contributions of EUCOM, both within its own 91 country area of responsibility and through direct support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, "eye watering."
Some 16,000 EUCOM members are currently deployed in support of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Recently returning from Afghanistan, Pace shared with the EUCOM staff his personal observations of the many successes that country is experiencing, evidenced by successful democratic elections and self-government, people returning to work and schools and the rebuilding of infrastructure. The general said there was a real sense of optimism in the Afghani people and called the tone of what he saw "very positive."
He added the success in Afghanistan gives him optimism for Iraqi elections in January and the challenges faced by the Iraqi government in the country's reconstruction, which is dependent upon defeating the terrorists and insurgents.
Pace closed his EUCOM visit offering his sincere appreciation for the contributions EUCOM people are making in the war on terrorism and transforming the military.
"Once again the holiday season is here, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your great work and for your sacrifices, Pace said. "I'd like to say thank you to the people here at EUCOM and to all of your component commands for truly making a huge impact, both within your theater and in support of CENTCOM."