WASHINGTON -- Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, a career infantry officer, assumed command of U.S. European Command and became NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe last week.

Scaparrotti most recently served as the commander in South Korea of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea.

"It is a true honor, and I am humbled to serve as the European Command commander," he told the audience at the May 3 ceremony in Stuttgart, Germany, in which he assumed command from retiring Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove.

Eucom prepares ready forces, ensures strategic access, deters conflict, enables the NATO alliance, strengthens partnerships, and counters transnational threats to protect and defend the United States. About 62,000 active U.S. military personnel are authorized in Europe, including 52,500 who directly support Eucom.

CHALLENGES FOR EUROPE

An aggressive Russia, mass migration and extremism are among the threats to Europe, Scaparrotti said at the change-of command ceremony.

"We face a resurgent Russia and its aggressive behavior that challenges international norms in Crimea, the Donbas and South Ossetia," he said.

Europe faces the "immediate threat that terrorism poses, as the world witnessed with the recent tragedies in Brussels, Paris and Ankara," he said.

In addition, the significant influx of migrants and refugees is "challenging the social fabric of Europe," he said.

He pledged that Eucom will continue to build on its legacy to deter aggression, deploy forces for contingency operations, strengthen bonds with allies and partners, and be "ready to fight" should deterrence fail, he said.

DUAL-HATTED IN NATO ROLE

As Eucom commander, Scaparrotti is dual-hatted as NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe. In Mons, Belgium, at the Supreme Headquarters Allies Powers Europe headquarters, Scaparrotti assumed that duty May 4 from Breedlove.

In that capacity, Scaparrotti leads Allied Command Operations, the command responsible for the planning and execution of combined, joint, effects-based military operations in order to meet alliance objectives. He is responsible for the overall direction and conduct of global military operations for NATO.

The 28-nation bloc is more important than ever, Scaparrotti said during the ceremony in Mons. The alliance and its core collective strength remain vital as in the face of emergency security challenges, he added.

"As we continue our critical mission in Afghanistan, we also face a resurgent Russia striving to project itself as a world power," he said. "We face terrorism and a refugee crisis being driven by instability in North Africa and the Middle East."

DECADES OF MILITARY SERVICE

Scaparrotti served as the director of the Joint Staff; as commander International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Afghanistan; as deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan; as commanding general of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and as commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.

In addition, he served as director of operations for U.S. Central Command and as the 69th commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. He commanded forces during operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Zaire/Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Liberia.

The Ohio native graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1978.