HEIDELBERG, Germnay - Army Lt. Gen. John D. Gardner assumes duties as the deputy commander for the Allied Land Component Command - Heidelberg, North Atlantic Treaty Organization during a July 11 welcome ceremony here on Campbell Barracks.

German Lt. Gen. Karl Heinz Lather, commander, ALCC HQ HD, presided over the ceremony as he provided a warm welcome on behalf of the command and the Heidelberg community. Lather also provided the 150 Soldiers and NATO civilians standing in formation a brief overview of the new deputy commander's military record and experience Gardner brings to the command.

Lt. Gen. Gardner's experience ranges from his earlier days as a young military officer as a rifle platoon leader in the 82d Airborne Division, commanding in Germany as a company commander and later commanding soldiers at various levels in Europe, Korea and Southwest Asia, said Lather.

To conclude, Lt. Gen Lather added that the background and current tactical and operational knowledge Gardner brings from his past will greatly reinforce our team and further the strength to our headquarters as the land experts in Joint Forces Command Brunssum.

As the deputy commander for NATO's Land Component Command, Lt. Gen. Gardner will be a key facilitator for the day to day operations of the headquarters and activities leading NATO in the upcoming cooperative exercise, NATO transformation and support to approximately 200 Soldiers and civilians from the Heidelberg Headquarters whom are preparing to deploy to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan later this month.

Lt. Gen. Gardner took the podium and thanked the ALCC's command sergeant major, Soldiers and civilians of ALCC for a warm and fitting welcome. He noted that it was a pleasure to see a collection of allied uniforms in formation.

Gardner added, I am fortunate to be come back into Europe and also come into NATO and NATO's command structure. It has been awhile since being stationed in Germany (early 1980's) and I have been fighting to get back and it is truly great to be in the beautiful and historic community of Heidelberg.

"I look at the (allied) uniforms and the (NATO member) flags behind us and cannot help but to be impressed with the multinational aspect of NATO and the strength that all the nations bring to it," said Gardner. "I am really excited to join this headquarters at a critical time for NATO, the alliance and the region.

In the end, Lt. Gen. Gardner pledged his support for the Soldiers preparing to deploy to ISAF and for the families staying back here. For those (staff elements) staying back in the headquarters, obviously we have a lot to do as we get ready to carry out the upcoming cooperative exercise this October.

"Again, I hope to get to meet all of you as well as get to know you better," said Gardner. "Lt. Gen. Lather, I thank you for the kind remarks and it is an honor and privilege to be here today and look forward working here."

Lt. Gen. Gardner most recently served as the Deputy Commanding General (Detainee Operations) / Commanding General, Task Force 134, Multi-National Force-Iraq.

(Army Maj. Michael J. Indovina is the deputy public information officer for ALCC HQ HD)