Joseph W. Ralston
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (2000-2003)
Commander, US European Command (2000-2003)
Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (1996-2000)
In 2003, General Joseph Ralston completed a distinguished 37-year Air Force career as Commander, US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO. As NATO commander, General Ralston contributed to preserving the peace, security and territorial integrity of the NATO member nations while commanding approximately 65,000 troops from 39 NATO and other nations participating in ongoing operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He also led the efforts to integrate the three nations that were admitted to NATO in 1999 and oversaw the process to invite seven nations to join NATO in 2002.
As Commander of the US European Command from 2000 to 2003, General Ralston was the senior US military officer and commander of all US forces in an area of responsibility that covers more than 21 million square miles and includes 93 nations. This territory extends from the North Cape of Norway, through the waters of the Baltic and Mediterranean seas, most of Europe, parts of the Middle East, to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. In this command, he faced and met many challenges. He deepened the command's role in Central Asia and the Caucasus through humanitarian missions and through military training assistance for Operation Enduring Freedom. He led the command in daily missions in the war against terrorism, from the streets of Bosnia to the waters of the Mediterranean. And he oversaw air operations in the no-fly zone over Northern Iraq.
Previously, General Ralston served as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1996-2000), the nation's second highest-ranking military officer. In that role, General Ralston chaired the powerful Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), which validated the requirements for nearly every program of the Department of Defense.
His previous assignment was commander of the US Air Force Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. He has also commanded the Alaskan Command and the Alaskan NORAD Region. He has served as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force for Plans and Operations, as Director of Tactical Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, and as Director of Air Force Operational Requirements.
A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, General Ralston entered the Air Force in 1965 through the ROTC program upon graduation from Miami University in Ohio. His stellar career included commands at squadron, wing, numbered air force and major command levels as well as a variety of staff and management assignments. He is a command pilot with more than 2,500 flying hours, including 147 combat missions over Laos and North Vietnam. General Ralston is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Lockheed Martin, and The Timken Company. In September 2006, President Bush appointed him as the Special Envoy for Countering the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), a terrorist organization designated by the United States, Turkey and the European Union.