NATO says it has appointed Adm. James G. Stavridis to take over as the alliance's top military commander. Stavridis' appointment marks the first time a naval officer will take charge of NATO forces in Europe. Stavridis, who currently heads the US Southern Command, replaces Gen. Bantz J. Craddock. The announcement had been expected ever since President Barack Obama nominated Stavridis to the top NATO post in March. Traditionally, an American officer commands the alliance's military forces, while a European heads its political headquarters.