U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he has chosen a Navy admiral to be the supreme commander of NATO, the first time a naval officer will hold that post.

Gates told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday that he has recommended Navy Admiral James Stavridis to take charge of U.S. forces in Europe, which also would make him the top military commander of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Stavridis heads the U.S. Southern Command, overseeing U.S. military operations in South and Central America.

Gates said Stavridis "has done a spectacular job" in Latin America, and is "probably one of the best senior military officers" the United States has.

Gates also said he has recommended second terms for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and his deputy, General James Cartwright.

The defense secretary also announced the end of the military policy known as "stop-loss," which has been used to keep thousands of service members on active duty after their tours of duty were scheduled to end.

He said the Pentagon plans to phase the stop-loss system out almost completely over the next two years.

Gates said he views holding people in the military against their will as "breaking faith," and "just not the right thing to do."

He said more people are choosing to stay in the armed forces, which along with a reduction in the number of troops deployed in Iraq over the next 2.5 years, will help make it possible to stop the procedure.