The man who led the troops into Iraq and then oversaw their withdrawal in 2011 is the new commander at U.S. Central Command based at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base.
General Lloyd Austin, III, officially took control at CENTCOM Friday during a ceremony officiated by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
“With his calm demeanor, strategic vision, regional experience and knowledge, and proven judgment,” Hagel said, “I am confident General Austin is prepared to lead this command at a time of dramatic change, challenge, and turmoil in its area of responsibility.”
Central Command is responsible for the “central area” of the globe, including 20 countries from Afghanistan and Bahrain to Uzbekistan and Yemen. Ambassadors from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates attended the formal ceremony.
Leaving command is U.S. Marine Gen. James Mattis. He praised the soldiers, seamen, airmen and Marines of the joint command who he said work seven days a week on continued deployments.
“Mr. Secretary, Chairman (Gen. Marin Dempsey), I would gladly storm hell in the company of these troops who I haven’t the words sufficient to praise. So, I will not try. They know how strongly I believe in them, how strongly they have demonstrated to the world that free men and women can fight like the dickens.”
In a tribute to Mattis’ steady hand of leadership, several high ranking officers including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey attended the ceremony: Gen. James Amos, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps; Gen. Carl Mundy, Jr. (ret.), former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps; Gen. Joseph Hoar (ret.), former Commander U.S. CENTCOM; and Admiral Bill McCraven, Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
And the U.S. Marine Corps band from Paris Island provided the transition music.
General Austin becomes the 14th commander of the regional command that has brought recognition and turned several of its former commanders into household names such as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Gen. Tommy Franks, Gen. John Abazaid, and Gen. David Petraeus.