President Obama just nominated a new leader for one of Tampa’s most visible military institutions, U.S. Central Command, based MacDill Air Force Base.
The nominee: Gen. Lloyd Austin, who currently serves as vice chief of staff of the Army. He is one of the military’s most seasoned combat leaders according to a statement from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta:
“Gen. Austin led the 3rd Infantry Division from the front in the opening months of the Iraq war, earning a Silver Star for valor. He later commanded the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, led Multi-National Corps-Iraq from February 2008 until April 2009, and then commanded U.S. Forces-Iraq from September 2010 through the completion of the mission in December 2011.
“During his final deployment to Iraq, Gen. Austin led our military efforts at a particularly important time, overseeing the drawdown of U.S. forces and equipment while simultaneously helping to ensure that hard-fought security gains were preserved and that Iraqis could secure and govern themselves. Lloyd would bring an important combination of strategic thinking, regional knowledge and proven judgment to one of the most critical posts in the department.
“Gen. Austin is in the mold of the extraordinary CENTCOM commander he would succeed, Gen. James Mattis. Jim has a distinguished record as a combatant commander, having also led the former Joint Forces Command from 2007-2010. I will have much more to say about Jim Mattis, who I believe will go down as one of the most celebrated battlefield leaders and strategic military thinkers of our time. He has been an exemplary leader of U.S. Central Command at a critical time for America’s vital interests in the Middle East and South Asia. He has helped build regional security cooperation, advanced the cause of security and stability, and ensured that our forces are postured and prepared for any contingency in the region. I have relied on Jim every day I have served as secretary, and am profoundly grateful for his service to me and to the nation.
“Americans are safer because one of our nation’s great warriors, Jim Mattis, is standing watch over this volatile and important part of the world. I am grateful that we have found another warrior and patriot, Lloyd Austin, to carry his legacy forward and to command thousands of troops who are willing to fight and to die to defend our nation.”