Austin Takes Central Command Flag From Mattis
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Mar. 22, 2013 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel presided over the change of command of U.S. Central Command from Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III here today.
Hagel said the transfer occurs at a time of great change in the Central Command area of responsibility. It is a time of great risk and challenges, the secretary said, and a time of great opportunities.
Mattis and Austin have a long history together, Hagel said. At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mattis and Austin led the first American troops to cross the berm into Iraq.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Mattis was not daunted by the task he faced as Centcom commander.
“The challenges the volatile Centcom region presents can sometimes seem almost insolvable, yet Jim looked beyond the risks and sought to understand and to consider what was possible,” Dempsey said. “Jim looked beyond the risks we’ve sought to understand to consider the possible. He looked beyond the threats that we’ve labored to confront to face down aggression in all its forms.”
Dempsey noted that on his way here, he had stopped yesterday at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C.
“Even a young sergeant and staff sergeant knew I was on the way down here for the Central Command change of command,” the chairman said. “And to a man and woman, they knew the name of Jim Mattis. If you can leave the service with such an imprint on it that any young sergeant knows your name and had respect for the leadership you’ve provided, that’s a legacy I think we would all aspire to and be very proud of.”
Hagel listed Mattis’ achievements over a 40-year career. “He led Marines as a battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm back in 1991,” Hagel said. “He commanded the longest assault from the sea in modern history, leading Task Force 58 more than 400 miles inland into Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11.”
During the invasion of Iraq, Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division on the drive into Baghdad. “He again led Marines into battle during the fight for the city of Fallujah,” Hagel said.
The general also is noted for his care for Marines, the secretary said. Hagel noted that when Mattis was a brigadier general based at Quantico, Va., he took the staff duty so a young officer could spend the day at home.
That side of the general is part and parcel of the statement that “there truly is no worse enemy, and no better friend, than a United States Marine,” Hagel said.
Austin comes to the command after serving as Army vice chief of staff, and he has spent his career concerned with the developments, problems, threats and risks in the Central Command area. He commanded the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division and 18th Airborne Corps, and was the last multinational force commander in Iraq. The general also has served as the Centcom chief of staff.
Dempsey said Austin “has done some incredibly heavy lifting for our nation over the last decade.”
“He’s returning to the Centcom family with an extraordinary breadth of experience in command and joint roles,” he added.
The chairman also praised Austin’s ability to examine situations and come up with solutions. “We’ll lean on Lloyd and his team to anchor relationships and trust across and outside the region,” he said. Dempsey added that he also will rely on the new Central Command commander to balance fiscal realities with strategies.