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Gates Nominates McRaven, Thurman for Senior Posts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2011 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is recommending that President Barack Obama nominate Vice Adm. William H. McRaven for a fourth star and to the position of commander, U.S. Special Operations Command.

The secretary also has recommended Army Gen. James D. Thurman to serve as commander, U.S. Forces Korea.

Gates made the recommendations during a Pentagon press briefing today. If confirmed by the Senate, McRaven would succeed Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, who has headed the command since 2008. Thurman would succeed Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp in Korea.

Gates also made other personnel recommendations. He has recommended Navy Vice Adm. Joseph D. Kernan for the post of deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, replacing Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen. Kernan has been Gates’ senior military assistant for the last two years.

The secretary said the officers he is recommending “have the right mix of military acumen, strategic vision and diplomatic and interagency skills that these posts will require.”

McRaven, a former commander of SEAL Team 3 and Special Operations Command Europe, is the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. As such, he has led the command as it “ruthlessly and effectively [took] the fight to America's most dangerous and vicious enemies,” Gates said.

Thurman currently commands the U.S. Army Forces Command. He commanded the 4th Infantry Division and Multinational Division Baghdad during some of the darkest days in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

If confirmed, Kernan would return to Southern Command where he previously commanded the 4th Fleet, the first Navy SEAL to lead a numbered fleet. “On a personal note, I'd like to thank Joe for his dedicated service for the past two years in my office,” the secretary said. “His advice, informed by his background as a special operations warrior, has been invaluable, and he will be sorely missed.”

Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Kelly, currently at Marine Forces Reserve, will succeed Kernan. He previously commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq’s Anbar province.

The secretary also commented on the passing of Army Corp. Frank W. Buckles, the last living American World War I veteran, who died last weekend at his West Virginia home.

“I had the honor of meeting Mr. Buckles almost exactly three years ago at an event here at the Pentagon honoring the World War I generation,” Gates said. “As I said then, we will always be grateful for what these veterans did for their country. And in Mr. Buckles’ case, we are all glad that he had the longevity that he enjoyed on this Earth.”

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