Rodriguez Succeeds Ham as Africom Commander
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
STUTTGART, Germany, April 5, 2013 Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez became U.S. Africa Command’s third commander here today during a ceremony at the command’s headquarters with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presiding.
Rodriguez succeeds Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, who is retiring after a 39-year career that included two years as an enlisted infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.
In a letter read at the ceremony, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel thanked Ham for his service. "You took command of Africom at a critical time on the continent and in the larger region,” he wrote.
As a result of Ham's leadership, America has deepened its engagements in Africa and built and strengthened important relationships with U.S. allies and partners, Hagel said in the letter.
"Your inspired leadership has helped African nations realize the value of Africom in fostering stability and hope on the continent," Hagel continued.. "You devoted the whole of yourself to the United States Army and to the United States of America, and for that, we are grateful."
Within days of taking command in 2011, Ham assembled an international coalition dedicated to help in protecting the people of Libya, Dempsey said at today’s ceremony here. "From Tanzania to Senegal, Tunisia to Botswana, you've found new ways to deepen partnerships and to build capability," he added.
Alongside international partners, Africom has "critically weakened al Shabab, put the Lord's Resistance Army on the run and helped beat back extremism in Mali," Dempsey said. "Not bad for a 5-year-old command."
Those achievements are a product of Ham's principled and grounded leadership, the chairman said.
"As a famous African saying goes: ‘A tree is known by its fruit.’ … You've cultivated a strategy that embraces complexity and acknowledges that enduring solutions can only be the result of open, honest collaboration," Dempsey said to Ham.
Military, diplomatic and political representatives from throughout the command and Germany, where Ham spent much of his career, attended the ceremony.
“If you’d have told me in March of 2011 that the chief of staff of the Libyan armed forces would be here today, I might have questioned your sanity and your judgment,” Ham said. “Yet, Gen. [Yousef] Mangoush is here today, and he represents a strong and growing partnership between Libya and the United States.”
Ham also expressed confidence in his successor.
“There will indeed be more challenges ahead,” he said, “but I remain wholly confident the Africa Command team, under General Rodriguez’s most capable leadership, will meet each and every one of those challenges with agility, imaginative thought and unselfish dedication.”
Promising Rodriguez a “full plate,” Dempsey noted that terrorism, transnational crime, internal instability and illicit trafficking all need to be addressed in the region. The Defense Department and the nation have great confidence in Rodriguez, the chairman added, and in his ability to confront tomorrow’s challenges.
Rodriguez has served with distinction on the unforgiving battlefields of the 21st century, Hagel wrote in his letter. "By your actions,” Hagel said of the general, “you have gained the trust and confidence of the president and the department's leadership."
Rodriguez’s most recent assignment was as commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. His responsibilities included manning, equipping and training 265,000 active component soldiers. He also held training and readiness oversight for 560,000 Army reservists and National Guardsmen.
Previous assignments include command of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command and deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan. Rodriguez also has led the 82nd Airborne Division and units within the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Armored Division and 75th Ranger Regiment.
Africom was established in 2007 and is responsible to the secretary of defense for military relations with African nations, the African Union and African regional security organizations.