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Townsend Takes Reins of U.S. Africa Command

July 26, 2019 | BY Terri Moon Cronk
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U.S. Africa Command has a new commander — its fifth since the command stood up in 2008  — as Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend has succeeded Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, who is retiring after 43 years of service.

The change-of-command ceremony took place this morning at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany.

Official party salutes a joint color guard.
Africa Command
From left, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, outgoing U.S. Africa Command commander; Richard V. Spencer, performing the Duties of the deputy secretary of defense; and Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, incoming Africom commander, salute a joint color guard during the Africom change of command at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, July 26, 2019. Townsend became the fifth Africom commander.
Photo By: Takisha Miller, Army
VIRIN: 190726-A-AY109-1015C

Addressing civilians, service members and family members of the command, Townsend said he is honored and excited to join the Africom ranks and that he looks forward to meeting the command's important mission for the United States.

Richard V. Spencer, performing the duties of the deputy secretary of defense, hosted the ceremony and thanked Waldhauser for his four-decade career and his service as Africom commander.

Civilian passes flag to Army general.
Africa Command
Richard V. Spencer, performing the duties of the deputy secretary of defense, hands the U.S. Africa Command guidon to Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, incoming commander, during a change-of-command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, July 26, 2019. Africom is one of six of the Defense Department's geographic unified commands and is responsible to the defense secretary for military relations with African nations, the African Union, and African regional security organizations.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Grady Jones
VIRIN: 190726-A-LV553-1044C

"General Waldhauser, … know that this command stands postured to continue success beyond your hard work and leadership," Spencer said.

During his Africom tenure, he continued, Waldhauser worked to align the command with the National Defense Strategy, which is built on three lines of effort: increased lethality, bolstering coalitions and partnerships, and reforms in DOD.

A cannon fires.
Africa Command
Service members fire a 19-round gun salute during the U.S. Africa Command change of command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, July 26, 2019. Africom is one of six of the Defense Department's geographic unified commands and is responsible to the secretary of defense for military relations with African nations, the African Union, and African regional security organizations.
Photo By: Takisha Miller, Army
VIRIN: 190726-A-JT426-1067C

"General Townsend brings a wealth of experience from his position as former commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve," Spencer said, noting that Townsend led the coalition's efforts to destroy the ISIS physical caliphate in both Iraq and Syria.

"Townsend has a sterling reputation, and I am entirely confident Africom will achieve even greater successes" under his command, Spencer said. 

"You are absolutely the right leader to take this command and organization," Spencer said to Townsend.

Spencer also addressed the Africom military and civilian audience, "What you do to strengthen this command and promote security within the region is unequaled," he said. "The American people are exceptionally proud of your accomplishments."

Man speaks at lectern.
Africa Command
Richard V. Spencer, performing the duties of the deputy secretary of defense, speaks during the U.S. Africa Command change-of-command ceremony at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, July 26, 2019. Africom is one of six of the Defense Department's geographic unified commands and is responsible to the defense secretary for military relations with African nations, the African Union, and African regional security organizations.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Grady Jones
VIRIN: 190726-A-LV553-1048C

Waldhauser also spoke at the ceremony. "Across Africa, the security challenges are many," he said. "Malign influence and the confluence of illicit activity, environmental variance, extremism and poor governance are but a few of the factors that continue to fuel insecurity and disenfranchisement."

The new Africom commander let the audience know what his agenda would be.

"We are excited to join you and your ranks," Townsend said to the audience. "We look forward to working with you and accomplishing Africom's important mission."

Together, he said, "we will protect our nation from threats abroad, and ensure the U.S. and our allies remain partners in Africa now and in the future."

To the command's partners and allies in Africa and Europe, Townsend said Africom is known for its diverse organization and partnerships.

"Having recently celebrated our 10th anniversary, we are a young command. But we are one with an important focus for our combined nations. I promise you [that] you can continue to count on Africom to work side by side with you to advance our combined interests, security, stability and prosperity across Africa."