WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama intends to nominate Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, currently the vice chief of staff of the Army, to succeed Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis as the next commander of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced today.
Austin, who has served as a deputy commander on Fort Stewart, is "one of the military's most seasoned combat leaders," the secretary said, and will "bring an important combination of strategic thinking, regional knowledge and proven judgment to one of the most critical posts in the department."
Austin was the final commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, holding that position from Sept. 1, 2010, until the command was disestablished Dec. 18, 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," Panetta said.
Austin's previous commands include the 3rd Infantry Division, with whom he earned a Silver Star for valor for actions in the early months of the war in Iraq. He also served as commander of the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, and as commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq from February 2008 through April 2009.
Mattis has commanded Centcom since Aug. 11, 2010, having previously served as commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command.
"[Mattis] will go down as one of the most celebrated battlefield leaders and strategic military thinkers of our time," Panetta said.
Austin's nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.
Austin served as the assistant division commander (Maneuver), 3d Infantry Division on Fort Stewart and during Operation Iraqi Fereedom from July 2001 until June 2003. He is a native of Thomasville.