General Kurilla Takes Over at US Central Command

Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla takes the XVIII Airborne Corps colors.
Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla takes the XVIII Airborne Corps colors from Gen. Michael X. Garrett during the XVIII Airborne Corps Change of Command Ceremony Fort Bragg, N.C., Oct. 7, 2019. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Adam M. Manternach)

Army Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, who has earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star during his military career, took over leadership of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) on Friday during an event at the Tampa Convention Center, according to a press release from the command.

Kurilla previously commanded the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and served as the CENTCOM chief of staff from August 2018 to September 2019. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, with graduate degrees from Regis University in Denver and the National War College in Washington, D.C.

"I'm honored to serve alongside the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardians, Marines, coastguardsmen and civilians of this command," Kurilla, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in January and confirmed for his role by the Senate in early February, said during the ceremony.

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CENTCOM oversees military missions in 21 countries throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of South Asia. For the past 20 years, it has covered the focus of U.S. operations overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"U.S. Central Command will continue to thrive under the steadfast leadership of General Kurilla during a critical time in a region that remains dangerous and complex," Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who commanded CENTCOM between March 2013 to March 2016, said in a press release.

Kurilla replaces the outgoing CENTCOM leader, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie Jr. McKenzie began as commander in March 2019. At the end of a storied career spanning four decades, McKenzie was responsible for managing the U.S. military exit from Afghanistan, which ended in the Taliban's ultimate control over Afghanistan, and included the loss of 13 American service members as a result of a bombing during the evacuation and the death of 10 Afghan civilians as a result of a drone strike in the waning days of the campaign.

"For the past 21 years, CENTCOM has been the only combatant command in close and enduring contact with America's enemies," McKenzie said in a press release Friday. "I can think of no one better qualified to write CENTCOM's next chapter than Erik Kurilla."

Kurilla will lead more than 44,000 military service and family members overseas, and roughly 5,000 personnel in Tampa at headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, in ongoing operations to deter threats from Iran and defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

-- Jonathan Lehrfeld is a fellow at Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media.

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