by: Jeff Patterson
TAMPA (WFLA) – Ranking officers from every branch of the U.S. Military and a number of foreign nations traveled to Tampa on Friday for the change of command ceremony for U.S. Central Command based at MacDill Air Force Base.
The ceremony was attended by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin who previously served as the Commanding officer for CENTCOM. Austin says CENTCOM plays a vital roll in the defense of the middle east.
“This region is where we protect waterways so that global commerce can flow, it is where we fight terrorists who threaten our citizens,” said Austin who praised outgoing Marine General Kenneth Mckenzie as he turned over the command to Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla.
Kurilla once served as Mckenzie’s Chief of Staff at CENTCOM and so his return is homecoming of sorts to Tampa.
General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke at the ceremony, pointing out that combat operations are over in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that CENTCOM still has a vital roll to play.
“The fight isn’t over here. Every day there is new threats this country faces and there is always new challenges and in this complex theater, everything from terrorism to regional conflict can rear it’s ugly head on very short notice,” said Milley.
General Kurilla is a West Point Graduate and a wounded combat veteran. He’s previously commanded the 82nd Airborne and the 2nd Ranger Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment and is well aware of the history and importance of CENTCOM.
“CENTCOM was critical in it’s formation, it is critical now and it will be into the future,” said Kurrilla as he accepted his new position.