Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, new commander of U.S. Central Command, addresses the audience at the CENTCOM change of command ceremony Oct. 31 at MacDill AFB, Fla.
MACDILL AFB, Fla. (Oct. 31, 2008) — In a change of scenery from the deserts of Iraq to the sunny skies of Florida, Gen. David H. Petraeus took the reins of United States Central Command from acting commander Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey here during a change of command ceremony.
The ceremony included 84 guests from both the outgoing and incoming commander’s 1974 West Point graduating class and remarks from distinguished guests Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense and Adm. Mike Mullen, United States Navy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I recall my first meeting with Marty Dempsey when he took the reigns of CENTCOM some seven months ago. He gave me a sheet of paper outlining the priorities of this command and asked for my guidance,” Gates said. “After hearing what Marty had to say, I simply held up that same sheet of paper and said ‘this is my guidance to you, a testament to his strategic vision and pragmatism which he possesses an extra measure.’”
During his time as commander at Central Command, Lt. Gen. Dempsey has more than held down the fort, Gates explained.
“He has fully seized the reigns and taken on the responsibilities of leading this vital command. He has reorganized the headquarters, published a theater strategy and a theater campaign plan, revised contingency plans and reviewed and revised regional and country action plans,” he added. “Through it all, Marty has always placed the war fighter at the forefront, a priority that he made clear from day one, and he has responded at every turn with a quiet confidence that earned my admiration and that of countless others under his command and throughout the region and Marty will bring these qualities to his new post.”
Dempsey will now venture to Fort Monroe, Va. where he will take command of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command.
“Dave, you probably require less introduction than anyone I know so I’ll simply say thanks to both you and Holly for taking on yet another tough job for your country and I’m very proud to be your classmate and friend,” Dempsey said during the ceremony.
Petraeus, who relinquished command of Multi-National Force-Iraq on Sept. 16, after 19 months, will now step up to the plate as the new commander of United States Central Command, where the Area of Responsibility stretches from Egypt to Kazakhstan.
“Indeed from transnational extremist organizations and industrial strength insurgencies to weapons proliferation, a rise in piracy and persistent ethno-sectarian conflict, the CENTCOM area contains innumerable challenges,” said Gen. Petraeus, graduate of West Point Class of 1974. “As we have all seen in recent years, addressing these challenges requires comprehensive approaches that employ the whole of our government’s capabilities in close coordination of host country and coalition governments and security forces. This is necessary, not just to resolve pressing short term issues, but to address over time the underlying conditions that give rise to such serious security challenges. CENTCOM’s tasks are of enormous importance to our country, to the CENTCOM region and to the world. It’s clear that in the months and years ahead, a great deal of responsibility will continue to rest on the shoulders of the wonderful men and women of the coalition countries serving in harms way in the Central Command area of responsibility and it is an honor to serve with them again.”
General Petraeus will continue to lead Marines, Soldiers, Coast Guardsmen, Airman and Sailors on a much larger scale throughout the U.S. Central Command’s AOR as he begins his new assignment.
“There can be no higher privilege for any soldier than being allowed to serve once more with such wonderful Americans,” Petraeus added. “Teddy Roosevelt once observed that far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. This position certainly fits that description.”
As Petraeus is no stranger to commanding an Area of Operation during a time of combat he will now enter a billet where he will have authority of combat operations not only in Iraq, but the United States Central Command Area of Operations as a whole.