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Press Release | April 1, 2022

Retirement Ceremony Honors CENTCOM Commander


Apr. 1, 2022

Release Number 20220401-01


TAMPA, Fla. - The outgoing commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., retired today after 42 years of military service.

A native of Birmingham, Ala. and graduate of The Citadel, McKenzie has commanded at all levels in the Marine Corps, led Marine Expeditionary Units on deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and served in the highest offices at the Pentagon. In his last assignment, McKenzie oversaw all U.S. military missions throughout the 21-country area of responsibility in the Middle East, Levant and Central Asia, as well as leading the 78-nation counterterrorism campaign against ISIS.

The retirement ceremony, officiated by the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. (ret) Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. at the Tampa convention center April 1, 2022, paid tribute to McKenzie’s distinguished service with hundreds of friends and family in attendance.

Gen. McKenzie assumed command of CENTCOM in March 2019. During his tenure, McKenzie led high-profile missions including the elimination of the overall leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his successor, the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and subsequent mission to transport more than 124,000 Americans and Afghan evacuees, and the transition of coalition forces in Iraq from a combat to an advise, assist, and enable role in support of Iraqi forces.

McKenzie oversaw the transition in the Unified Command Plan that moved the State of Israel from the area of responsibility of U.S. European Command to that of U.S. Central Command. McKenzie advocated to the leaders of regional partners for operationalizing the Abraham Accords to expand military cooperation between traditional CENTCOM partners and Israel, with numerous regional exercises including representation from the Israel Defense Forces in 2022.

Reflecting on his final assignment, McKenzie said, “Commanding CENTCOM has been, without a doubt, the single greatest honor of my 42-year career. As I neared the end of my previous assignment as the Director of the Joint Staff, there was only one job left that really interested me—and this is it.”

The retirement ceremony was a prelude to the official change of command during which McKenzie will relinquish command.

“For the past 21 years, CENTCOM has been the only combatant command in close and enduring contact with America’s enemies,” said McKenzie. “It’s where every combat arms commander wants to be. I can think of no one better qualified to write CENTCOM’s next chapter than Erik Kurilla.”

U.S. Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla will assume command of CENTCOM from McKenzie this afternoon at a ceremony officiated by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. Kurilla previously commanded the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. and served as the CENTCOM chief of staff from August 2018 to September 2019.

CENTCOM comprises more than 40,000 service and family members overseas and in Tampa in the headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

General Kurilla Takes Command of U.S. Central Command