WORLD

McKenzie replaces Votel as CENTCOM commander

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie has taken over the leadership of Central Command (CENTCOM), replacing retiring Gen. Joseph Votel as America's top general in the Middle East.

At a ceremony at CENTCOM headquarters Thursday in Florida, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan thanked Votel for his leadership in the position.

"In Syria and Iraq, you have cooperated within a coalition or 79 nations and international organizations to eliminate ISIS's physical caliphate -- a four-and-a-half year struggle that culminated just last week," the secretary said about Votel, using another name for the Daesh terrorist group.

Votel served in the military for 40 years, where he began his career in 1980 as an infantry officer.

"We have worked with our partners to improve capabilities, build resilience, enhance interoperability, deter our adversaries and safeguard our common interests," Votel said.

The area in which CENTCOM overseas spans Africa, the Middle East and into Central and South Asia -- an area of 4.6 million square miles that covers 20 countries and is populated by 550 million people.

McKenzie was previously CENTCOM's director of strategy, plans and policy. He also served as director of the Joint Staff, which serves to assist the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"We know that even as we build upon the gains of the last few years and accomplishments in Syria the last few weeks, new challenges always await this command," McKenzie said. "I know that the battle-tested team at CENTCOM remains in the ready to do what has to be done."

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