General David M Rodriguez assumed command of US Africa Command (Africom) from General Carter F Ham in Stuttgart last Friday.
Rodriguez is Africom’s third commander since the command was established in 2008 to co-ordinate US military relations and activities with African nations, regional organisations and the African Union.
General Martin E Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided over the change of command ceremony.
“General Rodriguez is one of our nation’s most highly regarded senior officers and strategic thinkers. At every level of command, in peace and war, he has proven his mettle. He is smart and decisive, he cares about the mission, but he also cares deeply about his people. With more than 36 years of experience he knows the importance of building relationships and establishing trust,” Dempsey said.
Before an audience of more than 1 000 Africom service members, civilian employees and invited guests, Dempsey praised Ham for leading Africa Command since March 2011.
“You found new ways to deepen partnerships and to build capability. Your support has enabled African-led coalitions to tackle some of Africa’s most complex challenges. And together you have critically weakened Al-Shabaab, put Lord’s Resistance Army on the run and helped beat back extremism in Mali.”
Dempsey added Africom’s achievements are “the product of your principled and grounded leadership”.
Ham, who travelled to 42 African nations during 101 trips to Africa, is retiring later this year after 39 years of service, including two years as an enlisted infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.
In his remarks Ham said the day he took command he pledged to then Secretary of Defence Robert Gates the command would “do our best each and every day to uphold the trust and confidence” of the nation.
“I report to you now that we have fulfilled that pledge. I depart the command confident the women and men assembled here today and those deployed across the wide expanse of Africa are indeed moving forward together.”
Ham said challenges remained “but I am wholly confident the Africa Command team, under General Rodriguez’s capable leadership, will meet each and every one of those challenges with agility, imaginative thought, and unselfish dedication.”
Rodriquez comes to Africom from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was the Commanding General of US Army Forces Command. Previously he served as commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command (IJC) and deputy commander of US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) from November 2009 to July 2011.
Rodriguez is a 1976 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and holds a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the United States Naval War College and a Masters of Military Arts and Science from the US Army Command and General Staff College.
“It is a privilege and an honour to be here and to take command of United States Africa Command. General Ham has done a tremendous job leading this command. I will continue this effort and work to build on the relationships he has established with our African, European and international partners. These partnerships are essential to achieve our shared objectives,” Rodriguez said.
Picture: General Carter F Ham (at podium) with General Dempsey and General Rodriguez