Gen Austin to be nominated next US CENTCOM chief

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US Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen Lloyd Austin will be nominated to be the next commander of the Central Command, according to a Defence Department announcement. If confirmed by the Senate, Austin, who became the vice chief in February, would succeed Marine Gen. James Mattis. President Barack Obama will send the nomination to Congress. Mattis took command of CENTCOM, based at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., in August 2010. “Lloyd Austin … is one of the military’s most seasoned combat leaders, with extensive experience in the CENTCOM area of responsibility,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement. Austin, a 1975 West Point graduate, led the 3rd Infantry Division “from the front in the opening months of the Iraq war, earning a Silver Star for valor,” Panetta’s statement said. He later commanded the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, led Multi-National Corps-Iraq from February 2008 until April 2009, and then commanded U.S. Forces-Iraq from September 2010 through the completion of the mission in December 2011.