Army Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, the commander of XVII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, took over the leadership of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) on Friday, April 1 in Tampa.

Kurilla served as the CENTCOM chief of staff from August 2018 to September 2019. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, with graduate degrees from Regis University in Denver and the National War College in Washington, D.C. He has earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star during his military career.

Kurilla was nominated by President Joe Biden in January and was confirmed to take over CENTCOM by Senate in early February. CENTCOM oversees military missions in 21 countries throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of South Asia. For the past 20 years, it has covered the focus of U.S. operations overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said running Centcom and its mission is one of the most demanding jobs in the Defense Department. 

"This region is where we protect waterways so that global commerce can flow. It is where we fight terrorists who threaten our citizens, and it is where we work with our partners to confront instability from Iran and its proxies," Austin said. "Centcom is central to our security, it is central to our readiness and it is central to our mission." 

Kurilla replaces the outgoing CENTCOM leader, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie Jr. McKenzie was responsible for managing the U.S. military exit from Afghanistan.

"I can't think of anybody better qualified to lead Centcom's next chapter than Eric Kurilla," McKenzie said. "He's no stranger to the Centcom AOR. He's no stranger to the headquarters." 

Kurilla will lead more than 44,000 military service and family members overseas, and roughly 5,000 personnel in Tampa at headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, in ongoing operations to deter threats from Iran and defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue will be the new commander of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg while Maj. Gen. Christopher Laneve will take over the command of the 82nd Airborne Division.

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