Gates Nominates McRaven, Thurman for Senior Posts

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates is rec­om­mend­ing that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma nom­i­nate Vice Adm. William McRaven for a fourth star and to the posi­tion of com­man­der, U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand.
The sec­re­tary also has rec­om­mend­ed Army Gen. James D. Thur­man to serve as com­man­der, U.S. Forces Korea.

Gates made the rec­om­men­da­tions dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon press brief­ing today. If con­firmed by the Sen­ate, McRaven would suc­ceed Navy Adm. Eric Olson, who has head­ed the com­mand since 2008. Thur­man would suc­ceed Army Gen. Wal­ter “Skip” Sharp in Korea.

Gates also made oth­er per­son­nel rec­om­men­da­tions. He has rec­om­mend­ed Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Ker­nan for the post of deputy com­man­der of U.S. South­ern Com­mand, replac­ing Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen. Ker­nan has been Gates’ senior mil­i­tary assis­tant for the last two years.

The sec­re­tary said the offi­cers he is rec­om­mend­ing “have the right mix of mil­i­tary acu­men, strate­gic vision and diplo­mat­ic and inter­a­gency skills that these posts will require.” McRaven, a for­mer com­man­der of SEAL Team 3 and Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand Europe, is the com­man­der of the Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand. As such, he has led the com­mand as it “ruth­less­ly and effec­tive­ly [took] the fight to America’s most dan­ger­ous and vicious ene­mies,” Gates said.

Thur­man cur­rent­ly com­mands the U.S. Army Forces Com­mand. He com­mand­ed the 4th Infantry Divi­sion and Multi­na­tion­al Divi­sion Bagh­dad dur­ing some of the dark­est days in Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom.

If con­firmed, Ker­nan would return to South­ern Com­mand where he pre­vi­ous­ly com­mand­ed the 4th Fleet, the first Navy SEAL to lead a num­bered fleet. “On a per­son­al note, I’d like to thank Joe for his ded­i­cat­ed ser­vice for the past two years in my office,” the sec­re­tary said. “His advice, informed by his back­ground as a spe­cial oper­a­tions war­rior, has been invalu­able, and he will be sore­ly missed.”

Marine Lt. Gen. John Kel­ly, cur­rent­ly at Marine Forces Reserve, will suc­ceed Ker­nan. He pre­vi­ous­ly com­mand­ed the 1st Marine Expe­di­tionary Force in Iraq’s Anbar province.

The sec­re­tary also com­ment­ed on the pass­ing of Army Corp. Frank Buck­les, the last liv­ing Amer­i­can World War I vet­er­an, who died last week­end at his West Vir­ginia home.

“I had the hon­or of meet­ing Mr. Buck­les almost exact­ly three years ago at an event here at the Pen­ta­gon hon­or­ing the World War I gen­er­a­tion,” Gates said. “As I said then, we will always be grate­ful for what these vet­er­ans did for their coun­try. And in Mr. Buck­les’ case, we are all glad that he had the longevi­ty that he enjoyed on this Earth.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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