Retired U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin is poised to return to the Pentagon as President-elect Joe Biden’s pick as defense secretary, becoming the first African American to hold the post if he is confirmed by the Senate.
Born in 1953 in the southeastern state of Alabama and raised in neighboring Georgia, Austin graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point in 1975 and rose through the ranks during his four-decade career, beginning as a commander of a combat support company with the legendary 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
He eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant general and assumed command of Fort Bragg, before becoming commander of U.S troops in Iraq from 2010 to 2011, where he oversaw the end of the U.S.-led invasion of the country and the withdrawal of all American forces.
Austin ended his military career in 2016 as commander of the military’s vital U.S Central Command, which covers operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the Middle East and South Asia.
He earned praise for both his intellect and strong leadership skills among both civilian and military leaders, with then-President Barack Obama saying his “character and competence exemplify what America demands of its military leaders” upon Austin’s retirement.
But he came under fire by lawmakers in 2015 for a failed $500 million program to train an army of Syrian fighters.
The four-star general’s career also includes two separate roles in the Pentagon, first as director of the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2009 to 2010, then as vice chief of staff of the Army from 2012 to 2013.
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