In the year between his two senior command assignments in Baghdad, he was director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, a demanding behind-the-scenes job. He commanded U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan in 2003-04 and later that year began a stint as chief of staff at Central Command.
Austin, a native of Thomasville, Ga., was commissioned as an infantry second lieutenant upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1975.
He will be the first black man to lead Central Command, a distinction that also applied to his tenure as Army vice chief of staff and to several of his earlier assignments.
"I don't often reflect on it," he said of his pioneering career. "I reflect most on trying to get the job done.
"It's not lost on me that going into the premier war-fighting job of our military and therefore of the world is a big responsibility," he added. "I am the first African-American to take on a responsibility like that, but I think I'm prepared and I look forward to the challenge."
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