Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, who previously served as Army vice chief of staff, assumed command of US Central Command from Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis during a ceremony at MacDill AFB, Fla., on March 22. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel presided over the event. Mattis, who is retiring from the military after 41 years of service, had led CENTCOM since August 2010, overseeing the US military’s activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Asia, and the Middle East. “Jim Mattis really is one of a kind. He’s a visionary,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs Chairman, during the ceremony. Dempsey added, “I’ve never met a marine who has served with Jim Mattis who has anything but the highest regard for his leadership.” Dempsey noted that Austin also has done some “heavy lifting” downrange, having overseen the conclusion of the US mission in Iraq. Austin said he was “honored” to lead CENTCOM and thanked the members of command for their service. “I’m reminded of the courage, determination, and professionalism of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen, and their families,” said Austin. He added, “They are without question the reason why ours remains the finest and most capable military in the world.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.