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U.S. Africa Command Welcomes New Senior Enlisted Leader
U.S. Africa Command welcomed its newest senior enlisted leader during a ceremony March 11, 2011, on Kelley Barracks. <br /> <br /> Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. assumed responsibilities from Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka
STUTTGART, Germany - General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, calls Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, "an exceptional and extraordinary soldier, a leader and simply put, just a good man," during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011, where Ripka relinquished his responsibilities to Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 3: STUTTGART, Germany - General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, calls Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, "an exceptional and extraordinary soldier, a leader and simply put, just a good man," during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011, where Ripka relinquished his responsibilities to Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty) Download full-resolution version
STUTTGART, Germany - Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. shares his commitment to listen and to build relationships with U.S. Africa Command staff at a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011. Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, relinquished his responsibilities to Johnson, who came to the command from Air Force Global Strike Command in Barksdale, La. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 2 of 3: STUTTGART, Germany - Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. shares his commitment to listen and to build relationships with U.S. Africa Command staff at a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011. Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, relinquished his responsibilities to Johnson, who came to the command from Air Force Global Strike Command in Barksdale, La. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty) Download full-resolution version
STUTTGART, Germany - General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, and Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. stand at attention for the playing of the Army and Air Force songs during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011, where Johnson assumed responsibilities as the senior enlisted leader. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty)
3 photos: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 3 of 3: STUTTGART, Germany - General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, and Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. stand at attention for the playing of the Army and Air Force songs during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011, where Johnson assumed responsibilities as the senior enlisted leader. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty) Download full-resolution version
STUTTGART, Germany - General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, calls Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, "an exceptional and extraordinary soldier, a leader and simply put, just a good man," during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011, where Ripka relinquished his responsibilities to Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty)
STUTTGART, Germany - Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. shares his commitment to listen and to build relationships with U.S. Africa Command staff at a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011. Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, relinquished his responsibilities to Johnson, who came to the command from Air Force Global Strike Command in Barksdale, La. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty)
STUTTGART, Germany - General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka, U.S. AFRICOM senior enlisted leader, and Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. stand at attention for the playing of the Army and Air Force songs during a change-of-responsibility ceremony at the Kelley Theatre March 11, 2011, where Johnson assumed responsibilities as the senior enlisted leader. (U.S. AFRICOM photo by Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty)
U.S. Africa Command welcomed its newest senior enlisted leader during a ceremony March 11, 2011, on Kelley Barracks.

Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson Jr. assumed responsibilities from Command Sergeant Major Mark Ripka during a ceremony officiated by U.S. AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham, who took command March 9.

"There's no greater honor for me than to follow in your footsteps," Johnson said to Ripka.

As the command's highest-ranking enlisted leader, Johnson will serve as the principal enlisted advisor to the commander and be responsible for informing and educating the importance of and assisting African partners with operational, institutional and human capacity development focusing on their warrant officer and noncommissioned officer leader development programs.

Johnson came to U.S. AFRICOM from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., where he served as the Command Chief Master Sergeant for Air Force Global Strike Command. He has had a wide range of assignments at various agencies, centers, joint and combatant commands and headquarters. He has also previously worked in Germany at 3rd Air Force on Ramstein Air Base.

"I bring a career path and my personal and professional education has centered on this mission... My focus has always been global - the world - not just economic, not just political, not just military, not just religious, the list goes on about all of it; I'm excited to be a part of something I've dedicated really my entire life to and that's the globe as a whole, so focusing on the continent of Africa with our African partners means a lot to me and I'm very, very excited."

Johnson also noted that he will focus on building relationships during his assignment at U.S. AFRICOM.

"Relationships - it's not about the job, relationships is who I am, about building strong relationships. And here at the command, relationships are important not just external down on the African continent with our African partners and friends, but relationships here at the command.

Ham said welcoming Johnson was a positive part of his first ceremony as U.S. AFRICOM commander, but it was bittersweet because he also had to say goodbye.
"I know all that [Ripka] has to offer, but I also know that as Command Sergeant Major Ripka departs the command we are all much stronger and our African partners are much, much stronger for having had the opportunity to serve alongside this great leader. In his steps comes yet another great leader, Chief Master Sergeant Jack Johnson," Ham said.

Ripka, who will retire after 36 years of service, left a lasting footprint at the command, not only for his contributions in establishing the headquarters, but also for initiating dozens of new programs, orchestrating a plan to further develop noncommissioned and warrant officers in countries throughout Africa and building strategic relationships that established the initial legacy of the command as one that listens and learns from its African partners.

"The things that [Ripka] has done for our nation, for our military are truly extraordinary," Ham said. "Here in Africa Command, he has been teamed with his battle buddy Kip Ward over these past three and a half years and together they have been the face of the United States military in the continent of Africa."

Ham said Ripka is not only an extraordinary leader and non-commissioned officer; he's also a good man.

"What I will remember about Command Sergeant Major Ripka is that what he encourages each and every one of us to do is to do our best each and every day on behalf of our nation in a wide variety of specialties and skills, [and instill] that belief in ourselves that we can make a difference..."

Ripka, who was also recognized for his service by the Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General James E. Cartwright during the March 9 change-of-command ceremony, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve at the command.

"You know there's no other place I would have rather been than serving with this team at United States Africa Command," said Ripka. "And truly it's been an honor and a privilege to have been the Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Africa Command, for nearly three and a half years and to serve my final three and a half years of 36 years on active duty as a member of this great team. I give thanks every day for the opportunity to contribute and what a tremendous team I've been a part of."

Ripka said the command's work hasn't been easy and that it won't get any easier, that there aren't easy answers for the complex situations in Africa, especially at the unified command level. But, he is confident in the new leadership's abilities to continue the mission.

"The Ham-Johnson team - new leadership, great leadership - will move this command forward to new challenges," Ripka said.

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