STUTTGART, Germany – Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend assumed command of U.S. Africa Command from Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser during a change of command ceremony on Patch Barracks, July 26.
Townsend is the fifth commander of AFRICOM, which was established in 2008 to coordinate U.S. military relations and activities with African nations, regional organizations, and the African Union.
“To the service members, civilians and families of AFRICOM – [my wife] and I are honored and excited to join your ranks,” Townsend said. “We look forward to serving with you and accomplishing AFRICOM’s important mission for our nation.”
AFRICOM is a U.S. Defense Department geographic unified command with a core mission of assisting African states and regional organizations to strengthen their defense capabilities through focused, sustained engagement.
Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary of Defense Richard V. Spencer presided over the ceremony. Before an audience of AFRICOM service members, civilian employees, and guests, Spencer praised the men and women of U.S. Africa Command and Waldhauser’s leadership during his three years at the helm of U.S. Africa Command.
“This command’s focus on helping partner nations build professional militaries that support elected civilian authority and respect human rights has undoubtedly prevented crises that threaten both development, economic growth and ultimately human lives,” he said. “These daily efforts that prevent the outbreak of conflict and chaos mark AFRICOM’s great success.”
Waldhauser, who has led the command since July 2016, is retiring after 43 years of service.
“The men and women of this command capitalized on opportunities working with our African and U.S. interagency colleagues in diplomacy, development, and defense to address the drivers of conflict and create an opportunity for political resolution and economic growth on the African continent,” Waldhauser said.
Before passing command, Waldhauser complemented Townsend and remarked on how his leadership and strategic approach would benefit the command.
“For nearly four decades, General Townsend has led and commanded at every echelon, and through his experience within multiple combatant commands and the joint staff, has developed the strategic vision and knowledge to lead AFRICOM’s men and women,” he said. “Steve is a brilliant leader and experienced soldier, and a perfect fit for this command.”
Townsend comes to AFRICOM after serving as the commander of United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. A Griffin, Georgia native, he was commissioned in 1982 after graduating from North Georgia College.
Upon assuming command, he spoke about the importance of partnerships, the need to degrade threats, and the strength of partnerships.
“To our partners and allies both in Africa and Europe, AFRICOM is known for its diverse organization and partnerships,” Townsend said. “I promise you, you can continue to count on AFRICOM to continue to work side by side with you to advance our shared interests for security, stability, and prosperity across Africa.”