U.S. troops still serving in the Middle East will soon have a new general in charge.
The White House on Wednesday nominated Army Lt. Gen. Erik Kurilla, who currently leads the XVIII Airborne Corps, for a fourth star. A defense official confirmed to Military Times on Thursday that he will be nominated to lead U.S. Central Command as well.
“Gen. Kurilla remains focused on his current responsibility commanding the XVIII Airborne Corps,” his spokesman, Army Col. Joe Buccino, told Military Times on Wednesday.
Kurilla would replace retiring Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, who oversaw the final days of the war in Afghanistan. Kurilla previously commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and served as CENTCOM’s chief of staff.
He is also a legend in the Army for a 2005 firefight in Iraq chronicled by journalist Michael Yon. Kurilla, then a Stryker battalion commander with the 25th Infantry Division, was shot three times but continued to fire back at insurgents while directing his troops.
He earned a Bronze Star with valor device for his actions.
If confirmed by the Senate, Kurilla will inherit a CENTCOM in transition. Though the U.S. presence on the ground in Afghanistan ended in August, the Pentagon has promised that operations against ISIS will continue there, in the form of “over-the-horizon” strikes.
Meanwhile, there are more than 2,000 troops still in Iraq and another 900 or so in Syria as part of the effort to defeat the Islamic State.
“We’re going to be there, our NATO partners are going to be there, to finish the ISIS fight,” McKenzie told Military Times in April. “And we’re going to stay in Iraq.”
Though the mission is purely in support of the Iraqi military, U.S. troops in Iraq continue to face attacks by Iran-backed militia groups.
U.S. forces shot down armed drones headed for the Baghdad area on both Monday and Tuesday.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT