16 March 2007
By 1st Sgt. Marvin Baker
US CENTCOM Public Affairs
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Adm. William J. Fallon took charge of United States Central Command here Friday replacing the retiring Gen. John P. Abizaid.
Fallon, the former chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, now leads more than 200,000 service members deployed in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility, which includes 27 nations throughout Southwest Asia, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.
Fallon is the first naval officer to assume command of CENTCOM, which began as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force in 1980.
Secretary of Defense, Robert M.Gates, presided during the ceremony, paying tribute to both Abizaid and Fallon during his keynote remarks.
He thanked Abizaid and his wife Kathy for the wonderful job they’ve both done for the United States and wished them well in their retirement. Abizaid wraps up 54 months at CENTCOM as both deputy commander and commander.
Following Fallon’s review of the troops, which included members of the CENTCOM component commands, Gates talked about the admiral. He said this is Fallon’s fourth, four-star assignment after being nominated for the CENTCOM post by President George W. Bush in January and getting confirmed by the Senate in February.
“Nobody would begrudge you if you asked for a well-deserved rest but me,” Gates said to Fallon. “We need you again.”
Fallon spoke about the way ahead. He said he puts a premium on good, strong relationships. The admiral added he will work hard to make that happen, especially in the AOR.
“We have been entrusted with a great responsibility in this part of the world,” Fallon said. “And despite the challenges, we have a lot going for us. The five branches serve so well around the world, around the clock. We have the support of the American people who want us to succeed.”
Fallon began his naval career in 1967 and has an impressive list of accomplishments since then. He flew the RA-5C Vigilante with a combat deployment to Vietnam , transitioning to the A-6 Intruder in 1974. He served in flying assignments with attack squadrons and carrier air wings for 24 years, deploying to the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans embarked in USS Saratoga, USS Ranger, USS Nimitz, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Theodore Roosevelt. He has logged more than 1,300 carrier arrested landings and 4,800 flight hours in tactical jet aircraft.
Fallon’s awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal.
Photo: Gen. John P. Abizaid (right) inspects the troops for a final time during the Change of Command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla., as Col. Shawn Mateer, ceremony commander of troops, and incoming commander Adm. William J. Fallon look on. Photo by Spc. Patrick A Ziegler.