Austin will assume command of Operation New Dawn, overseeing the nearly 50,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq after the official handover. Austin, who was the first African-American to be a commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, relieves Gen. Ray Odierno, who commanded Operation Iraqi Freedom for the past four years.
He is a tall man who has kept a low profile, according to a New York Times profile this spring. He's served two tours in Iraq, during the time of highly publicized military campaigns in Basra and in Baghdad's Sadr City. He also commanded the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, and was awarded the Silver Star for his combat duties, the Times said.
Austin has the geopolitical wherewithal to engage the Iraqi people, sources told the Times. In 2009, Austin succeeded Gen. Stanley McChrystal as director of the Joint Staff, where he worked directly for Adm. Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman.