The uniformed military's top job changed hands Friday as Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford assumed command as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As chairman, Dunford will serve as the principle military adviser to the president. Dunford recently left his post as commandant of the Marine Corps and is also a former top commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

During the change of command at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall near the Pentagon in Northern Virginia, Dunford made only brief remarks, saying he was "humbled by the opportunity" to serve the more than 2 million service members in today's force and vowing that his "focus will be to provide them with the leadership and support they deserve."

The 59-year-old Boston native also singled out "my mom and dad," who attended the change-of-command ceremony. Dunford attributed his professional success to the "result of my mother's discipline and exacting standards."

Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke of an incident from Dunford's tenure as commander of the Corps' 5th Marine Regiment early in the Iraq War.

"Joe refused armor inserts in his flak-jacket until every Marine under his command was issued a pair," Carter said. "That story says more than any of us ever could about the character and leadership of this great man. Humble. Strong. Centered. Always faithful to his people and mission."

Dunford will be the 19th chairman of the Joint Chiefs as Army Gen. Martin Dempsey steps down after four years as chairman and retires after 41 years in the Army.

Dempsey served briefly as the Army chief of staff and in Iraq as a division commander, and later headed the effort to train the Iraqi army as leader of the Multi-National Security Transition Command from 2005 to 2007.

During his four-year tenure, Dempsey helped conclude the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, wind down the combat mission in Afghanistan and formulate a military response to the rise of the Islamic State extremist group.

"Over the past four years, Marty's vision, wisdom and character have helped lead the greatest fighting force the world has ever known," President Obama said at the ceremony.

Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.

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