The Senate on Thursday confirmed President Joe Biden’s pick to lead U.S. Central Command as part of a slate of military promotions ahead of the chamber’s holiday break.
Army Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, who currently serves as the commander of XVIII Airborne Corps out of Fort Bragg in North Carolina, was approved Thursday evening without objection for the new post leading military operations in the Middle East. He is expected to be sworn into the new post in coming days.
Kurilla previously commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and served as CENTCOM’s chief of staff. He is best known for his time as a Stryker battalion commander with the 25th Infantry Division in 2005, where he was shot three times during a battle with Iraqi insurgents but continued to fight.
The 55-year-old will also be promoted to a four-star general in the move. He’ll replace Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who has led Central Command since March 2019 and is expected to retire in April.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, Kurilla warned lawmakers that they’ll need to invest more in intelligence capabilities in the Middle East — particularly in Afghanistan — if they expect to be able to continue effective counterterrorism operations in the region.
He called monitoring of terrorist groups in the region “extremely difficult, but not impossible” in the wake of the American military exit there last summer.
In addition to Kurilla, 780 other non-controversial military promotions were finalized on Thursday by the Senate, including Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson to become director of Marine Corps Staff Headquarters and Maj. Gen. Douglas Sims II to become the Joint Staff’s director of operations.
Senators also includes Kurilla’s replacement to command XVIII Airborne Corps, Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue. The corps has about 300 troops in Europe, to support NATO allies amid the ongoing Russia crisis.
Kurilla is currently in Germany with Task Force Dragon, which includes members of the XVIII Airborne Corps deployed to Europe in support of NATO amid growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Kurilla flew there immediately after his confirmation hearing ended.
Joe Buccino, a spokesman for Kurilla, said in a statement that “at this time, Lt. Gen. Kurilla’s sole focus is on the XVIII Airborne Corps’ mission in Europe.”
Reporter Joe Gould contributed to this story.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.