Auburn alumnus, trustee selected to be nation’s next secretary of defense

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Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III, a 1986 alumnus of Auburn University, has been selected to serve as the nation’s next secretary of defense. If confirmed, Gen. Austin would become the nation’s first African American leader of the Pentagon.

Austin was commissioned as an Infantry second lieutenant in 1975 upon graduating from the U.S. Military Academy. Through the decades, he rose among the ranks and broke down barriers. His 41 years of service most recently included him being commander of U.S. Central Command from March 2013 through March 2016. In that role, he was responsible for the 20-county Central Region that includes Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He was also the Combined Forces commander in Iraq and Syria.

“Gen. Austin epitomizes the best Auburn has to offer in character, public service and real-world expertise,” said Wayne Smith, president pro tem of the Auburn University Board of Trustees. “If he is ultimately selected and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, I’m confident he will again serve our nation with great distinction.”

Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and holds master's degrees from Auburn University in education and Webster University in business management. Gen. Austin has served with great distinction on Auburn University’s Board of Trustees since 2017 and has received Auburn’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is an esteemed leader on a global scale, having earned five Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star and the Legion of Merit.

Austin has extensive operational experience, having commanded troops in combat at the one-, two-, three- and four-star levels. During his last deployment, he served as a four-star general and commander of United States Forces-Iraq from September 2010 through December 2011. He later served as the 33rd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.

After confirmation from the U.S. Senate in 2010, Austin became the Army's 200th four-star general and sixth African American Army four-star general. He was the first African American general officer to command a U.S. Army Division (10th Mountain Division/CJTF-180) and a Corps (18th Airborne Corps/Multi-National Corps-Iraq) in combat. He was also the first African American general officer to command an entire theater of war (United States Forces-Iraq) and to serve as Vice Chief of Staff, Army. In 2013, he became the first African American commander of U.S. Central Command.

His wife, Charlene, is also a graduate of Auburn University, and they have two sons.

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