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UNG alumnus Gen. Townsend to lead fight against ISIL

For the second time in three years, a University of North Georgia (UNG) alumnus will be leading the U.S. military intervention against the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIL) when Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend's XVIII Airborne Corps takes command of Operation Inherent Resolve in August.
LtGenTownsendSecyDefenseAJuly27.jpg
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks with Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, left, XVIII Airborne Corps commanding general, during a visit to Fort Bragg, N.C., July 27, 2016. Townsend is the incoming commander for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. (DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/Released)

Townsend, a 1982 alumnus, has been commanding general of XVIII Airborne Corps, which is designed for rapid, global deployment, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, since May 2015. He previously commanded the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, New York. 

Lt. Gen. Sean McFarland, commanding general of III Armor Corps and Fort Hood, Texas, is the current commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), U.S. Central Command.

CJTF-OIR is the operational headquarters of a military coalition of 65 nations involved in Operation Inherent Resolve, which aims to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria, provide training of local forces and secure regional stability.

The XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters will deploy about 450 soldiers to Kuwait, according to a U.S. Army news release.

In a ceremony held July 29 at Fort Bragg as the XVIII Airborne Corps cased its Colors in preparation for deployment, Townsend said: "ISIL is hell-bent on destroying our way of life and imposing their twisted ideology on us. That can't stand. Along with our regional and coalition partners, the XVIII Airborne Corps will continue the attack and defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria."

Townsend has had multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. While assigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, he commanded 3d Stryker Brigade Combat Team and led Task Force Arrowhead on offensive operations across Iraq.

In Afghanistan, he served as deputy commanding general (operations) for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Combined Joint Task Force 101 during Operation Enduring Freedom. Later, during the 10th Mountain Division's deployment to Afghanistan, Townsend also was commanding general of Regional Command-East at Bagram, Afghanistan.

Townsend earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from UNG and also has two master's degrees. He has a number of awards and decorations to include the Combat Infantryman Badge (with star), Combat Action Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Ranger Tab.

A native of Griffin, Georgia, Townsend graduated from Griffin High School in 1978. He is married to Melissa Crawford Townsend, who attended UNG from 1978-1981 and subsequently graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in 1983. 

Retired Lt. Gen. James L. Terry also commanded the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve as commanding general of U.S. Army Central; he was succeeded by McFarland.

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