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Townsend named to U.S. Army Africa Command

Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, speaks to cadets and others after delivering the commencement address at UNG in May 2018.

Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, a 1982 alumnus of the University of North Georgia (UNG), has been assigned as commander of the U.S. Army Africa Command (US AFRICOM).

Townsend currently serves as commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. He will become only the fifth commander of U.S. Africa Command, replacing U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser.

The U.S. Senate approved the appointment April 29.

US AFRICOM, with headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, is one of six Department of Defense geographic commands. The interagency command, established in 2007, is responsible for operations, exercises and security cooperation across Africa and its surrounding waters.

"United States Africa Command, in concert with interagency and international partners, builds defense capabilities, responds to crisis, and deters and defeats transnational threats in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity," according to the AFRICOM website.

In January 2018, upon his promotion to four-star general and appointment to TRADOC command, Townsend credited UNG as foundational to his success.

"I consider the leadership foundation instilled in the cadets at North Georgia a key part of any success I've had and am forever grateful to UNG for the education and leadership skills it provides to its students," Townsend said.

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

"We've been following Gen. Townsend's career and fully recognize that he's an unsurpassed leader who has contributed in the most significant ways to our nation's security," said retired Col. Billy Wells, Ed.D., senior vice president for leadership and global engagement and executive director of the Institute for Leadership and Strategic Studies at UNG. "We're extremely proud to count him among our cadet alumni."

Townsend previously was the commanding general of XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from May 2015 until January 2018. XVIII Airborne Corps, America's Contingency Corps, is the nation's premier power projection platform responsible for rapid, global deployment readiness. From August 2016 until September 2017 he served as the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the 70-nation coalition working by, with and through partner forces in Iraq and Syria to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). During his command of CJTF-OIR, Townsend oversaw the liberation of 1.6 million people and 40,000 square kilometers of ISIL-held territory, to include Mosul, the ISIL capital in Iraq. 

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 was commanding general of Regional Command-East at Bagram, Afghanistan.

He previously commanded the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, New York.

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