General Lloyd J. Austin: A Black History Month moment

Published 10:55 am Friday, February 24, 2012

General Lloyd J. Austin

Editor’s note: Local resident M. J. Hannon submitted the following article in observance of February as Black History Month.
General Lloyd J. Austin has secured his place as one of America’s greatest generals.
“General Austin is one of the most distinguished American military commanders of his generation,” said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, adding that during the war, “nobody has done more or sacrificed more in defending this country.”
In the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, then one-star General Austin commanded and controlled the 3rd Infantry Division, the first American unit to take Baghdad and fight Saddam Hussein’s Fedayeen, some 40,000 strong. Unlike many commanders, who keep a safe distance from the fight, Austin was actually on the front lines, commanding all the brigades in the fight.
In 2008, now three-star General Austin was ordered back to Iraq to maintain control after the 20,000 surge troops had departed. Austin was technically the second highest ranking commander, but for tactical purposes he was in charge.
Basra had gotten out of control, and attacks had ramped up, including attacks on the “Green Zone.” If Basra fell, America and its allies would probably lose the war. Lt. General Austin made a bold decision and decided to help. It would be the first time during the war that Iraqi and American troops would fight side-by-side in combat.
He ordered in technical aviation and put in a tactical command post. In a matter of weeks, he turned things around. The Shia militia never gained strength from then on. Attacks fell from 200 a week to about seven.
In late 2010, now four-star General Austin returned to Iraq for his third tour to oversee the withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq. This mission was completed in December 2011.
General Austin was the first black to command a division and corps in combat. President Obama recently nominated him for the position of vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army. Congress approved the nomination, making Austin the second-highest ranking officer in the army.