Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, gives a speech at the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) change of command, March 5, 2021.(Spc. Andrea Notter/US Army)

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden is expected to nominate Army Lt. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla to be the next head of U.S. Central Command.

Kurilla currently serves as commander of the 18th Airborne Corps as Fort Bragg, N.C. According to the Senate nominations website, the Armed Services Committee has received a nomination for Kurilla to receive his fourth star, but doesn’t specify his next command; The Wall Street Journal first reported Kurilla would get the CENTCOM job, with sources telling Breaking Defense that move is expected.

If confirmed, he will replace Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. who has led the Middle East-focused command since 2019.

Kurilla has extensive experience in the Middle East as a general officer. He previously served as commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division from 2016-2018. He also served as chief of staff of CENTCOM from 2018-2019 before leading the 18th Airborne Corps.

According to an old CENTCOM bio, Kurilla spent 2004-2014 in the CENTCOM region, commanding both conventional and special operations forces. He will be rejoining CENTCOM in the aftermath of the US military’s messy withdrawal from Afghanistan and as the Pentagon grapples with how to combat terrorism in the region.

During Kurilla’s time at the 18th Airborne Corps, the corps focused on harnessing big data and developing artificial intelligence tools for warfighting. It also launched Dragon’s Lair, a “Shark Tank”-style competition that seeks out innovative ideas from servicemembers across the US military.

Aaron Mehta contributed to this report. 

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