The general who led the logistics arm of the United States military through the troop surge in Afghanistan, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan and combat operations in Libya has relinquished command.
Gen. Duncan McNabb will retire in November after 37 years in the Air Force. At a Scott Air Force Base ceremony today, he handed the reins of the United States Transportation Command to Gen. William M. Fraser. Defense secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey, were among the dignitaries in attendance.
Gen. McNabb took command of TRANSCOM in Sept. 2008, shortly before President Obama announced his plans to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by Aug. 2010. In addition to overseeing that withdrawal, McNabb also oversaw the creation of the Northern Distribution Network, which gave the military a safer route to transport cargo into Afghanistan.
"I remember you telling me that if I drank a lot of vodka, this would all work," Gen. McNabb told Chairman Dempsey, who was the acting commander of United States Central Command (which oversees the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan) when the new route was established.
McNabb said he and the thousands of men and women under his command did not know the challenges they would face.
"What I also didn't know was how magnificently this team would respond," he said. "In fact, I have the easiest job in the world. With this championship team, all I have to do is thank them and unleash them."
Taking over for McNabb is Gen. William M. Fraser, who previously led Air Combat Command, which directs major bombing missions.
"Gen. McNabb, you leave a tremendous legacy," Fraser said. "My pledge to this team of professionals is that we will continue the momentum that you have set."
Gen. Fraser must live up to that pledge as the Defense Department comes under increasing pressure to cut its budget as lawmakers struggle to control government spending.
He says he will work to make sure any cuts happen in a balanced fashion.
"And I think that's where the men and women of TRANSCOM can help," he said "In partnering with our industry partners, there's opportunities to get best practices, there's also opportunities there to bring on new tools so we can make ourselves more efficient and more effective to support the war fighter."