They say everything happens in its own time. That is, of course, a philosophical thought, and, in that discipline, there is always room for argument. We human beings are temporal beings and tend to measure everything in terms of our short lifetimes on this planet. As a result, our arguments are often shaped by a tendency for immediate gratification. We want things to happen now, in our time, according to our own perspectives. Well, history is not limited by “our” time or “our” personal perspectives. It is indifferent to such things. In the parlance of everyday language, “It is what it is.”
History was made this past week when, for the first time in its 246-year history, the United States Marine Corps promoted its first African-American member to the rank of 4-Star General. His name is Lt. Gen. Michael Langley.
After hearings were held by the Senate Armed Services Committee in July, Langley’s promotion was confirmed by the Senate on August 1, 2022. He will now take command of the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM).
Langley is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana. In his 37 years in the United States Marine Corps, he has held leadership roles in both the Corps and at the Pentagon. He will be replacing the previous AFRICOM Commander, Army General Stephen J. Townsend.
AFRICOM is one of the most challenging commands for our military today. According to Gen. Townsend, Langley’s challenges will be due to violent extremism and strategic competition with both China and Russia on the African continent. Townsend told the Marine Corps Times that Africa has “Some of the most lethal terrorists on the planet.” Indeed, Langley’s promotion comes at a time when U.S. troops are again operating in Somalia.
As the commander of AFRICOM, Langley has responsibilities for all U.S. military assets in the region. This includes all U.S. Department of Defense operations, exercises, and security cooperation on the African continent, its islands, and surrounding waters. The mission of AFRICOM is to cooperate with partners to counter transnational threats and bad actors, to strengthen security forces, and to respond to crises in the area in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security and prosperity in the region.
Part of Langley’s job is to work closely with U.S. diplomats and development officials so that all of the current and future military, diplomatic and development programs work in harmony toward mutual goals of security and economic development in this challenging part of the world. Imagine the scale of this job, if you will. There are 54 countries in Africa, all with their own issues, cultural diversities, and political varieties.
The U.S. military currently has some 29 military facilities in 15 countries on the African continent. The core mission of AFRICOM is to assist African states and regional organizations to strengthen their defensive capabilities in order to enable those states to provide for their own security more effectively and to reduce threats to U.S. interests. The idea is, of course, to develop those states’ militaries to be more professional, to respect human rights, to adhere to the rule of law, and to cooperate in the continent’s efforts to more effectively contribute to overall African stability.
As you can see here, General Langley’s duties will be immensely complex. It is clear, too, that the AFRICOM commander must possess immense intelligence, vision, and leadership. The AFRICOM commander must be able to manage military and strategic demands, as well as having demonstrable diplomatic skills. The Marine Corps, the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Senate have determined that General Michael Langley is the man for the job at this moment in history.
We congratulate General Langley for his promotion to the 4-Star ranks. Only 70 other men have achieved this rank in the 246-year history of the Marine Corps, and Langley is the first African American to be promoted to that rank. May he enjoy much success in this new command. Semper Fidelis, General Langley! OooRah!Whizzco