CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti-- Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) welcomed U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. David J. Furness and said farewell to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag during a change of command ceremony April 28, 2017, at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. U.S. Africa Command commander, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, presided over the ceremony.
Gen. Waldhauser expressed his gratitude and admiration for the accomplishments of Sonntag and U.S. Navy Command Master Chief Geoffrey P. Steffee during their leadership tenure.
“I am very appreciative and have been very impressed by all that Maj Gen Sonntag and Master Chief Steffee have accomplished over this past year as a command team,” said Waldhauser. “The challenges in East Africa are complex as anywhere in the world and they have done a tremendous job advocating our strategic, operational and tactical goals in this part of the African continent.”
The change of command was demonstrated by the passing of the guidon from the former leadership to the current.
Furness previously served as the legislative assistant to the commandant of the Marine Corps at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. He is now responsible for overseeing CJTF-HOA’s efforts in countering transnational threats in East Africa, fostering regional security cooperation, and ultimately promoting regional stability and prosperity.
The AFRICOM commander is more than confident in Furness ability to lead CJTF-HOA as it continues through beginning stages of a transformation in both mission and organization.
“Dave is a proven combat leader who has served around the globe in combat operations,” said Waldhauser. “He is a very enthusiastic and highly qualified general officer that has worked very hard prior to his arrival here to become intimately familiar with all the challenges this region has to offer. He will build on the work that has been done thus far as we continue to examine options for reorganizing, restructuring, and re-missioning the CJTF-HOA to something that’s more relevant today than when it started 15 years ago. We are very fortunate to have someone with the skill, leadership, professionalism, courage and vision that Gen. Furness will bring to this command.”
Afterwards, Furness expressed his thoughts about accepting command and leading the more than 2,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguardsmen and civilians assigned to the joint task force.
“I’m happy to be here and to join your team,” said Furness. “I look forward to working with you on this difficult and complex mission. For our allied partners, U.S. government, inter-agency and folks that make up the task force, I’ll work hard to be a good partner and I will listen to you throughout the complexities of these issues as we tackle this mission together.”
During the change of command ceremony, there was also a change of responsibility in the CJTF-HOA Command Senior Enlisted Leader position. U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Benjamin Higginbotham succeeded Navy Command Master Chief Geoffrey P. Steffee in this role and is responsible for leading, mentoring, enforcing standards of good order and discipline, and advising and assisting Furness on all matters pertaining to the health, morale, welfare and professional development for all service personnel assigned to the joint task force.
Prior to this assignment, Higginbotham served as the Command Chief Master Sergeant for the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.
Before his departure, Sonntag left the members of CJTF-HOA and other distinguished guests with his final thoughts.
“This is my last chance to highlight the accomplishments of the service members and our regional partners that work hard everyday to bring peace and stability to East Africa,” said Sonntag. “I have been astounded with the adaptability, resilience and perseverance of this staff and their desire to succeed at everything they do regardless of obstacles put in their path.”
Sonntag revealed the faith he has in his successors and shared his sentiments.
“Over the next couple of years we will see more changes that will make this command a leaner, more focused and more effective command with a strategic view on the region,” said Sonntag. “Gen. Furness and Chief Higginbotham are the right team at the right time and I have no doubt that they will deliver. Strength and honor!”