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Vice Adm. William McRaven has been recommended for a fourth star and for command of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced late Tuesday.

If nominated by the president and confirmed, McRaven would succeed Adm. Eric Olson, who will retire.

“Admiral McRaven, a former commander of SEAL Team 3 and Special Operations Command Europe, has led a JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] team that has been ruthlessly and effectively taking the fight to America’s most dangerous and vicious enemies,” Gates said at a press briefing.

It was announced Feb. 15 that Army Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Votel was being nominated for a third star and as commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., McRaven’s current position.

Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, Gates’ senior military adviser, has been recommended as deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, replacing Army Lt. Gen. Ken Keen. Marine Lt. Gen. John Kelly would succeed Kernan as Gates’ top military adviser.

It was also announced that Gen. James Thurman has been recommended to replace Gen. Walter Sharp at the helm of U.S. Forces Korea.

“I know each of these officers very well and I’ve watched them work and lead and fight in very difficult times,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “All of them are great leaders in their own right and all of them are ready for the challenges [ahead of them].”

Sharp, who will retire at the end of his tenure in South Korea, has led USFK since replacing Gen. B.B. Bell in June 2008.

USFK spokesman David Oten said Sharp was unavailable for comment Wednesday because he was involved in the ongoing Foal Eagle exercise.

Thurman is head of Army Forces Command, the Army’s largest organization, and oversees the manning, training and equipping of more than 700,000 soldiers in the U.S. He is former commander of V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany, and commanded a division in Iraq, Gates said.

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