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HONOLULU The Obama administration on Monday moved to elevate the status of the general who leads soldiers in Asia and the Pacific to four stars, in another sign of the military's increased emphasis on the region.
Obama appointed Lt. Gen. Vincent Brooks to lead U.S. Army Pacific, a command that includes most U.S. soldiers in Asia and the Pacific except for those in South Korea.
He also nominated Brooks currently a three-star general in charge of the Third Army soldiers in the Middle East and Central Asia for promotion to four-star general.
The Senate must confirm the nominations.
U.S. Army Pacific has been led by a three-star general for years. Putting a four-star general in the post would place the Army on par with the Navy and Air Force. Both services already are led by four-star commanders in the Pacific.
The U.S. Pacific Command commander, Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, also would have a higher ranking Army general on his team, which could help him build relationships among allies and other friendly nations in the region.
Seven of the world's 10 largest armies are in the Pacific theater. Most of the region's militaries also are led by army officers.
If confirmed, Brooks would work out of Fort Shafter, an historic Honolulu base founded in 1907.
The 1980 West Point graduate currently leads the Third Army, which is responsible for U.S. land forces in the 20-nation region that falls under the U.S. Central Command. The Third Army is based out of Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, the current U.S. Army Pacific commander, plans to retire after 34 years of service.
Wiercinski told The Associated Press in an interview last year that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the refocus of U.S. attention on the Pacific means his soldiers will be able to conduct more exercises with other nations in the region.
He said more active duty soldiers, instead of reserves, will participate in exercises with allies such as Japan. He also expressed interest in holding more exercises with forces from nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and India.