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SOUTHCOM Leadership Change: Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly took charge of US Southern Command on Nov. 19, replacing Gen. Douglas Fraser who led the organization since June 2009. "He's direct and tough," said Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey in praising Kelly during the change-of-command ceremony at SOUTHCOM headquarters in Miami. Dempsey added that Kelly is "a thinker and a learner and one of the most experienced leaders we have in the military today." Kelly comes to SOUTHCOM from the Pentagon where he served since March 2011 as senior military assistant to the Defense Secretary. Just prior to assuming command, Kelly received his fourth star. Dempsey also honored Fraser, who is retiring from the Air Force, effective Jan. 1, concluding a 37-year career in uniform. Dempsey credited Fraser for assembling an impressive interagency team at SOUTHCOM to build partnerships with nations in Latin America and the Caribbean. SOUTHCOM oversees the US military's engagement in those areas, including counternarcotics activities. The Senate confirmed Kelly for his new post and for his fourth star in July. (Includes AFPS report by Jim Garamone) (See also AFPS report by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.)