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New Top US Military Officer Takes Helm Amid Iran Tensions, Afghan Violence

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New chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks during his welcome ceremony, Sept. 30, 2019, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.

The incoming top U.S. military officer has warned America's adversaries to "never underestimate our skill, our capability and our combat power."

Army Gen. Mark Milley said the United States will remain the world's "premier fighting force," after he was formally sworn in as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at a ceremony overseen by U.S. President Donald Trump Monday.

"You deserve this position. I never had a doubt." Trump said.

Milley, a Princeton and Columbia graduate with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, will officially become chairman Tuesday.

The current chair, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, served as the top military officer for four years and begins his retirement process after more than four decades of military service.

Speaking at the ceremony Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Dunford will "leave behind a legacy of steady leadership, solid judgment and sincere humility that will remain with us and inspire us long after he departs."

As the top military adviser to the president, Dunford will be remembered for his handling of the fight against the Islamic State terror group, his tenure during the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and his strengthening of the military in an effort to stay ahead of near-peer competitors Russia and China.

Experts have also credited Dunford's calm, steady leadership with keeping the United States out of a conflict with North Korea.

“We went through 2017— the locked and loaded, fire and fury, my button’s bigger than yours — all that brinkmanship needed to be survived and be prevented from taking us into war, and I think Dunford had a role in that, as well," said Michael O'Hanlon with the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Milley takes the helm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff amid increased tensions with Iran and rising violence in Afghanistan.

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