Southcom Responsible for Wide Range of Missions
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Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passes command of U.S. Southern Command to Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd at the command's headquarters in Miami, Jan. 14, 2016. Tidd assumed command from retiring Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
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Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly and Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, are all briefed by Command Sgt. Maj. William B. Zaiser before U.S. Southern Command's change-of- command ceremony in Miami, Jan. 14, 2016. DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen
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Left to right: Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd; Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly stand during the change-of-command ceremony for the U.S. Southern Command at the command's headquarter in Miami, Jan. 14, 2016. DoD photo by EJ Hersom
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Left to right: Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly; and Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd stand at attention during the change-of-command ceremony at U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami, Jan. 14, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom
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VIDEO: Tidd Takes Command of Southcom
Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd assumed command of U.S. Southern Command from Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly at a ceremony in Miami, Jan. 14, 2016.
From interdicting illicit drugs, conducting counterterrorism missions, fighting human trafficking, responding to humanitarian crises, to training with regional partners, a typical mission at U.S. Southern Command is anything but typical.
The command is vitally important to the United States and in promoting peace and stability in its area of responsibility, Navy Adm. Kurt W. Tidd said yesterday after taking command of Southcom.
"U.S. Southern Command has been safeguarding the interests of our nation for well over five decades," the admiral said, following the ceremony at Southcom's headquarters here.
The command is responsible for U.S. military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, an area of that covers more than 16 million square miles.
One of the five geographic combatant commands, its priorities are building partner capacity and security cooperation, contingency response, detainee operations in Guantanamo, countering transnational organize crime, and promoting democracy.
Partnerships Key to Success
Southcom works extensively with interagency and regional partners to successfully execute its many missions, noted Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The command conducts multi-national exercises, and is ready to respond to crises and contingencies, including natural disasters, mass migration or an attack on critical infrastructure, the chairman said.
Dunford described a scenario to illustrate the many areas of cooperation:
Joint Interagency Task Force - South might learn of a suspicious vessel in international waters off the coast of Panama. From there, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft might be tasked with locating the vessel in international waters.
Then, the vessel might sprint into Panama's territorial waters, dumping its bales of cocaine along the way. A Coast Guard cutter with Drug Enforcement Administration agents on board might seize the drugs while Panamanian officials intercept the vessel and make arrests.
"In another area of responsibly, that kind of coordination and cooperation might be remarkable," the chairman said. "In the United States Southern Command, it's just another day."
Unique Mission, Unique Personnel
Southcom, through its personnel and wide-ranging missions, is unique among combatant commands, according to Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, who relinquished command of Southcom yesterday.
"It takes a ... unique set of talents to operate here in this part of the world," he said, noting that amongst its personnel, Southcom counts diplomats, human rights advocates and social and economic developers.
The command is comprised of five components and three joint task forces and employs about 1,200 permanently assigned military and civilian personnel.
The dedicated personnel should receive the credit for all the successes of the command, Kelly said. "They have made a difference, not only for our country, but for our partner nations," he noted.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)