The U.S. military’s Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) held a groundbreaking ceremony for their new headquarters in Tampa this morning at MacDill Air Force Base. SOCCENT is a subordinate unified command of US Central Command.
SOCCENT’s rear headquarters is at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, and their forward headquarters is in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar.
Major General Cleveland: “Special Operations Command Central has operational control of the theater special operations forces that operate in the CENTCOM area of operations which is the Middle East and south west Asia, so from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to Lebanon.”
Major General Cleveland presided over the groundbreaking ceremony and described the role that SOCCENT plays in CENTCOM operations in the over 20 countries within the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
Cleveland: “This is, in fact, the site of what will be the new headquarters, we hope in about two short years. Is that about right? Two years? How about 18 months? Can you do that? One year? Okay, 18 months. There you go. You heard it here. It marks a new beginning in a command that frankly is finding itself increasingly at the forefront of our CENTCOM efforts in the Middle East and southwest Asia. Ours is the task of fighting and winning in the human domain which, like land, sea, air and space, requires units and headquarters that are specifically designed for the task.”
He said the new base will meet SOCCENT’s latest technological needs, moving the forces out of an old bunker.
Cleveland: “SOCCENT will be moving into a new facility here at MacDill. We’ve been here basically since our inception in 1985. We’ve been operating from an old SAC facility down at the end of the runway. The mission has obviously grown. We’ve eclipsed what space we have down there. Technology has also moved on a bit. And it’s time. Instead of modifying the old building and trying to add on to it, it was time to build a new one. So that’s what we’re doing here. At a cost of $17.3 million, they’re going to build us a new facility.”
Lieutenant Colonel Holly Silkman said that a wide range of personnel work in special operations.
Silkman: “SOCCENT itself is about 700 people, but we have operational control—which means our commanding general has operational control—of all the special operations forces of the CENTCOM theater of operations, which is about 7,000 to 8,000 people. He is a two-start Army general. He is a Green Beret Special Forces officer. Under his command are all services and civilians. So you’re looking at Army Green Berets, Army Civil Affairs, Army Psychological Operations, Air Force Special Tactics, special pilots, Navy Seals, Marine Corps Special Operations troops—really a whole host of support personnel.”
According to Silkman, SOCCENT troops are engaged in numerous activities, including in two countries the U.S. is occupying.
Silkman: “The CENTCOM area of operations is everything from Pakistan to Jordan down to Yemen and then, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan. Our main mission is to partner with indigenous forces. So, for example, in Afghanistan, we have a tremendous enduring partnership with the Afghan Commandos. They are all Afghan soldiers from various tribes in Afghanistan. They have all been assimilated and all work together, all brothers in arms. Primarily our mission is to advise and train with those forces. [We] do the same thing in Iraq.”
President Barack Obama is currently considering a request from the Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan for a troop increase in that country of up to 40,000 or even as high as 80,000.
Construction of the new SOCCENT headquarters will take approximately 18 months.