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US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM)
US Atlantic Command (USACOM)
US Atlantic Command (USLANTCOM)

On August 4, 2011, US Joint Forces Command cased its colors during a ceremony held in in Norfolk, Virginia, marking the end of the Command. During the ceremony, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, awarded Army General Raymond T. Odierno, the JFCOM's last commander, with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for his service in shutting down the command.

Headquartered in the Norfolk-Suffolk area of Virginia, US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) was one of 9 unified commands in the Department of Defense. It was the only command with both a geographic region and a functional responsibility to support the other 4 geographic commanders. Among his duties, the Commander-in-Chief, USJFCOM (CINCUSJFCOM), oversaw military operations in the North Atlantic geographic area and supported the other commanders-in-chief in their geographic regions around the world.

USJFCOM provided trained and ready forces to deploy rapidly and conduct sustained operations worldwide, whether next door in Haiti, or halfway around the world in Bosnia, Rwanda or Kuwait. USJFCOM deployed supporting units on a rotating basis to the Balkans, Mediterranean, Middle East and Arabian Peninsula. They were key to the reduction and prevention of conflicts, serving as very visible reminders of America's commitment to peace and stability.

In the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, USJFCOM was a force of more than 2,300 people including members from each branch of the US military, civil servants, contractors and consultants. This included a headquarters staff of over 500 active duty military personnel, representing each of the 4 services, and approximately 300 civilian and contract employees. Additionally, at times there were as many as 4 component commands, 3 sub-unified commands, 2 joint task forces and 9 subordinate activities assigned to USJFCOM.

As chief advocate for jointness, USJFCOM maximized the nation's future and present military capabilities through joint concept development and experimentation, recommending joint requirements, advancing interoperability, conducting joint training and providing ready continental US-based forces and capabilities to support other combatant commanders-in-chief, the Atlantic Theater and domestic requirements.

USJFCOM had been tasked with developing future concepts for joint warfighting. Such work included and strengthened Service efforts, drawing on the best of industry, and following the will of the citizens as expressed through Congress. New ideas for future warfare had to be validated in practical experiments. Some things could be evaluated by computer-driven modeling and simulation, but sooner or later, new operational measures had to be tried in the air, at sea, and on the ground. The US military had a long tradition of honing skills in live wargames, from the fleet problems of the 1930s that defined carrier warfare to the Army's famous Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 that developed combined arms air/ground operations.

In addition to this functional responsibility, USJFCOM had responsibility for the North Atlantic and adjacent arctic and subarctic waters. Although the threat in the region was low, the political and economic importance of the Transatlantic link remained vital. Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, and Bermuda constituted vital ground. The Atlantic sea lanes and air lanes were always crowded with traffic crucial to the well being of many countries.

During the peace that followed World War II, the military applied lessons learned from the war, adopting a new system of organization under a single secretary of defense. The system established the US Air Force, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and new commands made up of components from more than one military service. These new multi-service or unified commands had broad, continuing missions and were intended to ensure that forces from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps would all work together.

The unified commands were either responsible for a geographical area (like Europe or the Pacific) or a specific function, such as transportation. USJFCOM was originally formed as US Atlantic Command (USLANTCOM), the unified command with responsibility for the Atlantic Ocean geographical region. Due to the maritime nature of its missions, USLANTCOM was integrated with the Navy's existing Atlantic Fleet and was primarily staffed by Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Its initial mission was to guard sea lanes between Europe and the US East Coast. As the Cold War heated up during the second half of the century, USLANTCOM's mission proved crucial protecting sea lanes in the Atlantic.

After the onset of the Cold War, USLANTCOM played a critical role ensuring NATO forces would be able to move troops and supplies across the Atlantic without Soviet intervention. Cooperation with NATO enabled the Command to form a coalition of strategically located bases and operational forces in the North Atlantic that could provide continuous protection and surveillance operations throughout the Cold War.

Although the Soviet surface navy did not pose a considerable threat in the Atlantic, their submarines threatened NATO's defense of Western Europe. Consequently, USLANTCOM aircraft, ships and submarines were continually deployed to monitor and deter Soviet submarine operations in the Atlantic. Additionally, because of the dangers of Soviet air attack, the Command maintained a line of radar stations from Greenland, through Iceland, to the United Kingdom. From bases in Iceland, Air Force units assigned to USLANTCOM (through the Iceland Defense Force) intercepted Soviet aircraft in the North Atlantic.

In addition, the Command had been tasked with unique responsibilities. As Cold War tensions mounted at the end of the 1950's and nuclear missile silos were built across the country, USLANTCOM acquired operational management of the nation's newly-formed underwater nuclear arsenal. The Navy established stewardship of a portion of America's nuclear weapons in the late 1950's after accelerated development of the Polaris missile, a submarine-launched intermediate range ballistic missile. Though the Navy was responsible for providing and supporting the submarines, operational control for launching the Polaris missiles during a crisis was directed through Commander in Chief, Atlantic Command (CINCUSLANTCOM).

For most of the 20th Century, the US had used bases in Cuba and Puerto Rico to maintain a constant force in an area that was critical to the country's security and shipping. When Fidel Castro's communist regime developed an alliance with the Soviet Union after taking control of the island in 1959, USLANTCOM suddenly had one of the Cold War's hottest spots within its geographical area. In 1961, the command found itself involved in the failed, CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion. Not informed of the invasion until the last moment, the Command's leaders made what they considered to be the best possible decisions for a mission they felt was flawed. The command shifted naval forces and a battalion of Marines to an area that might influence the invasion, but did not participate. In the end, forces from the Command helped evacuate remaining rebel Cubans who had not been captured by Castro's government.

Just over a year later, in 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis drew USLANTCOM forces into one of the Cold War's most dangerous episodes. After the CIA confirmed the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles on the island, President John F. Kennedy ordered the Command to form a 500-mile "quarantine" to interdict all ships entering Cuban waters. Concurrently the command prepared amphibious forces for a possible invasion. From 22 to 28 October 1962, the Command's naval forces engaged the Soviets in a tense confrontation at sea, backed by land and air forces of each nation. After Soviet withdrawal of its missiles from Cuba, tensions diminished and both sides stood down. Although the problem of a communist nation in the Caribbean was never solved, tensions in the region had not reached the same level of confrontation by the end of the millennia.

To ensure the 1965 civil war in the Dominican Republic would not lead to another communist-ruled Soviet satellite in the Caribbean, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered Atlantic Command forces to intervene. Once established in the capital city of Santo Domingo, US forces separated the 2 warring factions and then consolidated control over the city. Separating the left and the right wing groups was successful, but not easy. Until order was restored, US forces were frequently caught in the middle of fighting that claimed 27 Americans lives. After about a week, US presence proved effective. A cease-fire was declared. Over the next year, US forces remained in the Dominican Republic to maintain stability. The election of a new president in June 1966 ensured the Dominican Republic completed the transition to a democratic government. After the election, all US forces withdrew from Santo Domingo.

Not all of USLANTCOM's responsibilities, however, were in response to crises. Space exploration, during its earliest years, relied heavily upon US Navy support from both the US Atlantic and Pacific Commands. Given the technology of the time, the only method of spacecraft recovery was to allow the ocean to absorb the impact of landing, and then use pre-positioned ships to recover the capsule. As the space program gained momentum with the safe launch and recovery of Mercury astronauts in the early 1960's, NASA support became an historic mission for the Command. In 1965 alone, USLANTCOM naval forces devoted a total of 1,006 ship-days in support of NASA's Gemini manned space flights, primarily astronaut recovery.

The conflict in Vietnam from the mid-1960s through early 1970s, dominated American military attention. Although the conflict occurred within the US Pacific Command's geographical region, its effects reverberated through USLANTCOM and the US Navy's Atlantic Fleet. Ships, personnel and resources from the Command were shifted to the Pacific Ocean to meet US operational commitments. Growing unpopularity translated into major problems, like reduced congressional support for defense spending and difficulty attracting and keeping quality people in uniform. The result was an USLANTCOM force suffering readiness issues at a time when the Soviet navy made great advancements. In addition to an improved submarine force, the Soviets developed a surface navy, including 3 VSTOL (Vertical/Short Take-Off Landing) aircraft carriers. Soviet ballistic missile submarines added to the urgency of US anti-submarine warfare efforts.

In retrospect, the Soviet naval expansion lacked critical elements, including the economic infrastructure for sustained expansion. At the time, however, the threat cast a shadow over American ability to reinforce Europe in the event of a war. NATO planners were concerned that the Soviet Union could overrun Norway early in a war, gaining an unchallenged naval gateway to the Atlantic Ocean.

In response, the US Navy developed the "forward strategy," which called for engaging the Soviet Navy within the Norwegian Sea, north of Iceland. Maneuvers in sub-Arctic waters taxed the endurance of ships and people, a constant challenge to Atlantic Command leaders. Modernization efforts begun under President Jimmy Carter's administration continued through President Ronald Reagan's administration as the Navy developed its operational plans, manning and equipment to counter the Soviet threat.

When militant communists in Grenada staged a coup, installing up their own government in October of 1983, the US was alarmed that another Communist bastion was evolving just miles from American shores. Believing the new communist government was not legitimate and fearing for the safety of American students on the island, President Ronald Reagan ordered military intervention to stop consolidation of the new regime. A USLANTCOM Joint Task Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf with Army Major Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf as ground operations adviser, invaded Grenada on 25 October 1983. Army and Marine Corps units, in conjunction with forces from other Caribbean nations, overwhelmed Cuban and Grenadian resistance forces. Before long, the Command task force established order and laid groundwork for democratic elections.

Although the mission was ultimately a success, in the months after Operation Urgent Fury, politicians and military officers alike criticizing deficiencies evident upon analysis of the invasion. The most glaring problem, inadequate communication and coordination between the services, led to demands for improvements in joint operations. In the years that followed, lessons learned from Operation Urgent Fury and desire for seamless joint operations would become a major issue for USLANTCOM.

Operation Desert Shield was President George Bush's massive military build-up in the Middle East in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Under the command of former USLANTCOM ground operations adviser for Operation Urgent Fury, Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, forces from all unified commands, including USLANTCOM, were sent to Southwest Asia to support the operation and subsequently support Operation Desert Storm. The nature of USLANTCOM's mission meant that its contribution to the war was aircraft carrier group support and a surface logistics bridge that stretched to the Arabian Peninsula.

Fresh off victories in Panama in 1989-1990 and the Persian Gulf in 1990-1991, the US military began highlighting lessons learned from those campaigns and analyzing emerging threats in the new, post-cold war world. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin L. Powell, among others, knew the key to meeting challenges of the future was refining how US Services work together in joint operations. He felt that a single, US-based unified command should be responsible for training forces from all services for joint operations. This unified command would supply ready joint forces to other unified commanders-in-chief anywhere in the world.

After the Haitian military deposed democratically-elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1991, the US had imposed economic sanctions against the small nation. Resulting economic hardships and political oppression led many Haitians to flee to nearby US shores in makeshift boats. USLANTCOM played a major role in the episode, setting up and maintaining a temporary migrant camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for thousands of Haitian refugees, called Operation GTMO, pronounced "gitmo," short for Guantanamo.

In 1993, US Atlantic Command fulfilled General Powell's vision and became the first unified command to serve as US-based force trainer, integrator and provider. Under the new Unified Command Plan, signed by President Bill Clinton on 24 September 1993, US Atlantic Command (with a new acronym, USACOM) assumed combatant command of the Army's Forces Command (FORSCOM); the Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC); the Marine Corps Forces Command, Atlantic (MARFORLANT); and the Navy's Commader in Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT). Integration of the service component commands marked the first time that USACOM had permanent, peacetime control of major elements from all 4 services. The changes dramatically transformed the command's traditional Navy/Marine Corps composition. A new mission, to ensure all forces going into combat, anywhere in the world, would fight as integrated joint teams, was added to the command's existing Atlantic Ocean geographic mission.

USACOM did continue conducting operations in its area of geographic responsibility. After convincing the Haitian regime to step down peacefully in 1994, the US ordered the Command ti deploy a task force, along with troops from the international community, to the island nation to restore order and ensure a democratic government. As the situation stabilized, US forces slowly withdrew troops and control of the peacekeeping operation. The United Nations assumed responsibility for Haitian operations in early 1995, although the US still provided assets. Later in 1995, the Haitian people elected a new president. During the operation, USACOM once again opened a migrant camp for Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay during Operation Sea Signal. After government leadership was restored, most migrants were returned to Haiti. Only about 10,000 were allowed to stay in the United Guantanamo Bay

In 1997, USACOM's stewardship of the Caribbean was transferred to US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM). The Command did continue to had a geographic responsibility, exercising control over annual Deep Freeze explorations, which had begun in 1956, where scientists and supporting military personnel deployed to Antarctica to conduct experiments. As the unified command headquarters responsible for the region, USACOM had directed Deep Freeze operations, which included moving personnel and supplies to the region during its summer months, December to February.

In October 1999, US Atlantic Command became United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) to emphasize the command's role leading transformation of US military forces. Still one of 5 geographic combatant unified commands, USJFCOM formally took on a more functional role with the new name. It became the only unified command with both a geographic area and functional responsibilities.

USJFCOM gained a functional mandate to lead transformation of US military joint warfighting into the 21st Century. The command's geographical responsibility was modified to more closely align with existing NATO Allied Command Atlantic's (ACLANT) area of responsibility. The long history of cooperation with European Allies and then recent history in Central Europe indicated future military operations would not only be joint, but also combined national efforts.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Vision 2020 projected that conflicts of the future would go to the side with the right technology, applied at the right time with the right warrior. The Command's redesignation reflected the commitment to experimentation with new warfighting concepts and technologies that would answer the call in the Joint Chiefs vision. Concurrently with the redesignation, the command was charged to answer another national call to support terrorist response operations in the continental. In response, USJFCOM created the first domestic Joint Task Force, JTF-Civil Support, to provide military assistance to civil authorities, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FBI, for consequence management of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) incidents in the United States.

The Department of Defense was been authorized to provide support to the XIX Winter Olympic Games, to occur between 8 and 24 February 2002, and the VII Paralympic Games, to occur between 7 and 17 March 2002. Both of these events were to take place in in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a result, US Joint Force Command (USJFCOM) established Joint Task Force - Olympics (JTF-O) in January 2001. JTF-O provided routine support for local and federal agencies during the events.

On 17 April 2002, Defense officials announced changes in the Unified Command Plan. US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) took over the homeland defense role from USJFCOM. JFCOM's Joint Task Force-Civil Support and related activities (including JTF-6) were to report to NORTHCOM. Also in 2002, the Iceland Defense Force and US Forces Azores were realigned with US European Command (USEUCOM). In addition, up until 2002, the commander of USJFCOM was dual-hatted as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic (SACLANT), the headquarters for which was co-located with USJFCOM. That alliance command, which subsequently became Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), was as a result split off, and US officials consulted with NATO allies on the transition.

USJFCOM was to retain its mission as a "force generator" to the geographical commands and these changes were meant to free the command to focus on its mission of helping to transform the US military. This included experimentation, innovation, improving interoperability and reviewing, validating and writing joint doctrine and preparing battle-ready joint forces and coordinating joint training, simulation and modeling.

On 9 August 2010, as part of a series of initiatives designed to reduce overhead, duplication, and excess in the Department of Defense, and, over time, instill a culture of savings and restraint in America's defense institutions, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced his recommendation that USJFCOM be closed. Initially established to infuse jointness into everything the military does, especially the training and providing of forces for operations, Secretary Gates concluded that, over time, it had created an unneeded extra layer and step in the force management process. As part of the recommendation, USJFCOM's force management and sourcing functions were to be assigned to the Joint Staff while the remaining responsibilities were to be evaluated and those determined to be essential be re-assigned to other entities.

As part of the transition, on 29 April 2011, SOCJFCOM was redesignated as Special Operations Command - Joint Capabilities (SOC-JC) and reassigned US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) as part of the process of closing up USJFCOM. On 1 August 2011, USJFCOM's service component commands reverted to the control of their respective services.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT)
Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT)

Headquarters, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (HQ SACT) is the only NATO command in North America and the only permanent NATO headquarters outside of Europe. Reflecting NATO as a whole, ACT has a worldwide presence. As well as being co-located with United States Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, there is an ACT command element located in Belgium.

ACT is NATO's leading agent for change, driving, facilitating, and advocating continuous improvement of Alliance capabilities to maintain and enhance the military relevance and effectiveness of the Alliance. ACT focuses on areas such as training and education, concept development, comprehensive approach, experimentation, and research and technology and using NATO's ongoing operations and work with the NATO Response Force (NRF) to improve the military effectiveness of the Alliance.

Prior to 2002, ACT was designated as Allied Command Atlantic (ACLANT), and the Commander in Chief, US Joint Forces Command was dual hatted as Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT), an important link for both US allies and citizens. SACLANT was a US Army General Officer. He was nominated by the President of the United States and approved by the North Atlantic Council, NATO's highest governing body. He received his direction from the NATO Military Committee. The Deputy SACLANT was a UK Royal Navy Admiral.

ACLANT was one of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) 2 major strategic headquarters and the only one in North America. It was the senior military authority for NATO land, sea and air forces in the North Atlantic area, from the North Pole to the Tropic of Cancer, and from the East Coast of North America to the West Coast of Africa and Europe, approximately 12 million square miles.

ACLANT's mission was to contribute towards the military capability required to preserve the peace, security and territorial integrity of alliance member states. Geographic realities reminded members of ACLANT that NATO was an Atlantic alliance, dependent on vital sea lines for economic well being in peacetime and survival in war. SACLANT Headquarters was co-located with USJFCOM in Norfolk, Virginia.

SACLANT's staff, including external branches, consisted of some 574 members (405 military and 87 civilian) from 17 of the 19 NATO nations, including France who had a mission located near SACLANT Headquarters. Allied Command Atlantic had a permanently assigned multinational naval force called the Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT), which consisted of 6-10 ships from different NATO nations. The command was also responsible for the SACLANT Undersea Research Centre, located in La Spezia, Italy, which conducted marine research for both major NATO military commands and operates the research vessel Alliance.

ACLANT was divided into 3 geographical command areas: the Western Atlantic, the Eastern Atlantic and the South Atlantic. Within this framework, there were 5 major subordinate commanders, directly responsible to SACLANT. They were Commander-in-Chief, Eastern Atlantic Area (CINCEASTLANT) in Northwood/London, United Kingdom; Commander-in-Chief, Western Atlantic Area (CINCWESTLANT) in Norfolk, Virginia, United States; Commander-in-Chief, Southern Atlantic Area (CINCSOUTHLANT) in Oeiras/Lisbon, Portugal; and Commander Striking Fleet, Atlantic (COMSTRIKFLTLANT) and Commander, Submarines Allied Command Atlantic (COMSUBACLANT) both located in Norfolk, Virginia. Also included in the area of responsibility are the island commands of the Faeroes, the Azores, Madeira, Greenland, Bermuda and Iceland.

During the 2002 Prague Summit, NATO's military command structure was reorganised with a focus on becoming leaner and more efficient. One Strategic Command would be focused on NATO's operations (this becoming Allied Command Operations) and the other would be focused on transforming NATO. ACLANT was redesignated as Allied Command Transformation (ACT). Concurrently and as part of reorganization of USJFCOM in 2002, caused a split between CINCUSJFCOM and SACLANT, with CINCUSJFCOM no longer being dual-hatted as the new Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT).

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