Special Operations Command, Central (SOCCENT)
Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), headquartered at MacDill AFB, Florida, is a subordinate unified command of US Central Command (USCENTCOM). It is responsible for planning special operations throughout the USCENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR); planning and conducting peacetime joint/combined special operations training exercises; and orchestrating command and control of peacetime and wartime special operations as directed. SOCCENT exercises operational control of assigned and attached SOF which deploy for the execution of training and for operational missions in the USCENTCOM AOR as directed by USCINCCENT. When directed by USCINCCENT, SOCCENT forms the nucleus of a JSOTF.
Commandos in Afghanistan are part of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force headquartered near Bagram air base north of Kabul, with camps near Kandahar in the south and Khost in the east. The task force is a combined force of Army Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALs, including its crack counterterrorism unit, the naval special-warfare development group that used to be known as SEAL Team Six. Foreign nations, including New Zealand and Australia, also assigned some of their best "hunters and killers" to the group.
SOCCENT has several forward-positioned command and control (C2) elements. SOCCENT Forward exercises C2 for all SOF forces within the AOR. SOCCENT Forward is located in Bahrain. Naval Special Warfare Unit THREE (NSWU-3), also located in Bahrain, provides C2 and support for all Naval Special Warfare forces in theater. The SOC Coordination Element (SOCCE) Kuwait is primarily dedicated to providing SOF C2 for Operation Desert Spring. SOCCE Qatar provides logistic and administrative assistance in preparation for the SOCCENT headquarter's relocation into the AOR.
US Army Special Operations Forces periodically deploy to Kuwait under the operational control of US Special Operations Command Central at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Depending on the operation, tactical control can be given to a supported commander in the Area of Responsibility, such as a designated Joint Task Force commander.
SOCCENT headquarters is organized similar to other joint commands with responsibilities divided among with a command group, six numbered/functional directorates (J1 through J6): personnel, operations, plans, intelligence, logistics, and communications and a headquarters commandant section.
SOCCENT is heavily dependent upon reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentees (IMAs) to carry out its daily operations and conduct exercises in support of the CINC's Vision. In peacetime the command manning is 70% reservist yet its funding normally provides only for routine drills (less than 30 days on average). Because of its unique position as a subunified command within USCENTCOM, SOCCENT has no direct mechanism for making Program Objective Memorandum (POM) inputs to the component services for long range reserve funding. SOCCENT has received additional funds from USCENTCOM through a program called Traditional CINC Activities (TCA). This money is provided by the components annually to CINCCENT as discretionary funds to spend on programs he believes best support the USCENTCOM mission. CINCCENT has questioned the services on the fairness of repeatedly spending TCA funds for SOCCENT reserve augmentation.
The Central Region is one of the most dynamic and diverse areas of the world. It is an area that has been, and will continue to be, vitally important to the United States. The Central Region is the birth place of three of the world's major religions; has a population of over 428 million people; and consists of 17 different ethnic groups, six major languages, hundreds of dialects, varied forms of government, and a wide range of per capita incomes.
CENTCOM's strategy of "Shaping the Central Region for the 21st Century" seeks to integrate the efforts of U.S. Central Command with those of other U.S. government agencies, non-governmental/private volunteer organizations, and friends in the region to obtain the shared goal of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Central Region. Implementing this strategy involves the full spectrum of engagement, including warfighting and contingency planning, combined and bilateral exercises, United Nations (UN) sanctions enforcement and monitoring, and security assistance and demining operations. SOCCENT plays an integral part in all these activities. SOCCENT implements the command's theater strategy through numerous initiatives and programs.
SOCCENT is committed to support the CENTCOM's regional strategy through a variety of initiatives that reflect the National Security Strategy elements of shaping the international environment, responding to the full spectrum of crises, and preparing now for an uncertain future.
Specific SOCCENT mission tasks include:
- Assist and advise USCINCCENT on all matters pertaining to special operations in the USCENTCOM AOR.
- Implement and support USCINCCENT-directed host country training, nation building, and professional military-to-military contacts with host nation armed forces.
- Conduct JCS directed exercises.
- Plan and conduct humanitarian assistance and civic actions with countries receptive to US military presence.
- Plan, conduct, and evaluate other joint exercises, MTTs, DFTs, and JCETs in support of theater, regional, and country strategies.
SOCCENT implements the Command's theater strategy through initiatives and programs that improve host-nation capabilities. SOCCENT's culturally sensitive forces provide a direct and unobtrusive link to our host-nation counterparts and work to formalize coalition operational procedures, agreements, and doctrine for coalition warfare. Command programs include a rigorous Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) exercise schedule, robust Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) and Small Unit Exchange (SUE) programs, and the support and sustainment of humanitarian demining and counterdrug operations.
SOCCENT's involvement in annual JCS exercises contributes to increased influence within the region, by providing military-to-military contact and training at the unit level.
Assignment of Special Operation Force Liaison Officers (SOF LNO) to selected American Embassies is SOCCENT's most successful Traditional CINC Activities program. Liaison officers assist in planning and execution of SOF exercises, reducing the burden of such activities on small embassy staffs.
Small Unit Exchanges (SUE) bring small groups from AOR countries to train in the US with SOCCENT components. The use of U.S. facilities enhances the training experience and illustrates American standards of training rigor and leadership. To enhance its combat power, SOCCENT prepositions a battalion set of Special Forces vehicles and equipment, and SEAL Desert Patrol Vehicles in the Region.
Special operations forces provide maximum return on a small investment. SOCCENT forces often provide the initial "foot in the door" for access, and nurture relationships with key counterparts throughout the region. The capability, flexibility, and maturity of special operations forces often make them the force of choice for many countries.
In December 1998, Operation Desert Fox was executed in response to reported Iraqi non-compliance with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM). SOCCENT deployed special operations liaison elements and a SOCCE augmentation force in anticipation of extended hostilities.
SOCCENT supported UN sanctions enforcement through Maritime Interception Operations (MIO) conducted in support of UN Security Council Resolution 687 that imposed international trade and economic sanctions against Iraq. NSWU-3 in Bahrain provided both assets and personnel for this effort.
In August 1999, all Iris Gold exercises were incorporated under Operation Desert Spring. The original purpose of the exercise remains the same: to provide combat support units to the Kuwaiti Brigades for terminal guidance of close air support liaison to Combined Task Force (CTF) Kuwait. Operation Desert Spring has expanded to include up to nine SF teams and a special operations C2 element.
SOCCENT forces plan, establish, and conduct humanitarian demining operations to provide a self-sustaining, indigenous humanitarian capability. Training is performed to locate, identify, and create databases for mine locations; eliminate the threat of land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO); reduce the risk to life, livestock, and property; return land to productive use; and train and maintain the indigenous force in demining techniques. Demining operations have been conducted in Yemen and Jordan and are planned for Ethiopia and Eritrea. The partnership established through the demining program has become the prototype for all other demining programs throughout the world.
SOCCENT conducts Counterdrug operations in support of Presidential Decision Directive 44. During 1999, SOF forces provided light infantry and mountaineering training for Turkmenistan's state border service. In addition, SOF forces conducted a Warrant Officer Leadership and Development Course with 30 Turkmen participants. Addi-tional counterdrug training operations are planned in Egypt and Kenya.
SOCCENT forces conducts an Integrated Survey Program (ISP) of U.S. facilities, including embassies and consulates, within the AOR on a recurring basis. These surveys support State Department emergency action plans (EAP) for each post. In addition, surveys provide planning information for Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO). In August 1998, while conducting a survey in Nairobi, Kenya, ISP personnel were inside the U.S. embassy when the terrorist bomb exploded. The team quickly formed a defensive perimeter around the embassy to prevent pedestrian interference and potential follow-on attack. In addition, several members of the team established a first aid triage center treating injured embassy personnel. Their quick decisive actions were critical in saving additional lives. Nine SF personnel and one member of the Air Force special tactics squadron were awarded the Soldier's Medal for their actions.
USCENTCOM recently assumed responsibility for all military activities for the five countries in the Central Asian Region: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. SOCCENT's inherently small footprint and culturally sensitive forces play a critical role in nurturing CENTCOM's relationships in this region.
SOCCENT's joint and combined exercise and training programs are vital peacetime engagement tools that support the CINC's theater strategy. Two primary goals of these programs are to enhance SOF's warfighting capability through maintaining combat readiness and to maintain access and presence in the AOR. The exercises also provide the principal means by which to improve coalition warfighting capabilities while simultaneously building strong military-to-military relationships. During 1999, SOCCENT forces conducted over 15 JCET and eight JCS exercises with 15 countries.