Special Operations Command, South (SOCSOUTH)
SOCSOUTH, is the Southern Command's subordinate unified command for special operations. It is responsible for all SOF in the theater, except CA and PSYOP forces. Forward based at Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, SOCSOUTH is comprised of a joint headquarters with three forward-based operational units: C Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne); Naval Special Warfare Unit FOUR; and D Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). CONUS-based SOF from USSOCOM, in support of the USSOUTHCOM Theater Engagement Plan, continuously augment the command. This assistance can be expanded to the full range of SOF capabilities required for contingency response.
The AOR of the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) encompasses the land mass and surrounding waters of Latin America south of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. This area contains 32 independent countries and 15 dependencies including French, British, Dutch, and U.S. territories - 12.5 million square miles or approximately one-sixth of the world's land area. Every country, except Cuba, conducts national elections and employs a representative form of government.
Economically, the region is vital to America's continued prosperity. Nearly 40 percent of the crude oil consumed in the United States comes from the Caribbean Basin. Brazil is the world's eighth largest economy, equal to China and larger than Canada. Argentina's gross domestic product (GDP) is approximately the same as the GDP of Australia, Russia or India. Over 400 million people of the area speak seven official languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Quechua, and Aymara. Extreme differences in geography, topography, prosperity, stability, and ethnicity characterize the theater.
SOCSOUTH supports the USSOUTHCOM Strategy of Cooperative Regional Peacetime Engagement by providing SOF capabilities that assist in shaping the theater's security environment, while ensuring appropriate forces are postured to respond when U.S. interests are threatened. Toward this end, SOCSOUTH manages over 200 SOF deployments annually, averaging 42 missions in 16 countries at any given time.
SOCSOUTH contributes to the accomplishment of USCINCSOUTH theater objectives by assisting US agencies in training hostnation forces to target drug production and trafficking, and supporting interagency efforts to interdict the flow of drugs in the transit zone. SOCSOUTH works to enhance regional stability by assisting friendly nations in dealing with internal and external threats to their security, while fostering professionalism and respect for human rights. It builds military-to-military contacts that generate mutual trust, improve collective military capabilities, and promote democratic ideals. SOCSOUTH stays ready to conduct special operations in conflict and peace in support of U.S. interests.
Many of the region's democracies remain fragile, their basis undermined by wide-spread economic, sociological and political problems. They face security problems that are multidimensional and localized. Latin America has the most uneven distribution of income and wealth of any region, where the poorest 40 percent of the population receives only 10 percent of the income. Poverty is widespread. Rapid population growth, proliferating transnational threats, international drug trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, environmental degradation, illegal migration, the proliferation of land mines, and extra-legal paramilitary forces challenge the well-being and moral fiber of every country in the Western Hemisphere, including the United States.
Domestic crime threatens U.S. economic interests and the security of our citizens abroad - one-half of the world's abductions occur in Colombia alone. The region's porous borders, the expanding influence of insurgent organizations, and the symbiotic relationship between the illicit drug industry and insurgent forces vastly increase the complexity of the challenge.
The emphasis of the region's military forces is moving away from traditional roles. The concepts of balance of power, deterrence, and collective defense against extra-hemispheric threats are fading. Regional security considerations now include threats to the domestic order that challenge a state's ability to hold the country together and to govern. Today, many regional militaries focus on issues that garner the support of the people for the government, including response to natural disasters and their aftermath; domestic threats; and dealing with non-state actors including terrorists, organized crime, and paramilitary groups.
To assist in the U.S. effort to meet these challenges, SOCSOUTH provides a flexible means of accomplishing a wide range of missions. As the theater's only rapid response force, SOCSOUTH is commonly called upon to handle emergencies requiring immediate military assistance. When Hurricane Georges struck the Dominican Republic, SOF helicopters and soldiers were the first U.S. forces in the country. As Hurricane Mitch was devastating Honduras, SOCSOUTH deployed forces that rescued over 900 people on the day of their arrival. After the lifesaving efforts were complete, SOF language and communications skills were employed to coordinate the initial multinational relief efforts in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In one case, SEALs and SOF helicopters recovered a fisherman with a life-threatening disorder from a ship off the coast of Costa Rica when other U.S. assets were forced to turn back due to bad weather. In another instance, SOF helicopters, SF soldiers, and special tactics team airmen employed their unique skills to recover human remains and sensitive equipment from exceptionally rugged terrain when a U.S. Army Reconnaissance Low-level aircraft crashed in the Andes Mountains of Colombia.
In December 1999, severe flooding in Venezuela resulted in the deaths of an estimated 30,000 people. Within hours of notification, a task force from SOCSOUTH deployed to the disaster area to assist in rescue efforts. The nature of operations rapidly shifted and SOCSOUTH was tasked to provide the command and control element for a Humanitarian Assistance operation that remained in place for an extended period. Army, Navy, and Air Force SOF assisted in the rescue of over 900 Honduran civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.
Counterdrug support is a major area of focus in the Southern Command. Deployed on a continuous basis throughout the source and transit zones, SOF supports interagency and host-nation land-, riverine-, sea-, and air-interdiction efforts to disrupt the production, cultivation, and movement of illegal drugs. The presence of NSW Patrol Coastal ships plays a vital role in detection and monitoring efforts. SEALs and Special Boat Unit personnel are constantly engaged in training missions to assist participating nations in controlling their coastlines and waterways. Air Force SOF provide critical training that help host nations develop counterdrug aviation operational and logistical support infrastructures. Army SF teams are continuously training host-nation counter-narcotics forces in a wide range of relevant skills.
The Colombian Government is making substantial efforts to neutralize those organizations responsible for illicit drug activities in its country and requested U.S. assistance in training and equipping an Army Counterdrug Brigade. The outcome of this joint endeavor will be a force that is capable of day or night operations in all weather and terrain; a highly professional force that operates within the rule of law and respects universal human rights. Currently, SOCSOUTH is the USSOUTHCOM executive agent for the training. The initial Colombian Army Counterdrug Battalion attained operational capability in December 1999.
C Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) hosts the annual SOF Counter-terrorism Tactics and Techniques Symposium (CTTTS). This USSOUTHCOM traditional CINC activity brings security forces from through-out the region together in friendship to exchange ideas and foster dialogue on the common issue of combating terrorism. Additionally, SOCSOUTH deployed forces on numerous occasions to improve force protection for U.S. units and enhance the safety of U.S. citizens and interests during periods of internal strife in several nations of the region.
SOCSOUTH is dedicated to providing SOF expertise to the USSOUTHCOM exercise program. It serves as executive agent for two JCS exercises, and co-executive agent for a third. Cabanas is a joint and combined field training exercise with South American countries that focuses on peacekeeping operations skills. Tradewinds, for which SOCSOUTH is executive agent for the ground phase, is an annual opportunity for the defense and police forces of the Caribbean Regional Security System and the Caribbean Community to conduct interoperability and skills training from the individual to battalion staff level. These exercises serve to promote regional stability. Ellipse Echo is an annual contingency response event that provides training in warfighting and planning skills to U.S. SOF. Additionally, SOCSOUTH participates in a variety of other exercises designed to enhance U.S. joint interoperability, such as Blue Advance, Unified Endeavor, and Fuertes Defensas.
In the Southern Command, SOF exerts a ubiquitous presence, postured to shape, and if required, prepared to respond, at a moments notice.
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