Editor’s Note: Brigadier General Kurt Sonntag, U.S. Army, sat down with Bob Jensen a member of the Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee and a retired Naval Officer to discuss his early impressions of his new assignment in Homestead.
BG Kurt L. Sonntag assumed command of Special Operations Command South on September 16, 2014. SOCSOUTH as it is known is one of five similar geographic commands. It is responsible for the planning, employment and command of special operations in Central and South America. He will work closely with the forces of 31 allied nations. Our nation has experienced more than thirteen years of continuous warfare.
BG Sonntag was born and raised in southern California, and his hometown is Glendora, California. His father was a Los AngelesCounty deputy sheriff, and his mom a teacher and librarian in the local school district. Glendora is a city of about 50,000 located 23 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It is in Los AngelesCounty and has a highly rated education system.
Sonntag graduated from West Point as a member of the Class of 1986. The adjustment from southern California to New YorkState for a 17-year old was one of distance and climate. In his senior year he met the woman who would become his wife, Deirdre (Dee) Fahey from West Roxbury, Massachusetts. They have two adult children.
Sonntag has had a distinguished 28-year career. He went from the infantry to special operations early in his career; he has 25 years of experience in special operations, specializing in the Middle East and Africa. Our special forces are limited to 69,700 people right now, so it is a small and highly effective force. The whole world is connected and no one is exempt from trouble transferred to our hemisphere.
In addition to his military accolades, Sonntag has Masters Degrees from LouisianaStateUniversity and the NavalWarCollege, and is a Harvard Kennedy School National Security Fellow.
The general is quick to point out that our nation’s all-volunteer force is unique from the all-volunteer standpoint, and that our armed forces are the most powerful force the world has ever known. He attributes this to the excellence of the men and women in our all-volunteer force. Our men and women are solid Americans who work hard on behalf of our nation. Sonntag adds that most countries have some form of conscription to fill the ranks. He worries that as we draw down the size of our military forces, the increasingly higher requirements for enlistment will exclude some young people who are making bad decisions regarding education and the law and are disqualifying themselves for service based on these decisions.
Just as SOCSOUTH has been the primary military supporter of the Junior ROTC programs at Homestead and SouthDadeHigh Schools, BG Sonntag will build on that based on his experience at other Special Operations locations, like his last assignment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where an effort consistent with their massive resources was the order of the day. He has also seen the JROTC program from the view point of a parent.
Sonntag is very appreciative of the support from the community demonstrated at his change of command ceremony and has already become aware of the work of the Military Affairs Committee of the South Dade (formerly Homestead/Florida City) Chamber of Commerce. He sees MAC as a proactive partner.
Foreign travel will be a large part of the general’s job, but he plans to get out in the community and make office calls on partners and potential partners.
You may see the general on the golf course where he enjoys the outdoors more than he does his golf game, but he is most likely to be seen in the gym.
BG Kurt and Dee Sonntag have chosen to make Homestead their home. Our community is proud that you have chosen us.
Bob Jensen is vice-president for Community Liason at First National Bank of South Florida, president of the Florida Pioneer Museum, and a retired Navy