In our first article based on an interview with the new Commander of Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) we learned about Rear Admiral Davids and his background. This article will cover the organization and its mission.
First some background. The US Military divides the world into Areas of Responsibility (AOR) and assigns a major command to conduct operations in that area. Familiar to most is Central Command (CENTCOM), headquartered in Tampa, which has responsibility for operations throughout the Mid-East. Closer to Homestead is Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) with headquarters in Doral. SOUTHCOM’s AOR is Central and South America (south of Mexico), the Caribbean and the surrounding waters.
When asked about the region Davids said, “It’s a wonderful neighborhood. It’s great for me personally to be here in the Western Hemisphere. I’ve spent so much of my career in other parts of the world, particularly in Central Command. Its really nice to be here working with so many democratic nations that share, one the same time zone, the same hemisphere, but also the same values.
I can’t tell you how refreshing that is.”
Located on Homestead Air Reserve Base SOCSOUTH is assigned to SOUTHCOM to plan, coordinate, and execute special operations activities in the region. To accomplish this wide-ranging mission SOCSOUTH has a staff of over 400 consisting of military members from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Airforce, Department of Defense civilians as well as civilian contractors. Also working in the Headquarters are members of other US Government Agencies such as the State Department and FBI.
When asked about threats Admiral Davids identified three challenges to American security and interests. The first of these was drug trafficking. He sees both the effects of cocaine and other illicit drugs once they get into the country and the effects of drug trafficking organizations on the countries throughout the region as a major security issue. In our country both the number of deaths from the ongoing opioid crises and the associated crime and gang related activities are clear threats. The well-funded trafficking organizations undermine the credibility of institutions, challenge the rule of law, corrupt officials, and threaten the many “young” democracies throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The second major challenge we discussed was external state actors and their actions, in other words nations from outside the region. Largely through “economic coercion” they try to gain influence, to undermine institutions, and to achieve political advantage over the United States.
Lastly Admiral Davids identified “violent extremist organizations that have some tentacles into the hemisphere that we obviously have to also pay attention to. SOCSOUTH definitely has a role there because of our counter-terrorism tasking.”
SOCSOUTH and the Special Operations units from all the military branches that they employ are uniquely suited to meet these challenges. Through training and working with partner nations and their armed forces and assisting US intelligence and law enforcement agencies the effects of a relatively small number of operators is greatly multiplied.
About his command the Admiral said, “It’s pretty neat that in our own community we got a whole bunch of people working here, living here that associate themselves as South Floridians, that raised their hand and said that everyday I’m going to do my utmost to honor the constitution and protect the Homeland.”
The interview concluded with Rear Admiral Davids expressing his desire to be “out and about” in the community and his thanks for the support of the community for the military, civilians, and contractors of SOCSOUTH.