General Kelly Takes Command of USSOUTHCOM, Honors General Fraser

General Kelly Takes Command of USSOUTHCOM, Honors General Fraser

By Dialogo
November 20, 2012

The families, personal friends, colleagues and school mates of U.S. Air Force General Douglas Fraser and U.S. Marine Corps General John F. Kelly joined local government, partner nation leaders and other staff members for the solemn and light-hearted change-of-command ceremony held at the U.S. Southern Command on a cool Miami afternoon on November 19.

Gen. Fraser ended his extensive 41-year Military career by handing the SOUTHCOM flag to his successor, newly promoted Gen. Kelly, who comes to Miami after serving as Senior Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta since March 2011.

Flanked by Secretary of Defense Panetta himself and U.S. Army General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both leaders were honored for their achievements and thanked for their service and dedication to the country. While Gen. Fraser leaves a huge footprint in the relationship, partnership and allegiances forged with Latin America, Gen. Kelly was welcomed to the monumental task of carrying the torch further and reaching even closer to the Partner Nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as “security challenges in this hemisphere are transnational and they impact everyone,” stated Secretary Panetta.

Secretary Panetta highlighted the fact that Gen. Fraser was the first ever USAF officer to lead SOUTHCOM “because of his extraordinary record of accomplishments, and his natural instinct and composed, calm and in-control nature allowed him to deal with constant turbulence,” said Panetta. “Only months after his arrival, Gen. Fraser, had one of the most significant operational challenges that SOUTHCOM ever faced, when he had to confront the devastating earthquake in Haiti,” recalled the Secretary of Defense.

“SOUTHCOM responded, and responded immediately, with Operation Unified Response, the largest, humanitarian assistant and disaster relief mission this command has ever undertaken: 2.3 million meals, 17 million pounds of food, 2.6 million bottles of water, 150,000 pounds of medical supplies, among many other services . . .,” Panetta remembered.

For his part, Gen. Dempsey highlighted the importance of building trust and the achievements made by Gen. Fraser during his tenure as the 21st Commander, U.S. Southern Command. “Relationships build friends and friends build partners,” he said.

In welcoming Gen. Kelly, Gen. Fraser took a moment to talk about “the command’s most important asset –the men and women who work inside this building … who day in day out work to make the region safer, our partnerships stronger, and our country more secure,” said the Air Force General.

“I would like to say something very simple, and yet very profound: thank you … gracias, obrigado, merci,” he said, and directed his words to the partner nation representatives in the audience: “You have taught me much about the region, about your rich and vibrant cultures, about your impressive histories, and your diverse perspectives,” he said.

Secretary Panetta introduced the new commander by highlighting his career. “Kelly was tested in life, and tested in battle,” he said. “He joined the Marines, became an officer, and what an officer he became … he was tested in battle through four combat deployments: one in the Gulf War, and three in Iraq, where he commanded the Multinational Force West … he is, I believe, the true embodiment of the citizen warrior.”

Gen. Kelly also thanked Secretary Panetta and Gen. Dempsey for their presence but mostly, he thanked those who made him professionally what he is today, and “the most important people,” in his life, his family: Karen (wife), John (son), Kate (daughter), Heather and Andrea (daughters-in-law). “Your love and support have been the most amazing blessings of both my life and my career. Thank you … today and every day.”

His job [on the podium], he said, is simple: to keep it short and help recognize the many accomplishments of Gen. Fraser. “Southern Command was always doing what [the leadership at the Department of Defense] wanted done, always making maximum speed in the direction they wanted it to take. This is no accident and comes from a superb commander never taking a firm hand off the tiller,” he said. “General Fraser is the epitome of integrity, intellect, honor and humility, and it’s a privilege to follow him.”

“While I try to further the goals he has set for the command with his incredible and deep understanding of the issues in this theater, I look forward to the challenge of continuing his great work at SOUTHCOM,” concluded the 22nd Commander.

I follow up with great interest SOUTHCOM’s aspirations and goals development, and I believe in the healthy and beneficial relationship and cooperation program for the Americas defense system upgrading. The inter-American defense spirit had a significant advance with Lt. Brig. FRASER and Secretary PANETTA’s personal interest who both visited my country. I join my satisfaction feelings for the investiture of Fleet Admiral KELLY and expect his excellent mission at SOUTHCOM which is guaranteed by his professional experience, and I wish him a great success.
Ney de Araripe Sucupira
Public Relations Director - Graduates Association of Superior War School (ESG) - São Paulo, Brazil