TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. Army Gen. Bryan P. Fenton assumed command of U.S. Special Operations Command from outgoing commander Gen. Richard D. Clarke during a change of command ceremony at the Tampa Convention Center today. General Fenton previously served as the commander of Joint Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III officiated the ceremony and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley was the honorary guest speaker. Several senior defense leaders from the U.S. and international military partners; allies; USSOCOM's component commanders; and other distinguished visitors were also in attendance.
"Bryan Fenton is the right leader," said Milley. "He is the right leader at the right time, with right skills to lead this command. Like Rich Clarke, Bryan Fenton has the perfect blend of character, competence, and courage. He has all the right expertise and knowledge to take what Rich has done and take it to the next level."
Fenton assumes command during an important transition for Special Operations, as large-scale deployments and operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have mostly ceased. Competition with Russia and China are the focus of current national strategy, as Special Operations Forces will be expected to build upon the global SOF network it forged during the Global War On Terror-era to support global integrated deterrence.
"General Fenton has served in and commanded at every level of Special Operations Forces," said Austin. "He's been a part of operations in nearly every region around the world and General Fenton has built up extensive expertise in the Indo-Pacific, In fact, he managed to get four consecutive assignments in Hawaii and it culminated in General Fenton becoming the first Special Operations officer to serve as the deputy commander at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command."
Secretary Austin went on to say that Fenton embodies the first SOF truth – humans are more important than hardware, by focusing on people and creating an environment where people want to perform.
"In a command where 'humans are more important than hardware,' this is a day to pause for a moment and recognize the exceptional men and women who make up the United States Special Operations Command along with their incredible achievements," said Fenton. "A day to pause, and note, that these SOCOM teammates – these quiet professionals who work tirelessly at home and abroad to keep our nation safe – are the comparative and competitive advantage of this command."
"This team has been – and will continue to be – called upon to protect our country," continued Fenton. "Even more so now at this crucial time with a National Defense Strategy outlining challenges with China, Russia, Iran, Al Qaeda and ISIS, to name but a few. Yet your Special Operations Forces 'were born' for challenges just like these. It's in our DNA… has been since the beginning."
Clarke leaves USSOCOM after commanding for three and a half years and retires after more than 38 years of military service. He commanded at every level of the 75th Ranger Regiment through his career and deployed to combat several times, serving in key leadership positions throughout the Joint Airborne and SOF community.
"Congratulations, Bryan. No one is more ready to lead our Special Operations community than you," said Clarke, welcoming his replacement. "With a depth of experience in the Indo-Pacific, you're already poised for our most pressing security challenges. I have watched you lead with enthusiasm and positivity. You have the vision, you have the experience, and most of all, you live and breathe our '1st SOF Truth: Humans are more important than hardware.'"
"Our people are without question the unmatched advantage of this command," continued Clarke. "They're innovative, they're problem-solvers, and they are absolutely committed to keeping Americans safe at home and our Nation free."
USSOCOM develops and employs fully capable SOF to conduct global special operations and activities as part of the Joint Force to support Combatant Command operations and campaigns against state and non-state actors to protect and advance U.S. policies and objectives.