By Story and Photos courtesy U.S. Special Operations Command SouthMarch 29, 2010
HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla.,- The U.S. Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) welcomed senior military officers from more than 25 different nations in order to give them a better understanding of the command's mission during a seminar held here on March 26.
Known as the U.S. Central Command's Combined Planning Group, the groups of foreign officers are based at CENTCOM's Headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., located south of Tampa.
The officers act as liaisons for their respective militaries and are based at CENTCOM for an extended period of time, some as long as two or three-year tours in the U.S.
With CENTCOM's area of focus being the Middle East and Central Asia, which includes ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, many officers at the conference were interested in SOCSOUTH's day-to-day operations in Central and South America.
During the conference's opening remarks, Navy Capt. Evin Thompson, the deputy commander of SOCSOUTH said that the threats in the Caribbean, Central and South America can have a major impact on the rest of the world.
"We are working with our partners in the area of focus to deal with common challenges, such as illicit trafficking, because those issues pose a threat to all of us no matter what part of the world we may live," Thompson stated.
As a component of U.S. Southern Command, SOCSOUTH plans and provides the primary theater contingency response force as well as conducts special operations across the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.
After receiving a presentation on the command's mission, SOCSOUTH representatives discussed the command's role during humanitarian operations in support of Joint Task Force Haiti, which was established following the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and left thousands more injured and displaced.
For Georgian Lt. Col. Alexander Osepaishvili, the meeting was both informative and eye-opening.
"It is interesting to see how SOCSOUTH works with different agencies, both military and civilian, especially during operations in Haiti," he said. "This exchange really gave me a broad understanding of the command's role."
Other officers attending the conference believed that their personal experiences working with Special Operations in the past, led them to appreciate commands like SOCSOUTH.
As a communications officer in Iraq during a combat tour in 2003-2004, Ukrainian Col. Yuriy Tkhoruk worked for a civil-military affairs unit. He said that his experiences during his time in Iraq really made him appreciate special operations units such as civil affairs.
"No matter what part of the world you're in, units like civil affairs really proved how effective special operations can be. This meeting emphasized that," said Tkhoruk.
Many left the conference with new methods that can be effective in their day-to-day operations, despite the difference in operational environment.
"While we work in a different region of the world, we can learn new approaches based of what we gathered here today," added Lt. Col. Osepaishvili.