United States Southern Command

United States Southern Command

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= United States Southern Command

caption=Emblem of the United States Southern Command.
dates= 1963-present
country= United States
type= Unified Combatant Command
garrison= Miami, Florida
battles= Invasion of Panama
commander1= ADM James G. Stavridis
commander1_label= Combatant Commander

The United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), located in Miami, Florida, is one of ten Unified Combatant Commands (COCOMs) in the United States Department of Defense. It is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation for Central and South America, the Caribbean (except U.S. commonwealths, territories, and possessions), Cuba, the Bahamas, their territorial waters, and for the force protection of U.S. military resources at these locations. USSOUTHCOM is also responsible for ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal and canal area.

Under the leadership of a four-star Commander, Southcom is organized into a headquarters with six main directorates, component commands and military groups that represent SOUTHCOM in the region of Central America, South America & the Caribbean. The current commander is Admiral James G. Stavridis, United States Navy.

USSOUTHCOM is a joint command [See TITLE 10 > Subtitle A > PART I > CHAPTER 6 > § 164 for assignment, powers and duties.] of more than 1,200 military and civilian personnel representing the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and several other federal agencies. The Services provide USSOUTHCOM with component commands which, along with their Joint Special Operations component, two Joint Task Forces, one Joint Interagency Task Force, and Security Assistance Offices, perform USSOUTHCOM missions and security cooperation activities. USSOUTHCOM exercises its COCOM authority through the commanders of its components, Joint Task Forces/Joint Interagency Task Force, and Security Assistance Organizations.

Area of interest

The USSOUTHCOM area of focus encompasses 32 nations (19 in Central and South America and 13 in the Caribbean), of which 31 are democracies, and 14 U.S. and European territories. As of Oct 2002, the area of focus covered 14.5 million square miles (23.2 million square kilometers.) [http://www.southcom.mil/AppsSC/pages/history.php] The United States Southern Command area of interest includes:

* The land mass of Latin America south of Mexico
* The waters adjacent to Central and South America
* The Caribbean Sea, its 12 island nations and European territories
* The Gulf of Mexico
* A portion of the Atlantic Ocean


USSOUTHCOM accomplishes much of its mission through its service components, four representing ‎each service and one specializing in Special Operations missions:

=U.S. Army South=

Located at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, USARSO forces include aviation, intelligence, communication, and logistics units. USARSO supports regional disaster relief and counterdrug efforts. USARSO also exercises oversight, planning, and logistical support for humanitarian and civic assistance projects throughout the region in support of the USSOUTHCOM Theater Security Cooperation Strategy. USARSO provides Title 10 and Executive Agent responsibilities throughout the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Air Forces Southern

Located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, AFSOUTH consists of a staff; a Falconer Combined Air and Space Operations Center for command and control of air activity in the USSOUTHCOM area and an Air Force operations group responsible for Air Force forces in the area. AFSOUTH serves as the executive agent for forward operating locations; provides joint/combined radar surveillance architecture oversight; provides intra-theater airlift; and supports USSOUTHCOM's Theater Security Cooperation Strategy through regional disaster relief exercises and counter-drug operations. AFSOUTH also provides oversight, planning, execution, and logistical support for humanitarian and civic assistance projects and hosts a number of Airmen-to-Airmen conferences. Twelfth Air Force is also leading the way in bringing the Chief of Staff of the Air Force's Warfighting Headquarters (WFHQ) concept to life. The WFHQ is composed of a command and control element, an Air Force forces staff and an Air Operations Center. Operating as a WFHQ since June 2004, Twelfth Air Force has served as the Air Force model for the future of Combined Air and Space Operations Centers and WFHQ Air Force forces.

U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. Fourth Fleet

Located at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, USNAVSO exercises command and control over all U.S. naval operations in the USSOUTHCOM area including naval exercises, maritime operations, and port visits. USNAVSO is also the executive agent for the operation of the cooperative security location at Comalapa, El Salvador, which provides basing in support of aerial counter narco-terrorism operations.

On April 24, 2008, Admiral Gary Roughead, the Chief of Naval Operations, announced that the United States Fourth Fleet would be re-established, effective July 1, with responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean Sea, as well as Central and South America. Rear Admiral Joseph D. Kernan was named as the fleet commander and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command. [ [http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=11862] Navy Re-Establishes U.S. Fourth Fleet - DOD New Release No. 338-07 - April 24, 2008]

U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South

Located in Miami, Florida, USMARFORSOUTH commands all United States Marine Corps Forces (MARFORs) assigned to USSOUTHCOM; advises USSOUTHCOM on the proper employment and support of MARFORs; conducts deployment/redeployment planning and execution of assigned/attached MARFORs; and accomplishes other operational missions as assigned.

pecial Operations Command South

Located at Homestead Air Reserve Base near Miami, Florida, USSOCSOUTH provides the primary theater contingency response force and plans, prepares for, and conducts special operations in support of USSOUTHCOM. USSOCSOUTH controls all Special Operations Forces in the region and also establishes and operates a Joint Special Operations Task Force when required.

There are also three task forces with specific missions in the region that report to U.S. Southern Command:

Joint Task Force Bravo

Located at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, JTF -Bravo operates a forward, all-weather day/night C-5-capable airbase. JTF – Bravo organizes multilateral exercises and supports, in cooperation with our partner nations, humanitarian and civic assistance, counterdrug, contingency and disaster relief operations in Central America.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo

Located at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, JTF - Guantanamo conducts detention and interrogation operations in support of the War on Terrorism, coordinates and implements detainee screening operations, and supports law enforcement and war crimes investigations as well as Military Commissions for Detained Enemy Combatants. JTF - Guantanamo is also prepared to support mass migration operations at Naval Station GTMO.

Joint Interagency Task Force South

Located in Key West, Florida, JIATF South is an interagency task force that serves as the catalyst for integrated and synchronized interagency counter-drug operations and is responsible for the detection and monitoring of suspect air and maritime drug activity in the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the eastern Pacific. JIATF- South also collects, processes, and disseminates counter-drug information for interagency operations. Manta Air Base is one of JIATF-South's bases, in Ecuador.

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief

USSOUTHCOM's overseas humanitarian assistance and disaster relief programs build the capacity of host nations to respond to disasters and build their self-sufficiency while also empowering regional organizations.

These programs provide valuable training to U.S. military units in responding effectively to assist the victims of storms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters through the provision of medical, surgical, dental, and veterinary services, as well as civil construction projects.

The Humanitarian Assistance Program funds projects that enhance the capacity of host nations to respond when disasters strike and better prepare them to mitigate acts of terrorism. Humanitarian Assistance Program projects such as technical aid and the construction of disaster relief warehouses, emergency operation centers, shelters, and schools promote peace and stability, support the development of the civilian infrastructure necessary for economic and social reforms, and improve the living conditions of impoverished regions in the AOR.

Humanitarian assistance exercises such as Neuvos Horizontes (New Horizons) involve construction of schools, clinics, and water wells in countries throughout the region. At the same time, medical readiness exercises involving teams consisting of doctors, nurses and dentists also provide general and specialized health services to host nation citizens requiring care. These humanitarian assistance exercises, which last several months each, provide much needed services and infrastructure, while providing critical training for deployed U.S. military forces. These exercises generally take place in rural, underprivileged areas. USSOUTHCOM attempts to combine these efforts with those of host-nation doctors, either military or civilian, to make it even more beneficial.

In 2006, USSOUTHCOM sponsored 69 Medical Readiness Training Exercises in 15 nations, providing medical services to more than 270,000 citizens from the region. During 2007, USSOUTHCOM is scheduled to conduct 61 additional medical exercises in 14 partner nations.

USSOUTHCOM sponsors disaster preparedness exercises, seminars and conferences to improve the collective ability of the U.S. and its partner nations to respond effectively and expeditiously to disasters. USSOUTHCOM has also supported the construction or improvement of three Emergency Operations Centers, 13 Disaster Relief Warehouses and prepositioned relief supplies across the region. Construction of eight additional Emergency Operation Centers and seven additional warehouses is ongoing.

This type of multinational disaster preparedness has proven to increase the ability of USSOUTHCOM to work with our partner nations. For example, following Hurricane Stan in Guatemala, USSOUTHCOM deployed 11 military helicopters and 125 personnel to assist with relief efforts. In conjunction with their Guatemalan counterparts, they evacuated 48 victims and delivered nearly 200 tons of food, medical supplies and communications equipment. Following Tropical Storm Gamma in Honduras, JTF-Bravo deployed nine helicopters and more than 40 personnel to assist with relief efforts. They airlifted more than 100,000 pounds of emergency food, water and medical supplies.

USSOUTHCOM also conducts counternarcotics and counternarcoterrorism programs.


The United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) traces its origins to 1903 when the first U.S. Marines arrived in Panama to protect the Panama Railroad connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans across the narrow waist of the Panamanian Isthmus.

The Marines remained to provide security during the early construction days of the Panama Canal.

In 1904, Army Colonel William C. Gorgas was sent to the Canal Zone (as it was then called) as Chief Sanitary Officer to fight yellow fever and malaria. In two years, yellow fever was eliminated from the Canal Zone. Soon after, malaria was also brought under control. With the appointment of Army Lieutenant Colonel George W. Goethals to the post of chief engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission by then President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, the construction changed from a civilian to a military project.

In 1911, the first troops of the U.S. Army's 10th Infantry Regiment arrived at Camp E. S. Otis, on the Pacific side of the Isthmus. They assumed primary responsibility for Canal defense. In 1914, the Marine Battalion left the Isthmus to participate in operations against Pancho Villa in Mexico . On August 14, 1914, seven years after Goethals' arrival, the Panama Canal opened to world commerce.

The first company of coastal artillery troops arrived in 1914 and later established fortifications at each end ( Atlantic and Pacific) of the Canal, with mobile forces of infantry and light artillery centrally located to support either end. By 1915, a consolidated command was designated as Headquarters, U.S. Troops, Panama Canal Zone. The command reported directly to the Army's Eastern Department headquartered at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York. The headquarters of this newly created command was first located in the Isthmian Canal Commission building in the town of Ancon, adjacent to Panama City . It relocated in 1916 to the nearby newly designated military post of Quarry Heights , which had begun construction in 1911.

On July 1, 1917, the Panama Canal Department was activated as a geographic command of the U.S. Army. It remained as the senior Army headquarters in the region until activation of the Caribbean Defense Command (CDC) on February 10, 1941. The CDC co-located at Quarry Heights , was commanded by Lieutenant General Daniel Van Voorhis, who continued to command the Panama Canal Department.

The new command eventually assumed operational responsibility over air and naval forces assigned in its area of operations. By early 1942, a Joint Operations Center had been established at Quarry Heights. In the meantime, military strength in the area was gradually rising and reached its peak in January 1943, when 68,000 personnel were defending the Panama Canal. Military strength was sharply reduced with the termination of World War II. Between 1946 and 1974, total military strength in Panama fluctuated between 6,600 and 20,300 (with the lowest force strength in 1959). From 1975 until late 1994 total military strength in Panama remained at about 10,000 personnel.

In December 1946, President Harry S. Truman approved recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a comprehensive system of military commands to put responsibility for conducting military operations of all military forces in various geographical areas, in the hands of a single commander. Thus, the principle of Unified Combatant Command was established and the Caribbean Command was one of them. Although the Caribbean Command was designated by the Defense Department on November 1, 1947, it did not become fully operational until March 10, 1948, when the old Caribbean Defense Command was inactivated.

On June 6, 1963, reflecting the fact that the command had a responsibility for U.S. military operations primarily in Central and South America, rather than in the Caribbean, it was formally redesignated as the United States Southern Command.

In January 1996 and June 1997, two phases of changes to the Department of Defense Unified Command Plan (UCP) were completed. Each phase of the UCP change added territory to SOUTHCOM's area of responsibility. The impact of the changes is significant. The new AOR includes the Caribbean, its 13 island nations and several U.S. and European territories, the Gulf of Mexico, as well as significant portions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans . The 1999 update to the UCP - known as VISION 21 - also transfers responsibility of an additional portion of the Atlantic Ocean to SOUTHCOM. On October 1, 2000, USSOUTHCOM assumed responsibility of the adjacent waters in the upper quadrant above Brazil , which was presently under the responsibility of USJFCOM.

The new AOR encompasses 32 nations (19 in Central and South America and 13 in the Caribbean), of which 31 are democracies, and 14 U.S. and European territories covering more than 15.6 million square miles.

With the creation of the United States Department of Homeland Security, USSOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility (Ocober 2002) experienced minor upper boundary redistribution or changes decreasing its total boundary by 1.1 square miles. (14.5 million square miles (23.2 million square kilometers.)

With the implementation of the Panama Canal Treaties (the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977 and the Treaty concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operations of the Panama Canal), the U.S. Southern Command was relocated in Miami, Florida on 26 September 1997.

A new headquarters building is currently under construction adjacent to the current rented building in the Doral area of Miami-Dade County. It is expected to be occupied in 2010.

See also

* Mellander, Gustavo A.; Nelly Maldonado Mellander (1999). Charles Edward Magoon: The Panama Years. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Plaza Mayor. ISBN 1563281554. OCLC 42970390.
* Mellander, Gustavo A. (1971). The United States in Panamanian Politics: The Intriguing Formative Years. Danville, Ill.: Interstate Publishers. OCLC 138568.
*Manta Air Base
*Operation Coronet Nighthawk


External links

* [http://www.southcom.mil United States Southern Command website]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/dod/southcom.htm Southern Command] (entry at globalsecurity.org)

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