On November 19, Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly assumed command of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) as he relieved Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser during a ceremony at the SOUTHCOM headquarters.
More than 300 invited guests and military leaders attended the ceremony at the command’s headquarters, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.
Kelly comes from the Pentagon where he served as the senior military advisor to the Secretary of Defense since March 2011. As SOUTHCOM’s commander, he is now responsible for overseeing all U.S. military operations in Latin America and Caribbean.
Kelly is SOUTHCOM’s 22nd commander since the command was designated in 1963. He takes over following Fraser’s nearly three-and-a-half-year stint at SOUTHCOM.
“I will take [Fraser’s] program and do the best I can to continue the partnership growth with our friends throughout the region, and of course, take care of SOUTHCOM, its families, and very much look forward to getting involved in the community here in Miami.”
In the past decade, Kelly’s served combat tours in Iraq, including as commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., during a year-long mission in Iraq’s al Anbar and Ninewa provinces in 2008. He later served as commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces North from 2009 to 2011.
Kelly enlisted in the Marines in 1970 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1976 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts. He has attended the Marine Corps Command and Staff College and the School for Advanced Warfare at Quantico, Va., and is a 1995 graduate of the National War College in Washington D.C.
The SOUTHCOM headquarters is comprised of a staff of about 1,200 military members, civilians and contractors, including representatives of five partner nations and more than a dozen federal agencies.