by Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
7/31/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Special Operations Command Central officials opened a new home with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new building July 29 here.
The headquarters will allow SOCCENT members to better accomplish its mission of exercising operational control of more than 7,000 special operations servicemembers in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
"We're privileged to be at the center of our nation's efforts," said Army Maj. Gen. Charles Cleveland, the SOCCENT commander who officiated at the grand opening. "With the help of our partners, we look forward to continuing to work toward a future that offers greater peace and stability in this region and throughout the world."
A part of the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command, SOCCENT includes and supports members from all services, as well as civilians and coalition partners.
"It's all four services, plus our support people like those who work on parachute rigging, medical folks, transportation and logistics," said Army Lt. Col. Holly Silkman, a SOCCENT public affairs officer deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. "We've got lots of partners in the area helping us out," said the Albuquerque, N.M., native, citing Iraqi special forces and Afghan commandos as examples.
From SOCCENT's rear headquarters located at MacDill AFB, more than 700 members from the United States can deploy here for up to a year, or rotate through the AOR for temporary duties of one to three months. On any given night, SOCCENT headquarters is monitoring at least a dozen special forces operations in the AOR. A joint operations center can reach out and communicate with forces where ever they may be.
"It's safe to say our area of interest is indeed the most vital area of importance, not only for the U.S. but for the world," General Cleveland said to the gathered troops and distinguished visitors. "Our operations are increasingly becoming the stuff of history."
The main headquarters had previously been located in a temporary facility on another base in Southwest Asia.
"All of the U.S. forces wanted to be co-located and for the headquarters to be a world-class facility," Colonel Silkman said. That desire led to the creation of this state-of-the-art compound.
"We've planted the flag right here in the area of operations, which means it's easier to react," she said. "We're in the same time zone as the people we're supporting."
General Cleveland sees no comparison between the old and new headquarters.
"There was a huge need for a new facility," he said. "So it's great to get into a permanent building."
Four years in the making, the new facility has a number of features that will make it an effective headquarters. These include an indoor rifle range and SOCCENT's only parachute-rigging tower in the area. Yet the new headquarters compound is just a small footprint of a larger modernization project in the works around the base.
"This is just the beginning," General Cleveland said.
Additions in the future will include hangars currently under construction, bigger maintenance bays and a new training facility.
General Cleveland said he hoped members of SOCCENT would look upon their new facility as a "home away from home."
"I know it can't replace your family and all that waits for you back home," he said. "I understand the hardships of serving the nation overseas in a time of war, and I want to publicly thank you and your families for the sacrifices you've made in the name of freedom."