Army Gen. Joseph Votel will officially take the helm of U.S. Special Operations Command during a change of command ceremony Aug. 28, at 2 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center.
Votel, 56, will become the 10th commander of Socom since its inception in 1987. He will succeed Adm. William McRaven, 58, who ran the command from Aug. 8, 2011 and is scheduled to retire after 37 years of service.
Votel takes over a command at a time of transition, with the bulk of U.S. forces scheduled to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year. Should an agreement be worked out with whomever emerges victorious from the recent Afghan presidential election, the White House has said that about 9,800 U.S. troops will remain for a year. During his confirmation hearing earlier this month, Votel said about 2,000 would be commandos with about half doing counterterror missions.
One of the biggest problems facing Socom is the high rate of suicides among commandos, which McRaven has said is at record levels.
Votel told Senators that he would continue McRaven’s Preservation of the Force and Family effort to take care of the physical, mental and spiritual needs of both the operator and the family.
“Key to this, I think … has been Admiral McRaven’s focus on ensuring that we do address pressure on our force and families and provide them the mechanisms that allow them to continue to serve their country, but also take care of the needs that are generated by years of combat and years of service overseas,” he said.
“I do think there are some things that we ask our special operators to do, manners in which they operate, the secrecy with which they operate that do not allow them the normal opportunities to talk about things afterwards,” Votel said. “So I think we do have to address that aspect of it when it comes to our special operations forces and families, and making sure that we provide those appropriate outlets for them.”