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Senate approves Votel as Socom commander

Joseph Votel, newly minted Army four-star general, will become the 10th commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

By unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Votel’s promotion and new position as commander of the MacDill Air Force Base headquartered command, said Ryan Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Votel, who before the confirmation was a lieutenant general in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command, will take over from Adm. William McRaven, 58, who is scheduled to retire after a 37-year career that included planning Operation Neptune Spear, the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The second Navy SEAL to command Socom, McRaven took over from the first, now-retired Adm. Eric Olson on Aug. 8, 2011.

The Senate also confirmed the nominations of Adm. Bill Gortney to be commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, Army Gen. John Campbell as commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as commandant of the Marine Corps.

The confirmation of Votel, 56, was welcome news to both of Florida’s U.S. senators.

“The special operations community places great confidence in Gen. Votel’s leadership abilities, and I look forward to working with him,” said Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I am pleased that the Senate expeditiously approved Gen. Votel’s promotion and appointment to be the next Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. With the world more uncertain than ever, we will continue to rely on the brave men and women of SOCOM to act as the tip of the spear in defense of our nation. I welcome Gen. Votel and his family back to Tampa and MacDill.”

Votel, 56, previous served as Socom chief of staff.

He is the “perfect guy” to succeed McRaven, Doug Brown, a retired Army general who ran Socom from 2003 to 2007, told The Tampa Tribune last month.

“He is a seasoned warrior, with a lot of time on the battlefield, understands SOF (special operation forces), has had a long, long career in special operations. He is just the perfect guy to replace Adm. McRaven.”

Votel, a 1980 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, served in Panama and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, before being deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to his official biography.

After attending the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Votel commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment and participated in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to his biography.

As a general officer, he served in the Pentagon as director of the Army and Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force and subsequently as deputy director of the Joint IED Defeat Organization established under the deputy secretary of defense.

He served as the deputy commanding general (Operations) of the 82nd Airborne Division/Combined Joint Task Force-82 in Afghanistan and was later named deputy commanding general of JSOC before going to Tampa, where he served as Socom’s chief of staff before taking over JSOC.

In an interview last month, Stu Bradin, an Army colonel who recently retired after running McRaven’s operational planning team for the global special operations forces network, called Votel “an excellent nomination.”

“He is a great leader and good person,” said Bradin, now president and CEO of the Global SOF Foundation. “Votel knows operations cold and combined with SOCOM’s new responsibilities with changes in the Forces For document (that assigns forces to combatant commands) and the Unified Command Plan, the Geographic Combatant Commands will get a more consistent level of effort and more responsive SOF support. The Socom he will command will be better postured, better resourced and tied into a global network that will facilitate future operations.”

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