Southcom welcomes Army General as first female leader


MIAMI – A Navy Admiral bade farewell to United States Southern Command on Friday as he ended his tenure as its head and an almost four-decade military career, in a handover ceremony. command full of tributes, honors and history. moment of creation:

After retiring his colors, Navy Admiral Craig Faller, 60, welcomed Four-Star Army General Laura Richardson, 57, as a successor to Southcom, headquartered in Doral and who is responsible for the Latin America and the Caribbean region. Richardson last commanded US Army North and became the first woman to lead Southcom – and only the second female four-star US military general to lead a US geographic combat command.

“It was a rewarding and humbling journey,” said Faller, who is retiring after 38 years in the Navy.

Reflecting on his nearly three years at Southcom after being bugged by President Donald Trump, Faller noted that democracies in the Western Hemisphere have been attacked by a vicious cycle of threats. They include corruption, climate change, COVID-19, major hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes, and transnational criminal organizations as well as “the corrosive and malicious influence of the People’s Republic of China.”

Throughout all of this, he said, the goal was for Southcom and its military partners in the hemisphere to remain professional.

“Under this onslaught of threats, the security forces, represented by the leaders you see here today, have remained professional. We remained professional, ”he said to applause. “Apolitical, fight the ethical forces. This is the basis of victory and this is what we focused on building.

Southcom covers more than 16 million square miles – five times the size of the contiguous United States, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said at the ceremony. While some might find it intimidating, for Faller “it was just another working day,” the secretary added.

“Time and time again you have stepped up your efforts after disasters. You have also helped disrupt criminal organizations and you have helped keep illicit drugs off our shores and you have never given up even during a global pandemic, and even in a huge region facing major security challenges. Austin said.

As an example of Southcom’s commitment and Faller’s leadership, Austin opened by revisiting the response to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti’s southern peninsula on August 14, killing more than 2,200 and some 800,000 people in need. Faller and his team had just returned from a visit to Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados the day before.

“Churches, schools and homes have been destroyed. Rocks blocked the roads. One of America’s top neighbors needed help, so you rushed to respond, ”Austin said. “You sent planes to assess the damage; Joint-Task Force Bravo and Puerto Rican National Guard helicopters to deliver food and aid. By working with USAID, you have saved hundreds of lives. What a colossal effort. “

The transfer of power took place inside Southcom’s transformed gymnasium in front of representatives of the armed forces of South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, as well as Austin and General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both praised Faller and his wife Martha, who opened by singing “God Bless America”.

They also welcomed Richardson, who, along with her husband, Army Lt. Gen. James Richardson, has been a dual military family for more than three decades. Their daughter Lauren is also in the military and is an analyst at the US Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, DC.

“Laura is exactly the right person at the right time,” Milley said. “I’m sure she will build on the work and accomplishments of Craig’s entire team here.”

The United States, Milley reminded the audience, which included nearly two dozen representatives from 47 partner countries, is a great power. “But we don’t do anything alone. We do it with our friends and partners, ”he said.

“The deterrents against our potential adversaries, such as China, Russia or Iran, or terrorists, drug cartels, human traffickers or any other threat, will meet the unified level of resistance of every country in this hemisphere. “

Richardson said she was honored to lead Southcom at a time of great change, where the United States is seeing rapid technological advancements that are forcing them to make decisions and act faster on land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. during potential conflicts.

“We face cross-cutting threats that know no borders, pandemics, corruption and transnational criminal organizations, irregular migration and climate change,” she said. “We are now in an era of long-term strategic competition and it is a competition between democracy and authoritarianism.”

Richardson said Friday’s attendance was a sign of strong relationships and a testament to the strong partnerships the United States shares in the hemisphere.

“It is truly a special day and we are very honored to have you with us in person. Your presence here strengthens our common commitment to a secure, free and prosperous Western Hemisphere, ”she said, sprinkling her speech with greetings from Spain and France.

She noted that she was following “her shipmate, Admiral Faller, who was an incredible combat commander.”

“I want to thank you for your 38 years of loyal and dedicated service to our nation,” she said.

Faller was then awarded a flag to represent the young men and women he had trained and inspired, as well as his service. To recognize his time at sea, the flag had been hoisted on the USS John C. Stennis, and in recognition of his time ashore, it was hoisted above the United States Naval Academy where he started his military career.

After being relieved, he asked the Secretary of Defense for permission to disembark one last time.

A bell rang eight times before Faller left the room alongside his wife as a retired U.S. Navy admiral.

Tribune News Service

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