Story by Michael Bottoms on 04/02/2019Army Gen. Richard D. Clarke took command of U.S. Special Operations Command from Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III during a Mar. 29 change of command ceremony in Tampa, Florida.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan presided over the time-honored change-of-command ceremony, also attended by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
"We are here today to pass the baton from Gen. Thomas to Gen. Clarke. As we say farewell to a leader who has contributed so much to this community and we welcome a new commander who will ensure our special operators will continue to plan, conduct and support critical missions in a dangerous world at a demanding pace," said Shanahan. "To SOCOM, which will celebrate its 32nd anniversary next month, your skill and vigilance keep us safe. I've learned a new lexicon since coming to the Pentagon. Words with significant connotations. One that always sticks with me is devotion. For our Special Operations Forces, too often devotion means sacrifice. Our department and country are grateful for what you do and your families endure on our behalf. "
Clarke becomes the twelfth commander of USSOCOM and will be responsible for ensuring the readiness of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations forces and synchronizing special operations planning.
Clarke, 56, was the director for strategic plans and policy, joint staff at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. where he provided strategic direction, policy guidance, and planning focus to develop and execute the National Military Strategy. Clarke has led Soldiers at all levels in Airborne, Ranger, mechanized and light infantry units in five different divisions, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 75th Ranger Regiment in the United States, Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan. He spent 6 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment as a company commander from 1994 to 1996, battalion commander from 2004 to 2006 and regimental commander from 2007 to 2009.
He pledged to work with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, interagency partners and through the combatant commanders to fight current and future threats. He also iterated a promise to the USSOCOM force.
"For all those SOCOM warriors deployed or preparing to do so I commit to you my utmost, each and every day, to ensure that you are adequately resourced, have proper command guidance and the appropriate authorities. I am humbled and honored to assume the ranks of this command, but most of all to be amongst the finest warriors our nation has ever known," said Clarke.
Thomas, 60, has commanded USSOCOM since March 2016, and retires after more than 39 years of military service.
"Throughout your career, you have been at the forefront of our nation's battles. Since the day you pinned on the black and gold Ranger tab you've been leading the way. This includes your numerous combat deployments in support of historic missions from Operation Urgent Fury [Grenada invasion] in 1983 to Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013," Shanahan said. "You deployed to Afghanistan leading Soldiers every year from 2001 to 2013 except for 2008 where you deployed to Iraq instead and after you were wounded in combat you returned to the fray in 2009. In 39 years of distinguished service, you've embodied the West Point motto duty, honor, country."
Thomas ended his remarkable career by commenting how much he enjoyed commanding USSOCOM.
"I'm compelled to acknowledge that the opportunity with the SOCOM team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life," said Thomas. "I was quickly amazed by the span and scope of our organizational activities and extraordinary leaders that comprised this eclectic headquarters."