After more than two years in command, US Army Brigadier General Donald C Bolduc transferred command of Special Operations Command Africa to US Air Force Major General J Marcus Hicks at Kelley Barracks at the end of June.
Special Operations Command Africa, known as SOCAFRICA, is the operational command responsible for joint special operations conducted in support of US Africa Command. SOCAFRICA operations focus on countering violent extremist organisations, strengthening defence capabilities of African partners and protecting US interests in Africa.
Bolduc, retiring after 32 years of service, said enduring relationships between US SOF and African forces are key to enhancing the ability of partners to secure borders, protect civilian populations and allow for good governance. Recurring events like Flintlock, a multinational special operations exercise hosted by different African partner nations every year, create opportunities to strengthen the relationships.
“We simply do our job as part of a larger team and view our contribution as important, but only a small part of the solution to stability in Africa,” Bolduc said.
Maintaining relationships with partners not only helps build military capacity, but also improves the ability of multiple nations to respond to crises on a continent comprised of 53 sovereign nations across a land mass of more three times the size of the continental United States. Connections made among African partners at an exercise or other training event co-ordinated by SOCAFRICA may pay off on the battlefield.
US Marine Corps General Thomas D Waldhauser, commander of US Africa Command, stressed the important role SOCAFRICA has in executing his command’s priorities which include countering violent extremist organisations like Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin, enabling African partners to counter illicit trafficking, and protecting US personnel and facilities.
“Together, these engagements effectively carry out AFRICOM’s mission to help build the security, stability, and prosperity of our African partner nations,” Waldhauser said. “The soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines of SOCAFRICA are perhaps the most versatile and flexible individuals we have in the AFRICOM area of responsibility today.”
Having just finished a tour as the chief of staff for US Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Hicks brings SOF enterprise-level insight to the command. His experience in special operations started with flying AC-130H and AC-130U gunships. Among other assignments, Hicks went on to command the Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, and the 14th Weapons Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, the home of Air Force Special Operations Command where he was director of operations.
“In Africa these are truly transregional, multi-domain and multi-functional issues. They are not all SOF problems to solve, but I believe SOF can help in creative ways,” Hicks said.
Following Bolduc, Hicks will lead the more than 1 000 US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Special Operations Forces as they continue to serve as US Africa Command’s main component in countering terror and strengthening key partner nation militaries across the continent.