Even with multiple operations occurring around the world — in combat zones and international partner training situations — the service members of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe found time to pause momentarily Jan. 19 to celebrate their history.
The command celebrated 56 years of existence on the eve of its anniversary during a small observance in the Patch Chapel.
Maj. Gen. Michael Repass, SOCEUR commander, praised the men and women of the command for their extraordinary efforts in support of Special Operations personnel deployed globally, and he reminded them that they are living and creating SOCEUR history every day.
“Your personal history and that of SOCEUR are running concurrently,” Repass said. “Twenty years from now, you will look back and remember where you were and know that you have been part of something special that is now part of history.”
SOCEUR’s story began when U.S. European Command’s commander-in-chief established Support Operations Command Europe in Paris on Jan. 22, 1955, to provide peacetime planning and operational control of special operations forces conducting unconventional warfare in the EUCOM area of responsibility.
Later in 1955, EUCOM re-designated the command as Support Operations Task Force Europe. In 1967, based on France’s withdrawal from NATO, SOTFE relocated from Paris to Panzer Kaserne in Böblingen to better facilitate interaction with EUCOM. One year later, the SOTFE relocated five miles down the road to its current location on Patch Barracks.
On May 30, 1986, it was confirmed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a subordinate unified command of EUCOM, and the commander assumed his current dual-hatted role as both the SOCEUR commander and the EUCOM Special Operations director.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and the disestablishment of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, the command shifted its focus from Soviet containment to hot spots around Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
SOCEUR and its components have since planned and executed special operations during Operations Desert Storm, Provide Comfort and Provide Comfort II.
In addition, the command has executed many operations not as publicly well-known, such as Silver Anvil in Sierra Leone and Atlas Response in Mozambique, just to name a few. It has conducted non-combatant evacuation operations in locations such as Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Chad and Liberia, as well.
In the Balkans, SOCEUR forces participated in multiple operations, including Joint Endeavor, Joint Guard and Allied Force. Currently, SOCEUR forces contribute to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and ISAF SOF Task Forces 10, 49, 50 and 77 in Afghanistan.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Repass took part in a cake-cutting with the senior officer and NCO from each of the four services that comprise the headquarters staff. Each used cutting implements that best commemorated the spirit of the service they represent.