The 1st Special Forces Command welcomed a new commander MG Fran Beaudette who took over from MG James Kraft in a ceremony at Ft. Bragg, NC last week.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, oversaw the change of command.

Tovo said the command, provisionally activated in May 2014, was meant to combine the nation’s regionally orientated special operations capabilities within a single headquarters that would then be able to deploy to support wars around the world.

Under Kraft’s leadership, the 1st Special Forces Command was officially approved in October 2016. Later that year, it received orders to deploy to Iraq to oversee special operations forces based in Iraq, Syria and Jordan while fighting the Islamic State.

The command deployed about a month later.

Tovo compared Kraft’s job to building an airplane in flight.

“Jim has been the design engineer, the construction manager and the pilot,” he said.

While deployed for much of the past year and a half, Kraft guided and directed the continued development of the command at Fort Bragg, oversaw the building of readiness across the force and ensured warfighters deployed to more than 70 countries were supported.

At the same time, Tovo said, Kraft was in the middle of a shooting war against a determined enemy in one of the most complex geopolitical environments ever seen as part of the anti-ISIS fight, known as Operation Inherent Resolve.

In addition to fighting the Islamic State, special operations forces are navigating a battlefield that includes Russian, Iranian, Lebanese Hezbollah and Syrian regime forces.

Tovo said those troops aren’t enemies, but they also aren’t friends.

Despite the challenges, special operations forces have helped turn the tide against ISIS and have laid the groundwork for the terrorist group’s eventual defeat, the general said.

In doing so, Kraft has proven the value of the still relatively new command, Tovo said.

“You have taken the vision of 1st SFC and you have given it form and substance,” he said.

Beaudette takes over a division-sized command that consists of 11 subordinate groups and brigades and more than 23,000 troops. That includes seven Special Forces groups, two military information support groups, a civil affairs brigade and a sustainment brigade.

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The soldiers are trained to work closely with indigenous partners around the world. They are trained as combat advisors, in military deception, in sabotage and subversion and as experts in other forms of special warfare.

They work closely with allied forces, in support of regional military commanders, ambassadors, and other governmental agencies, providing crisis response, precision targeting and regional understanding.

Beaudette was first commissioned in 1989. He has deployed in support of Desert Storm, peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Philippines. He has a strong and versatile Special Forces background having served in the 1st, 3rd and 10th Special Forces Groups as well as the assistant commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.

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Photo courtesy US Army