Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of US SOUTHCOM

Floor Speech

By:  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Date: June 11, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate US SOUTHCOM on the 50th anniversary, today June 11th. For the past five decades this command has protected and defended the privileges, comforts and freedoms that we, as Americans, enjoy.

We are fortunate and privileged to have General John Kelly as the new Commander of United States Southern Command. His distinguished career and exemplary service to our nation is a testament to the ideals of honor, courage, and commitment. SOUTHCOM has continued to grow and thrive in South Florida with its 1,200 SOUTHCOM employees. These individuals have dedicated their lives to the service of others and truly embody the heart and spirit of America. I thank each and every one of them for their efforts as well as the good they provide throughout the hemisphere.

Today, SOUTHCOM celebrates half a century of excellence and service to the citizens of the United States. Over these years, many brave men and women in uniform have worked tirelessly to keep us safe while also promoting peace, security, and democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere. From combating international crime syndicates and drug lords, to monitoring human rights and providing humanitarian relief, SOUTHCOM has a proven track record of achievement. Its successful efforts in counter-terrorism and in combating illicit trafficking across this hemisphere have helped to promote democracy abroad and has encouraged respect for human rights. SOUTHCOM certainly remains a beacon of strength and resilience throughout the region.

Shortly before the United States entered the Second World War, President Roosevelt established the U.S. Caribbean Defense Command with the goal of defending the Panama Canal and the surrounding area. Following the conclusion of the war, the U.S. Caribbean Defense Command was renamed the U.S. Southern Command. The new name was intended to reflect the command's changed responsibilities with an emphasis of ensuring security, stability, and prosperity throughout Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean.

SOUTHCOM encompasses six major mission areas, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as assisting our allies in the region and while promoting military-to-military interaction. Its successful efforts in counter-terrorism and in combating illicit trafficking across this hemisphere is key to regional stability even while it continues to be a leader in medical assistance, providing quality medical care for schools and community centers. I know many individuals still remember the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, in which SOUTHCOM took the lead in humanitarian effort on the ground that undoubtedly saved thousands.

SOUTHCOM has had a tremendous impact on our local economy in South Florida and I applaud its efforts to give back to our community. Congratulations again to SOUTHCOM on its 50th anniversary. I look forward to working with General Kelly and his wonderful team in South Florida. Thank you again for all that you do.