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New Leaders At MacDill's CENTCOM, SOCOM

The U.S. Secretary of Defense joined other top military leaders in Tampa Wednesday to mark the change of leadership at two major, joint military commands at MacDill Air Force Base.

Army Gen. Raymond "Tony" Thomas III is the new leader at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

“Special Operations currently enjoys an extraordinary reputation and great respect from the American people born by decades of legendary service, especially the endeavors of the past 15 years of continuous combat,” Thomas said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the best way to describe the West Point graduate and U.S. Ranger was to quote from one of Thomas' favorite books - The Gates of Fire.

“This is my shield. I bear it before me in battle. But it's not mine alone. It protects my brother and my city. I will never let my brother out of its shadow nor my people out of its shelter,” Carter quoted. “Tony Thomas has lived this commitment like few warriors in his generation.”

Thomas takes over for outgoing SOCOM commander Army General Joe Votel - his West Point classmate and fellow Ranger.

In his farewell, Votel recognized the 10,000 Special Operations Forces currently deployed in 80 countries, adding that the road ahead will not get much easier.

“We are living in a time and a world where complexities lay upon complexities making solutions seem almost impossible,” Votel said. “But despite this doomsday narrative, I am confident that we can prevail. And I’m equally confident that SOCOM and its people are up to these challenges. I am confident because I have seen it first hand.”

Votel isn't going far -- he's taking leadership at MacDill’s other high-profile joint command, U.S. Central Command.

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Credit U.S. Department of Defense / Pentagon Channel
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Pentagon Channel
The audience stands as the top officials leave the SOCOM Change of Command ceremony.

At the ceremony, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, praised Votel’s service and innovation.

“He leaves SOCOM, I think, with the best gift that any commander can leave with and that is the admiration, the appreciation and the affection of the men and women that he’s been privileged to lead,” Dunford said.

Votel is taking over for Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III, who has led CENTCOM since 2013.