USCENTCOM’s Founding Fathers gather for 40th anniversary

  • Published
  • By U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ronald Gaudelli, deputy historian
  • U.S. Central Command

U.S. Central Command’s former Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force pioneers reunited at MacDill AFB March 2-3, 2020 to recognize the joint task force’s 40th anniversary.

The joint task force was created March 1, 1980, in response to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian Hostage Situation and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and originally consisted of 261 personnel.

At the time, the joint task force’s creation was groundbreaking, given the Cold War focus on Europe and the Soviet Union.

“Rapid movement has rapid deterrence,” said retired Air Force Gen. Michael Carns, former Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force director of operations and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force to fellow reunion attendees.

In 1981, the joint task force led all efforts in the Middle East and eventually it evolved into U.S. Central Command on Jan. 1, 1983, headquartered on MacDill AFB.

The complexity of the missions contributed to its exponential growth over a three-year period to more than 850 personnel. The growth continued over the years and presently, Central Command consists of more than 5,000 personnel assigned to the command’s headquarters, five component commands, and more than 30,000 personnel operating in the 20 countries within Central Command’s area of responsibility.

Carns joined fellow leaders from the joint task force including Air Force retired Maj. Gen. Robert Taylor, the joint task force’s deputy commander who later remained at Central Command after its establishment and retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gene Deegan.

Together, they toured the command’s joint operations center, met with the Central Command Commander Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., and hosted an educational session with staff members, where they described the conditions and circumstances that brought the joint task force into a full fighting force.

The second day featured information exchanges with Central Command leadership, speakers from U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command’s history directorate.  

Kicking off the information exchanges, Central Command’s Chief of Staff, Army Maj. Gen. Scott D. McKean, welcomed the attendees and thanked them for their groundbreaking efforts.

“To illustrate the importance of the work you’ve done, I’ll leave you with this,” said McKean. “Since Vietnam, the last 26 Medal of Honor recipients earned their medal for their actions conducted in the Central Command area of responsibility. That is a true testament to the path you paved for us.”

The day continued with the members learning about the evolution of military operations from their efforts in the 1980’s to present day. The reunion concluded with a dinner attended by Central Command leadership.