TAMPA (FOX 13) - MacDill Air Force Base underwent major leadership changes Wednesday during Change of Command ceremonies at both U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. Special Forces Command (SOCOM).
Gen. Raymond Anthony Thomas assumed command of SOCOM from Gen. Joseph Votel during the first ceremony of the day.
"To the men and women of SOCOM, I owe you a great debt that I'm afraid I can never repay. You have been magnificent in everything you have done," Gen. Votel told the crowd of several hundred current and retired military, along with their families.
The relationship between Gen. Votel and Gen. Thomas goes back to the late 1970s when they both attended West Point Military Academy together.
In a situation high-ranking military personnel called "extremely rare," Votel then assumed command of CENTCOM, where Gen. Lloyd Austin, who has been in charge since 2013, is retiring.
During his remarks discussed how a lot has happened since he assumed command, including the rise of ISIS, also referred to as ISIL.
"While defeat of this enemy will take time and it will require the continued active support of the entire international community, we will get it done. We will get it done," he said.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who attended both ceremonies, said he expected the transitions to be seamless.
Carter also said he believes these are the right generals to lead the fight against terrorism.
"We will defeat ISIL. I'm confident of that," Carter said during a news conference following the ceremonies.
"Look at the tremendous strength and power behind the organizations that these guys are taking over today. That will prevail together with our coalition. But we got a lot of work to do."
"As a guy who's coming from SOCOM to CENTCOM here," Votel added, "one of the things I hope to be able to do is really is to take what I learned at SOCOM as kind of a trans-regional commander who looks more globally and really apply that to the problems that we're dealing with in CENTCOM."
The Chage of Command ceremonies date back to 1775, when Gen. George Washington assumed command of the Massachusetts militia.