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Special Ops troops gain new leadership

Gen. Bryan "Doug" Brown takes control of SoCom at MacDill.

Published September 3, 2003

TAMPA - An Army general who began his military career as a private assumed the helm of the nation's military commandos Tuesday, thrusting himself into a lead role in a global war that seemingly has no end.

Gen. Bryan "Doug" Brown took over the reins of the Special Operations Command during a Change of Command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base.

More than 1,200 people, including U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton of New Jersey, gathered in Hangar No. 3 in the sweltering heat to witness the ceremonial flag transfer.

But before recognizing the change in power, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld addressed the crowd from the stage. The gunship Wicked Wanda served as the backdrop.

The top military men lauded the tenure of outgoing Commander Charles Holland.

Holland, who is retiring, is credited with increasing Special Ops' personnel and budget and overseeing the revamping of the SoCom program. He was known as a cool and quiet leader.

"He somehow made four stars without being a golfer," Myers said, drawing chuckles. "That tells you how truly good he is."

Myers pinned a Defense Distinguished Service Medal on Holland, who retires after a military career that spans more than 35 years.

"Fifty-eight years ago today World War II officially came to a close," he said. "With the global war on terrorism, we will probably never get a formal surrender."

Rumsfeld took the Special Ops flag from Holland and passed it on to Brown. It was a quick but significant exchange.

The tradition dates back to medieval times, when kings with banners led knights into battle. When the banner fell, the knights knew their leader had fallen. The second in command stepped up.

Holland said his successor was the person to lead the fight in the current conflict.

"He is truly the right man at the right moment in history," Holland said.

Brown takes command over 46,000 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel trained to fight in the shadows.

They have climbed treacherous mountains in Afghanistan and ridden on horseback lugging modern fighting tools.

Rumsfeld called Special Ops troops "the best and possibly least known" fighters.

"The war on terror is not a war that we asked for," Rumsfeld said. "It is a war we must fight and must win ... or we have to deal with them here at home."

Brown, 54, was the deputy commander of SoCom. He started from the bottom of the military ladder, entering the Army in 1967 as a private. He completed Airborne School and the Special Forces Qualifications Course and served on a Special Forces "A Team."

He served in Vietnam, Grenada and Operation Desert Shield/Storm, among others.

His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and the Armed Forced Expeditionary Medal.

Last year, Brown received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in New York City. He is married with two daughters.

"Today I'm certain they're working hard to plan the next event," Brown said, referring to the terrorists. "Our job is to work harder."

[Last modified September 3, 2003, 01:32:04]

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