New SouthCom Commander Tasked With Closing Gitmo This Year

Adm. Kurt Tidd
Adm. Kurt Tidd

Marine Gen. John Kelly ended 45 years in uniform Thursday by handing over command of U.S. Southern Command to Adm. Kurt Tidd, who will inherit the task of meeting the Obama administration's commitment to closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility.

At the change of command ceremony in Miami, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter noted that Tidd was taking on an "exceedingly difficult mission" in shutting down "Gitmo" that will involve transferring some of the prisoners to the U.S. against Congressional opposition.

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that 10 more Yemeni prisoners at Gitmo were in the process of being sent to Oman, bringing the facility's population down to 93, but some of the remaining prisoners were deemed too dangerous to be transferred.

"Not everyone can be safely transferred," Carter said, and the solution was to "bring those detainees to a secure location in the U.S." where they can be held indefinitely.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, focused on his long friendship with Kelly

He called Kelly "a mentor, a warrior and a leader" who was taking with him "what we all want to have when we go over the side" -- the respect of those with whom he served.

Kelly turned down a personal decoration that is traditional for retiring combatant commanders in lieu of another streamer for SouthCom as a unit. In his farewell remarks, Kelly hailed the service of those in Joint Task Force Guantanamo who manage the detention facility.

"We can all disagree on whether it should be here of someplace else but you should all be proud of JTF Guantanamo," Kelly told the audience that included ambassadors and high-ranking officers from Latin American nations and the Caribbean.

Tidd, who is the son of retired Vice Adm. Emmett H. Tidd, and the brother of the Navy's 25th chief of chaplains, Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, said he would follow Kelly's example as "the gold standard of integrity, humility and heart. It's an honor and privilege to follow in his wake."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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