Story by Maj. Ann Marie Annicelli
In 2013, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Special Operations Command saw a need for a theater special operations command to enhance the command and control of special operation forces throughout the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility.
At its inception, SOCNORTH was tasked with generating SOF options in support of counterterrorism and counternarcotics. However, with the rise of near-peer competitors and threats to the homeland not seen since the Cold War, SOCNORTH has expanded its scope and scale over the last decade from its original mandate to a highly operational command that can defend forward, generate effects below the level of conflict, and conduct day-to-day campaigning.
“Since our establishment, SOCNORTH has continuously evolved, identifying the objectives and effects required to support the defense of North America, and developing a theory of victory we will operationalize and use to deter, disrupt, degrade, and deny competitor activity in support of globally integrated layered defense and deterrence of the homeland,” said Col. Matthew Tucker, SOCNORTH commander. “We will continue to strengthen security cooperation with allies and partners, enhance a common understanding of potential vulnerabilities in collaboration with interagency partners and develop response options to defend the Homeland, and sharpen SOF readiness, especially in the austere environment of the Arctic.”
In support of the 2022 National Strategy for the Arctic Region and USNORTHCOM objectives, SOCNORTH led an operation of more than 150 joint SOF forces who demonstrated the ability to rapidly deploy within the Alaskan Arctic and Subarctic regions while conducting over the beach operations, special reconnaissance, long range movements, threat assessments against defense critical infrastructure, rapid resupply, personnel recovery, and community engagements with Native Tribes.
Also, since 2013, SOCNORTH has strengthened its network and integration with interagency partners in North America. For example, SOCNORTH supported Vital Archer 23, which is a USNORTHCOM bilateral exercise focused on counterterrorism and counter weapons of mass destruction across the United States and Canada. As part of the exercise, SOCNORTH worked closely with partners across the Department of Defense, Department of State, the Department of Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Canadian SOF.
In addition to expanding collaboration with interagency partners, SOCNORTH grew its relationships with allies and international partners during its second annual SOF Symposium. This year’s event expanded on last year’s Arctic focus to include identifying required authorities to execute defense and security activities and projecting capabilities required to effectively campaign. More than 170 participants across 30 organizations attended the event including eight nations from SOCNORTH’s AOR partners as well as allies from the United Kingdom, Canada, Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands, and Sweden.
As the command strengthened its partnerships across the USNORTHCOM AOR and globally, so too did it sharpen the readiness of SOF through exercises. During Arctic Edge 2023, SOF trained in austere environments to demonstrate their resiliency and advanced operational capabilities critical for integrated deterrence in the Pan-Arctic region. And the command conducted a Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise with the Royal Bahamian Defence Force to develop a shared understanding of tactics for close quarter combat, medical care, and dive operations.
“SOCNORTH had an incredible year advancing relationships within the DoD, across Whole of Government, and with allies and partners,” said Chief Master Sgt. Clint Grizzell, SOCNORTH command senior enlisted leader. “While the talent and capabilities SOCNORTH brings to bear in support of the National Defense Strategy and USNORTHCOM’s priority of Homeland Defense may not always be well known, all can rest easy knowing SOCNORTH is looking Beyond the Watch with a team of elite, experienced professionals singularly focused on countering threats to our way of life.”
SOCNORTH plans and executes all-domain Special Operations to detect, deter and disrupt threats throughout the USNORTHCOM AOR, and generate positions of advantage for the Nation.