United States Central Command

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United States Central Command
Seal of the United States Central Command.png
Emblem of the United States Central Command.
Active 1983–present
Country  United States of America
Type Unified Combatant Command
Headquarters MacDill Air Force Base
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Nickname CENTCOM
Engagements Persian Gulf War
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
Combatant Commander General Lloyd Austin, USA
Deputy Commander Vice Admiral Mark Fox, USN [1][dead link]
General David Petraeus
Admiral William Fallon
General John Abizaid
General Tommy Franks
General Anthony Zinni
General James Mattis
General Norman Schwarzkopf
Shoulder sleeve insignia
(US Army only)
Central Command insignia.jpg

The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM or CENTCOM) is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command of the U.S. Department of Defense, established in 1983, taking over the 1980 Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF) responsibilities.

The CENTCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR) includes countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, most notably Afghanistan and Iraq. CENTCOM has been the main American presence in many military operations, including the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), and the Iraq War. As of 2015 CENTCOM forces are deployed primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan in combat roles and have support roles at bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, and central Asia. CENTCOM forces have also been deployed in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia in the past, with a small presence remaining there as of 2009.

As of 22 March 2013 CENTCOM's commander is General Lloyd J. Austin, U.S. Army.

Of all 6 American regional unified combatant commands CENTCOM is among the three with headquarters outside its area of operations. CENTCOM's main headquarters is located at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida. A forward headquarters was established in 2002 at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar, which in 2009 transitioned to a forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to serve American strategic interests. On 12 January, 2015, CENTCOM's Twitter and YouTube accounts were hacked.[2]


In 1983, U.S. Central Command was established to succeed the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, formed at MacDill AFB, Florida on 1 March 1980, to handle US national security interests in Southwest Asia, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.[3][better source needed] Among its first activities was oversight of the 1987–1988 Tanker War in the Persian Gulf.[citation needed]

With the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Operation Desert Shield, hundreds of thousands of troops were transferred to Saudi Arabia. Islamists objected to non-Muslim troops in Saudi Arabia, and their use in Operation Desert Storm; this with other attacks on Iraq became a key rallying cry for opposition movements in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. By the late 1990s, Central Command gradually moved troops to other countries, particularly Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.[citation needed]

Exercise Internal Look has been one of CENTCOM's primary planning events. It had frequently been used to train CENTCOM to be ready to defend the Zagros Mountains from a Soviet attack and was held annually.[4]:331-2,335–6 Harold Coyle's novel Sword Point gives an impression of what such planning envisaged, by a U.S. Army officer who would have had some idea of the general planning approach.[citation needed] After 1990 Norman Schwarzkopf reoriented CENTCOM's planning to fend off a threat from Iraq and the exercise moved to a biennial schedule. The exercise has been employed for explicit war planning on at least two occasions: Internal Look '90, which dealt with a threat from Iraq, and Internal Look '03, which was used to plan what became Operation Iraqi Freedom.[citation needed]

From April to July 1999 CENTCOM conducted Exercise Desert Crossing 1999 centered on the scenario of Saddam Hussein being ousted as Iraq’s dictator. It was held in the McLean, Virginia, offices of Booz Allen.[5]:6-7 The exercise concluded that unless measures were taken, “fragmentation and chaos” would ensue after Saddam Hussein's overthrow.

During the Israeli incursion into Lebanon of 2006 the temporary Joint Task Force Lebanon was operational.[citation needed] On 1 October 2008 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti was transferred to United States Africa Command or AFRICOM.[citation needed] The United States Forces – Iraq or USF-I, was a major subordinate multi-service command during the Iraq War order of battle until it was disestablished in 2011.[citation needed]

In January 2015, CENTCOM's Twitter feed was reported to have been hacked on 11 January by ISIS sympathizers.[6] for less than one hour. No classified information was posted and “none of the information posted came from CENTCOM’s server or social media sites",[7] however, some of the slides came from federally funded Lincoln Laboratory at MIT.[6]


CENTCOM headquarters staff directorates include personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, plans & policy, information systems, training & exercises, and resources, and other functions. The intelligence section is known as Joint Intelligence Center, Central Command, or JICCENT, which serves as a Joint Intelligence Center for the co-ordination of intelligence. Under the intelligence directorate, there are several divisions including the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence.

CENTCOM directs four "service component commands" and one subordinate unified command and no fighting units directly subordinate to it:

The U.S. Army Forces Central Command (USARCENT), and the U.S. Air Forces Central Command (USAFCENT), both headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, the U.S. Marine Forces Central Command (USMARCENT), headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida and the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT), headquartered at Naval Support Activity Bahrain in the Kingdom of Bahrain. MacDill Air Force Base also hosts a Sub-unified command called the Special Operations Command Central (USSOCCENT).[citation needed]

A series of major subordinate multi-service commands reported to Central Command responsible for Afghanistan. These included Combined Joint Task Force 180 (2002-2005), and Combined Forces Command Afghanistan (2003-?). CENTCOM also had significant influence over the International Security Assistance Force, through formally from 2003 NATO's Joint Force Command Brunssum supervised the headquarters.

Temporary task forces include the Central Command Forward - Jordan (CF-J), established in Jordan after 2011.[citation needed] The reason for its establishment has been reported as to seize Syrian WMD if necessary.[8][better source needed]

Elements of other Unified Combatant Commands, especially United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), operate in the CENTCOM area. It appears that SOCCENT does not direct the secretive Task Force 77, the ad-hoc grouping of Joint Special Operations Command 'black' units such as Delta Force and Army Rangers, which is tasked to pursue the most sensitive high value targets such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership since 11 September 2001. Rather TF 77, which started out as Task Force 11 and has gone through a number of name/number changes, reports directly to Joint Special Operations Command, part of USSOCOM.[citation needed]

War planning[edit]

The following code names are known to have been associated with was planning per William Arkin:[9]:46

  • CENTCOM OPORDER 01-97, Force Protection
  • SOCEUR SUPPLAN 1001-90, 9 May 1989
  • CENTCOM CONPLAN 1010, July 2003
  • CENTCOM CONPLAN 1015-98, possibly support to OPLAN 5027 for Korea, 15 March 1991
  • CENTCOM 1017, 1999
  • CONPLAN 1020
  • CONPLAN 1067, for possible Biological Warfare response
  • CENTCOM CONPLAN 1100-95, 31 March 1992

Geographic scope[edit]

CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility

with the 1983 establishment of CENTCOM Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti came within the area of responsibility (AOR). Thus CENTCOM directed the 'Natural Bond' exercises with Sudan, the 'Eastern Wind' exercises with Somalia, and the 'Jade Tiger' exercises with Oman, Somalia, and Sudan. Exercise Jade Tiger involved the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit with Oman from 29 November 82-8 Dec 82.[9]:404

The Area of Responsibility extends to 27 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, and Yemen. International waters included are the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and western portions of the Indian Ocean.[3] Syria and Lebanon were transferred from the United States European Command on 10 March 2004.[citation needed]

Israel is surrounded by CENTCOM countries but remains in United States European Command (EUCOM), "because it is more politically, militarily and culturally aligned with Europe," according to American military officials.[10][citation needed] General Norman Schwarzkopf expressed the position over Israel more frankly in his 1992 autobiography: 'European Command also kept Israel, which from my viewpoint was a help: I'd have had difficulty impressing the Arabs with Central Command's grasp of geopolitical nuance if one of the stops on my itinerary had been Tel Aviv.'[4]:318

On 7 February 2007, plans were announced for the creation of a United States Africa Command which transferred strategic interest responsibility for all of Africa to the new USAFRICOM, except for Egypt. On 1 October 2008, the Africa Command became operational and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the primary CENTCOM force on the continent, started reporting to AFRICOM at Stuttgart instead of CENTCOM in Tampa.

The U.S. armed forces use a variable number of base locations depending on its level of operations. With ongoing warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, the United States Air Force used 35 bases, while in 2006 it used 14, including four in Iraq. The United States Navy maintains one major base and one smaller installation, with extensive deployments afloat and ashore by U.S. Navy, U.S Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard ships, aviation units and ground units.


As of March 2013, GEN Lloyd Austin is commander. He took command from General James Mattis, USMC. Mattis took command from [11][12][13] Lieutenant General John R. Allen, USMC, the deputy commander since July 2008, who took temporary command when the previous commander, General David Petraeus, USA, left to take command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan on 23 June 2010.[14]

No. Image Name Service Start End Time in office
1. General Robert Kingston, official military photo, 1984.JPEG GEN Robert Kingston United States Army 1 January 1983 27 November 1985 1,061 days
2. General George Crist, official military photo, 1985.JPEG Gen George B. Crist United States Marine Corps 27 November 1985 23 November 1988 1,092 days
3. NormanSchwarzkopf.jpg GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf United States Army 23 November 1988 9 August 1991 989 days
4. Joseph Hoar official military photo.jpg Gen Joseph P. Hoar United States Marine Corps 9 August 1991 5 August 1994 1,092 days
5. General Binford Peay, official military photo, 1991.jpg GEN J. H. Binford Peay III United States Army 5 August 1994 13 August 1997 1,104 days
6. Anthony Zinni.jpg Gen Anthony Zinni United States Marine Corps 13 August 1997 6 July 2000 1,058 days
7. TommyFranks.jpg GEN Tommy Franks United States Army 6 July 2000 7 July 2003 1,096 days
8. John Abizaid.jpg GEN John Abizaid United States Army 7 July 2003 16 March 2007 1,348 days
9. ADM Fallon Portrait.jpg ADM William J. Fallon United States Navy 16 March 2007 28 March 2008 378 days
(Acting) General Martin E. Dempsey.jpg LTG Martin E. Dempsey United States Army 28 March 2008 31 October 2008 217 days
10. GEN David H Petraeus - Uniform Class A.jpg GEN David H. Petraeus United States Army 31 October 2008 30 June 2010 607 days
(Acting) LtGen John R. Allen USMC.jpg LtGen John R. Allen United States Marine Corps 30 June 2010 11 August 2010 42 days
11. Mattis Centcom 2010.jpg Gen James Mattis United States Marine Corps 11 August 2010 22 March 2013 954 days
12. Austin 2013 2.jpg GEN Lloyd Austin United States Army 22 March 2013 Incumbent 738 days

Unit decorations[edit]

The unit awards depicted below are for Headquarters, US Central Command at MacDill AFB. Award for unit decorations do not apply to any subordinate organization such as the service component commands or any other activities unless the orders specifically address them.

Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 August 1990 – 21 April 1991 Department of the Army General Order (DAGO) 1991-22 & 1992-34[15]
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 August 1992 – 4 May 1993 DAGO 1994-12 & 1996-01
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 8 October 1994 – 16 March 1995 DAGO 2001–25
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 September 1996 – 6 January 1997 Joint Staff Permanent Order (JSPO) J-ISO-0012-97
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 October 1997 – 15 July 1998 JSPO J-ISO-0241-98
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 16 July 1998 – 1 November 1999 JSPO J-ISO-0330-99 / DAGO 2001–25
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 November 1999 – 15 March 2001
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 11 September 2001 – 1 May 2003 DAGO 2005–09
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 May 2003 – 31 December 2005
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 January 2006 – 1 March 2008 JSPO J-ISO-0061-08
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 March 2008 – 1 July 2010
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 July 2010 – 31 July 2012

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.centcom.mil/en/about-centcom/leadership/
  2. ^ "Centcom hacked: This was no more harmful than a teenager's prank". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Central Command". Global Security.org. n.d. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Norman Schwarzkopf (1993). It Doesn't Take a Hero. Bantam Books paperback edition. ISBN 0-553-56338-6. 
  5. ^ Michael R. Gordon, Bernard E. Trainor(2012). The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0-307-37722-7.
  6. ^ a b "U.S. Central Command Twitter feed appears hacked by Islamic State sympathizers". Reuters. 12 January 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  7. ^ CHRIS GOOD, JOSHUA COHAN and LEE FERRAN (12 January 2015). "Home> International ‘Cybervandalism’: ISIS Supporters Hijack US Military Social Media Accounts". ABC (ABC news Internet Venture). Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  8. ^ Nicola Nasser (5 September 2013). "Jordan Invites US Targets for Syrian Retaliation". Centre for Research on Globalization. 
  9. ^ a b Arkin, William (25 January 2005). Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs and Operations in the 9/11 World (First ed.). Steerforth. ISBN 1586420836. 
  10. ^ "Department of Defense: Unified Command". n.d. 
  11. ^ "Mattis takes over Central Command, vows to work with Mideast allies in Afghanistan, Iraq". Fox News Channel. Associated Press. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  12. ^ Mitchell, Robbyn (12 August 2010). "Mattis takes over as CentCom chief". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "Mattis assumes command of CENTCOM". U.S. Central Command. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  14. ^ "Lt. Gen. Allen named CENTCOM acting commander" (Press release). U.S. Central Command. 30 June 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2010. 
  15. ^ "Department of the Army General Orders". United States Army Publications Directorate. Retrieved 30 April 2011.  (Army Knowledge Online account may be required.)

External links[edit]