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New commander takes over Joint Special Operations Command

The U.S. military's most secretive command welcomed a new leader Tuesday.

Army Lt. Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III took the helm of the Fort Bragg-based Joint Special Operations Command, officials announced in a two-paragraph statement.

Thomas replaced Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, who had served as JSOC commander since May 2011.

Votel has been confirmed for promotion to four-star general and will assume command of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

JSOC oversees the U.S. military's secret counter-terrorist units.

It's officially charged with studying, planning and conducting joint operations involving special operations troops from all services, and its troops include special operations forces from every service, including Navy SEALs, Air Force special tactics airmen and the Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, which is commonly known as Delta Force.

Several of the command's units, including Delta Force and the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, are based at Fort Bragg.

Thomas most recently served as Associate Director of Military Affairs for the Central Intelligence Agency, but he also has experience within JSOC.

He previously served as deputy commanding general of the command under Navy Adm. William H. McRaven and also served as an aid to JSOC's commander, director of operations and chief of staff for the three-star command.

Thomas, a 1980 West Point graduate, also has served with the 75th Ranger Regiment and was a troop commander, squadron operations officer, unit executive officer and squadron commander with Delta Force.

According to officials, Thomas has spent 22 of 24 years in special operations units and deployed to Afghanistan for part of every year between 2001 and 2013, save for one year spent as assistant division commander for the 1st Armored Division in Iraq.

Thomas also has served on the Joint Staff as deputy director for special operations and served as commanding general of the Special Operations Joint Task Force Afghanistan, NATO Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan.

Votel will take control of U.S. Special Operations Command next month, officials have said.

Like his time at JSOC, Votel also will be replacing McRaven as SOCCOM commander.

Votel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the 75th Ranger Regiment and later served as the 82nd Airborne Division's deputy commanding general for operations in Afghanistan. He served as JSOC's deputy commander before taking command of the unit.

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