US Central Command cancels holiday party
Tampa Tribune, Fla.
TAMPA — The annual holiday party thrown by the head of U.S. Central Command has been canceled, according to an invitee, who learned about the decision when he called to RSVP.
Rob Rowen, recently named an ambassador to coalition forces at U.S. Central Command, said he was told "that Gen. [James] Mattis was not available."
Rowen said it was "implied" that the cancellation of the annual event, which he has attended for a decade, was the result of the controversy over South Tampa socialite Jill Kelley and her access to top brass at MacDill Air Force Base. Kelley has been in the news after the woman with whom then-CIA director David Petraeus admittedly had an affair allegedly sent harassing emails to Kelley.
Centcom officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. In addition to the media firestorm since the resignation of Petraeus, there are plenty of issues taking place in the Middle East and Afghanistan that are garnering intense attention and could be a reason to postpone the yearly party.
The party, which was going to be held at Mattis' house on the base, was scheduled for Dec. 2, Rowen said.
The party is usually attended by military leaders across the base, including officials from Centcom, U.S. Special Operations Command, the 6th Air Mobility Wing, the 927th Air Refueling Wing and other units, as well as community leaders.
Guests attend in shifts, according to Dave "Tanker" Snyder, a retired Air Force brigadier general who served as the 6th Air Mobility Wing commander from 2003 to 2005. He said the commander's holiday party "is a great chance" for community leaders" to "wish holiday cheer to these people."
Snyder said the cancellation neither surprises nor troubles him. There are many other events for civilians and military leaders to mingle, Snyder said, adding that such activities are important for maintaining good relations between the two groups.
Snyder, who said he is not privy to why the function was canceled, said controversy surrounding Kelley, whose email exchanges with Marine Gen. John R. Allen are the subject of a Department of Defense inspector general's investigation, may be just one factor.
"It is not a surprising move," he said, "to give a little pause in the relationship between the command and the community. There are economic cutbacks, questions about sequestration, turmoil in the Middle East — a lot of factors."