Joseph Votel

Joseph Leonard Votel (born February 14, 1958) is a retired four-star general in the United States Army who was commander of United States Central Command from March 2016 to March 2019.[1] Before that, he served as commander of the United States Special Operations Command.

Joseph Votel
General Joseph L. Votel (USCENTCOM).jpg
Votel in 2016
Born (1958-02-14) February 14, 1958 (age 62)
Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1980–2019
Commands heldUnited States Central Command
United States Special Operations Command
Joint Special Operations Command
Combined Joint Task Force 82
Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization
75th Ranger Regiment
2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 10th Mountain Division
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan
Iraq War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal (3)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal (4)

Early life and educationEdit

Born on February 14, 1958, in Saint Paul, Minnesota,[2] Votel attended the United States Military Academy and was commissioned in 1980 as an Army Infantry officer.

His military schools include Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the United States Army War College.[3]

Military careerEdit

Votel's initial assignments were to the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany, where he served as a rifle platoon leader, executive officer, battalion adjutant and rifle company commander. Following this tour, he was assigned to Headquarters, Allied Forces Southern Europe – Naples, Italy, and the NATO Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) in Sarajevo. He commanded the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry (Light) at Fort Drum, New York and afterwards he commanded the 1st Ranger Battalion. Later he commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment, during Operation Enduring Freedom.[4] On 19 October 2001, Votel led 200 Rangers from 3rd Battalion, who parachuted towards an airfield south of Kandahar, and attacked several Taliban targets.[5]

General officerEdit

As a general officer, Votel served in the Pentagon as the Director of the Army and Joint Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Defeat Task Force and subsequently as the Deputy Director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization established under the Deputy Secretary of Defense. He also served as the Deputy Commanding General (Operations), 82nd Airborne Division / CJTF-82, Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan, and was subsequently assigned as the Deputy Commanding General of the Joint Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg. He next served as the Commanding General of the Joint Special Operations Command.[3]

On June 24, 2014, Votel was nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed Admiral William H. McRaven as the 10th Commander of United States Special Operations Command. The appointment was confirmed by Congress in July, and the change of command took place on August 28.[6] Votel became the commander of USCENTCOM on March 30, 2016. Lieutenant General Raymond A. Thomas replaced Votel as commander of Joint Special Operations Command.

Votel visiting Manbij, Syria as CENTCOM commander, June 21, 2018

On April 23, 2018, Votel made his first official visit to Israel as CENTCOM commander. During his visit, Votel was scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat [he], and other senior defense officials.[7]

As CENTCOM commander, Votel oversaw the United States' continued War on Terrorism in the Middle East, particularly the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve's fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant terror organization, which rose to prominence in 2014. The fight against the group saw CENTCOM become more involved in the Syrian Civil War and Iraqi Civil War.

After nearly 40 years of military service, Votel officially retired on March 28, 2019, five days after the decisive Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, which saw the territorial collapse of the Islamic State in Syria. He was succeeded as CENTCOM commander by General Kenneth McKenzie, USMC.[8]

Turkey coup attemptEdit

In a speech on July 29, 2016, Turkish President Erdoğan accused Votel of "siding with coup plotters",[9] after Votel accused the Turkish government of arresting the Pentagon's contacts in Turkey.[10]

Post Military Career [11]Edit

Continuing his long, distinguished career of service and senior leadership, General Votel today serves as President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security (BENS) – a national, nonprofit composed of senior business and industry executives who volunteer their time and expertise to assist the U.S. national security community. In this role, General Votel leads a driven, multidisciplinary staff – spread across seven regional offices – and advises and executes on the strategy put forth by the BENS Board of Directors and the organization’s 400+ dedicated members.

General Votel joined BENS in January 2020 following a 39-year military career where he commanded special operations and conventional forces at every level; last serving as the Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) where he was responsible for U.S. and coalition military operations in the Middle East, Levant, and Central and South Asia. General Votel’s career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. And he notably led the 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate. General Votel preceded his assignment at CENTCOM with service as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.

Awards and decorationsEdit

  Combat Infantryman Badge with Star (denoting 2nd award)
  Ranger Tab
  Master Parachutist Badge with 2 Combat Jump Devices
  Egyptian Parachutist Badge
  Army Staff Identification Badge
   United States Central Command Badge
  75th Ranger Regiment Combat Service Identification Badge
  75th Ranger Regiment Distinctive Unit Insignia
  8 Overseas Service Bars
    Defense Distinguished Service Medal with two bronze oak leaf clusters
  Army Distinguished Service Medal
    Defense Superior Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters
Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster
     Bronze Star Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
  Defense Meritorious Service Medal
     Meritorious Service Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters
Joint Service Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
  Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster
Joint Meritorious Unit Award with Oak Leaf Cluster
  Valorous Unit Award
  Meritorious Unit Commendation
  Superior Unit Award
National Defense Service Medal with bronze Service Star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal with Arrowhead Device
Southwest Asia Service Medal with bronze Service Star
    Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Arrowhead Device and silver Campaign Star
     Iraq Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars
  Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
  Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
  Army Service Ribbon
   Army Overseas Service Ribbon with bronze "3" Award Numeral Device
NATO Medal for service with ISAF with bronze Service Star


  1. ^ Tara Copp (August 21, 2018). "New CENTCOM, SOCOM leadership named". Military Times. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "NOMINATIONS BEFORE THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, SECOND SESSION, 113TH CONGRESS" (PDF). Washington, DC: Superintendent of Documents. 2015. pp. 789–793.
  3. ^ a b [1], U.S. Department of Defense, dated 2014.
  4. ^ Dan Lamothe, The swift, quiet rise of Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel, Special Operations commander, The Washington Post, June 25, 2014.
  5. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, Win the close fight, The Jerusalem Post, March 21, 2017.
  6. ^ Votel to succeed McRaven as SOCOM commander at MacDill, Tampa Bay Times, By Zack Peterson, dated 24 July 2014, last accessed 25 July 2014
  7. ^ "Commander of US troops in Syria makes unannounced first visit to Israel".
  8. ^ "US Marine Corps General McKenzie replaces retiring Votel as CENTCOM Commander". 29 March 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Turkey's Erdoğan to drop lawsuits against people who insulted him". BBC News. 29 July 2016.
  10. ^ Lake, Eli (2016-07-28). "America's Friends Get Arrested in Turkey's Post-Coup Purges". Bloomberg View.
  11. ^

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Ken Keen
Commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment
Succeeded by
James C. Nixon
Preceded by
William H. McRaven
Commander of Joint Special Operations Command
Succeeded by
Raymond A. Thomas III
Commander of United States Special Operations Command
Preceded by
Lloyd J. Austin III
Commander of United States Central Command
Succeeded by
Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.