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News | July 19, 2022

Joint Interagency Task Force South Changes Command

By Lt. Col. James R. Wilson

KEY WEST, Fla. -- Joint Interagency Task Force-South held a change of command ceremony at the Tennessee Williams Theatre in Key West July 15, 2022.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Douglas Fears relinquished Command to U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mark Fedor during the ceremony attended by members of the task force, dozens of dignitaries from foreign partner nations and officials from the local community.  

“There is no one better to lead the JIATF-S team than Rear Admiral Mark Fedor,” said U.S. Army General Laura Richardson, U.S. Army General Laura Richardson, commander of the United States Southern Command, who served as the presiding official for the ceremony.

She charged him to build on the relationships Fears cultivated and to continue strengthening ties with our already highly capable and respected partners.

“He’ll lead a great team that demonstrates time and again it will fulfill our enduring promise to be the most trusted partner in Latin America and the Caribbean today, tomorrow and always,” said Richardson.

Fedor comes to JIATF South from the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where he served as the Assistant Commandant for Resources and the Chief Financial Officer.

During his speech, Fedor thanked Richardson for her trust and praised the agency and its international partners for their steadfast determination and commitment to a mission that is often hailed as the “crown jewel” of interagency and international cooperation.

“We’re committed to carrying out SOUTHCOM’s vision and strategic goals as we move forward,” said Fedor. “I certainly understand the sacrifices our Partner Nations make in this fight against international trafficking. Rest assured, JIATF-S will continue to be a valued partner and a friend in the days ahead.”

Fedor applauded the JIATF-S members and said their legacy of service has distinguished the task force as model for organizational success.

“The JIATF-S team has rightfully earned the reputation as the gold standard for interagency and international cooperation,” said Fedor. “I look forward to working with each and every one of you to continue building on that reputation and ensuring each person can derive value from their contributions to the team.”

While Richardson conveyed a high level of confidence in Fedor’s abilities to advance the task force’s mission, she also took time to express gratitude to Fears for his exemplary record as director. 

“Admiral Fears’ leadership has enabled JIATF-S and it’s teammates to demonstrate the power of partnership in the western hemisphere,” said Richardson. “Since taking command, the JIATF-S team has demonstrated exceptional tenacity in carrying out its mission of targeting, detecting and monitoring illicit drug trafficking and counter transnational criminal organizations.”

Fears, who took over as director of JIATF-S in June 2020, ensured the success of the organization’s international and interagency operations aimed at detecting and monitoring illegal trafficking in the air and on the water along with its 20 official partner nations.

The general lauded Fears’ four decades of service capped by JIATF-S and its partners’ record setting year in 2021 for drug interdictions by facilitating the seizure or disruption of 301 metric tons of cocaine with an estimated street value of $7 billion.

The task force’s interdiction rate was the best in U.S. Southern Command’s history under Fear’s leadership.

Fears was grateful for the dedication of JIATF-S members but encouraged them to stay vigilant and to continue evolving to meet the future threat.

“As well as we have done over the last couple of years, the challenge is to not let our guard down,” said Fears. “The threat is evolving and the adversary is still highly resourced and motivated. We cannot rest on our laurels. There are number of challenges yet to overcome.”

Fears concluded his remarks by conveying his gratitude for the relationships developed during his tenure as director and the support provided by the local community.

“This is such a unique community,” said Fears. “We can’t do what we do without you. Thank you for making this such a military friendly community. It’s such a warm environment and has blessed me with some amazing friendships that I’ll miss dearly in the days ahead.”

He is scheduled to retire from the Coast Guard next month after 40 years of service.