U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Milton Sands assumed command of Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) on July 1, 2021 at Kelley Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany.
SOCAFRICA is the operational command responsible for joint special operations on the continent of Africa. The headquarters is located in Stuttgart. These operations are conducted in support of U.S. Africa Command or AFRICOM. SOF is currently focused on countering violent extremist organizations, protecting U.S. interests in Africa, and strengthening the defense capabilities of African partners. The African continent is more than three times the size of the United States, with 54 countries. SOCAFRICA works on a routine basis in many of these countries.
The outgoing commander is U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson. He had taken command of SOCAFRICA in July 2019. His next position will be deputy operations officer for the joint staff at the Pentagon. Anderson has presided over special operations forces that have been combating violent extremist organizations throughout northern, east, and west Africa.
Sands had previously served as a joint planner with Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) before SOCAFRICA existed. At that time SOCEUR had responsibility for the European and African operational areas of responsibility. He has also worked in the Joint Special Operations Command on AFRICOM issues in the past. Prior to his SOCAFRICA assignment Sands was the commander of Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) at Great Lakes, Illinois. NSTC is the Navy’s only boot camp. He was the first Navy SEAL to command NSTC.
He has served in the SEAL community for many years. He has served two tours with SEAL Team 2, was assigned to a joint task force in Afghanistan, commanded SEAL Team 8, served as chief of staff of Naval Special Warfare Group 2, chief of staff at the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Development Group, and as Commodore of NSW Group 2.
Some of his previous assignments include:
- Vice President of the Joint Special Operations University
- Director of Counter Terrorism and Operations at ASD SO/LIC
- Deputy Operations Officer with Joint Special Operations Command
SOCAFRICA is a sub-unified command of the United States Special Operations Command under the control of United States Africa Command. Subordinate SOCAFRICA organizations include:
- Special Operations Task Force East Africa
- Joint Special Operations Task Force – Somalia
- Special Operations Task Force North West Africa
- Joint Special Operations Air Component Africa
- Naval Special Warfare Unit Ten
- SOCAFRICA Signal Detachment
Sands is from Farmington, Connecticut. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1992. He also holds a Master’s in Military Strategy and Planning from the Joint Advanced Warfighting School in Norfolk, Virginia.
Photo: Rear Adm. Milton J. Sands III, Special Operations Command commander, speaks to SOCAF members during the change of command ceremony July 1, 2021 at Kelly Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Master Sgt. Bryan Franks, July 1, 2021.
Video: Watch a video of the SOCAFRICA change of command ceremony conducted on July 1, 2021 in Stuttgart, Germany. DVIDS, 54 minutes.