Former CENTCOM commander retires to Minnesota

May 03, 2019 08:49 PM

Until late March, retired General Joseph Votel was one of the highest-ranking members of the United States military in charge of operations in hot spots like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. In April, the St. Paul native again started calling the Twin Cities his home.

Votel spent the last three years of his nearly 40-year military career as commander of the United States Central Command. He split his time between CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and the Middle East.


"This is an incredibly complex area and it requires a lot of study and of course you've got to be there to understand the peculiarities of this very complex, but very important, region," Votel told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Votel says he and his wife Michele decided to retire in the Twin Cities, where he went to high school at Cretin Derham High School and she attended St. Paul Johnson High School. He says he hopes to spend some of his time promoting the work men and women in the military are doing overseas by building support for them on the homefront.

"While there's not a lot of very good aspects of being at war one of the really positive aspects of this last 18 or 19 years is the American public has fallen back in love with their military," he says. "When you're deployed and you feel the support that comes from your hometown community or state or your country in general I think it's a combat multiplier frankly. It makes them feel more proud. It makes them feel more determined in accomplishing the mission."

It's a message he also often shared while still on active duty, including in his opening remarks at one of his last Congressional hearings where he testified about operations in Syria and Afghanistan.

"I'm proud to stand among them as their commander," he told Congress in February. "All of these great Americans have families in communities across our country that support their service members from near and far."

Votel will take that same message to a dinner benefiting the Minnesota Military Appreciation fund on May 16 where he will be the keynote speaker.

He says he's thankful to have served his country at such a pivotal time in history.

"I'm just very, very proud to have been in uniform and being able to serve the nation in the time of its greatest need," Votel says.

If you're interested in hearing General Votel speak on May 16, tickets are still available to help support military families. 

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Tom Hauser

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