The Year in
USASOC 25 YEARS IN THIS EDITION OPERATION OVERLORD SOF NSW MARITIME MOBILITY INTERVIEWS:
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland USASOC Commander Richard M. Holcomb USASOC Deputy to the Commander Brig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher ARSOAC Commander
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Editors’ Foreword Fall 1989 was a tough time to try to make the front page if you were a new military command standing up for the first time. The “Velvet Revolution” in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall tended to make anything else seem insignificant. And yet, on Dec. 1 of that year, the U.S. Army stood up a command that would define it more in the post-Cold War era than any other: U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). Just days later, elements of USASOC units were leading the way into Panama, and in 1991 USASOC personnel were in the lead when the ground war started during Operation Desert Storm. In the quartercentury since its creation, USASOC has led the way in virtually every conflict in which America has chosen to involve itself, usually with results so positive that the national leadership has often found itself unprepared for the “catastrophic success” USASOC has regularly delivered when allowed to. A quarter-century later, when America’s national leadership wants something done, and done right on time, the logical choice is USASOC. This year is also the 70th anniversary of America’s greatest assault operation: Operation Overlord. When American GIs and their allies hit the beaches and landing grounds of Normandy on June 6, 1944, they did so with special operations forces (SOF) truly leading the way. U.S. Army Rangers and Navy Demolitions Engineers opened the beaches so that the follow-on forces could move inland. British and Commonwealth Commandos seized critical artillery batteries and bridges, and “held until relieved.” And deeper inland, multinational Office of Strategic Services (OSS)/Special Operations Executive (SOE) teams were beginning to drop from the sky, to link up with resistance bands and harass German forces trying to get to the invasion beaches. Operation Overlord was the largest SOF endeavor that had ever taken place at that point, and would be the largest until Operation Iraqi Freedom, the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We have dedicated much of this year’s edition of The Year in Special Operations to commemorating these two events. We do so in the hope that those who have been there, along with those who are still out there, will know that we and others salute their actions, sacrifices, and achievements. Chuck Oldham Editor in Chief
John D. Gresham Consulting Editor
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OF ALL TACTICAL
THE “MOTHER” FOLDING KNIVES
L t. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, USA Commanding General U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) By John D. Gresham
ichard M. Holcomb, SES2 R Deputy to the Commanding General U.S. Army Special Operations Command By John D. Gresham
rig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher, USA B Commanding General U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne)
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ARSOC M Leaning Forward
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AVSPECWARCOM N The Human Element
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USASOC at 25 By John D. Gresham
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The Year in
Special Operations 2014-2015 Edition
Published by Faircount Media Group 701 North West Shore Blvd. Tampa, FL 33609 Tel: 813.639.1900 www.defensemedianetwork.com www.faircount.com EDITORIAL Editor in Chief: Chuck Oldham Consulting Editor: John D. Gresham Managing Editor: Ana E. Lopez Editors: Rhonda Carpenter, Iwalani Kahikina Editor/Photo Editor: Steven Hoarn Contributing Writers: Maj. Gen. Richard Comer, USAF (Ret.), Scott R. Gourley, John D. Gresham, Mike Markowitz, Nigel West, J.R. Wilson, Dwight Jon Zimmerman DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Art Director: Robin K. McDowall Project Designer: Lorena Noya Designers: Daniel Mrgan, Kenia Y. Perez-Ayala Ad Traffic Manager: Rebecca Laborde ADVERTISING Ad Sales Manager: Patrick Pruitt Account Executives: Michael Blomberg, John Caianiello, Steve Chidel, Art Dubuc III, Brandon Fields, Steve Gosper, Jim Huston, Robert Panetta, Adrian Silva OPERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION Chief Operating Officer: Lawrence Roberts VP, Business Development: Robin Jobson Business Development: Damion Harte, Kevin Higgins Financial Controller: Robert John Thorne Chief Information Officer: John Madden Business Analytics Manager: Colin Davidson Circulation: Alexis Vars Events Manager: Jim Huston FAIRCOUNT MEDIA GROUP Publisher, North America: Ross Jobson Publisher, Europe: Peter Antell
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USASOC AT 25
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, USA Commanding General U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) BY JOHN D. GRESHAM
John D. Gresham: What is the current status of USASOC, and what has been your personal focus since taking over from Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland? Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland: As we transition into the post Iraq and Afghanistan environment, our mission must be clear. We are tasked with providing the nation with the world’s premier special operations units, capable of executing special warfare and surgical strike operations while simultaneously supporting joint force commanders
worldwide. To do that, USASOC needed to build a strategic framework and create a roadmap to get there. Last year, we put the vision on paper in the form of ARSOF 2022 and shared it with the command. ARSOF 2022 serves as the blueprint for this change and focuses on specific areas [in which] I felt USASOC needed improvement to better enable seamless application of combat power across the spectrum of conflict. First, we needed to address a key capability gap for “high-end” UW [unconventional warfare]. By “high-end” UW we
mean the full range of conditions for unconventional warfare, such as where resistance movements are just beginning and operating clandestinely themselves, the occupying power is highly capable, limited safe havens exist, and/ or where the degree of risk is exceptionally high. Second, we needed to mature the Army SOF profession. For more than half of the 25 years USASOC has existed, we will have been engaged in constant combat, and what we are learning is that combat is a great accelerant for
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland assumed command of U.S. Army Special Operations Command July 24, 2012. Previously, Cleveland was commanding general of Special Operations Command Central at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., from 2008 to 2011. Cleveland commanded Special Operations Command South from 2005 to 2008, and from 2003 to 2005 he served U.S. Army Special Operations Command as the chief of staff and later the acting deputy commanding general. Cleveland commanded 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from 2001 to 2003 and served as commander, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-North, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cleveland served with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colo., from 1995 to 1999 when he served as the group executive officer, group deputy commander and battalion commander of the 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). From 1993 to 1995, he served as an action officer in the Special Operations Division on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon and later as the Special Forces field grade assignment officer. A Special Forces officer, Cleveland served with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, Fort Davis, Panama, in 1987, where he was a detachment commander, company commander, and battalion operations officer until 1990. Cleveland began his Special Operations career with an assignment with the 441st Military Intelligence Detachment, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Devens, Mass.
USASOC AT 25
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Young
A Honduran paratrooper from the 2do. Batallón de Infanteria Aerotransportado shakes hands with a Green Beret from 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) after having American jump wings pinned on his uniform. Soldiers from the two nations conducted a static-line jump near Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, April 3, 2014, to foster stronger relationships.
learning and maturation. We now have these increased roles and responsibilities, not at just the tactical level, which is what we have been very good at. In fact, we have been created to provide that to the nation – high-end formations that provided strategic effect. We now have matured into a role where we are providing campaign level effects, and that means that we have a presence now and there is a need for SOF thinking – what I would call SOF operational art – at the operational level, that thing that ties tactics to strategy. Now there are ties in there that are uniquely SOF that represent, in my view, an art form as to how we combine surgical strike capability and special warfare capability, and conventional capabilities. That is where the future is headed, and USASOC will help lead in that future. Lastly, we want to knit two seams – the seam with the conventional force and SOF and the seam with the interagency
and SOF. We are focused on improving interdependence at the “seam” between ARSOF and conventional forces with CTC [Combat Training Center] rotations, RAF [regionally aligned forces]/ Global Response Force relationship, and professional military education. We must improve interdependence with our interagency partners, particularly in operations outside declared theaters of armed conflict. Within this framework we have six priority areas: 1. Invest in Human Capital: Simply put, people are more important than hardware, but it’s much more involved than that. We want USASOC to field a diverse, regionally expert force with the world’s best trained and educated special operations soldiers that are capable of addressing uncertainty. 2. Optimize SOF/CF [conventional forces]/JIIM [joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational]
Interdependence: We used the term “interdependence” on purpose, suggesting each of these partners is successful only when we all are successful. In short, USASOC optimizes the force multiplying potential of partnership with the Army and interagency to provide the nation with seamless combat power. ARSOF brings something different to the table: an expertise in navigating the human domain – that totality of the physical, cognitive, social, cultural, and information elements affecting and influencing human behavior. Special operations forces are uniquely assessed, selected, trained, educated, and equipped to affect and influence human behavior to enhance stability and fight and defeat adversaries. In short, SOF is the force of choice to achieve results in the human domain. 3. Operationalize the CONUS Base: When soldiers and units rotate back
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USASOC AT 25
U.S. Department of Defense photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alex Licea
from deployment, we need to keep them directly tied to those who remain in theater, supporting them as they further our objectives and carry on the fight. We have an enormous talent pool back [in] CONUS that should be leveraged by those who are directly engaged, a pool of capability that can provide timely and expert reach-back support. We have regionally expert forces that need to provide continuous, proactive, and responsive support to their respective joint force commands. Nobody should “sit on the bench” here in the U.S. while we have soldiers and units deployed. 4. Develop SOF Capabilities at the Operational Level: Who will write the campaign plans for places like Yemen, Colombia, and the Philippines? USASOC forces provide expertise to enable operational level headquarters in their effort to tie tactical capabilities to regional or national strategies. 5. Facilitate SOF Mission Command: How will we employ and command our forces in the current and future operating environment, forces whose skills have been honed over the last 12 years of war? This priority is directly related to a command-wide redesign effort – creating a scalable, tailorable, two-star headquarters that is able to achieve SOF mission command at the operational level in support of the TSOCs [theater special operations commands] and joint force commanders. Optimize Resourcing and 6. Commodity Areas: USASOC will rebalance its portfolio while getting better, not bigger. At the heart of this is making the most of what we have and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars. It involves looking at everything across the USASOC enterprise – vehicle fleets, aerial delivery, technology, aviation platforms, and soldier systems. You mentioned the concept of SOF operating in the human domain. Can you elaborate on what you mean? The concept of the human domain and strategic landpower comes from our own evaluation of where we need to go and what have we learned over the last 12 years. What came out of that were some new frameworks and models that will not only serve USASOC well, but also generate and stimulate the thinking that’s necessary to shape the future of our Army. I think SOCOM, and certainly ARSOF’s role as the main proponent of SOCOM, will become
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), checks his canopy after jumping from an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) during a rotarywing airborne operation over Biscayne Bay near Homestead, Fla., Feb. 21, 2014. Cleveland was one of 15 paratroopers who took part in the overwater static-line jump.
increasingly important to the future beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. But we can’t do it alone. The Army’s got to be there with us. There’s a larger strategy that’s starting to come from the idea of a Global Landpower Network, which is an extension of the Global SOF Network. The Global SOF Network provides the foundation; the Global Landpower Network includes the Army, the Marine Corps, and SOCOM. This is what the Strategic Landpower Task Force is about, and that, in turn, is part of a Global Defense Network that includes all services, all security branches of government. A lot of that’s come from our thinking here. Strategic landpower offers us the ability to learn what we needed to learn from the last 12 years-plus of combat and also figure out how to better apply the landpower assets from the Marine Corps, Army, and Special Operations Command. What strategic landpower is about is the ability to prevail in the population-centric human domain and add to that the ability to dominate in the land domain that comes from our Army – the world’s finest combined arms maneuver force. Putting the
two capabilities together gives you, as a framework, a more complete picture of the security spectrum the landpower forces represent. That’s important, because what we want to do is make sure that strategic landpower is understood in today’s environment. It is radically different than it was even on the tenth of September, 2001. There have been significant advances in interconnectivity of populations because of technology, and the Internet – Facebook, Twitter, Social Media – and the connectiveness of countries because of globalization. On top of that, we have the international community, international criminal courts, and the international rules of conduct that constrain traditional landpower tools in certain environments. You can’t go into a city any more without extracting a huge cost on the world stage. You have to look and make predictions. What we are arguing is that we need a different framework, and strategic landpower allows us to do that. It allows us to say there is still relevance in fighting and winning the nation’s wars and responding to contingencies, but there
USASOC AT 25
is also a need for developing new tools and processes and procedures to fight in this human domain sphere. What have been the biggest changes in USASOC since your arrival? In short, the most significant changes I see are in the future operating environment as we draw down in Afghanistan and look to meet threats elsewhere in the world. What we do and have done within USASOC is influenced by how we see the environment changing and seek to understand our role in it. The challenges of the future operating environment will likely be byproducts of an increasingly urbanized world population, with cities that hug coastlines and whose inhabitants enjoy a connectedness that is exponentially increasing. Our adversaries dwell and operate in crowded spaces, fusing their operations with those of criminal organizations in the employment of shared resources and mechanisms through symbiotic relationships. These conditions can negate our technological overmatch, create freedom of action for state and non-state actors, and require different competencies to identify and affect the enemy. These complexities require deep understanding of the human domain and how to prevail in that
space, strengths our special warfare elements possess. This year we are celebrating the 25th year of USASOC. We have written a proud history over that period, but part of our responsibility as leaders is to constantly scrutinize the organizations, personnel, and equipment we have been entrusted with to ensure they are optimized from a standpoint of efficiency and effectiveness. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what we owe the nation and the American people. When we identify opportunity to make adjustments, we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t squander that opportunity. Last year, USASOC took a major step forward by introducing ARSOF 2022 as our blueprint for the future. ARSOF 2022 sought to clarify the narrative for Army special operations, provide direction to the force, and establish a process for future force development that leads to better support of joint force commanders in the future environment. It set in motion a number of changes primarily focused on the tactical aspects of our business and exploring the beginnings of SOF operational art. Throughout this past year, USASOC conducted studies and explored concepts to take yet another critical but necessary step to mature the profession. These efforts were focused on the challenging task of reshaping the institutional level and developing new mission command capabilities to address contemporary and future operational requirements.
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason T. Dorsey
Special Forces soldiers with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) cover basic rifle techniques with Puerto Rico National Guardsmen at Camp Santiago in Salinas, Puerto Rico, April 3, 2014. The unique capabilities of National Guard Special Forces are in high demand.
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USASOC AT 25 As we come to the end of the “long wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq, how do you see the roles and missions of USASOC evolving? Does this signal a return to pre-9/11 activities and operational tempos? Or has USASOC’s mission changed to a different/greater focus? Over the past decade, special operations forces have built a robust capability to target terrorist networks and an unmatched capacity for counterinsurgency operations. At its peak, the level of support to Joint Force Headquarters in the U.S. Central Command area of operations was the largest sustained effort in our history. ARSOF soldiers have performed magnificently during two of the nation’s longest wars, while executing a wide range of demanding and high-risk operations in hostile environments. USASOC units have also been actively safeguarding U.S. interests in other key areas around the world, outside of declared theaters of armed conflict, often by focusing on building partner-nation capacity and advising partner forces. These efforts are typically small in presence, long in duration, and strategic in effect as they directly support regional or national objectives. Army special operations forces will remain a relevant and indispensable partner to the joint and interagency team as long as belligerent nations and non-state actors continue to employ nonconventional means against the United States and its allies, and terrorist networks continue their efforts to strike at our homeland and interests abroad. USASOC just released a public version of ARSOF 2022, the basic roadmap you intend the command to take over the next decade. Can you briefly summarize it for our readers, and what you consider to be its most significant points? We published ARSOF 2022 in April 2013 and we are currently working on ARSOF 2022, Part II. ARSOF 2022 is a three-phased approach to maturing the Army SOF profession. This trilogy is a process for change. Our first phase was to introduce the vision and clarify the SOF narrative and identify the priorities. This phase was primarily focused on our tactical formations. The current phase, Part II, focuses on the institutional change with the intent to increase efficiency, improve alignment of operational force generation capabilities within the U.S. Army and USSOCOM, and create new operational-level capabilities. We are looking at what SWCS [John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School] does – what classes and what functions it provides and what it doesn’t provide that needs to be created at USASOC. We are compelled now because of the opportunity the Army has provided us to write and promulgate our own doctrine for special operations. We are now compelled for the first time to have an organization that is actually bringing coherence to the doctrine that has been routinely done at SWCS. Special operations doctrine is a summation of, and tells everyone external to ourselves, how and what we provide, how we warfight, and what we provide to the Army and joint force commanders. That means we have to bring all of our special missions units together – the Ranger Regiment, as well as Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psyops – and meld that together to write one holistic Army SOF doctrine. This is a first, and requires USASOC to have a different role. Part of what ARSOF Part II does is play on the new narrative we have created and
special warfare and surgical strike. It allows us to create the organization that is necessary to promulgate the doctrine and fight for the right resources that go with it. We are looking for a balance between conceptually based and operationally driven requirements. The final installment, ARSOF Next, seeks to drill down to the individual. We want to truly understand our culture and answer the questions, “What is our promise to the nation? What makes serving in ARSOF different than service elsewhere? Who are we and what can people expect from us? What can the nation expect from us?” It’s a deep dive into identifying the core, or family values, of ARSOF and what it means to be an ARSOF soldier. During this current phase, we are evaluating ourselves against the priorities we outlined last April. It’s not only important to have the vision, but also to have the governing processes to be able to critique ourselves. Once you can assess progress or a lack of progress, it feeds back into our established processes to make the organization better, and better posture us to represent ourselves to SOCOM, the Army, and key decision-makers. Given the current plans by the Department of Defense to reduce the size of the U.S. Army overall, do you see this affecting any of your Army Reserve or Army National Guard components/units in the years ahead? That is difficult to say, but we are conscious of a clear demand signal for these forces from joint force commanders worldwide. The appetite for the effects that these forces achieve in difficult and demanding environments is insatiable, be they National Guard Special Forces or civil affairs and military information support operations units from the Army Reserve. These units are on the team and their suites of capabilities are indispensable to joint force commanders as USASOC seeks to meet our requirements. With fiscal year 2013 (FY 13) now past, was USASOC able to finish all the planned growth, expansions, and construction approved as a result of the Quadrennial Defense Reviews (QDRs) of the last decade? And what will the effects of the recent 2014 QDR be upon USASOC? A rmy SOF is only able to realize a percentage of programmed grow th due to the OSD [Off ice of the Secretary of Defense]/Army budget reductions. The SOF force structure reductions create obvious impacts on Army SOF recruiting efforts; however, critical enablers remain essential to meeting OPLAN/CONPLAN requirements. Hence, much of the remaining Army SOF growth is focused on enablers that maximize the effects SOF achieves in uncertain and austere environments. The growth of special operations forces complements Army’s efforts to enhance the capabilities of their conventional forces. Regionally aligned forces and the synergies SOF and the RAF have achieved serve as a great example. Over the next decade, Army SOF will remain actively engaged in protecting our homeland and national security interests abroad. Army SOF will be called upon to face a number of threats occurring in multidimensional, hybrid-operating environments. Therefore, strictly from an end-strength perspective, Army SOF remains dependent on Army’s ability to meet the high demand for special operations requirements around the globe.
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier pulls security around a Kuchi camp during a combat reconnaissance patrol in Shah Wali Kot District, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 18, 2014. The patrol was conducted in order to deny insurgent freedom of movement in eastern Shah Wali Kot.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sara Wakai
Finding Certainty in Uncertain Times By John D. Gresham
A U.S. special operations forces member speaks with a villager from an overwatch position for Afghan National Army Special Forces helping Afghan Local Police build a checkpoint in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 3, 2013.
and their staffs, fiscal years 2014 (FY 14) and 2015 (FY 15) are hardly going to be picnics compared to the steady and generous funding enjoyed by SOCOM in the last decade. The reality for SOCOM and the rest of the U.S. military is that the upside of the Ryan/Murray budget deal lies in one single quality: certainty. Despite very constricted Title 10 funding restrictions, the numbers are known, approved, and set through Oct. 1, 2015, and that is a level of budget certainty that has been unavailable for several years. 2013: Challenges and Adm. McRaven’s Global SOF Network A number of challenges, some from early in Adm. William H. McRaven’s tenure at SOCOM, came to the top of the command’s “to do” list. Some of these included: • Afghanistan – The decision by President Barack Obama to withdraw all American combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014 has since been modified, with residual American special operations forces (SOF) being a possibility after 2014. This means that McRaven and his staff must coordinate and hold open the option should the next president of Afghanistan be willing to rapidly negotiate a status of forces agreement following the planned presidential run-off election in June of 2014.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau
Like the rest of the U.S. military and the federal government as a whole, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) spent much of 2013 in a fog of uncertainty, unable to plan for a future that the administration and the Congress refused to define or agree upon. And much like the opening line of the literary classic A Tale of Two Cities, 2013 truly was for SOCOM and its component commands the best of times and the worst of times. After four years of living under the fiscal burdens of continuing resolutions, the threatened toxic effects of the Budget Control Act (BCA – better known as “sequestration”) became reality in 2013. Only the Herculean efforts of House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and their staffs allowed SOCOM and the rest of the Department of Defense (DoD) to avoid at the last possible minute the draconian fiscal cuts that were scheduled by the BCA for early 2014. Nevertheless, 2013 was among the more difficult years on record for SOCOM, its component commands, and especially the theater special operations commands (TSOCs) and their staffs. In particular, the TSOCs endured a tough year during 2013, with the move to sequestration in the spring effectively gutting their theater engagement plans (TEPs) for most of the year. In addition, despite the fine work of Ryan, Murray,
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• Emerging Threats – There continues to be uncertainty over rapidly emerging threats worldwide, with continued growth and expansion of the various al Qaeda affiliates in central Africa, the rim of the Mediterranean, the Arabian Peninsula, and other areas of the world. • “Pivot to the Pacific” – The planned force realignment known as the Pivot to the Pacific is under way, with the Navy and Marine Corps beginning permanent basing changes that will eventually have 60 percent of their forces focused on the Pacific Rim. • Finances – The Budget Control Act of 2011, which was created to rein in federal spending, turned into sequestration in 2013, and complete chaos within DoD and the U.S. military resulted. Planned deployments, exercises, and operations had to be canceled, scaled down, or shortened, creating great difficulties for all of the regional combatant commands, including SOCOM. Despite these challenges, the SOCOM leadership worked hard in 2013 to salvage what they could of the various TEPs created by the regional TSOCs. And despite some severe disappointments and stumbles, operational deployments
still occurred on schedule, and the SOCOM staff continued to work on McRaven’s primary developmental initiative: the Global SOF Network, which is part of a larger vision SOCOM laid out in the command’s current roadmap for the rest of the present decade: SOCOM 2020. SOCOM 2020 breaks down into four primary initiatives, including: • Win the Current Fight – This basically means Afghanistan in 2014, although the expanded commitment of SOCOM units and personnel in Africa, along with continued SOF operations in the Mediterranean, the Philippines, Korea, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and Latin America, means that the command will be committed to high-intensity, deployed operations for the remainder of this decade. • Expand the Global SOF Network – At the heart of SOCOM 2020 is McRaven’s core vision of a fundamentally different way to increase both the effectiveness and capacity of American SOF units and operations. His concept is to mandate stronger relationship building by U.S. SOF personnel with their foreign counterparts, and then use American training expertise to assist international partner nations in expanding
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Pete Thibodeau
ABOVE: A U.S. Special Forces soldier joins a Philippine special operations forces soldier on a firing line to fire at short, medium, and close targets during the third annual Special Operation Forces Challenge, Fort Magsaysay, Republic of the Philippines, May 3, 2014. RIGHT: U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters assigned to Alpha Company Four, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), perform deck landing qualifications aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) in the Pacific Ocean, April 28, 2014.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight
the “capacity” (unit size and strength) and “capability” (planning and operational training skills) of their SOF communities. • Preserve the Force and Families – This is a big basket of challenges and initiatives, many of which are being covered by SOCOM’s CARE Coalition. But in addition, this is an acknowledgement by SOCOM that it needs to take better care of personnel before, during, and after deployments. It also means that SOCOM families and dependents are going to need more support back at home stations, which will take a fundamental evolution on the part of the entire command with respect to how it views the “home front” during deployments. • Responsive Resourcing – This is subtle acknowledgement by SOCOM that the dozen years of abundant funding and resourcing for U.S. SOF are over, and that efficiency and austerity must rule the remainder of the present decade. And while the expansion program mandated during the last of the Bush-era QDRs was completed in 2013, it is unlikely that any further expansions of U.S SOF personnel and/or units will take place prior to the next decade. In fact, McRaven is quick to point out that his major personal initiative for SOCOM envisions the creation of that Global SOF
Network to better leverage American special warfare capabilities and resources. Training the military/internal security forces of partner and allied nations (known as the Foreign Internal Defense mission) has always been a specialty of U.S. SOF forces over the decades. However, McRaven wants to take this specialty to the next level, helping nations build their own world-class SOF units and communities, and integrating them into a seamless worldwide network that can then respond to emerging threats and quick-breaking incidents. Key to making this work will be an enhanced program of military-tomilitary relationship-building between key individuals, so that in times of rapidly developing crises, American SOF leadership and personnel already know their foreign counterparts, and can more effectively leverage the unique knowledge and skills of foreign special warfare professionals. Leadership For more than a decade, SOCOM has had exceptional leadership teams at its headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base (AFB), Tampa, Fla., and at the various SOCOM component
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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class
U.S. Navy SEALs climb a caving ladder during visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) training on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., July 16, 2013.
commands. There were a few changes, but generally there was stability in the leadership within the U.S. SOF community during 2013. The leadership at virtually all levels of the American SOF community is solid and capable, although 2014 is already showing some changes coming. One change in 2013 came at the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conf lict (SO/LIC), where Michael D. Lumpkin replaced Michael A. Sheehan. Lumpkin brings to his new job previous experience as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict, as well as two decades as a U.S. Navy SEAL, with strong operational experience in both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He will also be performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. The military leadership at SOCOM, as previously mentioned, saw no major changes in 2013 and continued to be headed by McRaven. His deputy commander during 2013 continued to be Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, USA, although Vice Adm. Sean Pybus, USN, has been nominated to take over this job in 2014. Continuing to support McRaven as the command’s
senior enlisted advisor was Command Sgt. Major (CSM) Chris Faris, who, along with his wife, Lisa, has become a leading advocate for support of U.S. military personnel and families. Additional leadership of SOCOM includes: • U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) – Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland continues to serve as commanding general at USASOC, and Command Sgt. Maj. George A. Bequer served as USASOC senior enlisted advisor. Also continuing in 2013 was USASOC’s civilian Senior Executive Service (SES) deputy to the commander, Richard Holcomb. • Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) – Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel, USAF, continued to command AFSOC throughout 2013, while Fiel’s senior enlisted advisor continued throughout 2013 to be Chief Master Sgt. William Turner. • Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM) – In 2013, Rear Adm. Sean A. Pybus, USN, was promoted to vice admiral, becoming commander of NATO SOF Headquarters in Mons, Belgium. He handed over his command of NAVSPECWARCOM to Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, USN. Meanwhile, Force Master Chief Stephen D. Link handed over his duties as senior enlisted adviser to Force Master Chief Michael L. Magaraci. • U.S. Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) – Command of MARSOC in 2013 was retained by Maj. Gen. Mark A. Clark, USMC. His senior enlisted advisor throughout 2013 also continued to be Sgt. Maj. Thomas F. Hall. • Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, USA, continued to command JSOC throughout 2013, and was supported by Brig. Gen. Stephen Clark, USAF, as the deputy commander. There also is another set of commands in the American SOF community: the regional special operations components of Unified Combatant Commands. Known as theater special operations commands, these regional SOF headquarters are rapidly becoming significant centers of gravity and influence in the U.S. military. There is a regular rotation between SOCOM’s headquarters and service components, the regional SOF components: • Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) – Maj. Gen. Michael Repass, USA, handed over command of SOCEUR in 2013 to Maj. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, USAF. SOCEUR commands U.S. SOF forces that contribute to the NATO alliance, and has a footprint that runs as far south as the Middle East and as far north as the Arctic Circle. The senior enlisted advisor is Sgt. Maj. Charles M. Sekelsky. • Special Operations Command, Central (SOCCENT) – Based at MacDill AFB, SOCCENT is commanded by Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, USA, who took over from Maj. Gen. Kenneth “Ken” Tovo, USA, in 2013. SOCCENT’s senior enlisted advisor is CSM Jeffery D. Stigal, who took over from CSM George Bequer in 2013. • Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) – Based at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, SOCPAC covers a vast territory; more than 40 percent of the Earth’s surface is its area of responsibility (AOR). SOCPAC Commander Maj. Gen. Norman J. Brozenick, USAF, was relieved by Rear Adm. P. Gardner Howe, III, USN, in 2013. SOCPAC’s senior enlisted advisor in 2013 continued to be CSM Anthony A. Pettengill, Sr. • Special Operations Command Korea (SOCKOR) – SOCKOR provides SOF units and services to the commander, U.S. Forces Korea, and provides coordination with Republic of Korea (ROK) SOF. SOCKOR’s commanding officer in 2013 was Brig. Gen. Eric Wendt, supported by his senior enlisted
U.S. Special Operations Command photo by Tech. Sgt. Angelita M. Lawrence
advisor Command Chief Master Sgt. Matthew M. Caruso. In April 2014, Wendt became commanding general of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. Col. John Deedrick assumed command of SOCKOR in his place. • Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH) – Command of SOCSOUTH continued to be held by Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, USA (a cousin of SOCOM Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. John Mulholland), throughout 2013. The command’s senior enlisted advisor continued to be Army CSM Thomas E. Wall. • Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) – SOCAFRICA is the SOF component for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). In 2013, command of SOCAFRICA was held by Brig. Gen. James B. Linder, while Sgt. Maj. David R. Gibbs handled the senior enlisted advisor duties. • Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) – JSOTF-P is the SOF force assigned to advise, assist, and train the armed forces of the Philippines in their campaign against insurgent rebels in the southern part of the country. In 2013, command of JSOTF-P transferred from Col. Mark A. Miller to Col. Robert McDowell, and the senior enlisted advisor was Sgt. Maj. Charles F. Beebe. The year ahead in 2014 will see even more changes in SOCOM leadership, especially in the various component commands. In addition, a new TSOC headquarters is scheduled to stand up: Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH), assigned to U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). The CARE Coalition Since Oct. 19, 2001, when the first SOCOM personnel landed in Afghanistan, it has been clearly understood that the nature of combat deployments for SOF warriors was going to be fundamentally different than for those of conventional force units and personnel. More than a dozen years of continuous combat operations has established that SOF personnel, their families, and their dependents have been living a much different life than those in the conventional forces. Individual SOF personnel regularly have deployed more than a dozen times, with some having gone downrange twice that often since 2001. This has placed significant strains on SOCOM
U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) wounded warriors play seated volleyball with Adm. William H. McRaven, USSOCOM commander, center, and his staff at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., March 4, 2014. The SOCOM wounded warriors are participating in tryouts for the USSOCOM Warrior Games team. The Warrior Games are a sporting competition hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee for wounded members of the armed forces.
personnel and their dependents, especially those who have returned as “wounded warriors” stateside. To help deal with the unique stateside challenges and problems of SOF personnel and their families, SOCOM has created the CARE Coalition, which is designed to act as an overarching collection of programs to help support returning special warfare personnel. The CARE Coalition’s efforts are based around a network of about two dozen “advocates” nationally, who provide oversight and assistance for SOF wounded, ill, and injured (WII) personnel and their families through a range of care and recovery programs. These provide direct, and if necessary, lifelong assistance to SOF WII personnel through active follow-up contact and collaboration with multidisciplinary teams (MDT), medical case managers, and other military agencies. Advocates provide coordination and tracking for medical and non-medical services, and help implement systematic rehabilitation and transition back to active duty or civilian life. In addition, advocates collect, maintain, and analyze data for planning and tracking purposes, so process improvements can be developed as required, and work closely with SOF WII service members, their families, and their recovery teams to develop a comprehensive recovery plan (CRP) that identifies the service member’s and family’s goals and the resources they need to achieve them, such as assistive technology, education, employment, or housing. In addition to the basic recovery and treatment programs, the CARE Coalition has offices dedicated to community outreach and adaptive sports, that provide a way for WII SOF personnel to gain from the benefits of sports, hobbies, networking, and reception of the well earned appreciation of the communities they live in and have served. This community
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U.S. Army photo by Erich Backes
A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) CV-22 Osprey positions for a fast roping exercise with a squad of U.S. Army soldiers from the 10th Special Forces Group at the Army Airfield, Baumholder Military Training Area, Germany, April 24, 2014. The event was the first time the U.S. Army had used Ospreys for training in Baumholder.
outreach section supports the SOCOM CARE Coalition by establishing relationships with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide support for WII service members within the SOF community. They are also responsible for compliance with the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act, and for qualifying individuals, businesses, and nonprofits, in order to ensure compatibility with all DoD rules and regulations. And while the DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs work to help provide for the specialized needs of WII SOF service personnel and their families, there are often “holes” in support during the various recovery processes. The community outreach section seeks to bridge these gaps by providing to the service members a roadmap directly to NGOs that provide goods, services, and support. Finally, the Wounded Warrior Athletic Reconditioning Program (WWARP) provides assistance in both the physical and mental recovery processes, and strives to enhance the general health and welfare of WII SOF personnel through introductions to adaptive team sports and recreation. WWARP has, for example, conducted camps and events in competitive sailing, archery, track and field, seated water skiing, seated volleyball, and golf. It supports both active-duty and retired members of the special operations community, and is proving to be a vital and valuable means of reconnecting WII SOF personnel to everyday lives. “The USSOCOM Care Coalition program provides outstanding support to wounded SOF warriors and their families and is a model for patient advocacy within the Department of Defense,” McRaven said in an interview last year with The Year in Special Operations. SOCOM Acquisitions and Procurement In the decades since its creation, SOCOM has been envied by other components of DoD for the robust and diverse financing it has received to grow and equip the special warfare force we know today. In particular, SOCOM’s Title 10 funding line, unique among the geographic combatant
commands, provides McRaven and his staff in Tampa with a unique ability to develop and procure systems and services specially tailored to support their roles and missions across the globe. Over the years, this has included systems like the M4 carbine, CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport, and Ground Mobility Vehicle variant of the HMMWV. While some of the component commands’ significant contracting and procurement projects under way in 2013 are described elsewhere in this book, there are several others that are specific to SOCOM itself. They include: • SOCOM Wide Mission Support (SWMS) – SWMS is an omnibus service and support contract designed to cover the whole of SOCOM and its component commands. As such, it will replace USASOC’s Global Battlestaff and Program Support (GBPS) program, which is due to expire May 15, 2015. SWMS will provide knowledge-based services for SOCOM, across one of the widest ranges of expertise within DoD. This will include engineering, training, logistical, and contractor management, finance and program monitoring and planning, along with other services and support as required by the command. The fact that SWMS will cover all of SOCOM and its subordinate commands should provide greater connectivity between organizations and services, along with reducing “stovepiping” when greater interoperability is needed. • Special Operations Forces Information Technology Enterprise Contract II (SITEC II) – The original SITEC contract, which has been in place for several years with SOCOM, has not entirely fulfilled the expectations and desires of the command. In particular, with respect to the planned expansion of the Global SOF Network (SOFNET), SOCOM has decided that the current contract lacks the necessary flexibility to support the planned goals outlined in SOCOM 2020. For this reason, SOCOM has chosen to re-compete the program as SITEC II, with greater latitude and flexibility inherent in the contract. This should allow the SITEC II contractor to better support SOCOM across the entire command enterprise, and down to the field level for deployed forces downrange. The objectives of SITEC II are that it enable and improve IT to support mission operations, provide “reliable SIE [SOF Information Environment] core services worldwide, while aligning with the JIE,” and provide “flexible and scalable services for all SOF site-unique requirements, foster innovation while providing an agile approach to insert new technologies, establish flexible and scalable contracts that foster competition, and drive cost optimization.” Conclusion The early months of 2014 are showing great promise over 2013, as the personnel of SOCOM and the rest of the U.S. military get back to something they have not had since 2009: a normal and understood funding and operational profile. This is not to say, however, that SOCOM does not have challenges ahead, both in the near-term and long-term. As this story is being written, the question of the American commitment in Afghanistan is still undefined and in flux. In addition, continuing operations in Africa, the Far East, and other regions will likely keep the TSOCs and component commands busy packaging and supplying SOF units and personnel well into the latter half of this decade. And while there will continue to be uncertainty, both operationally and fiscally, there can be little doubt that SOCOM will continue to be the force of choice of America’s national leaders.
Air Force Special Operations Command airmen fast rope out of a CV-22 during a 2011 air power demonstration. AFSOC has been very pleased with the performance of the CV-22, including its ability to take battle damage, exemplified by a December 2013 mission in which two of three CV-22s were heavily damaged by ground fire â&#x20AC;&#x201C; with four personnel wounded â&#x20AC;&#x201C; but managed to make it back to base.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Gustavo F. Castillo
MISSIONS EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME, AND A REVISED MODERNIZATION PLAN BY MAJ. GEN. RICHARD COMER, USAF (RET.)
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Harris
Air Force Special Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel has maintained his command’s focus on the current mission, the people, and modernization. His current missions are in a significant state of flux, with the drawdown in Afghanistan, the growth of mission requirements in other theaters, and the changes in the numbers of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) aircraft assigned to each theater. The modernization plan of the AFSOC fleet of air machines has also seen significant adjustments to its numbers and future procurements due to economic realities in the national budget correspondingly affecting the Department of Defense’s (DoD) budget, and that of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). The primary work of the command remains warfighting. The battlefield airmen of AFSOC’s special tactics wings held their position as the most decorated of the year, a position the special tactics (ST) community has held since Sept. 11. Most of their missions entail working with the Special Forces A-Teams and Navy SEALs in the field and being on the ground with those forces they support, providing expert ability to call in air fires from above, medevac support, and medical care from the Pararescuemen, or PJs. The high demand for ST airmen since the war began has resulted in the 720th Special Tactics Group becoming part of the 24th Special Tactics Wing, along with the 724th Special Tactics Group and Special Tactics Training Squadron. Its first wing commander, Col. Robert Armfield, appeared on the Air Force’s promotion list to brigadier general. The growth of the career field and its operational engagement has therefore resulted in a taller pyramid of responsibilities and rank structure. The aircraft of AFSOC have had their missions expand during 2013 as well. When asked which of AFSOC’s many
361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron MC-12 Liberty aircraft prepare for operations on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Aug. 30, 2010. AFSOC will inherit 35 of Air Combat Command’s MC-12s, and will use them to replace its shorter-range, single-engine U-28s.
missions would qualify as the mission of the year, both Fiel and his Director of Operations (A3) Brig. Gen. Mark Hicks, spoke of the attempted evacuation of Americans from South Sudan in December 2013. Hicks also said that the mission is AFSOC’s Mackay Trophy nominee for the most meritorious flight in the Air Force for that year. Here’s the write-up, submitted by Col. Bill West, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing (SOW): When civil war erupted throughout South Sudan in December 2013, the U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation of the U.S. embassy and American citizens from the region. On 20 December, approximately sixty American citizens sought shelter within the United Nations compound in the town of Bor. On 21 December, three CV-22s from the 8 ESOS [Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron] and two MC-130Ps from the 9 ESOS were launched from Djibouti. Their tasking was to cross the Ethiopian plateau and transit the 790 nautical miles (approximately the distance between Boston and Atlanta) to Bor, South Sudan, and evacuate the American citizens. As security for the evacuation, the CV-22s carried  special operations ground personnel. Pre-launch intelligence reports indicated large concentrations of armed anti-government personnel had surrounded the
AFSOC U.N. compound, but that they would allow evacuation of non-combatants via the adjacent airfield. Other than unforecast weather during the air refueling, the flight to Bor was uneventful and the team of SOF airmen and ground forces arrived on schedule. Given the intelligence brief of the objective area and the fluid nature of the conflict, the ground force commander and CV-22 flight lead planned to assess the situation on the ground via overflight as part of their airfield traffic pattern entry procedures. The flight of three CV-22s made entry into the traffic pattern, identified the U.N. compound and noted the armed force surrounding the area. With no initial evidence of hostility, and acting on the diplomatically prearranged agreement with the warring factions to allow the evacuations, the flight turned and configured for landing. As the CV-22s made the final turn to land, anti-government forces surrounding the U.N. compound opened fire on the formation with crew-served weapons and rocket propelled grenades, hitting all three aircraft. The flight lead immediately initiated evasive maneuvers and directed his flight to follow suit. In a matter of seconds, the three aircraft survived a combined 88 impacts. Once clear of the engagement zone, a battle damage assessment revealed that four of the special operations forces aboard the lead aircraft were wounded and two of the aircraft were heavily damaged and leaking fuel at an alarming rate. Three of the wounded were assessed to be in critical condition and required immediate medical attention. With the nearest suitable medical facility over 400 miles away (Boston to D.C.), the air mission commander and CV-22 flight lead worked with the MC-130 crews to develop a hasty plan. The MC-130 aircraft would daisy chain with the CV-22 formation and provide near-continuous air-refueling enroute to Entebbe, Uganda, where medical personnel were alerted and standing by. With multiple systems failures in two of the CV-22s, the crews’ arduous training paid off as they kept the bullet-ridden aircraft aloft. The lead CV-22 would ultimately leak almost 8,000 pounds of the nearly 11,000 pounds of fuel they received from the MC-130P during the two-hour flight to Uganda. While the aircrews dealt with the aircraft, the special operations medical personnel aboard the lead CV-22 battled to save the lives of the wounded. Though three of the wounded were in relatively stable condition, one continued to deteriorate. Medical personnel determined that he would succumb to the wound of his upper femoral artery without an immediate blood transfusion. After the determination was made that the appropriate care was not available in Entebbe, the mission commander coordinated to transload the wounded to a C-17 immediately upon arrival. Within minutes of the formation touching down in Entebbe, Air Force Pararescue personnel who had been aboard the second CV-22 administered lifesaving blood transfusions to the wounded as they were transferred to the C-17, which immediately departed and delivered the wounded to the trauma center in Nairobi, Kenya. All four of the wounded were later released from Nairobi. The American citizens in Bor were evacuated by U.S. assets the following day without further incident. The fact that two AFSOC generals first mentioned a flying mission that occurred in Africa tells us a great deal about the wind-down of the war in Afghanistan – it’s no longer center stage. Part of the reason for this could be that the
original question was qualified by the limitation that only unclassified missions can appear in a magazine article, but there is a buzz in the command that many of its aircraft and airmen are now free of constant rotations to and from the Middle East and are available for other theaters of operation. The crews of the newer aircraft of AFSOC are likewise finding they have places to go which are new to them and provide new ways to react to the missions that arise. Their readiness to take on those new environments speaks to the worldwide needs for their aircraft and their training, which ensures they can meet those needs. Lt. Col. Jason Kirby commands the 524th Special Operations Squadron, from Cannon Air Force Base’s (AFB) 27th SOW, which received its Dornier 328s (now designated the C-146) in 2012 and 2013. More will come, until AFSOC has 23 of the aircraft. The aircraft have deployed to provide capability to theater special operations commands (TSOCs) ever since the squadron had three aircraft and three trained aircrews, and reached initial operating capability (IOC). The reliable and durable aircraft may not make it home often, as they seem to be continually in demand. As Kirby writes: In the wake of the Arab Spring, terrorist groups in North and West Africa have continued to expand their operations, increasing threats to the United States and its interests. These revolutions continue to destabilize the region as U.S. Africa Command [AFRICOM] works to rebuild Libyan security forces and stabilize Mali, where Islamic extremists took control at the end of 2012. Just before the New Year, on 28 December 2012, two C-146 “Wolfhound” aircraft were tasked by Gen. [Carter F.] Ham, [then-]AFRICOM Commander, with the emergency evacuation of a United States ambassador, staff, and western citizens from an African capital as rebels reached the edge of the city. The entire mission was executed in less than 24 hours from when the crisis began, and men, women, and children were quietly evacuated. Just following, on 11 January 2013, the French initiated a counteroffensive into northern Mali targeting these extremists, and Air Force Special Operations Command was already there with the C-146. The crews were immediately put to work supporting those operations in-theater. The “Wolfhound” has played a central role in training partner nation forces for counterterrorism operations. As C-146 crews remained committed to operational missions across the trans-Sahel region, the C-146 was also the workhorse of the JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff]-directed Flintlock exercise, which involved over 1,000 participants from 21 nations. As extremists crossed the border from Mali to Mauritania to evade the French offensive, the C-146 inserted SOF forces from across West Africa to Nema, a border town on the edge of the Sahara Desert. … The C-146 now provides unprecedented access and support to the theater special operations commands, and is focused on Phase 0 (Shape), Phase I (Deter), and Phase II (Seize the Initiative) operations that the C-146 is uniquely designed to support. People accustomed to hearing about AFSOC operations have, for many years, heard only of MC-130s, AC-130s, helicopters, and combat controllers. When asked to provide examples of current missions, AFSOC sent three that employed aircraft that have been in AFSOC only since Sept. 11. This third example, from the 3rd Special Operations
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Plew
Four MC-130J Commando II aircraft from the 522nd Special Operations Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., conduct low-level formation training Nov. 5, 2013, over Clovis, N.M. Plans to replace all the MC/AC-130 aircraft in AFSOC with 94 new C-130J models have been changed due to budget cuts and sequestration.
Squadron, also part of the 27th SOW, tells of rapidly deployable unmanned aircraft – remotely piloted aircraft: While exercising our Air Force’s only alert response ISR capability, the Dragons were tasked to deploy their MQ-1 Predator in support of an emerging crisis within the AFRICOM area of responsibility. Within a matter of hours, a team of only 27 Air Commandos loaded a single C-17 and departed their exercise location in support of ongoing American and allied SOF operations. While operating from their forward deployed location, the team recognized this unique capability could provide the ground force commander with an even greater operational reach. Leaning on the heritage of Air Commandos past, the team challenged naysayers and advocated for transitioning their modern remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operations alongside their AFSOC brethren farther forward at an austere location, thereby significantly increasing their capability. Deploying once again, the team faced what many saw as unsurmountable challenges associated with austere field “drone” operations, yet the Dragons once again demonstrated the Air Commando innovative spirit through actions such as building plywood taxiways to ensure operations remained uninterrupted despite the conditions. … Ultimately resulting in bringing those directly
responsible for attacks against American citizens to justice, this deployment highlighted the ability to accelerate the presence of real-time actionable intelligence to decision-makers at all levels, enabling their ability to quickly and decisively act in response to worldwide national security contingencies. A now-perennial mission for AFSOC is responding to natural disasters. In 2013, that meant the horrendous flooding in the Philippine Islands. Col. Ben Maitre, commander of the 353rd Special Operations Group in Okinawa, provided the following statistics: • 36 missions flown • 179 flight hours flown • 152 sorties flown • 653,130 pounds of cargo transported • 3,009 internally displaced persons evacuated • 20 American citizens evacuated • 3 airfields opened, plus night ops at a fourth • 656 aircraft controlled • 1,859,460 pounds of cargo marshalled • 126,000 pounds of forward air refueling point fuel supervised • 30 critical patients treated • 40 pediatric patients treated • 3 hospitals surveyed • 1 public health assessment Hicks said that according to the commander of the disaster relief joint task force (JTF), it was the night capability of the 353rd Special Operations Group that enabled 24-hour relief operations, allowing the JTF to “catch up” with the disaster instead of falling behind during the hours of darkness, as is typically the case. The 353rd Group teamed with its night vision goggle-qualified host unit, the 374th Airlift Wing, to provide all the nighttime capability of the disaster reaction
force. Hicks also said that the night crew gets to work, spared of handling VIP visits by local politicians or visiting dignitaries. He noted that by the end of 2014, the Okinawa group will also have CV-22s, and such relief operations will also no longer be limited to airfields.
353rd Special Operations Group personnel, deployed from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in support of Operation Damayan, direct air traffic at Guiuan Airport, Republic of the Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. The special tactics airmen directed more than 100 sorties a day to ensure the airlift of more than 1,000 Philippine citizens daily in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer
Re-modernizing the AFSOC Recapitalization and Modernization Plan Fiel, who, in 2012, had his modernization plan approved to replace all the MC/AC-130s in AFSOC with newer C-130Js, had to revise it in 2013. The previous plan did not survive first contact with dedicated budget cutters. AFSOC will not get 94 new aircraft to replace all the older models; it will get only 79. Whereas the USSOCOM budget has not been greatly reduced due to budget cuts and sequestration, the U.S. Air Force has suffered serious reductions, and it’s the Air Force budget that was to pay for the service-common C-130J airframes. Fifteen C-130Js is AFSOC’s share of the Air Force cuts. Fiel explained how his command will cope with the reduction. “We’ll now have 32 gunships where we only ever had 25 in the past. We’ll have 55 MC-130s dedicated for lift as Commando IIs with new Silent Knight (LPI/LPD) radars and capability to fly higher with heavier loads.” He explained further that AFSOC will have multiple uses of the eight EC-130Js in the AFSOC-affiliated National Guard Wing in Harrisburg, Pa. The TV and radio broadcasting aircraft will get updated, roll-on/roll-off mission equipment. When the aircraft are available, the mission package will be offloaded, making the aircraft available to augment the lift/mobility assets. “With those eight aircraft added to our mix of MC aircraft, we don’t lose too much from the reductions,” said the general. Additionally, AFSOC will give up its 11 C-145s, formerly known as M28 Skytrucks. To make up for them, six C-146s were added to AFSOC’s acquisition of those aircraft, now
totaling 23. Fiel said that the C-146 has become the favorite AFSOC aircraft of the TSOCs, because they have been assigned to provide continuous support in the theaters, taking on whatever comes up in need of transport instead of staying at CONUS bases and deploying only for specific requirements. AFSOC will inherit 35 manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft from Air Combat Command (ACC). The larger Air Force command built 43 HawkerBeechcraft 350 ER (Extended Range) aircraft for manned ISR during the height of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. ACC decided to retire those fairly new aircraft as part of their reductions. AFSOC provides manpower for the aircraft by retiring its U-28 manned ISR aircraft (based on the Pilatus PC-12 aircraft). In the trade, AFSOC gets twin-engined aircraft with almost twice the flight time per sortie over the smaller, single-engined, and very overloaded U-28s – a good trade once the sensor loads are upgraded to SOF standards. In longer distance areas of operations such as the Pacific or Africa, the exchange of aircraft will add needed persistence and range, as well as safer flying. Although AFSOC has taken some losses in the budget battles, its coping skills have been a strong point. The airmen of AFSOC are better prepared for their missions than at any point in its history as well. They are almost all combat experienced, and any who lack such experience will get it very soon. It’s a great place to be starting and living a career of service and genuine utility to our country.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau
A Critical Skills Operator (CSO), a member of a MARSOC Marine Special Operations Team (MSOT), provides security during an operation in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in 2013. MSOTs have been working closely with local Afghan military and police forces on joint counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan.
By J.R. Wilson
Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC) prepared for its fourth change of command, a new sergeant major, and, possibly, a name change as it celebrated its eighth anniversary as the newest special operations force in USSOCOM.
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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Chadwick de Bree
“I think one thing that has been helpful is, even though you have different people coming into various staff positions, we have been consistent with our vision and mission,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Clark, MARSOC’s fourth commander, who is transitioning (a term he prefers to “retiring”) from the Marine Corps in mid-2014. “Our priorities remain the same – supporting the current fight and global SOF [special operations forces] network while, in many ways, getting into our regionalization effort and Preservation of the Force and Family initiative. And, of course, our response to resourcing.” MARSOC units began operating in Afghanistan and Iraq only six months after it was created as a major command within the Marine Corps and a co-equal component of the U.S. Special Operations Command alongside Army, Air Force, and Navy SOF commands. Since then, it has grown steadily in size, capability, missions, and leadership roles within SOCOM. During Clark’s two years as commander, special operations also has become an official career path for enlisted personnel; now he hopes to see something similar for the officer corps. “We have a closed-loop MOS for enlisted, but not for our officers. So we’re working with SOCOM and the Marine Corps to determine what is the right path for them, one that maintains credibility in the SOF community, but also credibility and promotability in the big Corps,” he said. “One thing I think will come out of our current staff talks will be a proposed career path that will provide our officers with some kind of predictability, but also predictability for SOCOM, so they have a path to follow when they leave MARSOC and should they return later. That also will be a career path that is considered promotable at the same rate as their big Corps peers, even though each may not have been in his primary MOS for part of that time.” While he does not see any devastating effects on MARSOC from ongoing budget cuts and sequestration, Clark does acknowledge they have suspended the command’s growth. As funding grew tighter in 2013, he “adjusted the concept of building the MARSOC force to building the ‘right’ force,” which now will be smaller than was anticipated as late as early 2013. “The commandant has been very supportive of MARSOC and, although we have not grown to what was originally programmed, I think we have reached a good number, given what is going on – 2,742 is the magic number to have what
Maj. Gen. Mark Clark, commanding general, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC), escorts U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel around Stone Bay, Camp Lejeune, N.C., July 17, 2013. Hagel visited with Marines and sailors of MARSOC to provide them an update of the forces and thank them for their service. Hagel is the first secretary of defense to visit MARSOC since its inception.
we need. Where we have taken some loss in not realizing full growth is in some of our combat support,” he said. “But working with the Corps, they are leaning forward in how they can help fill some of those gaps – not necessarily permanently, but at the time of deployment. So I’ve been pretty happy. “It has caused us to relook at our organization and adjust to the environment, which we’ve done a good job at, aligning our support battalions with our operations battalions, which has helped us deal with some of the areas we did not grow in. That said, we certainly have plans in place, if we are ever able to realize any additional growth, to flesh out those areas where we have gaps now. We’re not counting on it, but will be able to take full advantage of it should the opportunity arise.” One such relook was the creation of a new at-sea component to work with Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) afloat. That does not mean MARSOC is returning to one of the original concepts of putting full MARSOC teams on ships as part of the Pacific pivot. “We addressed that in last year’s SOCOM-Corps war games. We determined it was best to allow SOCOM and MARSOC to provide assistance to general purpose forces, but also figure out how to tie together the MAGTFs [Marine Air-Ground Task Forces] and special purpose Corps units with SOF,” Clark said. “So we came up with the concept of the SOF Liaison Element – SOFLE – where we take an O5 [lieutenant colonel] and build a team behind him that represents the SOF community. They provide the capability for the local commanders to tap into the SOF network, whether in predeployment training or actual deployment. You have this small group on the ship with them that ties them into the SOF network and TSOC [Theater Special Operations Command]. So if there are exercises or crisis response, they can use the SOFLE to do that.”
Pave Low while an exchange pilot with the Air Force 20th Special Operations Squadron, Clark has spent the bulk of his career since 9/11 in special ops – first as current operations officer with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (K-Bar) in Afghanistan, then Joint Operations Center chief for the Combined Joint Force Special Operations Command in Qatar and, just prior to assuming command of MARSOC, as director of operations and then acting deputy director of SOCOM. He was the first MARSOC commander with operational, command, and multi-service SOF experience, something he said has served him well and also should be considered in the selection of future MARSOC leaders at all levels (his successor had not yet been named at press time). “In any organization, whether the Marine Corps or the SOF community, a lot of strong relationships start when you’re a captain and build as you advance in rank. Such relationships and understanding of the community do help you with each new command or level of responsibility in which you find yourself. As we develop the [MARSOC] career model – for which we’re looking at the [Army] Ranger model – you start in the Corps, then do a tour in MARSOC, then back to the Corps and so on,” Clark said.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Storm
A SOFLE deployed with the Corps’ West Coast MEU in spring 2014 and another to the East Coast MEU. “This will be proof-of-concept; we believe they will be valueadded to the MEUs as they go out. A SOFLE is a six-man team, headed by an O5. The first is from MARSOC, but could be from another SOF organization. We’re still sorting out which organization is the best to head up a SOFLE. The members do not have to be naval; you have a menu of options to tap into the entire SOF capability, with a USASOC individual or AFSOC or Navy SEAL providing specific expertise,” he explained. “There will be no standing MARSOC team on ships unless a specific mission requires it. That works out for us, because there may be something else required of that team, such as persistent engagement on the ground. That also relieves some of the pressure on the MEUs; every time you add something on the ship, something else has to come off.” MARSOC will be working closely with the Corps and SOCOM to develop the new at-sea liaison, especially as part of exercises. “There will be a lot of discovery and learning on the SOFLE concept. The SOFLE attached to the West Coast MEU recently did an exercise that worked out pretty well,” Clark added. “So now we’re looking at Alligator, Dawn Blitz, and other bigger exercises to see how to best integrate SOF and general purpose forces that take advantage of what SOF can provide, whether it is special reconnaissance, direct action, preparation of environment, etc. – and how do we write that into some of our doctrine out there.” A naval aviator who flew USMC CH-53E Super Stallions and V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft as well as the MH-53J
Members of 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion practice boarding and searching ships, May 21, 2013. Marines train for visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) at the highest level.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Steven Fox
“So you have an officer who not only understands special operations, but also understands his service and has relationships and experience in both, which also is important. And you have officers who can provide SOF expertise to the Corps and Corps expertise to MARSOC. I’m very proud of this organization and what they’ve done. There are a lot of talented people here with passion and perseverance, and each of them, in their own way, but also collectively, has made a difference.” As with other SOCOM special operators, MARSOC Marines receive a variety of advanced training beyond that of their comrades in the big Corps. That includes the MARSOC Advanced Linguist Course, lasting from nine to 12 months (depending on languages taught); the Special Operations Training Course, a three-week extension of standard warfighting and combat operational capabilities that includes culture and civil affairs, enhanced field medical training, and various communications and weapons packages; an Advanced Sniper Course that incorporates SOCOM standards for sniper uniformity across all four components; and special SOF training in capability development, force readiness and force employment projection, as well as unit collective training and leader development to prepare for joint/combined warfighting with both regular and other SOF units, all of which reflect where MARSOC is headed in the near-term. “On regionalization, we’ve put a lot of effort in leaning forward and how to support the TSOCs and our enable capability – expeditionary and naval, that our companies and teams bring to a TSOC – and helping the TSOCs understand
Marines with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command (MARSOC) freefall during a high altitude low opening (HALO) training exercise at an airfield in North Carolina, July 8, 2013. The Marines conducted the HALO jump to reinforce the skills employed to safely complete the exercise.
what they are actually getting,” Clark explained. “We’ve also focused on the littorals. A lot of the think tanks, especially the Naval Postgraduate School, have all identified the littorals as being an evolving problem area. But nobody in the SOF community has really focused on that. As an expeditionary-from-the-sea organization at our roots, it made sense to focus on that and how we could bring our capability to the TSOCs in the littorals – not exclusively, but increasingly. “We deployed our first company to Guam this year in support of SOCPAC [Special Operations Command-Pacific], which has highlighted the partnership we have built with NSW [Naval Special Warfare]. We’re also getting good support from the Corps there. We will have a persistent company on Guam, with teams deploying to various other parts of the Pacific to do partnership training and other ops for TSOC, as well as crisis response.” In 2014, in addition to PACOM (U.S. Pacific Command), MARSOC will provide a persistent company in support of AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command) and later in support of CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan).
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U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Michael Golich
marsoc “We’re doing an equal slice across the board. We’ve assigned one battalion to support SOCPAC, SOCAF [Special Operations Command-Africa], and SOCCENT [Special Operations Command-Central]. The teams and companies falling under that will be based on what we have to give,” Clark said. “We have a great relationship with SOCAF and are supporting them through staff augmentation, sending one of our O6s [colonel] there, and MARSOC teams. I think that is progressing very nicely and MARSOC certainly is value-added there. A good part of what we’re doing is training and partner nation capability-building.” They also will maintain a force presence in Afghanistan – currently comprising battalion-level command and control and company teams – although Clark declined to comment on MARSOC’s final role in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. With specific regard to the Department of Defense’s “Pacific pivot,” he said MARSOC is working on a number of approaches there. “One of the unique things about SOF is being regionally savvy and effective in terms of language, culture, and so on. So we have a battalion in each area that is focused on those, but we are not giving any particular AOR [area of responsibility] more Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command forces fast rope onto attention than another, unless there is an immediate the deck of USNS John Ericsson (T-AO 194) during a simulated Maritime need,” he said. Interception Operation with the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63), March 24, 2014. Cowpens and John Ericsson were “We can shift forces immediately, even if we don’t participating in Multi-Sail 2014, an annual exercise in the 7th Fleet area of have all the regional expertise, but we would mix responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. those that do with the surge capability that may not have that because they were focused on a different AOR before the shift. We’re focused on a particular AOR, but not limited there.” Clark also is proud of MARSOC’s continued focus on the health and welfare of its members and and we will be a special operations organization. Marines their families. “We beefed up our Preservation Force and Family effort are who we are, special ops is what we do. And that will this past year, putting an O6 in charge and launching not change. “MARSOC continues to mature and relationships continue related entities within the command under that to make it to grow, and I think we will figure out the right career one-stop shopping for the force and families, so they can go there for any issue they may have,” he said. “Health path for our officers and the right path for our enabling services, family readiness, Corps community service, capabilities. And I think the result will make MARSOC, the chaplains – everything related to mind-body-spirit – as Marine Corps, and SOCOM much better because everyone well as physical resiliency and the transition piece. So as will gain from that. The TSOCs will have a better underour Marines and sailors get ready to transition out of the standing of what MARSOC provides them – as we say, ‘we do windows.’ They are our customer and if they need us Corps or Navy, we provide assistance, helping them with to do something different, we will do our best to adjust to that transition.” that and provide it.” A final item on the agenda – that may or may not be resolved But as he prepares to leave MARSOC and the Marines, before MARSOC’s change of command – is a proposal the Clark concluded “the important things are the people, the commandant turned down once before: changing the special operations command’s name to Raiders. The Marine Corps mission, and the things that support that.” “It’s been a great team effort and collaboration across has long maintained that the 1st and 2nd Marine Raider Battalions were the “first U.S. special operations forces to a lot of different organizations that have helped MARSOC in the last eight years and will continue to do that. And I form and see combat in World War II.” think the next commander and sergeant major will find “That’s the tie-in [with MARSOC] – the Raiders were part MARSOC to be a very healthy organization – effective and of the Marine Corps. They just had a different mission and training requirements at the time, just like MARSOC in high demand. And I don’t think they will find another organization with such great people. It’s been a privilege today,” Clark said. “The commandant was a guest speaker and an honor to be part of that team the past few years. at the Raider reunion last August, which prompted my approaching him again. I presented a proposal and he is And if you’re going to transition out of something you’ve considering it. I think we’ve laid out our thoughts clearly, been doing a long time, I can’t think of a better place to but it is a decision that resides with him. Regardless of what transition from than MARSOC. It would be hard to match we’re called, there will be Marine in our name somewhere that anywhere else.”
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell
navspecwarcom The Human Element By scott r. gourley
Within the mandate to man, train, and equip the elements of Naval Special Warfare (NSW) forces, NSW planners have been implementing a range of dynamic changes focused on the human element of naval special operations. Examples of these changes span recruiting, training, and the holistic support provided to SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC), enablers, and their families. Recruiting Directorate The NSW Recruiting Directorate was established in December 2005 with a mission to identify high-potential candidates for NSW training programs from both civilian and in-service populations; increase NSW awareness among those candidates about careers available in NSW and how to prepare/train for them; and assist them in navigating the application process. The Year in Special Operations received a glimpse into some of the recent changes in outreach and recruitment efforts of the Navy SEAL and SWCC Scout Team during a recent discussion with Capt. Duncan Smith, head of NSW’s Recruiting Directorate in Coronado, Calif. “We’re not responsible for who gets through BUD/S [Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal training],” Smith began. “But certainly we feel a real ‘ownership’ in making sure that we provide high-quality candidates.” Placing some of the directorate’s recent efforts into a historical context, Smith pointed to the pressures applied across all of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in the 2006-2007 time frame to increase force size. The heightened challenge for all special operations forces (SOF) elements was in addressing those expanded force structure requirements without reducing force standards. “If you look at it in context, yes, we had never completely filled a class in our history,” he explained. “But in 2005, 2006, and 2007, when we were first working with the Quadrennial Defense Review’s direction to grow by 500 enlisted SEALs – a 15 percent across-the-SOF-force growth – the first year of
Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) students participate in Surf Passage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif, Jan. 21, 2014. Surf Passage is one of many physically demanding evolutions that are a part of the first phase of SEAL training. Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. special operations forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air, and land.
that plan included our ability to produce 136 who got their Tridents. Unfortunately, 135 left service in the same period. So we were only up by one new SEAL at the end of the first year of a five-year plan to grow by 500.” The 2005 scenario was reflected by a notional personnel triangle that attempted to balance a community desire “to stay in the shadows” against maintaining combat efficiency and still grow the force by 500 operators. “Our options were really to select two of those three triangle points,” Smith observed. “And for us, to remain in the shadows was something that was just not possible, given that we had only grown by one man when we tried the balanced triangle approach. “It was necessary for us to provide an optic into the pool of potential SEALs, showing not just BUD/S training, but what it is like to serve as a SEAL. We needed to market to young men who wanted to serve as Naval Special Warfare operators, not to young men who simply wanted to complete BUD/S training. They are two different things.” Smith said that the expanded recruiting efforts were supported by a cross-functional team that included: Rear Adm. Joseph Maguire, then commander, Naval Special Warfare Command; Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, then chief of naval personnel; and Rear Adm. Joseph Kilkenny, then commander of Navy Recruiting Command (NRC). Changes that emerged from that process included better education of the recruiting force, establishing recruiting “goals” for SEAL, SWCC, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), and diver specialties, and establishing a support network to help educate young NSW candidates. Elements of that network ranged from the assignment of an E-9 SEAL as a senior adviser to NRC and senior enlisted SEAL/SWCC representatives in many of the 26 Navy recruiting districts across the country to the installation of contracted NSW enlisted and commissioned retirees to serve as coaches and mentors in those districts. Another effort evolving about this time was the creation of a “BUD/S Prep” course at Great Lakes Naval Station. After completing eight to 10 weeks at Recruit Training Command (RTC), SEAL and SWCC candidates received an additional six- to eight-week opportunity to get solely focused on their
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U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Anastasia Puscian
navspecwarcom NSW training pipeline. In-fleet candidates also began to attend the training, facilitating the bonding between future NSW team members. As an example of other changes in that time frame, Smith pointed to the in-water testing of NSW candidates as “an early victory for the entire Navy Enterprise.” “At that time, Navy Recruiting was not authorized to put young men competing for a SEAL contract in the water to test them for the swim component,” he said. “It was considered to be too high-risk. In March 2005, 72 percent of the young men who were recruited to join the Navy to become SEALs failed the initial Physical Screening Test (PST) when they first arrived at boot camp. At the time, the test involved six pull-ups and unremarkable run and swim times. “We recognized that we had to have recruiters test civilian candidates pursuing SEAL contracts on a full physical screening test, which includes the 500-yard swim.” What was a 72 percent fail rate on the initial boot camp PST nine years ago has been reduced to a fail rate today of less than 10 percent. The new processes and procedures began to produce the desired results. For example, a representative FY 06 baseline included an NRC goal of 1,400 enlisted SEALs. Against that goal, 829 sailors were shipped to NSW, where 125 became BUD/S enlisted graduates: a “ship to BUD/S graduation” ratio of 7-to-1, or 15 percent. By contrast, in FY 10 NRC shipped 1,141 sailors against a goal of 1,140, with 225 of those graduating BUD/S: a 5-1 ratio or 19.7 percent. Moreover, in FY 13, NRC shipped 791 young sailors against a goal of 790, with 236 graduating BUD/S: a 3-1 ratio of 29.8 percent. “When we really started the processes in 2006, we were on the cusp,” Smith admitted. “I know at the time that Rear Adm. Maguire was getting a lot of questions about combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, two land-locked countries, and whether it was absolutely necessary to conduct around-the-clock maritime training in which candidates stay awake for a week and are immersed in cold water. And there was real pressure there, from what I could perceive at my level. But he stood his ground, saying that this was required to develop these sailors into warriors who would be successful on the battlefield, in any environment, under the most difficult conditions.” “So we were fortunate that we were able to alter our course soon enough and well enough to start to increase the throughput without compromising the standard and without changing some of those historic training wickets, hurdles, or obstacles that we have always taken part in,” he said. Along with the changes noted, in 2011 the directorate implemented other recruiting activities designed to reach ethnically diverse candidates. Increased language capabilities and cultural awareness are needed to better support NSW’s operational presence across the globe. The rate of enlisted Hispanic SEALs has more than doubled in the past two years as a result of these efforts. In addition, the directorate has even begun to enhance NSW awareness at local high schools in both the Southern California and Tidewater, Va., areas as well as with the Eagle Scouts across the country. Smith said that the early payoff has been good. “We went from four [BUD/S] classes a year back to five; and then to six. And we went from a traditional size of 120 up to classes as big as 190. When we started to lose some efficiency there, we tailored that back down. As a result of WARCOM’s
Naval Special Warfare candidates perform jumping jacks during a Navy Recruiting District San Diego weekly Navy Special Warfare Physical Screening Test, June 24, 2013. The Navy Recruiting Command conducts monthly boards throughout 26 districts to nominate the top candidates to fill Navy Special Warfare billets, which include SEAL, explosive ordnance disposal, special warfare boat operator, Navy diver, and naval air crewman.
commitment to recruiting and preparing future NSW operators, the schoolhouse has been full and we’ve been filling every single class repeatedly.” NSW Basic Training Command Those classes fall under NSW Basic Training Command (BTC), located at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, Calif. BTC includes nine different courses of instruction: Orientation; BUD/S; Junior Officer Training Course; Pre-SEAL Qualification Training ; SEAL Qualification Training (SQT); Basic Crewman Training; Pre-Crewman Qualification Training; Crewman Qualification Training (cqt); and Cold Weather Training. “The Basic Training Command is the ‘one-stop shopping’ location for the SEAL and SWCC schoolhouse,” explained Capt. (Select) Jay Hennessey, commanding officer of NSW Basic Training Command. “And if I was to summarize what we have been doing over the past two years, it would be refining how we do business.” Describing the “nature of NSW training,” Hennessey outlined both SEAL and SWCC pipelines, beginning with boot camp, followed by the eight-week NSW Prep course noted by Smith above. “They come here for three weeks of orientation and then they start their respective pipelines,” he said, stating that the SEAL pipeline runs approximately 63 weeks while the SWCC pipeline is approximately 27 weeks. “Inevitably, some students do well in the pipeline while others stumble,” he explained. “And when they stumble, they go through what we call a Student Performance Review Board. Those names that the board recommends dropping are looked at by the leadership here. And most of those are pretty easy. You look at the graphs and see by both performance and character indicators that they really didn’t belong here. “But some come up here and you’ve got a tougher decision,” he continued. “You’ve got this 18- to 23-year-old kid who has
navspecwarcom Candidates compete in the swimming portion of the Physical Screening Test (PST) to qualify for a Naval Special Warfare or Naval Special Operations contract at the Bartlett Recreation Center, Tenn., Feb. 11, 2014. The PST consists of a 500-yard swim, pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 1.5-mile run. The top performers are selected in a draft and nominated to fill NSW/NSO billets.
Force and Family While emphasis on recruitment and training is critical, the broader community focus continues to be on life in NSW after BUD/S and SWCC CQT. That long-term holistic emphasis on life after initial training is epitomized by the embrace of the tenets supporting SOF’s Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF). NSW’s implementation and support of POTFF goes far beyond rhetoric. Rather, it is a key aspect of life within the community. According to Steve Gilmore, Family Support director and lead for the POTFF program at Naval Special Warfare Command, NSW may be a little further ahead with POTFF implementation than some other USSOCOM components. However, he quickly added that the different communities are all working together to share best practices and communicate both positive and negative lessons learned. “For NSW, our leadership saw some trends several years ago, when we were in the thick of Iraq and Afghanistan,” he recalled. “They saw that it was going to be a long war with lots of kinetic ops. At the same time, we were starting to see some troubling trends in divorce rates, suicides, and safety incidents. And that was just hard metrics that we were able to track. “The boss told us to identify, assess, and address the things that were out of whack and then help heal and strengthen,” he related. “He wanted us to be proactive and not react to things that have already happened. And he included
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell
done so much to get this far. So what do you do with that guy? Inevitably, what we were dropping them for are things that I view as ‘trainable.’” He elaborated, “For years, the rule was ‘Leadership by Excel Spreadsheet.’ If you had a particular problem, you looked in a column and the student got rolled back. But if he already had a roll, then he got dropped. But there was something about that process that stuck out as not being right. “What jumped out at our staff was that if you were a good athlete and could pick up land navigation then you were graduating – even though you may not have all of the NSW Ethos attributes,” he said. “So we called that a ‘selection error’ and said we needed to fix it.” Along with selection error, Hennessey said that another part of the problem involved what he dubbed “blind spots,” or student performance data that did not always follow a student between different training phases. “Then it got fun,” he continued. “We would say to a SEAL or SWCC instructor, ‘Think about the best three guys in your last platoon.’ Then we’d ask them what their 4-mile run times were. They had no idea. Then we asked their obstacle course times. Again, they had no idea. Well, that’s the only sort of thing we had been measuring in training.” The community also worked with an outside contractor, Horizon Performance, to develop a supporting “peer-evaluation” scheme optimized for NSW. As a result of this process, Hennessey said that Basic Training Command is currently “redoing the instruction program, which is still in draft. And we are going to execute what we discovered. All of these things we had been measuring, that had accounted for 100 percent of making it through training, will now get you halfway there. The other half of the way comes from the other attributes and will be based on cadre assessment of the individual.” The cadre assessment process will rely in large part on “baseball card” data that will now follow an individual through all phases of NSW training. “Up until three classes ago, every BUD/S ‘Hell Week’ log was a standard Navy issue green logbook,” Hennessey acknowledged. “We would write things like start times and water temps and in the back of it, we would cut out pieces of paper with water tables that we would tape into the logbook. We looked at it and said, ‘It’s 2014. Are we really cutting things out and taping them in?’ But that’s where we were.”
Recent changes are replacing the green logs with tablet computers. And individual performance data is now automatically populated to those tablets and resulting in baseball cards through the introduction of technologies such as digital “chip timers” like those used in triathlons. Hennessey admitted that the dynamic process is still evolving, explaining, “This started a year ago with Excel spreadsheets and paper. We’re onto tablets and netbooks now. So it’s an improving process. But I’ll be honest with you: It briefs better than it is being executed right now. And that’s OK, because as we brief it and continue to push out the vision, it gets clearer in everyone’s mind as to where we’re going with this.” Summarizing implementation progress to date, he said, “We started with Class 297 and Class 300 is going to graduate SQT in April , but with each class the process is going to be tweaked a little bit more. Class 302 is the first class that has been all electronic. We have actual ‘baseball cards’ on all of them. “But the magic isn’t the computers,” he said. “The magic is in providing the feedback to the student. That’s what they crave. They want to know where they are and how they are doing.” Ultimately the goal, he explained, is that each graduate has received feedback from his peers and instructors seven times throughout the pipeline, telling that trainee how he can be a better teammate.
Leaders at the NSW “Schoolhouse,” Basic Training Command are continuously looking for ways to select and qualify the right candidates. Mentoring, clearly defining expectations, and discussing ethics and the characteristics – beyond physical performance – that make for strong and successful teammates are part of the orientation SEAL and SWCC candidates receive when they arrive for training in Coronado, Calif. Trust involves more than cash register honesty. Which students are dependable, trustworthy? Which show up on time with the right gear? Which are team players and which ones have motives rooted in self? The matrix helps illustrate the perspective instructors have and students should develop in assessing who will rise above and make the cut.
everybody in NSW: SEALs, SWCCs, and their enablers, who unfortunately were seeing some of the same higher trends and incidents. In part, that was because the enablers hadn’t really been through the same SOF training processes.” Created in cooperation with organizations like the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine (BUMED), the POTFF concept has four main pillars that work together: Psychological/Behavioral; Spiritual; Physical/Tactical Athlete; and Family Support. In addressing the first two pillars, for example, Gilmore said the POTFF process began by identifying the psychologists, chaplains, family support personnel, and other professionals who would be needed and then spreading them out through the force. He described the Physical/Tactical Athlete pillar as “both human performance program and sports medicine,” he said. “Obviously, there is a lot of physicality in this type of work. But this is not just ‘gym rats’ trying to pump as much iron as possible. Rather it is that there are special kinds of workouts.
There are different kinds of rehabilitation programs. And there are special diets and sleep patterns that you need to have to perform well on the battlefield and after you come back. “Family is 50 percent of the force,” Gilmore continued. “And when that message comes from the boss, it resonates. So an example of how we implemented that message came when BUMED said that they would fund a program to give preand post-deployment retreats for every deploying team and educational workshops with subject-matter experts who come in and talk about resilience, marriage communication, grief, stress, child care, and things like that. And that was huge.” The family support process also worked to incorporate existing Department of Defense programs like Military Family Life Counselors (MFLCs). “USSOCOM has taken part of it [MFLC], and assigned security clearances so that those people can assist without being constrained by what the guys and their families say. “MFLCs are a little bit different from the psychologists and the chaplains in that the program is designed so that they don’t keep any records,” Gilmore continued. “If somebody wants to talk to a MFLC, they go to Starbucks or they go to a picnic bench somewhere or an office off base. And they just talk. Mostly the MFLCs just listen. And sometimes they might suggest a referral to another professional. “Some people may not like the program because it’s not clinically based or they feel that reporting is critical to continuity of care. But my opinion is that if a guy goes to a MFLC because he’s afraid of going to a psychologist or doesn’t want to talk to a chaplain, at least he’s seeing someone. So you have a spectrum of counseling and care and listening. And
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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marc Rockwell-Pate
A Navy SEAL observes a moment of silence after placing a wreath on fallen Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor’s tombstone during the 2013 Wreaths Across America event at the Point Loma National Cemetery, Calif., Dec. 2, 2013. Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during combat on Sept. 29, 2006, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted NAVSPECWARCOM to redouble its efforts to support operators and their families over the long term.
as long as they are all integrated and sharing information, then that’s a good thing. And they still have a duty to warn about threats of suicide or child abuse – things that anyone would be legally required by law to report,” he said. Gilmore emphasized that personal responsibility, command leadership, and the NSW Ethos still provide overarching behavioral guidance for all active-duty members. “There’s not a point where you inject it,” he said. “There’s not a point where it doesn’t matter. It’s just always there. So I want to make it clear that nothing about POTFF takes away from the fact that our NSW warriors are responsible for themselves. We want to help them be responsible for themselves. And if they fall, we have ways to help them get back up. But at the end of the day, it is personal responsibility, command leadership, and NSW Ethos overarching the whole thing.” Along with the contributions of professionals, representative POTFF tools include the “resilience assessment,” an online anonymous survey that individuals can elect to take. “It’s about 100 questions and takes less than an hour,” Gilmore explained. “And it gives both active-duty members
and spouses instantaneous feedback as they fill it out, telling them about their coping skills, their resilience, and/ or where they may need assistance. It’s a very professional psychological tool built by NSW and BUMED psychologists, using proven methods that come together. It provides links, resources, reading materials, and things that support the development of coping skills.” But because the resilience assessment is anonymous, it can also be used in the aggregate to collect inputs on a specific unit, for example, and to see where they are having unique challenges or might need special resources. “As an example, if we know that SEAL Team Five was really having challenges with couples’ communications and SEAL Team Four might need more grief counseling because of a death it had on the battlefield, we can use that information to build those agendas with the counselors and tailor them for each team,” Gilmore said. Turning to the example of POTFF retreat activities, he continued, “Four to six weeks before a team deploys, the active-duty member, their spouse, and children attend a retreat with an agenda of great speakers. We’ve had Condoleezza Rice, [USMC] Gen. [Peter] Pace, Adm. [Eric T.] Olson, Bob Delaney, Dr. Daniel Amen, and other renowned resilience specialists come and speak. It’s a busy time before deployment and personal time is precious. The retreat is fun enough that people want to go, then while they are there, they absorb skills toward sustainment. The pre-deployment retreats tend to be a little bit more preparation, while the post-deployment retreats tend to be a little more celebration and reintegration.” A nother POTFF element, dubbed Third Location Decompression, features a brief stop between theater kinetic operations and the return home. “We do it without adding a lot of time to the deployment or separation,” Gilmore said. “But it really provides a chance to decompress. We send a psychologist, a chaplain, and a command representative to Germany or Spain or possibly somewhere in CONUS [continental United States] before they return home. It allows the team members to get some down time with each other, to get into a regular sleep pattern, and to shift their mindset from the battlefield to thinking about reintegrating with their families, friends, and communities. “We had 100 percent resistance before we instituted it but 100 percent acceptance after we did it,” he added. Other resilience building resources range from the childcentered Project FOCUS (Families Overcoming Under Stress) to the Care Coalition, a USSOCOM organization designed to take care of SOF wounded for life. Describing close cooperation between USSOCOM and the NSW community, Gilmore said that the Care Coalition “can facilitate med boards or serve as nurse case managers. They will see guys who come from a hospital in Germany back to the United States and walk them through the processes at Walter Reed or Bethesda, back here to Balboa [Naval Medical Center San Diego] and then check up on them. Their average caseload is about 200; and they track them all to varying degrees depending on the specific issues and needs of the service member. “The concept is that SOF is your advocate for life,” he summarized. “Whether you stay on active duty or retire, we will advocate for you and get you the best care possible, while also helping you through the minefield of medical paperwork.”
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Richard M. Holcomb, SES2 Deputy to the Commanding General U.S. Army Special Operations Command By John D. Gresham
John D. Gresham: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. You’re the first of your kind here, and it’s interesting to ask the question of what brought you on the path to this office?
Richard M. Holcomb: I was born in Chicago and raised in the south suburbs of the city in what I describe as a rough-and-tumble, blue-collar neighborhood. It’s there where I learned a lot of the values that I carry today. Along
the way I learned the value of hard work, perseverance, natural sense of optimism, tolerance for other folks, but yet fighting for those things that I believed in and defending myself when I had to. I went to high school at
Richard M. Holcomb became the first deputy to the commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), in October 2012. In this position, he integrates diverse resource and research programs – such as science and technology, force development, combat development, resourcing, contracting and acquisition, and military construction – with a single vision of future Army Special Operations Force requirements, capabilities, and readiness. Holcomb was commissioned as an infantry officer through the Western Illinois University Army ROTC program in 1978. During his first 16 years of service, he served in staff and command positions with the 25th Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne Division, 2nd Infantry Division, and 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He transitioned to Army Comptrollership in 1994 and served as the comptroller for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the resource manager for Fort Campbell, Ky., and the resource manager for XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. His final active-duty assignment was in the Pentagon as the chief of current operations, Army Budget Office, Directorate of Operations and Support. He retired from the Army in November 2003 after 25½ years of service. He began his federal service career as the deputy director of resource management, Department of Energy, Office of Security, from November 2003 to September 2004. He then served as the chief financial officer, American Battle Monuments Commission, from September 2004 to December 2005. Holcomb was appointed to the Senior Executive Service (SES) in December 2005 and assigned as the deputy chief financial officer for the U.S. Treasury Department, where he served until January 2008. He assumed duties as the deputy chief of staff, G-8, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), the Army’s largest command, until October 2012.
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U.S. Army photo
Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), presents the Meritorious Civilian Service Medal to Richard M. Holcomb, a member of the Senior Executive Service, during a General Officer/Senior Executive Service member farewell ceremony, Jan. 25, 2013, in the General George C. Marshall Hall at Fort Bragg, N.C. Holcomb, who had served as the command’s deputy chief of staff, G8 (comptroller), is deputy to the commanding general at U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.
Bloom Township High School in Chicago Heights, Ill., and then to Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill. I was a political science major in college, and graduated without a clear direction as to what I wanted to do. I joined the Army as a means to help me mature and maybe give me some self-direction. And that “three to four years” I originally thought I’d dedicate toward that purpose turned out to be 25 years, mostly as an infantryman, but also as a comptroller. I loved what I did. It wasn’t long after I joined the Army when I realized that leadership, being with soldiers, being part of the Army profession was what I wanted to do. I retired from the Army in 2003, and then worked in a succession of federal jobs. These included the Department of Energy and the American Battle Monuments Commission. I then entered the Senior Executive Service at the Department of Treasury. I worked in those jobs from 2003 to 2008, then re-entered the
Army with Army Forces Command in 2008 and was the resource manager for FORSCOM from 2008 until October of 2012, when I arrived here. What made you come to Fort Bragg? What about this job at USASOC made you want to come here? Over the years I grew to deeply respect and admire the work that special operations performed for the country and, really, the world. When I was approached about this job, the fact that this is a new position excited me as well. Lt. Gen. [Charles T.] Cleveland was the first senior USASOC leader I met. I had a long discussion with him, walked around the headquarters, met some folks, and it just seemed to be the right fit. Why was this position created? I mean, over and above you personally, what caused the administration to dig deep into their budget and create an SES position in this corner office?
There are four main purposes for this job. The first reason is we have a number of different resources that flow into and out of the USASOC Headquarters. These include our SOCOM Title 10 funds, and the Army also provides us funding. In addition, we get military construction, science and technology funds, and general acquisition dollars. Now, all the USASOC subject-matter experts are doing great jobs managing their lanes, but I believe there was a view that if we could integrate them and make them more synergistic, that this position I now occupy could help do that. The second reason is it strengthened relations between ourselves, SOCOM, the Army, and our external “stakeholders” outside of the Department of Defense [DoD]. The third reason is simply to share the workload. Prior to my arrival we only had two flag officers within the USASOC Headquarters. This is almost
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a 30,000-person command. That is a lot of span of control for just two general officers, so this position was created to help share that load. The last reason is to create some continuity with the uniformed members of our command group moving through on such a regular basis. There was a vision that a civilian senior leader could help create some continuity, and ease the turbulence that sometimes happens when military folks move in and out of the headquarters. Gen. [John F.] Mulholland created the vision and this position, and Gen. Cleveland was the one who hired me and selected me to be here. I owe them both a lot.
U.S. Army photo
What is your mission statement? Beyond providing continuity between the administrations of senior leadership, what other things are you supposed to do as part of your dayto-day job description? I work with the headquarters staff on those resource functions that I mentioned earlier – the comptroller, our G-8 and G-4, contracting office, and
our engineers. I have a direct relationship with all those staff members on a day-to-day basis to make sure that we’re allocating and distributing our resources properly in an integrated fashion. There are other areas that I have a responsibility for outside of resources. The first is to lead people. USASOC is working very hard on improving the professional development of our civilian employees, making sure they have a structured and well-planned professional development path. As a result, I do some mentoring with folks in the headquarters, both formal and informal, and I try to do that often. I’m also responsible for helping lead change within the command. Any highperformance organization, even if they are doing excellent work, should always be looking to move to the next level. So, we’re doing some things in that regard here within the command to make our operating force and generating force more effective and efficient. And, the final area that I try to work hard on is to make sure that we’re meeting our mission statement
An Army Special Forces weapons sergeant, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), informs a Marine on the current situation while providing security during a tactical recovery of air crew and personnel exercise, March 15, 2014. The exercise inserted Marines and Green Berets into an area by helicopter to locate and evacuate two simulated downed pilots.
for today, part of which is to win the current fight. I can’t think of anything more important than making sure our soldiers and operators are properly trained and equipped for the fight that we have – not just in Afghanistan but elsewhere. The people are the greatest aspect of this job. Their talent, dedication, and commitment are inspiring, but also humbling. Every day you interact with folks who have a passion for their profession. It makes me work harder because I want to make sure that I’m pulling my end of the rope properly. The people are the very best part of this job. I know they’re tremendously talented and experienced, but they’re also very understated in their approach
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There are many sobering days. My office looks out on the USASOC Memorial Plaza, and whenever we have a casualty, a fallen soldier, our flag flies at half-mast. That’s a very sobering reminder to me of the danger that our soldiers face every day, and my obligation to make sure that their legacy is supported by providing those who follow in their footsteps the best support and the best preparation that we possibly can. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the initiatives you’re presently working on? Some of the hard programs that you’ve had a chance to get your teeth into and that you’re starting to get some traction with?
Members assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) prepare to enter a room in order to conduct room-clearing tactics during Exercise Fused Response 2014 in Belize City, Belize, March 13, 2014. The U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise, executed by Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), is designed to improve SOCSOUTH’s capability to respond effectively to time-sensitive contingencies as well as enhance interoperability, tactics, and training techniques between U.S. SOF and the Belize Defense Forces.
– very humble. It’s just a great organization, filled with great people.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Roman Madrid
Your résumé describes your background in program management, technology insertion, procurement, contracting, and a real emphasis in quality and standards, sustainment, and even raising those metrics. Does your bringing this expertise to the command help relieve the professional Army officers and other civilians here of having to sweat those things? Or are you trying to raise the bar on everybody and float them up with you? I definitely think it’s the latter. I tell commanders quite frequently that their resources in terms of money and equipment are just as important as their other resources. And they should become as familiar with money and equipment as they do with their training, how they manage people and their weapons. Money and equipment are just another set of tools to enable the mission. It does not relieve them of their responsibilities in good stewardship, however, and I am here to help them reach toward that objective – to advise and assist them and give them a
sounding board and another perspective on how to best do that. From the first day I arrived here, I worked very hard at earning their trust and confidence in me. I’ve never felt more welcomed and well received than I have been here. And, I think over the last 18 months or so, I have earned commanders’ trust, confidence, and faith. I know that all of them believe they can seek my advice and counsel. There’s a good rapport and a good professional as well as personal relationship between myself and the commanders. There are also fun aspects to this job. I really enjoy observing training and interacting with all the people, and attending award ceremonies, graduations, and promotions. The best way to describe this job is, just immensely fulfilling. The degree of satisfaction and enjoyment that I get from the job is really exceptional. What about the bad days when casualties come in, when hardware’s been destroyed, when there are problems and you’re going to be involved in trying to fix those problems down range? What are the hard days like for you? Have you ever had to work in that kind of a dynamic before?
First, we’re preparing USASOC for the future, and I’m working hard on that. We just submitted our resource requirements for the future f iscal years 2016 through 2020. So now that we’ve prepared that internally, my job is to go out and work with SOCOM, the Army, and DoD to make sure that we properly defend and justify our future resource requirements. We’re working internally on our future with ARSOF 2022. We’ve got six priorities for the command between now and 2022, and my role in that is to establish a governance process so that I can look at all six of those priorities on a routine basis and report out to Gen. Cleveland every quarter on the status of our priorities. Among the six priorities is “Investing in Human Capital.” That’s the one that I’m most excited about. One of the SOF truths is that “people are more important than hardware.” There are about 20 initiatives within that priority that we’re undertaking, either right now or in the future, all of which are designed to help recruit, assess, select, and educate our workforce and soldiers, as well as taking care of our families. A big part of investing in our human capital is the SOCOM program Preservation of the Force and Families. One of the most important requirements and one of the greatest strengths of our soldiers in this command is that they have a deep understanding of their specific professions and their technical roles and responsibilities. But when I talk to special operations soldiers, they also have an understanding of the strategic value that they bring to their units and to special operations and in our
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mission. Professional development and education, along with advanced civil education, is important to enhance and deepen the understanding of how our work affects cultures and economics in the world that surrounds us. Anything that we can do to reach toward that objective, that deeper understanding of national strategies and the world in general, helps us do our job better. ARSOF 2022 is the roadmap for USASOC in the decade ahead and is filled with concepts and ideas. What inputs were you personally involved in making to ARSOF 2022? A l most right after I arrived, I started to participate in the planning sessions with Gen. Cleveland and our supporting unit commanders on the content of ARSOF 2022 and the six priorities that we’re undertaking. What really excites me about ARSOF 2022 is the vision statement, especially the part that talks about providing the nation with the world’s premier special operations unit. If you just stop there, that is a great vision and should compel us every day to work as hard as we can.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Travis Jones
While USASOC and the rest of SOCOM have been enhanced and resourced in the years since 9/11, the cu r rent and projected DoD budgets mean this community is going to experience some austerity. How with your background are you going to help these people around you, the ones wearing the uniforms, squeeze every farthing’s worth out of a budget dollar? What are some of the things that you can do or recommend that can help them get better value from the dollars that are being invested? When I talk to commanders about being more efficient and saving money, I don’t put it to them in those specific terms. What I talk to them about is increasing your buying power, so that you can strengthen your readiness. For every dollar we save we can reinvest that dollar into something that makes our soldiers and our units more prepared and more ready. When you put savings in that context, I think it resonates more with commanders than just saving money for the purpose of just saving money.
U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers perform a mission brief to local militia role players before conducting a joint training exercise in Louisiana, March 14, 2014. One of Special Forces’ missions is to train various indigenous forces in a variety of tactics, including subversion, sabotage, intelligence collection, and unconventional assisted recovery, which can be employed against enemy threats.
What is the inherent value of USASOC and the rest of SOCOM to the nation right now in 2014? I don’t think that SOF has ever been any more relevant to the nation, important to the nation, than it is today. It’s a key partner in the joint and interagency efforts to win the current fight, as well as support our national security strategy in the future. We are not only a key component to win the nation’s wars, but we’re also the key partner in preserving the peace and strengthening our allies’ and our partners’ capabilities to strengthen their homelands. That’s a big part of the value we bring to the table. Did you ever see yourself in this job or this place? Is this one of those unexpected, serendipitous turns that life has thrown at you that you didn’t expect? It truly is. If you’d asked me two years ago if I were going to be sitting here today, I would say absolutely not. I could never have envisioned it. But, having said that, I couldn’t be happier. It’s a great command with great people and a wonderful mission. Is there something that you think about in your spare moments that you say, “I want to make this thing happen?”
I think that making this off ice a valued member of the USASOC command structure is my first priority. Being that this is a new office, and a new position, establishing that credibility, trust, and confidence is one of my legacies. The second is making ARSOF 2022, and all the things that we have lined up in the next 10 to 12 years and beyond is really what motivates me. And, maybe the third big thing is just living in the moment and enjoying all the blessings that I have in this job. It’s really great. Last question, sir. You know, at some point someone is going to walk in here, close the door, and “read you in” on something extraordinary. And they’re going to say, “We need your help, you can’t tell anybody about this, and if this works it’s going to be front-page news around the world.” What’s it like to know that somewhere out there that’s going to happen and you’re part of that team? To be a part of that is exciting. It’s inspiring, but it’s also humbling, because I’m not going to be out there doing it. I’m part of the team that helped enable those brave young men and women to actually do it. It’s a mixture of emotions, but overall it’s the pride that I’m part of something bigger than myself, and very important to our country.
USASOC AT 25 U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire a 120 mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency.
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk
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USASOC AT 25 The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), for those unaware of its composition, is an impressive organization, the largest component command of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). USASOC makes up around 50 percent of the total SOCOM manpower, and contains the most diverse group of units and capabilities within the U.S. special warfare community. This largest of SOCOM commands has commitments across the globe as it commemorates its 25th year of active service to the nation in 2014. Continuing to command USASOC into 2014 was legendary Green Beret Lt. Gen. Charles T. “Charlie” Cleveland, USA (see interview, p. 10), supported by USASOC’s senior enlisted adviser Command Sgt. Maj. (CSM) George A. Bequer. Finally, Richard M. Holcomb (see interview, p. 54), a Senior Executive Service (SES) and retired career Army officer, began his second year as the civilian deputy to the commander. This solid command team, backed by one of the most professional staffs in all of the American SOF community, helped lead USASOC through a difficult and uncertain year that included the specter of sequestration, and into what is hoped will be a future with fewer deployments but more fiscal certainty. In this 25th anniversary year, we were extremely fortunate to be allowed to interview most of the subordinate unit commanders of USASOC, and we have let them speak for themselves in the regrettably small space that we can devote to them about the state of their commands today.
U.S. Army photo by Dave Chace
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS) In 2013, Brig. Gen. David G. Fox, USA, took command at the JFKSWCS, having previously served as the deputy commander just prior. While part of the 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) just after 9/11, Fox operated behind enemy lines during the “49 Days” that brought down the Taliban regime in 2001. As part of our special coverage of USASOC at 25, we asked Fox about the state of JFKSWCS today. “The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, the Army’s Special Operations Center of Excellence, is daily carrying out its mission to select, train, and educate some of the Army’s most elite forces in Special Forces [SF], Civil Affairs [CA], and Psychological Operations [PSYOP],” said Fox. “As the proponent for these three regiments, SWCS remains the center of gravity for ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces], developing professional, culturally attuned soldiers. We are constantly assessing our programs of instruction, updating them through close scrutiny of the lessons learned over the past decade-plus of war, and testing them in comprehensive culmination exercises like Robin Sage. “Like all military units, SWCS is facing a period of uncertainty in the fiscal and strategic environment,” Fox said. “We must achieve a leaner, more efficient and capable force as we continue to look for ways to maximize our ability to train. Recognizing that the cost of an unprepared force would fall on the shoulders of those who are asked to deploy and respond to the next crisis, we will not compromise our training standards. Our staff, like the force we produce, is flexible and agile. As in the past, we will continue to work smarter and to innovate to ensure that our soldiers have the best training possible.” In common with all other organizations within USASOC, JFKSWCS is responding to the needs of ARSOF as laid out within ARSOF 2022 in the training of SF, CA, and PSYOP soldiers.
A Civil Affairs instructor assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), speaks with Civil Affairs Qualification Course students during the course’s culmination exercise, Camp Mackall, N.C., Sept. 19, 2013. The exercise brought students into a field environment for approximately two weeks to test their ability to foster cooperation between various organizations and populations within the fictional, conflict-ridden country of Pineland.
“As noted in ARSOF 2022, the ability for Civil Affairs soldiers to apply functional specialty skills that are normally the responsibility of the civil government has become more critical,” he said. “The majority of these functional specialists are resident in USAR CA force structure. These soldiers must be identified, their civil expertise and capabilities must be harnessed and employed across the globe throughout the range of military operations to build partner-nation capacity and influence stability across regions. We must invest in this Army capability and make it attractive to these soldiers and their employers to support planned and immediate requirements globally. We must attract the right experts and work through the policy changes required to apply their unique expertise and knowledge to support partner nations in increasing their capability/capacity to conduct civil administration while working with indigenous institutions and the private sector for economic development. We also must be prepared to provide support to transitional military authorities during times of disaster or to transition following war. “Where we need improvement is, we recently lost the stand-alone advanced skills necessary to produce the PSYOP soldier required to support ARSOF 2022. We provide our soldiers a basic level of their skills, then send them to the operational unit, and never provide them updated training on what it is to be a PSYOP soldier or how to execute our tradecraft. Many documents have identified this gap. Additionally, the regiment is a force of haves and have nots. The AC [Active Component] is at 68 percent strength, with a dwell rate of 1:1. The RC [Reserve Component] is conducting missions by cannibalizing their equipment to be able to deploy with a full set. Also, the RC receives four weeks of training vice the AC 44 weeks. “We foresaw the increasing need to expand our Special Warfare understanding and capability, and have established graduate-level Special Warfare Operations Design and
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U.S. Army Special Forces Command (SFC) “As a regiment and command, we are prepared to assume any mission or engage emerging threats presented to us,” said Brig. Gen. Darsie Rogers, who spent 2013 as the deputy USASOC commander prior to being named commander of SFC and the SF Regiment. “The Special Forces are a force unlike any other in our military; how we train, organize, equip, resource, and ready our force has been tested, modified, and validated time and again through 12 years of sustained combat operations and increased operations through the Global SOF Network. We persistently re-evaluate how we train and prepare this force in order to ensure Special Forces soldiers are not only trained to address the current threat, but also adaptable, knowledgeable, and capable of meeting future challenges.” Those challenges continue, Rogers acknowledged, but added that SFC continues to adapt in overcoming them.
“We have addressed the need for growth and change – not in numbers but in capabilities – through a structured reorganization of the 4th Battalion at each group,” Rogers said. “The 4th Battalion redesign was conceived in response to the changing operational environment, and to meet the ARSOF 2022 priority to ‘Invest in Human Capital.’ The 4th Battalion transformation increases the capability and versatility the Special Forces Regiment provides our nation.” He noted, though, that the traditional structure of the Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA), will remain the same. “It has always been the center of gravity for the global Special Warfare mission set, and will continue to endure through the ARSOF 2022 transformation. The ODA structure has survived the test of time and numerous conflicts throughout the world due to the flexibility and comprehensive special skill sets that are resident in each ODA. These include: operations, intelligence, weapons and target engagement, communications, medical, engineering expertise, and regional expertise specific to each SFG, based on their regional alignment within the Global SOF Network. These core skills remain the foundation of the SF ODA. As we look forward, the ODA will remain the primary element required to support the vision for ARSOF 2022.” In addition to growing the command and improving the training and manning side of the equation, major advances
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Sara Wakai
Special Forces Network Development programs to increase Special Forces contribution to regional campaign planning efforts, and host nation capabilities. Additionally, we have expanded the Advanced Special Operations curriculum to include tasks designed to increase the overall capability and effectiveness of our operators across the entire spectrum of conflict, and are institutionalizing intelligent training programs that leverage our interagency partners,” Fox said.
Photo by Sgt. Gabrielle Phillip, 4th Military Information Support Group (Airborne)
LEFT: A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier reacts to contact in Mya Rasul Baba village, Sarobi District, Kabul province, Afghanistan, Dec. 8, 2013. CENTER: A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier assigned to B Company, 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne), jumps from a C-130H Hercules airplane into the Atlantic Ocean during an airborne water jump in Key West, Fla., Dec. 7, 2013. RIGHT: Four officers from the nation of Kazakhstan visited the 4th Military Information Support Group (Airborne) to conduct a military-to-military exchange focusing on psychological operations. The weeklong exchange helped to boost relations between the two nations and give the visiting officers insight into the world of information operations and influence.
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Rashene Mincy
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in equipping the Special Forces soldier have been made in recent years. “In the past decade, industry has supported Special Forces soldiers with some amazing technological advances,” Rogers said. “This support has helped enable the SF soldier to outperform anyone that we have encountered on the battlefield, bearing in mind that the first ‘SOF Truth’ is ‘Humans are more important than hardware.’ Our communications have advanced [in] form, fit, and function while increasing capabilities. Software-defined radios are now more capable of data and voice transmission than earlier predecessors. The Special Forces will see a reduction in the constant cycle of replacements of C4I [command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence] equipment as a direct link to being able to upgrade capabilities with software updates. Industry, with the help of SOF subject matter experts, has focused on lightening the load of ammunition carried by the soldier while increasing the lethality and accuracy of our soldiers through emerging technologies – such as polymercased ammunition and improved bullet co-efficiencies. SOF body armor and protective gear such as our uniforms, ballistic plates, and helmets has become lighter by approximately 25 percent while providing increased ballistic protection. We are on the verge of seeing new fabric breakthroughs that will add more capability with a lightened load. “We make the effort to utilize modernization through sustainment; as new technologies emerge in current programs of record, we begin to field those items after proper testing to replace worn equipment and gear, thus making the most of our equipment while remaining fiscally prudent. Our focus remains providing the best support to the soldier.” Rapid change and growth in meeting extensive commitments across the globe, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been hallmarks of the past decade, and Rogers acknowledged the probability that new and unexpected challenges lie on the horizon.
“The rate of change across USASOC since my arrival has been significant. I applaud our commanders for their agility and vision as we shape our force to face the uncertainty ahead and offer solutions to the nation’s most difficult and sensitive problems,” he said, but emphasized his pride in Special Forces’ accomplishments. “Of course this is a dream job – to lead our Army’s Special Forces. Every day, thousands of our soldiers are deployed around the globe in support of our nation’s ambassadors and combatant commands. I couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments or more honored to be their commander.” 75th Ranger Regiment Col. Christopher Vanek, USA, has been a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment throughout his career and across a number of assignments. In 2013, Vanek took command of the 75th. He emphasized what has endured within the regiment, but also what has changed. “The 75th Ranger Regiment represents the best in our nation,” he said. “It is composed of five-time volunteers of the highest caliber and degree of selfless service. The regiment continues to be the standard bearer for our nation’s Army and is held to the highest standards of performance and discipline. The regiment has participated in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan continuously for more than 12 years, executing the most complex and dangerous operations in support of our national objectives and interests. It has not come without a significant cost. To date, 64 Rangers have made the ultimate sacrifice and the regiment has sustained 672 wounded in action personnel since 2001. But we are also a force in transition. As the conflict in Afghanistan draws to a close, the regiment remains at the highest state of readiness, prepared to answer our nation’s call.” Vanek confirmed that the 75th has been in continuous action in Afghanistan since the beginning of Operation
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USASOC AT 25 specific mission and then redeploying when the mission was completed. You could say the regiment was expeditionarylike. Missions like Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada and Operation Just Cause in Panama are examples of the types of missions the modern Rangers were known for. Afghanistan and Iraq changed all of that. Now we are known as a special operations force that can operate in sustained combat indefinitely for years. I firmly believe that the regiment’s participation in continuous combat operations in Iraq from 2003-2010 turned the tide against the insurgency, as the terrorist networks simply could not sustain themselves under the continuous pressure applied by U.S. SOF and a counterinsurgency campaign. Maybe more important, we’ve developed our methods of operation to support conventional forces on the battlefield within their battlespace, so we are truly an enabling mechanism to allow them to execute their lines of operation.” Army Special Operations Aviation Command (ARSOAC)
U.S. Department of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade, U.S. Army
U.S. Army Rangers with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, conduct direct action operations during a company live-fire training at Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 31, 2014. An MH-60 Black Hawk assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) flies overhead.
Enduring Freedom, and he expects that it will remain a presence there until the United States pulls out of the country. “The 75th Ranger Regiment has been operating in Afghanistan since our forcible entry on Objective Rhino on Oct. 19, 2001. That airfield seizure started more than 12 years of continuous combat in that country in support of the Global War on Terror. While the scope of the regiment’s participation in Operation Enduring Freedom has fluctuated from a Ranger rifle company to the majority of the regiment at times, we were there when the war began and expect to remain in Afghanistan until directed to withdraw.” Vanek also pointed out that the 12 years in Afghanistan have certainly changed the perception of the regiment as well as affecting the way it has traditionally operated in the past. “Before 9/11,” he said, “the Ranger Regiment was known for quick strikes into hostile territory to accomplish a
Since its creation in 2011, ARSOAC has been a highly dynamic organization. ARSOAC’s first commanding officer, Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, USA, has just been appointed to lead the U.S. Army Aviation Command at Fort Rucker, Ala. We had a chance to talk to his relief, Brig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher, USA, and learned quite a bit about what the command has been up to this year. While Hutmacher discusses in detail ARSOF 2022’s effect on the command as well as training, selection, and planned recapitalization of the ARSOAC aircraft fleets elsewhere in this publication (see interview p. 88), there was insufficient space to cover the major organizational change in the command, in which contracting, support, and training for Army SOF aviation were split off from the 160th SOAR to allow the regiment to concentrate on operational matters. “You know, as a previous 160th SOAR commander I can tell you that I personally spent somewhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of my time on resourcing issues that this headquarters [ARSOAC] now takes care of,” Hutmacher said. “I was what I would call, ‘a mile-wide and an inch deep.’ … Here’s a good way to look at the span of control issue the 160th had: When I was the 160th SOAR commander, I had a battalion in Fort Lewis, Wash., and another at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. I also had my headquarters, two additional operational battalions, a training battalion and my Research and Development [R&D] Directorate at Fort Campbell, Ky. And I had deployed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I had forces periodically in the other geographical combatant command [GCC] AORs [areas of responsibility]. And finally, I had a higher headquarters [USASOC] at Fort Bragg, and I commanded a regiment that had 183 aircraft and 2,993 personnel. I spent an incredible amount of time on the road, and I really think the only reason we were successful at the 160th SOAR is because of the focus that we put on leader development. We didn’t have a significant leader failure while I was in command, and we certainly were not perfect. You know, we’re as fallible as any other humans. But we put a lot of stock in our people and they rose to the occasion. “To give you an idea – and I’m not comparing myself to AFSOC – [at] the 1st Special Operations Wing, they have 76 aircraft and as of a couple of years ago, they had 5,810 people. You know, I had 183 aircraft, 2,993 people in three
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separate locations. So, you can see the span of control was a significant challenge for us. And now, the 160th SOAR commander doesn’t have to focus on that any more. He focuses on his operational battalions and we focus on those resourcing issues.” 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (CAB) The 95th CAB finished up 2013 having completed the largest CA community enlargement in its history. Having grown from a single battalion to an entire brigade of five regionally oriented battalions in just a handful of years, the 95th is now the most powerful and important CA force in the U.S. Army. A long-time CA professional, Col. James C. Brown, USA, led the first Civil Affairs team that entered Afghanistan in 2001, and now commands the 95th. He feels bullish about the state of the brigade today.
“The brigade is stronger, smarter, and better prepared than it has ever been to tackle the challenges that our nation faces right now,” he said. “We now have an assessment/selection program, which we started recently. The CA qualification courses are providing us with the most talented young officers and NCOs [noncommissioned officers] that we’ve ever had. And the leadership is doing, I think, a pretty good job of empowering them to understand that we need them to use their own skills, talent, expertise, and experience to apply to the complex challenges that we have. We provide a basis and a methodology on how we want to do things, but those guys are on the ground doing what they need to do. And it’s their moral compass, their talent that they need to apply on the ground. There’s nobody overlooking them in these 10-man teams, which are going out and doing amazing things, bringing governments closer to their populations.” However, the brigade’s accomplishments, said Brown, have meant ever-increasing demands upon its personnel. “I think we’re the victims of our own success,” Brown said. “We have earned the trust of the Department of State. We have earned the trust of the U.S. Agency for International Development. We have earned the confidence of the theater special operations commanders in the GCCs and they want more. I think that’s a positive thing. So, our soldiers continue to perform at a level that I think would make our nation proud, because again, we’re doing this from a conflict prevention perspective. It’s a lot cheaper to go in with a small footprint – two to six Civil Affairs soldiers working with some SF guys and some PSYOP folks to go out there and truly improve the quality of life for the sect that we’re trying to engage, all the while trying to stabilize. We’re not the Peace Corps – we still have roles as soldiers first, and we don’t misrepresent that anywhere we go. So, we have earned the confidence for this demand signal.” He is especially proud, however, of the way his individual soldiers have performed, both in Afghanistan and across the globe.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Freeman
A U.S. soldier with the 528th Sustainment Brigade, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, braces for the release of the main parachute after exiting a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at the Luzon Drop Zone in Camp Mackall, N.C., July 11, 2013.
USASOC AT 25 “I believe, and I say this with confidence, that we’ve not sent one soldier downrange without the understanding that he was going to be able to go out there in positive influence,” Brown said. “I owe that to the soldiers and their families forever. Every person that leaves and deploys from this brigade, whether it’s to Cambodia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, is going out to meet the national interests that have been identified. And I wouldn’t send anybody unless I was absolutely confident that that was the fact. So, I’m confident that we have been used in exactly the right way.” 4th Military Information Support Operations Command (MISOC) Col. Robert Warburg, USA, commands one of the more intriguing U.S. Army units in service today: the 4th MISO Command. The 4th covers the roles and missions that used to be termed “Psychological Warfare Operations,” and is among the largest such units in the world today. Previously assigned as the chief of staff of the JFKSWCS, Col. Warburg took over his present command in 2012. “Prior to the establishment of the MISO Command in 2011, the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), or 4th POG, was the reporting headquarters for six battalions,” Warburg said. “These include 1st Military Information Support Battalion [MISB] (Airborne), which provides support to SOUTHCOM [U.S. Southern Command]; 3rd MISB(A), which is the worldwide dissemination battalion; 5th MISB(A) that supports PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command]; 6th MISB(A) that provided support to EUCOM [U.S. European Command] and AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command]; 8th MISB(A) which supports CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command]; and the worldwide tactical battalion, 9th MISB(A). “Today’s organization for Army MISO has expanded, adding the 8th Military Information Support Group [MISG] (A) alongside the 4th MISG(A) [formerly the 4th POG], as well as the overarching Military Information Support Command [MISOC]. Along with the establishment of the MISOC(A) and 8th MISG(A), the 7th MISB(A) was created to support AFRICOM while the 6th MISB(A) continues to provide forces to EUCOM.” This growth and change in organization reflects the dozen years of continuous combat the organization has been involved in, and despite the strain of ceaseless action, Warburg said the command is doing “exceptionally well.” “The force is well positioned, and remains very adaptive to meet the challenges of ARSOF 2022 and future operational environment requirements,” Warburg said. “Naturally, the years have taken their toll on the force and the organization; however, they have also taught us a great deal about resiliency and forward thinking. Now we are in a position to posture the force and the organization to maintain momentum and adjust our focus to meet the coming challenges.” Posturing the force and the organization to meet those challenges also means finally having a “surge capacity” to enable a rapid move into a crisis zone. “The MISOC now has the ability to deploy two groups with scalable formations – tailored to provide SOF mission command with MISO capabilities – for use in austere and politically sensitive environments in order to persuade, change, and influence selected target audiences. The 8th MISG(A) is composed of the 1st MISB(A), 5th MISB(A), and 9th
MISB(A), and the 4th MISG(A) is composed of 6th MISB(A), 7th MISB(A), and 8th MISB(A). The worldwide dissemination battalion, 3rd MISB(A), reports directly to the MISOC,” Warburg said. 528th Sustainment Brigade Col. Daniel Rickleff, USA, is arguably the most important and powerful O6 logistics colonel in the U.S. Army today. This is not because of his rank or the length of his service, but the unit that he commands: the 528th Sustainment Brigade. Nowhere else in the U.S. Army is there a unit commanded by an O6 that has such a diverse set of roles and missions being accomplished by such a small group of soldiers. “The 528th Sustainment Brigade’s mission and role is to provide enduring logistics, signals support, and medical care to the Army’s SOF [ARSOF] units and the theater special operations commands [TSOCs] worldwide,” Rickleff explained. “The 528th maintains a regionally aligned and global situation awareness of deployed ARSOF and TSOC operations, while providing a key link to conventional sustainment support structures based on ARSOF interdependence with the conventional force. The 528th is a multi-component structure, focused at the operational level for sustainment planning and synchronization, and at the tactical level for medical and signal support.” Covering the full range of communications, medical, and logistics requirements for USASOC, the 528th is almost a micro version of the larger Army, providing all of the things that a larger support command might give to a division or a brigade out in the field, Rickleff said. “In fact, to get back to the conventional force, I’ll give you some differences of SOF support versus conventional force support. Compared to the conventional force, the challenges that our soldiers face on the battlefield are amplified even more when you consider the small density of our formations, coupled with the long, extended lines of communication. It often takes more effort to complete many of the support requirements for our SOF units. “Currently, the brigade has over one-third of its personnel forward deployed or forward positioned or stationed with the theater special operations commands,” Rickleff said. “We have logistics, medical, and signal support personnel deployed who are supporting SOF operations in every combatant command’s area of responsibility. The largest numbers of personnel are in the CENTCOM AOR, the second largest are in the AFRICOM AOR. But we have persistent demand for support of SOF forces in Europe, Asia, and South to Latin America. “As for the brigade,” Rickleff said, “we’ve placed our focus on four areas … and these are all in line with ARSOF 2022 priorities. The first one is taking care of soldiers and families. The second priority is to support ARSOF and the TSOCs. The third is talent management. For example, our NCOs have a very good and deliberate process in managing their talent skills and pool. But with the officers it’s more ad hoc. We’re trying to make it a more deliberate process. And, then the last priority is our brigade redesign for the 528th. We’re looking at the brigade and how can we facilitate better support to our customers. So, those are the four priorities in my assessment, and we are on the way ahead for the next year and a half,” he concluded.
Afghan National Army commandos, 3rd Special Operations Kandak, and supporting U.S. Special Forces soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, walk along the mountain ridgeline during the clearance of Mirza Kalay village, Mya Neshin District, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 8, 2014. Special Forces soldiers assisted the commandos in conducting the clearance to disrupt insurgentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; freedom of movement in the area.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores
INTERNATIONAL SOF Partnerships Pay Off BY NIGEL WEST
Anyone imagining that the very public drawdown of coalition troops from Iraq and Afghanistan would have relieved the pressure on special operations forces during 2013 would have been mistaken. According to SOCOM Commander Adm. William H. McRaven, U.S. special operations forces were set to rise to 71,100 troops in 2014 (with a continued expansion by around 7.5 percent into 2015) from 66,100 civilian and military personnel in 2011, and were present in just over 100 countries. In cash terms, funding for SOCOM was $6.9 billion, a figure that increases to $10.4 billion if supplemental funding is included. Even so, it was probably unimaginable that the fulcrum of activity would shift to Africa; during the year major engagements were fought by SOCOM and its anti-terrorist component, Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), against Islamic jihadists in Mali, Mauritania, Somalia, and Nigeria.
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international sof The campaign in Mali, which involved mainly French but also some Canadian, Danish, and British special operations forces, began in 2012 when insurgents acquired Libyan weapons to occupy the north of the country and seize Diabaly, a small town in the Segou region, 250 miles north of the capital, Bamako. French commandos recaptured Diabaly in January 2013. The insurgents – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – had been responsible for the recent abduction of five European tourists and the murder of a sixth. French troops flew into Sévaré in January 2013 in Opération Serval, and advanced toward rebel positions at Gao. “This is exactly the place we should be in terms of trying to develop a counterterrorism capacity in the Sahel and in North Africa,” said then-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) in December 2011 in Ottawa, which had deployed one team of half a dozen men to northern Mali to mentor local troops, and another to the capital to provide counterterrorism and officer training. CANSOFCOM was created in 2006 to help support Joint Task Force Two, an Ottawa-based counterterrorism unit, and subsequently saw action in Afghanistan. The Canadian commitment in Mali came after Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay were held by AQIM in December 2008 and released 130 days later in an exchange for four AQIM detainees. Having suppressed AQIM in northern Mali, the estimated 1,200 French and 800 Chadian troops involved prepared for a delayed withdrawal from the Adrar des Ifoghas, close to the mountainous Algerian border, benefiting from reconnaissance by a U.S. MQ-1 Predator and two French MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying from Niamey in Niger. However, the French retained a small counterterrorism force, mainly to train the local army and support a UN-mandated African rapid-response force of up to 10,000 troops to ward off any resurgent Islamist threat. The unarmed French Reapers, from the 1/33 Belfort Squadron at Base 709 in Cognac-Châteaubernard, are the successors to a French UAV program, equipped with Harfangs, which saw service in Kosovo and Afghanistan. While the French were fully committed in their former colonial territories, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was concentrating on conducting intensive exercises in pursuit of a political strategy to promote self-reliance and eliminate potential safe havens for al Qaeda and its myriad affiliates. Thus in February and March 2013, Exercise Flintlock, the annual AFRICOM training exercise held each year since 2006, involved about 15 CANSOFCOM members in Mauritania, who were paired with Malian troops, supported by contributions from 16 countries, among them Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Senegal. Flintlock ran in parallel with Central Accord 13 in February 2013, during which the 10th Special Forces Group and Italian SF troops at the U.S. Army base at Kaiserslautern and Italian SF troops at Caserna Ederle at Vicenza linked to exercises conducted in Angola; Douala, Cameroon; and Mauritania. Some 750 soldiers, mostly from Cameroon, took part in the exercise, which was watched by observers from five neighboring countries and the Economic Community of Central African States, as well as others from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, São Tomé e Príncipe, and Gabon. This high-profile activity reflects AFRICOM’s commitment to a policy of mentoring and participation in large, complex
A French special operations forces soldier during the opening days of Operation Serval, Mali, Jan. 29, 2013. The campaign in Mali saw the deployment of special operators from France and Canada.
joint exercises, both with conventional NATO partners and local defense forces, with the objective of raising the level and capability of legitimate governments to defend themselves, and to encourage regional security arrangements in the hope of avoiding the need for external intervention. AFRICOM’s Special Operations Command Africa at Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, underwent a change of leadership in June when Gen. James B. Linder, formerly AFRICOM’s deputy J-3, took over from Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, who left to take over Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, Calif., from Rear Adm. Sean Pybus. In East Africa, various SOF units operate from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, including AFRICOM, commanded by Gen. David Rodriguez, who complained to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “AFRICOM has a significantly underserviced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirement.” However, in spite of that stated deficiency, JSOC was praised widely for the raid undertaken in January 2012 that freed the American aid worker Jessica Buchanan and her Danish colleague Poul Thisted, who had been held hostage by Somali pirates for four months. JSOC’s role in Somalia, over a long period, served to greatly improve the local security environment and return a lawless territory to a semblance of peace. Allied special operations forces were especially active off the Somali coast, combatting the threat from piracy, and on land, where al Qaeda’s local affiliate al Shabaab killed one French commando and captured another during a failed helicopter-borne attempt to rescue Denis Allex and Marc Aubriere, two DirectorateGeneral for External Security (DGSE) officers who had been abducted in July 2009 at a hotel in Mogadishu. Both men had been operating under journalistic cover. Aubriere escaped from Bula-Marer after a ransom allegedly had been paid. During the raid, 17 al Shabaab militants were reported killed. In September, following a long hiatus in operations, the Somali National Army, supported by African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops, took the provincial town of Mahadeey from al Shabaab, which withdrew from the area but then claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack on the
international sof Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, an atrocity that cost at least 67 lives and more than 120 injured. The following month, a U.S. Navy SEAL team attacked a house in the insurgent stronghold of Barawe, 180 kilometers south of Mogadishu, in an abortive bid to arrest Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, the al Shabaab commander known as “Ikrima,” withdrawing with no losses after finding it was heavily outnumbered and had no hope of capturing the terrorist. During the year the challenge posed by Somali pirates to merchantmen in the Horn of Africa shrank considerably, mainly as a consequence of NATO’s Ocean Shield mission, land-based anti-piracy operations, a robust response from ship owners employing teams of armed guards to defend their vessels while transiting the Gulf of Aden, and the willingness of an increasing number of flagged countries to accept custody of captured pirates and prosecute them. Somali pirates attacked 123 times in 2009, but in 2013, the International Maritime Bureau reported only 15 incidents, including two hijackings, the lowest numbers since 2007. Hitherto a reluctance of individual nations to tackle the jurisdictional problem of holding the prisoners and putting them on trial had meant that many pirates were either returned and freed in Kenya, or, as in the case of HDMS Absalon, at sea. The Danish crew on one occasion had been obliged to restore disarmed pirates to their skiffs, and even provide them with fuel, ostensibly so they could return home. In large measure, the credit for the region’s improved security environment was a period of relative calm in Somalia, a country wracked by 10 years of conflict. In Uganda the continuing irritant and source of instability has been the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and in response, the U.S. Congress’ 2013 National Defense Authorization Act included a $50 million contribution for Operation Observant Compass, the hunt for the cult’s leader, Joseph Kony. When testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2013, Gen. Carter Ham, then AFRICOM’s commander, noted that African troops, advised and assisted by U.S. special operations forces, had achieved some significant tactical gains and received a growing number of defectors. Operating out of Entebbe in Uganda, Nzara in South Sudan, and Obo and Djema in the Central African Republic, U.S. SOF flew Sikorsky/PZL M28 aircraft (designated C-145A) and a trio of helicopters across the region, including Dungu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Elsewhere in Africa, SOCOM continued to invest heavily in training specialist units, improving marksmanship and practicing counterinsurgency tactics, and in April and May U.S. special operations forces were in Malawi to participate with the local defense forces for Epic Guardian 13, an exercise lasting three weeks in which more than 700 troops received close quarters combat training in Djibouti, Malawi, and the Seychelles. Although largely unreported, Mauritania has been a combat zone since 2011, when the Mauritanian army announced it had killed three AQIM insurgents who had planned to assassinate Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Since then the army has received considerable aid, and in March 2013, U.S. SOF participated in Exercise Flintlock around the southern towns of Nema, Kiffa, and Ayoun, which lasted three weeks and included participants from Spain, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. The conflicts in Mauritania and Mali spilled over to Algeria in January 2013, when Islamic jihadists in three pick-up trucks seized the huge gas plant at In Amenas, which
services gigantic oilfields run by Sonatrach, BP, and Norway’s Statoil, and took hundreds of hostages, including several dozen foreign workers. The site was quickly surrounded by helicopter-borne Algerian special operations forces of the Groupe d’Intervention Spécial (GIS) based at Blida. Some 40 contractors were killed in the ensuing fair-day siege, together with 29 militants. The incident demonstrated the vulnerability of remote but economically critical facilities, and the porous nature of the region’s frontiers. In line with President Barack Obama’s declared “pivot to the Asia-Pacific,” with a defense posture aimed at the Far East, in March 2013, U.S. Navy SEALs conducted joint training exercises with Indonesian Navy Kopaska divers. In the Philippines, SOCOM has been committed to the training of the Philippines special operations forces, who are fighting against the Abu Sayyaf Islamists in the southern Philippines. The support began with the deployment of 1,200 SOF personnel as part of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. In September, U.S. special operations forces joined elite troops from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia – as well as their counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, India, and Russia for a U.S.-Indonesian joint-funded counterterrorism exercise held at a training facility in Sentul, West Java. Although ostensibly there is a lower profile and presence of special operations forces in Afghanistan, with a greater reliance on UAVs, the reality is somewhat different. Official International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) statistics reveal that from October 2012 to the end of March 2013, allied forces were involved in 1,464 operations, including 167 in which U.S. or coalition forces took the lead, and 85 that were unilateral ISAF operations. U.S. special operations forces’ role included mentoring lightly armed local security forces under the Village Stability scheme and training the Afghan National Army’s (ANA) Commando Brigade, a 12,000-strong elite organization trained for 26 weeks at Camp Morehead in Kabul province. The ANA doctrine, adopted from the coalition, was to build a capability on SOF lines in preference to more orthodox infantry structures. In addition to the various U.S. task forces, Special Operations Command Forward elements were deployed to Pakistan, Yemen, and Lebanon in a training role, with the task of creating specialist units. The 10th Special Forces Group was in Lebanon helping the development of the 5,000 members of the local SOF units, the Navy Commando Regiment, the Lebanese Commando Regiment (the Maghaweer), the Lebanese Airborne Regiment, the Counter-Sabotage (Moukafaha) Branch and the Strike Force (Kouwa el-Dareba) Anti-Terrorism Division. In Pakistan the Special Services Group consists of 10 battalions based at Tarbela, and in Yemen the beneficiary has been the Central Security Forces’ counterterrorism unit. Despite the very substantial mentoring role that has been embraced across much of the Third World, there remains a continuing requirement for more traditional, post-Cold War era defense deployments, especially on NATO’s new north and eastern borders. In May, British and American SOF took part in the 11th Spring Storm, the Estonian military’s largest annual training exercise in Harja county, north of Tallinn, which, for the first time, included the Estonian Navy. Also involved was Latvia, together with a reconnaissance platoon from Lithuania, and an anti-aircraft missile platoon from
DoD photo by Army Capt. Daisy C. Bueno, Special Operations Command South
Belgium, with Polish aircraft acting as aggressors to test NATO’s resolve on its northern flank. Later in May the Peruvian 3rd Special Forces Brigade and U.S. special operations forces cooperated in an exercise that would presage a major offensive conducted in December against 20 illicit landing strips in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro river valley used by drug smugglers transporting cocaine over the borders to Bolivia and Brazil. In July, Green Berets from the Army’s 20th Special Forces Group spent several weeks in Trinidad and Tobago, working with the local Special Naval Unit and the Special Forces Operation Detachment. That Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise, conducted as part of SOCSOUTH’s Theater Security Cooperation program, saw the Americans and their local counterparts take part in pistol and rifle instruction and small unit tactical exercises. The training and mentoring of proxy forces across Central and Latin America in support of specialist units targeted against the narcotics cartels appears to be a never-ending campaign, but one that conforms to a minimalist, nonintrusive doctrine, with a high dependency on technology and UAVs. The objective, since the program was initiated in 1998 and escalated two years later into the $9 billion Plan Colombia military aid package, has been decapitation and disruption of the FARC guerrillas, and although the combat zone has been active for rather longer than its equivalents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the investment has begun to work. The clues were to be found in the peace talks with the FARC conducted in Havana, the announcement of a unilateral cease-fire over Christmas, and the flight of what remains of the narco-terrorist leadership to exile, mainly in Venezuela. The conflict in Colombia, complicated by corruption and paramilitaries, has resulted in the establishment of some impressive special operations forces. Among them are the urban counterterrorist force Agrupación de Fuerzas Especiales Antiterroristas Urbanas (AFEUR), the anti-kidnapping specialists Grupos de Acción Unificada por la Libertad Personal (GAULA), and the Special Forces Brigade at the
Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard Special Naval Unit (SNU) members secure the area as members assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force members prepare to rappel onto a landing zone via an MH-60 Black Hawk provided by a U.S. aviation element from 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) during a culmination exercise, Feb. 14, 2014, on Chacachacare Island, the western-most island off of Trinidad. This exercise was part of a JCET, or Joint Combined Exchange Training, which allows U.S. military personnel to improve their teaching skills and gain regional knowledge. The event also serves as a great opportunity to learn from their counterparts.
Lanceros headquarters at Tolemaida, which began to provide police academy instructor training and curriculum development to candidates from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama. In fact, more than 40 countries, not all of them in the Western Hemisphere, have received SOF “capacity-building” support from Bogotá. This policy resulted in the presence of Colombian SOF helicopter pilots at Peru’s Junin airbase, and reciprocal arrangements for Peruvian and Ecuadorian SOF at the Covenas naval facility on the Caribbean coast. Colombia remained one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign military aid, and the massive investment in the innocuously titled National Training and Police Operations Center at Los Pijaos is eloquent proof of the commitment. The 18-week Jungla commando course, often directed by U.S. or British cadres, has resulted in a large number of graduates dedicated to the destruction of concealed coca-base production plants and cocaine hydrochloride laboratories. The courses at Los Pijaos, for both local and foreign students, has created a generation of instructors with high-value target management skills, as well as the more conventional, tactical tradecraft that has finally reached critical mass and had a profound impact on the traffickers and narco-politics felt across the region.
Norweigian special forces participate in the NATObacked Cold Response 14 exercise. Norwegian special forces have seen hard fighting in Afghanistan and off the Horn of Africa in support of Ocean Shield.
Plan Colombia may have taken rather longer to blossom than the planners envisaged, but the sheer potency of combining advanced electronic intelligence collection techniques, high-tech smart weapons, air mobility, and clandestine tactics refined in other theaters has turned dense rainforests, previously viewed as safe havens, into death-traps. What had once been the defining protection for the insurgents has been transformed into a killing ground. Such activity in Latin America has been coordinated from a couple of major sites in the continental United States, one of which is SOCOM’s new Wargame Center at its headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., where in October 2013, Norwegian Forsvarets Spesialkommando troops undertook a hostage rescue exercise. MacDill hosts the International Special Operations Forces Coordination Center, which is staffed by a dozen representatives from 10 countries, a figure that was set to double. Among allies, the greatest burden, after 10 years of continuous commitments in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, has fallen on the three British Special Air Service regiments and their associated SOF components. The casualty figures of nine during the year were a significant improvement on 44 the previous year, and 46 in 2011. But such attrition was considered unsustainable, bearing in mind the limited resources of U.K. special operations forces, and the fear was that standards would be reduced to attain the necessary replacements. Perhaps not coincidentally, the SAS’s weeklong, famously arduous selection process came under intense scrutiny in
July 2013, when three territorial reserve candidates died of heat exhaustion while on an endurance march across the Brecon Beacons. Trooper Edward Maher, aged 31, and Lance Cpl. Craig John Roberts, 24, died during the march, which involved more than 90 soldiers. Cpl. James Dunsby, aged 31, died in hospital 17 days later. The incident attracted the attention of the local coroner and the Health and Safety Executive, which required the Ministry of Defense to improve the safety of the grueling route over the notorious 2,900-foot Pen y Fan Mountain. Known as the “Fan Dance” and regarded as among the toughest in the world, those who passed were then assigned to tropical training, recently switched from Belize to Brunei. The British experience, of taking heavy casualties combined with a marked reluctance to dilute the famously exacting standards required by the Director of Special Forces, has created a dilemma: whether to compromise capabilities in order to maintain end-strength. Few other countries have encountered the same problem, where budgetary considerations and a disproportionately large SF component within the overall military structure make the future uncertain. Either standards will drop, or deployments will diminish, thereby reducing Britain’s perceived contribution to the allied order-of-battle. After more than a decade of unsustainable attrition, 2013 could be seen as a turning point, reflecting a reduction in front-line duties in the Middle East and a growing confidence in partnerships, especially in Africa, Latin America, and the Far East, where surrogates have gained the capacity and confidence to plan and direct relatively sophisticated counterinsurgency operations without a large scale presence of foreign advisers. Indeed, it may well be that in future years 2013, will be regarded as a milestone in the isolation of the scourges of international jihadism and jungle-based revolutionaries.
Norwegian Armed Forces photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold
by Scott R. Gourley
The retirement of the MK V Special Operations Craft (SOC) from Naval Special Warfare’s (NSW) maritime inventory, along with other resourcing initiatives, are just some of the things changing the face of the community’s maritime platforms. Command planners recently talked about the status of their surface and undersea mobility systems during a “state of the fleet” update with The Year in Special Operations. Surface Mobility According to Tom Carlson, N842 Surface Mobility Systems manager, NSW currently has three broad categories of combatant surface craft – Combatant Craft Heavy (CCH), Combatant Craft Medium (CCM), and Combatant Craft Riverine (CCR) – as well as a general category of Security Force Assistance (SFA) craft. The CCH category includes both Maritime Support Vessels (MSVs) and SEALION (SEAL Insertion, Observation, and Neutralization) platforms. Carlson said that while the NSW community uses the MSVs located in theater as “mother ships,” it does not “own” them. These offshore commercial support vessels are usually leased through the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, and NSW
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger
manages the funding for them. Currently there is one MSV, called C-Champion, operating in the Philippines, and a second one, currently in staffing, is expected to be established in U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) during FY 15. Carlson credited the MSVs with facilitating multiple mission sets, ranging from partner engagement to the establishment of a “persistent presence” in support of myriad tactical scenarios. The MSVs also provide a level of command and control, not only for U.S. NSW elements but for partner nations as well. Ancillary benefits of the MSV concept include reduced demands on standard U.S. Navy resources and a lower profile. “They’re pretty effective,” he summarized. “They really allow us to do a lot more things, like refueling small boats or staying in places longer.”
Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) assigned to Special Boat Team (SBT) 20 navigate a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) for a scene in the film Act of Valor. SWCC operate and maintain the Navy’s inventory of state-of-the-art, high-speed boats in support of special operations missions worldwide. The venerable 11-meter NSW RIB remains a workhorse.
One CCH asset that is owned by the NSW community is SEALION. “It’s a large boat that recently entered the inventory, and NSW really benefitted from a lot of Navy research, test, development, and evaluation on this craft,” Carlson continued. “It’s about 78 feet long and very unique looking – with a wave-piercing hull.”
Built by Oregon Iron Works, SEALION not only has a very unique hull that can ride smoothly at high speeds, it is also NSW’s only completely enclosed boat for cargo and passengers, providing environmental protection and allowing for the introduction of climate control systems that will facilitate operational deployments around the world. The impressive combination of performance capabilities and human factors benefits has not existed on any previous NSW platform. Naval Special Warfare Command currently has two SEALION craft in inventory. Developed by the Navy, they were “operationalized” for special warfare with supporting development of the requisite tactics, techniques, and procedures, followed by the safety certifications necessary to support a Fielding and Deployment Release (F&DR) in FY 14. Current NSW plans call for the purchase of a third vessel in the FY 17 time frame (for delivery in FY 18).
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SEAL Insertion, Observation, and Neutralization (SEALION) craft. These two technology demonstrators have been operationalized, and NSW would like to procure a third.
Carlson described the SEALION deployment concept as “for purpose vice presence,” with the full operational capability (FOC) of three boats eventually supporting “two boats forward” that could operate as single boat sorties. He noted that NSW is currently deriving a significant amount of lessons learned from operations of the first two SEALIONs, and the command believes that those lessons learned could be used as the basis for requested enhancements on the third hull. Oregon Iron Works also won the source selection for the first platform in the CCM category: Combatant Craft Medium MK I. The 60-foot MK I reflects an NSW plan to meet both CCH and CCM requirements. Although size and the latest performance technologies make the platform capable of functioning as a replacement for the 82-foot-long MK V, the MK I also reflects the transportability and fleet interoperability of a smaller craft. For example, while the
MK V was designed for air transport only by C-5 aircraft, the CCM MK I will fit into a C-17. CCM MK I will reach initial operational capability (IOC) of two craft in November 2015 (reflecting a nearly one-year program delay now credited to an earlier protest when the program went from three vendors down to two) with a full inventory objective of 30 craft in FY 20. The program is currently funded for just over half of that desired quantity.
The 16 craft currently funded are seen by planners as providing NSW with a consistent “two detachment presence” anywhere in the world. “The way we look at it there would be four boats – two ‘dets’ of two boats each – forward and 12 boats back,” Carlson said, adding that each detachment of two boats forward would have three detachments of six boats in the rear. “Each one is in four different sixmonth phases,” he explained. “So we see it as a training/deployment
continuum of 24 months. That’s how we calculate how many boats we need.” Another CCM category craft just beginning deliveries is the Combatant Craft Assault (CCA). Carlson characterized it as “another non-developmental item; a government off-the-shelf boat that we didn’t put any development money into.” “But it was the right boat,” he continued. “At only 40 feet, it’s smaller than the CCM MK I, so it can go on and off a Navy ship, making it more expeditionary than the MK I. You can’t just crane a MK I on and off an ‘amphib.’ But you can with a CCA.” The CCA mono-hull design is slightly larger than the current 11-meter NSW rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) and is credited with slightly greater capabilities. NSW plans call
for divestiture of some of its NSW RIB inventory to obtain the crews to man the CCAs. “But we’re never going to get rid of the RIB entirely,” he asserted. “We think it’s the right boat. It’s a workhorse in a lot of situations all around the world in different threat scenarios. And it’s been very successful.” From a current total of 60 RIBs, projections show divestiture rates down to a fleet of 40 RIBs in FY 19, with proposed parallel divestiture of the supporting Maritime Craft Aerial Delivery System (MCADS). Depending on NSW abilities to purchase additional CCM platforms, potential longer-range RIB reductions could drop that fleet element even further – to 28 craft in FY 21 and 20 RIBs in FY 22 – although those longer-term RIB reduction plans remain tentative at this time. The Combatant Craft Riverine (CCR) category of surface mobility assets encompasses the 33-foot Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) from United States Marine Inc. All 24 SOC-R platforms are currently based out of Special Boat Team 22 at Stennis Space Center, Miss. However, the NSW community is on a planned pathway to reduce its SOC-R capacity also and divert that manpower “to do other things.”
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jayme Pastoric
A Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) performs a crashback maneuver during training along the Salt River in northern Kentucky. Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) attached to Special Boat Team 22 (SBT-22) based at Stennis Space Center, Miss., employ the SOC-R, a craft designed for the clandestine insertion and extraction of U.S. Navy SEALs and other special operations forces along shallow waterways and open water environments.
“We think that we’ve got to keep a SOC-R capability, but we are going to take a little bit of risk and decrease that capability slightly – putting some of the boats in ‘layup’ so they will be around if we need them – but then to direct that manpower toward some of these other things that are important for the community,” Carlson said. The final element in the NSW surface fleet is the Security Force Assistance (SFA) craft, which is a commercial off-theshelf boat that aligns with partner-nation craft and theater engagement strategies. The primary purpose of the SFAs is to train Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) in domestic settings. The boats are not normally intended to be rotationally deployable. However, Carlson acknowledged a planned near-term deployment of a single craft to support partnering activities in Africa. The NSW inventory currently sits at 17 SFAs. Twelve of those are SFA-Small, a 25-foot craft built by SAFE Boat International, reflecting the results of a competitive downselect through Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). Delivery of five 38-foot SFA-Large craft, also built by SAFE Boat, is currently under way. Carlson emphasized that there are no studies currently under way for any future changes to the fleet, offering, “These are the boats for the long term. And we will just replace them with very similar boats as necessary. There is no ‘skunk works’ or any plans for new, leap-ahead platforms. We think we’ve got the platforms identified. What we do from here is just work to modernize things like subsystems where possible.” Examples of investing in proven subsystems to enhance the capability of combatant craft, as well as leveraging larger Navy and joint service common efforts, include a focus on subsystems like the next-generation Combatant Craft Forward Looking Infrared (CCFLIR), Stabilized Small Arms Mount (SSAM), and the integration of small missile systems, like Spike or Switchblade, that could potentially be installed on NSW craft.
Courtesy of NAVSPECWARCOM
Undersea Mobility Along with its surface mobility, the NSW community has always had an undersea requirement to conduct selected, clandestine operations. One of the keys to the successful completion of those missions has been and continues to be a fleet of critical undersea mobility platforms. NSW’s undersea mobility program has witnessed several significant changes over the past few years as planners have worked to understand options and explore technologies in the aftermath of the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) program, explained John Green, N84 Maritime Mobility Systems manager. That single platform sustained major damage during a fire in 2008, and in July 2009, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) announced that competing funding priorities prevented repair of the ASDS. ASDS was followed by a similar program, designated Joint Multi-Mission Submersible (JMMS), but that effort also did not survive subsequent budget decisions. However, a continuing requirement to facilitate “dry” transit of NSW personnel from platform to shore for some mission sets has set the stage for user operational evaluations on multiple Dry Combat Submersible (DCS) prototypes – designated as User Operational Evaluation Systems (UOES) 1, 2, and 3 – as well as support activities for the current inventory of “wet” submersible platforms.
The Combatant Craft Medium MK I is expected to reach initial operational capability with two craft in November 2015.
Green described “a new approach” regarding “dry” submersible systems, directed toward curbing some overall system capabilities in favor of a more rapid and cost-effective fielding process. Specifically, while the 67-foot-long ASDS incorporated a wide range of mandated capabilities from both USSOCOM and NAVSEA communities, the current USSOCOM-directed UOES 1-3 efforts feature craft roughly half the length of ASDS and focus at this stage not on NAVSEA certifications but rather on commercial certifications through International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) processes. UOES 1 prototype S301i is a commercially constructed 1 atmosphere dry submersible from Lockheed Martin and Submergence Group LLC and is manufactured at MSubs Ltd. (Plymouth, U.K.). The submersible, which measures 23.8 feet long by 7.7 feet beam by 5.8 feet high (main compartment), was leased by the NSW community beginning in November 2013. The craft is capable of carrying six SOF passengers and two SOF pilots at maximum speeds of up to 7.6 knots. The lease activities are funded in large part by a $35 million congressional plus-up to reduce program risk prior to a potential future dry submersible acquisition. According to Green, the craft performed its first SEALdirected familiarization dive in early February 2014 at the Lockheed Martin facility in Riviera Beach, Fla. Significantly, that scenario did not include NAVSEA certification, but rather relied on the Germanischer Lloyd Class certification augmented with a USSOCOM/ WARCOM Hazard Analysis Review. He noted that the prototype, which is now on its way to Panama City, Fla., will be used to help the command further define its critical requirements and understand issues surrounding things like IACS certifications. Work with the UOES 1 prototype will also help the command prepare for the arrival of two more prototype platforms. UOES 2, which is now slated for delivery in July 2014, is also being built at MSubs Ltd. under an 18-month firm fixed price development contract. The largest of the three prototypes, it measures approximately 39.1 feet in length, 7.21 feet in beam, and 8.18 feet high. It will be capable of carrying eight SOF passengers plus two SOF pilots at a maximum speed of 10 knots.
There are six DDS in the NSW inventory. The Navy has previously built a 50-inch “extension ring” for its DDS, but designers reportedly now see 100 inches as the largest extension that could conceivably fit on the aft deck of a Virginia-class submarine without hampering its operations. The UOES 3 prototype is currently scheduled to arrive for government acceptance in October 2014. As with acceptance testing on UOES 2, that phase will probably last about six months at Panama City, Fla., during which the NSW community will begin to ascertain whether the downscoped design specs are sufficient or whether additional competition might be required. Based on the successful completion of all testing and explorations, Green and other NSW planners are currently projecting an IOC for a near-term operational DCS platform as early as FY 18. Acknowledging that the current prototype designs will not fit on U.S. submarine platforms, he added that a longer-term NSW goal might be to place a DCS capability “back aboard submarines” sometime in the 2020s. “We do think these designs are scalable,” he offered. “What we have yet to define is that ‘iron triangle’ that balances the ability to place a craft inside a Dry Deck Shelter versus tradeoffs in internal payload or operational range.”
Courtesy of NAVSPECWARCOM
Green said that the primary requirement for the UOES 2 prototype was a stated NSW need for the system to fit inside a 40-foot milvan (high cube shipping container), allowing the system to be placed inside an ISO box and placed on a ship. To help illustrate some of the tradeoff decisions that might be made with undersea mobility platforms, he speculated that UOES 2 would offer approximately 75 percent of the capabilities of ASDS in terms of payload and people at a cost of just $22.7 million. Cautioning that the earlier ASDS program had been hampered by being “both the prototype and the first vehicle,” he quickly added that the UOES vehicles provide the “luxury” of true prototypes that can be studied and explored prior to decisions on a future operational platform. The third DCS prototype, UOES 3, is being manufactured by General Dynamics Electric Boat Corporation and built at GSE Trieste (Bergamo, Italy). The vessel measures 31.7 feet in length by 6.32 feet in beam by 6.32 feet high, and will be able to carry four SOF passengers and two SOF pilots at a maximum speed greater than 9 knots. Green said that the UOES 3 design was driven by NSW guidance and that they might like to eventually work a future design “back into a Dry Deck Shelter [DDS]” if they could extend the current DDS design by 100 inches.
U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle
NSW undersea capabilities also include the “wet boat” designs epitomized in the MK 8 MOD 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV). The current inventory of SDVs is down to 11 boats, from a peak of 14. Now approaching their 20-year service mark, the idea has been to replace the MK 8 MOD 1 SDVs with a new Shallow Water Combatant Submersible (SWCS) that will be designated as the MK 11. The purpose of SWCS had been twofold. The first was a major technology refreshment to reflect two decades of advances since the MK 8 MOD 1, even though Green acknowledged “some very interesting modifications that have successfully been done to the SDVs over the last couple of years.” The second purpose focuses on greater payload. He added that the struggle has been that the SWCS is “about a foot longer and about a foot wider” than the current MK 8 MOD 1, yet it still needs to fit inside a submarine deckmounted DDS. The resulting “really tight fit” has prompted a series of required shelter modifications that did not involve the pressure hull, but did move certain piping and hydraulic subsystems around the DDS. Although there has been some program “slippage to the right,” an NSW mock-up of the new SWCS design was recently
A member of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two (SDVT-2) prepares to launch one of the team's SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDVs) from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) on a training exercise in 2005. The SDVs are used to carry Navy SEALs from a submerged submarine to enemy targets while staying underwater and undetected. The current inventory of SDVs is down to 11 boats.
proven with a group of SEALs and near-term plans call for the building of an Engineering Development Model (EDM). That SWCS EDM is being built by Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Ala., with current plans calling for delivery of that prototype around the end of this year; timing that is coincident with the anticipated arrival of the third DCS prototype. Looking toward the future, Green pointed to an upcoming effort that has been submitted for POM (Program Objective Memorandum) funding to conduct R&D on the DDS, focusing on lengthening the shelter and automating some of the operational subsystems. Co-funded with the Navy, the project would also include some modifications to the Virginia-class submarines that would allow them to accept the larger DDS. If approved, that work will be performed in the FY 16-FY 18 time frame, which also sets the stage for the stated longer-range desire to place DCS capabilities back onto a submarine in the 2020s.
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BRIG. GEN. CLAYTON M. HUTMACHER, USA COMMANDING GENERAL, U.S. ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS AVIATION COMMAND (AIRBORNE)
Brig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher assumed command of the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (ARSOAC) June 13, 2012. Prior to this command he ser ved as the assistant commanding general for Special Operations Forces Mobility, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission, Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command. Hutmacher entered military service Jan. 4, 1978, as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps, transferring to the Army after being accepted into the Warrant Officer Flight Training program in 1984. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in October 1987. Following graduation from Officer Candidate School and the Aviation Officerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Basic Course, Hutmacherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first assignment was with 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) (SOAR [A]), as the headquarters and service company executive officer, and later as the MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator platoon leader, Delta Company. He has since served three other tours with the 160th SOAR (A) to include executive officer of 1st Battalion, commander of 1st Battalion, and regiment commander. Other assignments included the U.S. Air Force 55th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., as squadron tactics officer, instructor pilot, and flight commander; troop commander and S3 of the Flight Concepts Division at Fort Eustis, Va.; and commander of 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, Giebelstadt, Germany. His military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with Numeral 6, Army Commendation Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, Marine Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Badge, Master Army Aviator Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Air Assault Badge.
John D. Gresham: You command the newest Major Command (MAJCOM) within Army SOF and aviation. The U.S Army just does not stand up one-star MAJCOMs anymore, and yet, yours has been growing and dynamic. Can you explain to us why the command was created and lay out its component units and organization for us? Brig. Gen. Clayton Hutmacher: Absolutely. We were provisionally activated on March 25, 2011, and then our
BY JOHN D. GRESHAM
U.S. Department of Defense photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk, U.S. Army
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official activation, when we went from provisional status to permanent status, was Oct. 1, 2012. We were primarily created to reduce the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s span of responsibility and control, and enable them to have an operational focus. And we were to pick up all the Title 10 functions for Army SOF aviation, essentially to man, train, equip, and resource all USASOC SOF aviation forces. We presently have three subordinate commands and two staff directorates. As you know, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is there with four operational battalions. This obviously constitutes the command’s biggest unit. We’ve also got the Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion, which is not a new organization, but one that originally existed within the 160th SOAR. We’ve separated it, and it now qualifies and trains all of our aviators, enlisted crew members, and all of our soldiers. We’ve also got the USASOC Flight Company, which provides institutional training support to the JFK Special Warfare Center and School here at Fort Bragg. They also fly fixed-wing aircraft. The newest addition is we’ve just acquired seven surplus C-27J Spartans, a C-12 aircraft to support the commanding general [currently Lt.
Gen. Charles T. Cleveland] for command and control, and then two UH-60 Black Hawks, which support training.
An MH-60 Black Hawk with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment provides air support for Army Rangers with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, during task force training at Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 29, 2014.
So you’ve also got some of those surplus USAF C-27Js? We’ll receive seven of them, and I’ve got five sitting here on Pope Army Airfield right now. As we speak, two more are being delivered next month directly from the factory. What are you going to do with the seven new C-27Js? We have had the USASOC Flight Detachment, which consists of CASA212s, the UH-60 Black Hawks, and a K ingair. So, we’ve expanded it and renamed it the USASOC Flight Company, and actually they are all going to be one element in a special operations aviation squadron, which we’re standing up here at Fort Bragg. We’re also going to have an aviation Foreign Internal Defense [FID] troop, which is actively engaged all over the world training our partner nations. We want their aviation forces to be able to stand up a similar capability like the 160th SOAR based on their resourcing, and train them how to approach that problem set.
We also have two directorates, including the Technical Applications Program Office [TAPO] at Fort Eustis commanded by Col. Paul Howard. They have all of our program managers for our different aircraft and systems, and do all of our acquisition actions up there. A nd we also have the Systems Integ ration Management Office [SIMO], which is essentially the interface between, or the users’ representative between, the 160th and TAPO. They are staffed with operational aviators out of the 160th SOAR, and they provide input into aircraft modifications, new aircraft fielding, weapons systems and the like, and are intimately involved throughout the process. It’s commanded by Lt. Col. Jesse Crispino. When you talk about taking on the FID mission previously run by AFSOC, does this mean you’re actually going to pick up some of the foreign aircraft
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types (Mi-8/17 Hip helicopters and An-2 Colt light transport aircraft) they used to fly down at Hurlburt Field, Fla.? Or are you going to maintain an instructor capability for FID training and use resident aircraft in the host nations? It was actually AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron’s [SOS] mission, and we didn’t pick up any of their aircraft directly into my formation. We essentially picked up the mission, which I believe was appropriate. Probably the vast majority of the experience of rotary SOF aviation operations within special operations resides within the 160th SOAR. But we didn’t really pick up any personnel or aircraft from AFSOC when we got the FID mission. We started out with a very modest five-man cell: a lieutenant colonel, three warrant officers, and one NCO [noncommissioned officer]. We are now in the process of growing that out to 30 personnel, and we will partner them with the 160th and provide, really, the subject matter expertise on mission planning, briefing, integration with the ground force, execution of missions and then after action reviews for them to improve their capability without getting into the mechanics of how they fly their airplanes.
I would tell you that the vast majority of the countries out there either fly UH-1s or Mi-17s. But trying to fly those types requires a significant investment for us to purchase and maintain those aircraft, then train aviators to be proficient enough to be credible with these other nations. So, right now, we’re focusing on the actions in the planning and briefing rooms to improve their capability. And quite frankly, what I’m looking for, or what we’re waiting to see, is where success takes us. I can tell you that the theater special operations commander [TSOC] feedback has been very positive. I had the SOCCENT [the CENTCOM TSOC] commander, Maj. Gen. [Michael] Nagata in here recently, and I would say that our AvFID [Aviation FID] support to the TSOCs has been wildly successful. They want more and more and more of what we are providing. So we’re going to see where this success leads us and try to make smart acquisitions in the future. Right now, in the current fiscal environment, it’s just not possible to take on those kinds of projects with those kinds of bills that come along with it. So, you’re primarily focusing on the planning, tactics, and doctrine of how you do special operations aviation and not being aircraft type-specific.
An MH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), takes off during the exfiltration of U.S. Army Rangers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, who were conducting direct action operations during a company live fire training at Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 31, 2014.
Absolutely. We also focus in on how they execute the mission. And the other thing which is very important, which is often overlooked, is how they integrate with the ground force they are supporting. Do they have the appropriate command relationships with the ground force, and are they given a priority with certain units? Those kinds of things, which are also essential to their success. What is the present state of the regiment in your mind? Do you see it being grown further or do you see additional functions being cherry picked and taken off of it so that the workload remains reasonable? I don’t see any growth based on the fiscal constraints the Army is facing. And, quite frankly, is there a need for more Army Special Operations aviation? I think you could easily make
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that arg ument. There have been several studies that could justify really twice the growth or twice the size of the unit we have now. But, you know, it’s just not fiscally possible. I also don’t see us splitting our units into any kind of subsets. But, what I am looking at is how can we maximize our support to our ARSOF forces, to enable Adm. [William H.] McRaven’s Global SOF Network? This is something which obviously the TSOCs are a key element in, as we draw down in Afghanistan. We’re looking at different deployment models that give the TSOCs some level of predictability on what they can expect from us, and operationally, how we can best support their theater engagement plans. I think that’s our focus right now: to give our aviation battalions a more regional focus. For instance, the 4/160th is primarily focused in the Pacif ic Command [PACOM] AOR. We currently have 160th SOAR MH-47s supporting the Foal Eagle exercise in Korea. And the 3/160th out of Hunter Army Air Field near Savannah [Ga.] is focused
pr i ma r i ly on SOU T HCOM [ U.S. Southern Command]. They are down in the SOUTHCOM AOR at least four times a year supporting SOCSOUTH [Special Operations Command-South], Gen. Sean Mulholland’s forces. They also conduct support over in Europe. I will tell you that they came up with the moniker “the Southern Centurions,” and they take a lot of pride in their support to SOUTHCOM. I would also add that 2/160th does a large amount of support in the AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command] AOR. That is the way I think we can really support the Global SOF Network most effectively. And we’re still learning how to best do that, because we don’t know what we don’t know right now. We don’t know what our residual presence is going to be in Afghanistan, if any, post-December of 2014. So, until we figure that out and until we get answers to those questions, we can’t really develop long-range theater engagement plans. How do you interpret the ARSOF 2022 document influencing ARSOAC,
The MQ-1C unmanned aircraft system was on display during the Company E, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), activation ceremony at Libby Army Airfield, Ariz., Nov. 22, 2013.
and what are the major milestones and goals that you and your replacement, Brig. Gen. Erik C. Peterson, will be working toward under ARSOF 2022? Well, I think that ARSOF 2022 is a brilliant document, and I’m not saying that because my boss [Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland] wrote it, but because it’s the best attempt that I have seen that really codifies the special warfare side of SOF, and that has given us focus. A big and immediate impact we’re seeing right now is our focus on the Aviation FID mission. That wasn’t previously something that was a core capability and competency for us, but it is now. Our focus now is also on unmanned aerial systems [UASs], though the only unmanned aerial system that we own within the ARSOAC enterprise are the MQ-1C Gray Eagles. Echo Company of
the 160th SOAR was just activated earlier this year to operate those. The rest of them within USASOC, the RQ-7 Shadows and the RQ-11 Ravens, are down in the Special Forces Groups and the Ranger Regiment, and we have an oversight and modernization responsibility for those which we’re embracing. Those are two major areas that we’re going to help ARSOF 2022 reach its objectives. A third one is establishment of our USASOC Flight Company, which is improving our ability to provide institutional support across SOF. And, you know, the C-27J Spartan acquisition with the Air Force was absolutely fantastic, and they’re very supportive. That will dramatically increase our ability to support the special warfare community in the future.
Regarding the Gray Eagle UAS, what is its current status, and where do you want to take it in the next few years? With Gray Eagle we’ve already gotten approved and programmed two significant improvements to the MQ-1C, which will take effect later this year. We’re putting high definition electrical optical systems on the Gray Eagle, which they don’t have now. We’re also putting in an improved antennae array, which will increase their range of transmitting full motion video back to ground stations. Those are two significant upgrades, which we’ve already acquired. We are also looking at acquiring a signals intelligence pod for that vehicle. And then eventually the Army is considering – or certain communities in the Army are considering – purchasing
the improved Gray Eagle, which will take the endurance of the aircraft from up to 24 hours to somewhere between 30 and 40 hours of endurance depending on the payload configuration. I see that as a significant upgrade for us. Within the Special Forces Command [SFC], one of their core tasks is to operate in denied territory for extended periods of time. In my opinion, having UAS support in those operations is absolutely critical to mitigating the risk of those operators on the ground. When you’re operating in denied territory for an extended period of time, you’re giving the enemy the luxury of time to study you and develop counter actions. The capabilities resident in our UASs will extend or improve the situational awareness of those SOF forces on the ground, drive down risk, and improve their effectiveness. So, we’re very committed to doing all we can, even in this fiscally constrained environment, to improving the Gray Eagle. I’d also like to say a couple of things about the RQ-7 Shadow. The Shadow, as you know, is an Army procured system, and was purchased really to provide increased situational awareness on a force-on-force type of conflict where you’re identifying enemy tanks, vehicles, and things like that. And in my opinion, there are some significant shortcomings with the Shadow from our point of view. It’s rather loud, has limited endurance, and is runway dependent. The runway dependency is probably what I think needs to be fixed right away. That makes us very predictable to our enemies, and creates a real security problem for a small SOF team. If you’ve got a 12-man Operational Detachment-Alpha [ODA] deployed in denied territory, the ability for them to secure a runway is problematic. So we’re looking at a future UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] system, when the fiscal environment allows, that is recoverable to a net, that can be launched and recovered from and to a
From left: Maj. David Rousseau, company commander, 1st Sgt. James W. Coquat, company first sergeant, and Col. John Evans, regiment commander, Company E, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), uncase the guidon signifying the activation of the new unmanned aircraft systems company at Fort Huachuca, Ariz, Nov. 22, 2013.
U.S. Army photo by Maranda Flynn
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forward operating base, is quieter, and is able to stay airborne longer. We’re committed to this, even though there are a lot of pressing priorities that Lt. Gen. Cleveland and Adm. McRaven have to consider. But, I think a rapidly deployable Group III UAS in support of all U.S. special warfare units – and I would extend this to MARSOC and the Naval Special Warfare Command – I think will be critical to their effectiveness as we look to future battlefields or future operating environments in Africa and across the Levant. Another issue in ARSOF 2022 is the question of modernization. Obviously in this budget environment it’s going to be really tough to convince the Congress and whatever administration is in power to buy brand-new aircraft types. What are you going to do to move that modernization pipeline to the right? What I would tell you is that our modernization challenge is really centered around four different aircraft types. Let me tell you where we’re healthy first. I told you earlier that our fixed-wing fleet, which is primarily focused on institutional training in the United States, is very healthy with the acquisition of the seven C-27J Spartans, which replaced a 26-year-old CASA212. So, we are very, very healthy there and it was a real deal for us. We didn’t pay anything for them. So, it was about $300 million of cost savings for us.
U.S. Army photo by Trish Harris
I assume it’s fair to say those are good airplanes? They are … absolutely. They are very impressive and we are very fortunate to have them. And as I said earlier, the Air Force has been a great partner for us. They provided us multiple semiloads of spare parts too, which is going to help drive down our operating costs, at least for the near term. The second modernization issue is that our MH-60s are very healthy. We’re nearing completion of our MH-60M [called the “Mike”] fielding program, and that will help keep that fleet relevant for the foreseeable future. On the Mike, we not only have dramatically improved the situational awareness and the safety for the aviator in the cockpit, but also, we put bigger engines on it, which gives what we in aviation call a better “high and hot” capability
to operate in places like Afghanistan and other future environments. So, we’re very healthy there. The next item I’d like to talk to is our MH/AH-6 Little Bird fleet. U.S. Special Operations Command just approved the Block 3 upgrade, which is what I would call a near-term safety and sustainment bridging strategy to get us through probably 2025 to 2030 with this airplane. We’re going to look at some improvements to the drive train, the airframe structure, rotor system, and the like, all long overdue. But that really is a bridging strategy.
U.S. Army Rangers ride on the external personnel pods of an MH-6M Little Bird assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR).
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U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Thaddius Dawkins
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What I’m worried about now is what are we going to do for the future replacement for the Little Bird? We were very, very interested in the Army’s Armed Aerial Scout program, which was just recently canceled by the Army due to the budget cuts they’ve had. So we’re looking at what our options are about how to replace the Little Bird fleet. We are in close consultation with the Army on this matter, trying to figure out a path ahead that benefits both SOCOM and the Army. And it’s a difficult process. But, I will tell you that we are committed to being transparent with the Army and the Army has been very forthcoming and transparent with us in looking at different ways to tackle this problem. And here’s the bottom line: We are going to have to have a replacement for the Little Bird sometime in the 2030 time frame. Now, some people out there are saying, “Well that’s 2030, and that’s 16 years away.” Well, that is 16 years away, but the way our acquisition system works with starting a new airplane program we have to start now. We have to start investing now, defining the requirement and funding some
preliminary research and development to see what the specifications are going to be. I will tell you that we are going to build that airplane around three key performance parameters, and those are range, speed, and payload. At the end of the day, all of our missions terminate in a hover and vertical flight, and I’m looking for 200- to 250-knot cruise speed, which is over double what we get out of our current fleet. But we also have to be able to deliver the requisite amount of payload in a hover for the ground force. At the end of the day, if we can’t do that, the airframe we choose is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how fast we get there, if we can’t deliver the right payload in support of that SOF operator on the ground then I’m not interested in it. So, range, speed, and payload are really the three legs of the stool that we’re going to move forward on. And is the MH-47G force in good shape right now too? No. The -47G force is my most compelling modernization need. There’s an interesting article in a recent issue of
Brig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command commanding general, addresses the audience at the C-27J open house, Pope Army Airfield, N.C., March 18, 2014.
The Tip of the Spear magazine that has a picture of several Vietnam-era Army aviators that flew the same airplane that our guys are flying now … I believe the tail number was 756, and it is over 46 years old. Right now our MH-47 fleet is a legacy airframe structure that is a sheet metal and riveted aircraft. During the last decade, the Army went to a machined frame airplane – what we call a semi-monocoque structure – with their -F model CH-47s. However, due to the requirement to get the 160th SOAR into the fight and to improve our capability in Iraq and Afghanistan, we did not undergo that modernization. So the average airframe age of our aircraft is around 49 years old. And the life cycle of these is a max of 50 years and about 10,000 flight hours. We’re going to exceed that dramatically across the fleet in another two years.
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USASOC AT 25 So, we’re looking at what we call the MH-47 RENEW program, where we convert our fleet to that machined frame. Now, that’s going to take a significant investment from the Army and from SOCOM, and we’re still figuring out exactly the way ahead. But I will tell you that I just briefed Adm. McRaven and Lt. Gen. Cleveland, as well as the other service component commanders of SOCOM, on this need recently. All are committed to the Little Bird future replacement airplane, and they are committed to renewing our MH-47 fleet to ensure we remain relevant for the long term. Since the night of Oct. 19, 2001, when the only aircraft that could make it over a certain 19,000-foot pass in Afghanistan were four MH-47s, your units, your aircraft, and your people had been fully engaged and committed to the widest variety of combat operations imaginable. Are we asking too much of Army SOF aviation? And, if we are … what do we need to make more of it? No. I will say that I don’t think we’re asking too much of us at all. We have a steadfast commitment and a sacred obligation to supporting the special warfare operator on the ground. And the duration of our combat operations
over the last 12-plus years has been both unprecedented and exceptional in our history and the history of the nation. You are absolutely correct: That night in October 2001, Army special operations aviation performed a mission that no other nation in the world – no other aviation force in the world – could have accomplished. And, we’ve continued to perform missions, some that have been acknowledged publicly and some that haven’t. You know, I’m frequently asked, “What did all this blood and treasure that the nation gave up to stand up the 160th … what did it really get us?” And what I will tell you is in the case of “Desert One” [Operation Eagle Claw in 1980], our nation failed in the most dramatic of ways because we couldn’t get into position to rescue the 52 American hostages in Tehran. And based on the findings of the Holloway Commission, we as a nation made a decision to resource not only the 160th SOAR, but several other SOF units. Then we flash forward to Oct. 19 of 2001, and there was a mission that was eerily similar in some ways, from launching off an afloat staging base at similar distances and ranges, but we performed that mission successfully. We were able to strike back at those that attacked the U.S. on 9/11 in a matter of weeks, and I think that was what
made that investment worthwhile. Are we asking too much of our SOF aviation force? Absolutely not. We here at ARSOAC are doing what we were created to do. One thing that is very unique about Army special operations aviation is that we exist for one purpose and one purpose only: that is to support the special operator on the ground. Whether that is a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine, our commitment is and remains steadfast and unwavering: to support those operators on the ground even when it places our own forces at great peril. We’ve demonstrated that over and over again. People are more important than hardware, and that’s certainly true within the Army special operations aviation community. And, the last thing I’d say is, as we look towards the future, to answer your earlier question, do we need more of us? No, we need to be smarter about how we’re employing our forces, and also need to continue to be a learning, evolving organization. As the nature of the enemy changes and the requirements for the special operator on the ground change in response, we have to be the organization that embraces that change, and leads that change so we’re maintaining that sacred trust with our ground force brothers. And that we’re also maintaining that comparative advantage over our adversaries.
JUNE 6, 1944: RANGERS AT POINTE DU HOC By Dwight Jon Zimmerman
“The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. … Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms. …”
Operation Overlord, the Allies’ plan to breach Nazi Germany’s Festung Europa (Fortress Europe) at Normandy, was the largest and most complex amphibious operation in history. Of all the enemy targets identified at the landing sites, the one at the top of the Overlord planners’ priority list was the battery of artillery at Pointe du Hoc. Neutralizing the guns was the mission of the Provisional Ranger Force, composed of the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions under the command of Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder. Incorrectly identified on pre-D-Days maps and aerial photographs as “Pointe du Hoe,” the fortress was strategically located between the American beaches of Utah and Omaha. Its six 155 mm cannon, protected by concrete
National Archives photo
– President Ronald Reagan, June 6, 1984, Pointe du Hoc, 40th Anniversary of D-Day Ceremony
Rangers ashore beneath the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, June 6, 1944.
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Above: Medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force striking Pointe du Hoc on June 4, 1944, the beginning of two days of intense but ineffectual bombardment and naval shelling leading up to the assault on D-Day.
National Archives photo and graphic
RIGHT: German dispositions and the plan for assault at Pointe du Hoc.
casements 6 to 10 feet thick, had a commanding view of the area and were capable of shelling both Utah and Omaha beaches as well as Gold, the westernmost British beach. Manned by 200 troops, and connected by an elaborate system of tunnels and trenches, most of the German defenses for the position faced inland, as the Germans expected the main attack to come from the landward side. Its outermost barrier was composed of fields flooded by German engineers. The immediate defensive barrier consisted of an outer ring of barbed wire followed by thick minefields and then another ring of barbed wire. Camouflaged interlocking machine gun nests and bunkers, located at strategic locations, completed the landward defenses. Additional machine gun nests were located on the seaward side, whose primary defense was a formidable 90-foot-high cliff strung with an assortment of improvised explosive devices composed of dangling artillery shells. Two 20 mm Flak 30 cannon, one at each end of the position, provided anti-aircraft defense. An observation post for the artillery was located at the seaward side’s tip. After reviewing photographs of the defenses, one intelligence officer stated, “It can’t be done. Three old women with brooms could keep the Rangers from climbing that cliff.” Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) headquarters estimated casualties as high as 70 percent, making it a suicide mission. But if anyone could do it, it was the Rangers. In 1942, then-Capt. William O. Darby was authorized to organize a company of Rangers as an American Army counterpart to British commandos. His experience at Dieppe, France, and successes in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy with what ultimately became the 1st Ranger Infantry Battalion inspired Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall to authorize additional Ranger units. The 2nd Rangers were formed on April 1, 1943, and the 5th Rangers were formed on Sept.1, 1943. Ultimately six Ranger battalions fought in the war.
The 2nd Rangers arrived in Scotland at the end of November 1943, and immediately began training for an as-yet unrevealed mission. Less than three weeks later, commander Rudder and his executive officer, Maj. Max Schneider, were entering U.S. First Army Commander Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley’s headquarters at Bryanston Square. There, with Bradley in attendance, operations officer Col. Truman Thorson told Rudder and Schneider of their mission. Using aerial photographs and maps, Thorson began his briefing by ticking off German defenses at Pointe du Hoc. When Thorson told the two that their mission would be “the most dangerous mission of D-Day,” Rudder thought, “You’ve got to be kidding. This is just to scare me.” Thorson’s briefing was only designed to tell them what they faced. How they accomplished the mission was left to Rudder and Schneider. Later that day, in Bradley’s office, Rudder assured the general, “Sir, my Rangers can do the job for you.” Rudder and his staff went to work. Because the landward defenses were so strong, they decided on a sea assault. But in truth the decision was essentially a Hobson’s choice. More important, Rudder decided he needed more strength. He created the Provisional Ranger Force composed of 2nd and 5th Rangers under his overall command. This was subdivided into three groups: Force A (2nd Rangers, Dog, Easy, and Fox companies), Force B (2nd Rangers, Charlie Company), and Force C (2nd Rangers headquarters, Able and Baker companies, and all of 5th Rangers). Force A was to lead the assault, landing at 6:30 a.m. on the as-yet-to-be-determined D-Day with Easy and Fox companies landing on the eastern shore of the point and Dog on its west. It was given 30 minutes to scale the cliffs and secure
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LEFT: U.S. Army Rangers rest atop the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, which they stormed in support of the Omaha Beach landings on D-Day, June 6, 1944. RIGHT: Pointe du Hoc on June 8, 1944. An American flag has been spread out on the cliff face to stop friendly fire from forces coming up to relieve the
U.S. Naval Historical Center photo
U.S. Army photo
Rangers. German prisoners are being led away by relief forces.
a foothold. If successful, Force A would radio the message, “Praise the Lord,” and Force C would land and continue the assault. The message “Tilt” meant it had failed and Force C would continue to its secondary objective, Omaha’s Dog Green Beach. Force B was assigned the mission’s secondary objective, the mortar and machine gun emplacements at Pointe et Raz de la Percée that threatened Omaha Beach. Training commenced in earnest. To rapidly scale the cliffs, the Rangers practiced with rocket-propelled grapnel hooks. Training concluded on May 19, 1944. Early in the first week of June they were ordered to their troop ships. Though displays of bravado were common and boisterous aboard ship, some had private doubts about the mission. All was put aside when, at 4:05 a.m. on June 6, the troopships’ PA system announced, “Rangers, man your craft.” Two hours later, huddled in their landing craft assault (LCAs), the Provisional Ranger Force headed toward the hostile shore. It’s a military axiom that a plan never survives the moment of contact with the enemy. For the Provisional Ranger Force it happened en route to shore. A malfunction of the new radar navigation system caused the Force A flotilla to be off course by two miles. Not until the craft had penetrated the protective smokescreen and haze and were about 100 yards from shore did Rudder see to his horror that they were about to land at Pointe et Raz de la Percée! Normally Rudder would have been in the Provisional Ranger Force headquarters ship. But a last minute command crisis forced him to relieve Force A’s commander and, over the objections of his superior Maj. Gen. Clarence Huebner, assume command of Force A himself. Quickly Rudder ordered a corrected change in course west to Pointe du Hoc. But the assault’s timetable had been shattered. It would take 40 minutes to reach their primary objective. Schneider, commanding Force C, waited off Pointe du Hoc an additional 10 minutes after the appointed time for a signal from shore. When no message arrived and unaware of the situation because of the smokescreen, he ordered Force C to its secondary objective. When an initial landing at Dog Green revealed it was heavily defended, he ordered the bulk of his
troops landed at nearby Dog White. There the reinforcements arrived at the right place in the right time and were instrumental in creating the breakout at Omaha Beach. But now Force A would be attacking alone, with no hope for reinforcements. Worse, because the bombardment had lifted at 6:30 a.m., the Germans would have 40 minutes to recover and prepare themselves. Instead of landing at both the eastern and western shores of Point du Hoc as originally planned, Rudder concentrated his force to assault from the eastern shore. When the Rangers’ boats neared the beach, one Ranger later said, “All hell broke loose.” At approximately 7:08 a.m., the ramps of the first LCAs dropped into the churning water. Machine gun fire tore into the boats’ open bows, killing many in the first rows. Others leaped over the gunwales and disappeared into underwater craters created by the bombardment. Some boats fired grappling rockets too soon, causing them to miss the summit and fall uselessly into the water. German defenders cut a few ropes, but they avoided others that had burning flares, thinking the flares were explosive. Potato masher grenades began to rain down, and machine gun and small arms fire raked the clusters of Rangers below, despite covering fire from Rangers in the boats and the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Satterlee (DD 626). The casualty count quickly climbed. With the sounds of gunfire and explosives and the cries of wounded pounding their ears, Rangers began their ascent. Some struggled up ropes slick with sea spray only to lose their grip and fall back onto the beach, where they would try again. Some crawled up the cliff itself using hand and foot holds. Others scampered up the rungs of assault ladders that were quickly assembled. Those who fell wounded or dead were replaced by others. By 7:20 a.m. the first group, about 20 Rangers from Dog Company, reached the summit. As they had been trained, they quickly broke off into small groups. Running from shell hole to shell hole and bomb crater to bomb crater and firing at defenders, they worked their way inland to their objective, the casements protecting the Germans’ cannon.
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A U.S. Army Ranger, 75th Ranger Regiment, places his Ranger tab and scroll on the Ranger Memorial, Pointe du Hoc, France, June 1, 2012. Soldiers from the Allied nations gather in Normandy each year in remembrance of the military service members who fought in the effort to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, June 6, 1944. The commemoration, which includes ceremonies for the more than 9,000 service members who gave their
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin Morelli
lives during the invasion and airborne operations, allows the countries involved to pay homage to those who fell 70 years ago.
Sgt. Leonard Lomell led a small group of Rangers who attacked gun emplacement No. 4. When they reached it, they found … a decoy cannon constructed from a wooden telephone pole, designed to fool Allied aerial reconnaissance. They advanced southwest to emplacements Nos. 5 and 6 and discovered two more telephone pole “cannon.” “Jesus Christ, there’s no guns here,” thought Lomell. “They’ve got to be somewhere.” By now, Rangers from Fox and Easy companies had arrived. After a quick conference, they split into three groups to find the missing 155 mm guns. Lomell and about a dozen Rangers fought their way south, knocking out bunkers, snipers, and other defenders along the way and advancing about 800 yards, where they reached the paved road that paralleled the coast. Though his group had suffered losses, Lomell still had an effective force. Equally important, he and Sgt. Jack Kuhn discovered something suspicious, a hedgerow-lined sunken dirt road with recent tire tracks whose impressions in the ground were too deep to have been made by a farm wagon. Cautiously leapfrogging up the road, they continued for about 200 yards until they reached an apple orchard. There, hidden beneath camouflaged netting, amazingly unguarded, and pointing toward Utah Beach, were five of the six Pointe du Hoc cannon. A few hundred feet away in an adjoining field were about 100 German soldiers, apparently the crews and guards for the field pieces. Amazingly, the two Rangers had not been discovered.
With Kuhn covering him, Lomell reached the five guns. After using his thermite grenade and one provided by Kuhn on two guns, Lomell wrapped his field jacket around the butt of his Thompson submachine gun and smashed the sights of all five cannon. Lomell and Kuhn retreated back down the road, where they linked up with Rangers from their platoon. Getting from them more thermite grenades, they returned to the orchard. Again with Kuhn covering, Lomell wired the three other cannon with thermite grenades and pulled the pins. Just as he returned to the protection of the hedgerow the air was rent by powerful explosions. Unbeknownst to them, Sgt. Frank Rupinski and Rangers from Easy Company, advancing from the east, had detonated the cannons’ ammunition dump. They also had located the sixth gun and disabled it. Elements of Rangers of Fox, Dog, and Easy companies then formed an outer defensive line near the coast highway. Rudder, though wounded, had established a command bunker on the summit. For two days, the Rangers of Force A, aided by Navy gunfire and air support, fought off German counterattacks. At 11 a.m. on June 8, lead tanks from the 743rd Tank Battalion and two companies from 5th Rangers linked up with the Rangers at Pointe du Hoc. As predicted, the Rangers suffered 70 percent casualties; only 90 Rangers were left standing. But, even with a smaller-than-expected force, the Rangers had fulfilled their mission, and were the first unit to do so on D-Day.
Vehicles, including a Royal Signals jeep and trailer and Royal Army Service Corps Leyland lorry, on Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal at BĂŠnouville, June 9, 1944. The signallers are fixing telephone lines across the bridge. The proximity of the Horsa gliders to the bridge, visible in the background, testifies to the boldness of the operation and the skill of the glider pilots.
Pegasus Bridge The First Engagement of D-Day by Mike Markowitz
Imperial War Museum photo
The French phrase coup de main literally means “a strike of the hand.” In military jargon, it means “an offensive operation that capitalizes on surprise … to achieve success in one swift stroke.” In May 1940, nine assault gliders carrying German airborne troops crash-landed on the roof of the massive Belgian fortress of Eben Emael and quickly forced its surrender, clearing the way for a follow-on Panzer thrust. It was a brilliantly executed coup de main, and the Allies studied it carefully as they developed their own airborne forces and began planning the invasion of northern France and the liberation of Europe. Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, was the biggest, most carefully planned combined operation of the war. It was also an enormous risk because of deteriorating weather, unpredictable German reaction, and countless other factors. To secure the right (eastern) flank of the beachhead, planners decided to drop the British 6th Airborne Division on the far side of the Orne River near the village of Ranville. If the Germans held the Orne bridges, or demolished them, the paratroops would be cut off from the landing force. They would be at risk of destruction by arriving Panzers. On the other hand, securing the bridges could enable an Allied breakout and advance toward Paris – a critical political and symbolic objective. Arising in the hills of Normandy, the Orne River runs down through the medieval town of Caen to reach the English Channel at the little port of Ouistreham. For the last part of its journey to the sea, a ship canal runs parallel to the Orne, a few hundred yards to the east. In June 1944, two little bridges spanning this river and canal were, briefly, the most strategic objectives in the world.
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Airspeed Horsa Glider (1942) Crew: pilot, co-pilot Capacity: 20-25 troops (28 maximum) Length: 67 feet (20.4 meters) Wingspan: 88 feet (26.8 meters) Loaded weight: 15,500 pounds (7,045 kg) Max speed: 150 mph on tow (242 kph); 100 mph gliding Number built: more than 3,800 Built mostly of plywood, the Horsa was fabricated at British furniture factories and workshops to avoid interference with urgent production of fighters and bombers. Too heavy for the twin-engined Douglas C-47, the Horsa was normally towed by a four-engined RAF bomber such as the Stirling or Halifax. Assault gliders were intended for a one-way trip – even under ideal conditions landing was a barely controlled crash, leaving passengers stunned and bruised, if not worse. Flight crew were from the British Army’s elite Glider Pilot Regiment, organized in December 1941.
Overlord planners decided that a coup de main – a surprise glider assault – was the best option for capturing the bridges intact. A volunteer unit was chosen for the mission: 180 men of D Company, 2nd Battalion of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Regiment (The “Ox and Bucks”). The regiment proudly traced its lineage back to 1755, with battle honors for Lexington, Bunker Hill, Waterloo, the Indian Mutiny, and Ypres. Leading the assault was Maj. John Howard (1912-1999). The eldest of nine children of a working-class family, Howard was a gifted athlete with a strong work ethic. After losing his job as a clerk during the Great Depression, he enlisted in the army in 1932. Promoted to corporal, he was rejected as an officer candidate and discharged in 1938. He became a policeman in Oxford and married. When war broke out in 1939, he re-enlisted, quickly rising to the rank of regimental sergeant major. Accepted as an officer candidate, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1940 and soon promoted to captain. When the Ox and Bucks became an airborne unit, he volunteered, taking a demotion to lieutenant in order to command a platoon. By May 1942, he was a major commanding D Company. Howard’s men were armed with a mix of weapons: .303 bolt-action Lee Enfield rifles, 9 mm Sten submachine
guns, and a few Bren light machine guns (the .303 British copy of a Czech design). He trained his company relentlessly with daily 5-mile (8 km) runs and frequent swimming, boxing, rugby, cliff climbing, and cross-country forced marches in full kit. Because of the importance of the mission, Howard was given unlimited priority on the strained resources of the Empire – whatever training ranges, live ammunition, or specialized equipment he requested were provided without question, except food. Strict wartime rationing meant that the men were always hungry, often augmenting their meager meals with food parcels from home and other self-bought items. As an airborne unit, D Company f lew into battle aboard six Horsa gliders. The advantage of gliders over individual parachutes is that a glider can deliver an entire squad or platoon of troops with their equipment precisely onto a target, while parachutists are often scattered over a wide area. Planners in World War II assumed a parachute unit would suffer about 2 percent casualties from jump injuries before it could even engage in combat. In the presence of enemy flak, or adverse winds, jump losses could be far worse. Planning for D-Day The mission to capture the Orne bridges was given its own top secret
code name: Operation Deadstick – very appropriate, since in aviation, a “deadstick” landing is one that is made without engine power. Deadstick would require some extraordinary feats of military daring. For starters, there were the targets themselves. The village of Bénouville stands on the west side of the canal. The road crossed the canal on a steel drawbridge, built in 1934. Technically it was a “Scherzer rolling lift bascule bridge,” with a massive counterweight above the roadway. It would be immortalized as “Pegasus Bridge,” after the flying horse emblem of the British Airborne forces. Defending the bridges were elements of the 736th Regiment of the German 716th Infantry Division. This was a “static” (non-mobile) unit made up largely of Polish, French, and Russian prisoners, old men, and boys. But the position was strongly fortified, with barbed wire, a concrete machine-gun pillbox, and a 50 mm anti-tank gun. In reserve near Caen was the powerful 125th Panzerg renad ier Reg i ment of the 21st Panzer Division, one of Rommel’s favorite units from his days commanding the “Afrika Korps.” Of the 156,000 British, American, Canadian, and Free French who would set foot in Normandy on D-Day, the men of D Company would be among the very first, landing just 16 minutes after midnight. They were reinforced by a detachment of Royal Engineers, tasked with disarming any demolition charges attached to the bridges. Although the bridges had been wired and prepared for destruction, after the battle the explosives were found neatly stacked and securely locked in a nearby hut. Everything depended on surprise. The gliders would have to land as close as possible to the objective, and the German defenders would have to be neutralized before they could get organized and react. German doctrine called for immediate counterattack against airborne troops, because they were most vulnerable in the minutes after landing. The Fight for the Bridge and the Luckiest Shot Piloted by Staff Sgt. Jim Wallwork (1919-2013), the f irst glider, with Howard aboard, landed fast and hard, ripping off its wheels in a shower of sparks and burying its nose in the German barbed wire only a few yards
from the bridge, “not because Howard wanted me to, not because I was particularly brave or awfully skilled, but because I didn’t want to be rearrammed by Number Two or Number Three coming in behind me,” Wallwork told Steven Ambrose in an interview for Ambrose’s Pegasus Bridge. A German sentry pacing on the bridge assumed a shot-down Allied aircraft had crashed. Before he realized his mistake, the second and third gliders crashed down. The British quickly recovered from the shock of landing and swarmed onto the road. Leading the charge across the bridge, Lt. Herbert Denham Botheridge, 29, was shot, becoming the first Allied soldier killed in action on D-Day. The fourth and fifth gliders landed a short distance to the north and quickly secured the nearby river bridge. The sixth glider mistakenly picked out a bridge over another river, and landed 20 km (12.4 miles) to the east. Within 10 minutes the canal bridge was secured. The pillbox was taken out with a shower of grenades, and some of the Germans were still asleep when Howard’s men broke into their bunkers. Despite confusion caused by scattered paratroopers and the absence of German commanders (Rommel was driving back to Germany for his wife’s birthday, and many generals were attending a war game in Rennes 100 miles [160 km] to the southwest), the counterattack against Deadstick was not long in coming. About 0130, two Panzer IV tanks rumbled into Bénouville. M.C. “Wagger” Thornton was waiting for them with the company’s only working heavy weapon, a Projector Infantry Anti-Tank or PIAT. Hastily improvised in 1942 and rushed into production, the PIAT was one of the worst weapons of World War II – fragile, inaccurate, difficult to load, and with a kick like a mule. Thornton himself later described it as “a load of rubbish.” A strongly compressed spring drove the firing pin into a cartridge in the tail of a 2.5-pound (1.1 kg) hollow-charge grenade. When it worked, the projectile might fly as far as 100 yards. Thornton would only get one shot; he waited patiently until the tank was about 50 yards away (some observers say as little as 30) and fired. Miraculously, a direct hit penetrated the lead tank and ignited its ammunition, causing a spectacular series of explosions that caused the second tank and the trailing German infantry to retreat in disorder.
Horsa gliders near the Caen Canal bridge at Bénouville, June 8, 1944, part of the 6th Airborne Division’s coup de main force that carried men of “D” and “B” Companies, 2nd Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who captured the bridges over the Orne River and Caen Canal in the early hours of D-Day. In the foreground is glider No. 93, which carried Lt. David Wood’s platoon, and behind it, glider No. 91, which carried the force commander, Maj. John Howard, and Lt. Den Brotheridge’s platoon.
Imperial War Museum photo
The burning tank blocked the road. The explosions and fire served as a beacon to the scattered British 5th Parachute Brigade, which had begun dropping nearby about 0050. The German lieutenant commanding the second tank reported that the British were strongly fortified with anti-tank guns. Although sniper fire continued through the night, the Germans decided to wait for daylight to organize a stronger counter-attack. Meanwhile, two German gunboats trying to escape up the canal from Ouistreham in the morning were shot up; one was captured and the other turned back. Then, around 1000, a German fighter-bomber appeared, dropping a bomb directly on the bridge; it was a dud. Through it all, Howard and his men obeyed their mission orders: “Hold until relieved.” Meanwhile, about 4 miles (6 km) to the north, British commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade began landing
on Sword Beach at about 0840. Led by Lord Lovat, a Scottish brigadier, along with his personal bagpiper, Bill Millin, the commandos’ mission was to link up with the airborne troops at the Orne bridges by noon. Although they were a little late, just after 1300 the men dug in around Pegasus Bridge heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching piper. It was Lovat and his commandos, who quickly took over the position. Properly relieved, Howard and his men returned to the control of the British 6th Airborne Division. In the following months of bitter fighting to consolidate the Normandy beachhead, D Company was kept in the line as regular infantry. When it was finally withdrawn on Sept. 5, only 40 of its original 181 men were left. Ambrose observed, “It is indeed a mystery why the War Office squandered D Company. It was an asset of priceless value, a unique company in the whole British Army. Huge sums had been
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British paratroopers from the 4th Para Regiment, and U.S. Army paratroopers from various airborne units, commemorate the 68th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Pegasus Bridge, France, June 1, 2012. Paratroopers from the Allied nations gather in Normandy each year in remembrance of the military service members who fought in the effort to liberate Nazioccupied Europe during World War II on June 6, 1944. The commemoration annually includes ceremonies for the more than 9,000 service members who gave their lives during the invasion and airborne operations and allows the countries involved to pay homage to those who fell. Even 70 years after the British coup de main at Pegasus Bridge, the daring attack is still studied.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli
spent on its training. Its combination of training and skills and handpicked officers was unsurpassed. … Despite all this, the War Office allowed D Company to bleed nearly to death in front of the German guns. ...” Training, Intelligence Preparation, and Luck Overlord was an enormous and immensely complex operation. Some parts, like the Utah Beach landings, went better than expected. Other parts, like Omaha Beach and the American parachute drops, went terribly wrong. War is the domain of chaos, but “fortune favors the brave.” The capture of Pegasus Bridge was the closest thing to a perfectly executed special operation that any Allied unit achieved in World War II. The success of this operation
was a combination of training, intelligence preparation, and luck. D Company was so well trained that when most of the platoon leaders were killed or wounded early in the action, sergeants and corporals were able to take over and complete the mission. In addition, intensive aerial photo reconnaissance and reports from well-placed agents of the Resistance enabled British intelligence to construct a detailed scale model of the bridge and surrounding area, which was continuously updated and studied by the troops. Today, the site of Operation Deadstick is a regular stop for Normandy war tourists. In 1994, the bridge was replaced, but the original Pegasus Bridge has been preserved nearby as a memorial to a very lucky, well-prepared, and capable group of warriors.
A MARINE IN THE OSS The Incredible Saga of Col. Peter J. Ortiz By Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Approximately 80 officers and 200 enlisted men from the Marine Corps served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. In that group was one of the most decorated Marines in World War II and the most decorated member of the OSS, Col. Pierre “Peter” Julien Ortiz, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, whose military career actually began in the French Foreign Legion. Tall, handsome, urbane, and sophisticated, Ortiz spoke 10 languages and was fluent in several, including French and Arabic. His decorations include two Navy Crosses, the Legion of Merit with Valor device, two Purple Hearts, the Ouissam Alaouite, five Croix de Guerre, the Croix du Combattants, the Médaille des Blesses, the Médaille des Evadés, the Médaille Colonial, Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, and Order of the British Empire, among others. His exploits during the war combined aspects of Errol Flynn, Chesty Puller, and James Bond. Ortiz was born in New York City in 1913 to an American mother and a French-Spanish father who was prominent in the French publishing industry. After a childhood spent in Southern California, his father sent Peter and his older sister, Inez, to French boarding schools to complete their education. Despite achieving good grades, Ortiz was bored with college, and in 1932, at age 19 and craving adventure, he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. He found the adventure he sought in the Moroccan Rif, where he earned his first two Croix de Guerre fighting Rif Berbers. Discharged in 1937 with the rank of sergeant, he returned to Southern California, where he worked in Hollywood as a technical adviser on war films. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Ortiz re-enlisted in the Legion and was commissioned a lieutenant. Wounded and captured by the Germans during the Battle of France in 1940, he successfully escaped after about a year-and-a-half as a POW, and eventually made his way back to the United States. Ortiz offered his services to the U.S. Army Air Corps, who promised him a commission. But impatient over the delays in processing his paperwork, on June 22, 1942, he enlisted in the Marines. His presence in formation for the first time at Parris Island became a learning moment for everyone present when the drill instructor (DI) balefully noticed the decorations on recruit Ortiz’s chest. Two weeks after the DI had vocally satisfied his curiosity regarding the identity and provenance
of said decorations, the Parris Island commander was writing to the commandant of the Marine Corps requesting confirmation of Ortiz’s service in the French Foreign Legion, noting Ortiz was a “unique new recruit” with “knowledge of military matters … far beyond that of a normal recruit” and recommended that Ortiz receive a commission. On Aug. 16, Ortiz was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, retroactive from July 24, 1942. Initially, he was assigned as an assistant training officer at Camp Lejeune. Two months later, Ortiz was sent to the New River Parachute Training School. Having previously completed parachutist training in the Legion and with 154 jumps under his belt, Ortiz took his re-education with good humor, later saying, “The Legion had its way and the Marine Corps had the right way; I never minded jumping. Airplane travel always made me sick, so I was happy to jump out.” In the wake of the successful Allied landings in French Northwest Africa in Operation Torch, because of his language skills and Légionnaire’s experience in the region, Ortiz received a promotion to captain and assignment to the OSS. On Jan. 13, 1943, he arrived in Morocco officially as assistant naval attaché and Marine Corps observer, Algiers. But that was just a cover. His real assignment was that of a member of an OSS team working with Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) along the Tunisian border in Operation Brandon.
Photo courtesy of Dick Camp
In War Report of the OSS, the official history of OSS operations in World War II, Kermit Roosevelt wrote, “Participation in this British operation constituted the first OSS experience in sabotage and combat intelligence teams in front areas and behind enemy lines. That the jobs actually done by the handful of OSS men who joined in the SOE Tunisian campaign were not typical of future activity was due as much to the exigencies of the battle situation as to the misunderstanding of their function by the British and American Army officers whom they served.” In other words, instead of collecting intelligence and conducting sabotage, the teams were sent on reconnaissance missions and ordered to find and kill Germans. In February, Ortiz was in Gafsa when the Battle of Kasserine Pass was launched. During the action Ortiz literally found himself traveling all across the battlefield. He witnessed the panicked flight of American soldiers during the opening hours of the German offensive, briefly fought with an armored reconnaissance unit from the British Derbyshire Yeomanry, then linked up and fought with elements of the American 1st Armored Division. Upon crossing paths with an old Légionnaire friend who was now a captain, Ortiz attached himself to his friend’s unit and fought a desperate action near Pichon. In March, he was given a series of covert deep penetration reconnaissance missions. One mission, launched on March
One U.S. Marine assigned to covert activities in Europe with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was Capt. Peter J. Ortiz, who was twice decorated with the Navy Cross. Here he receives his first Navy Cross from Adm. Harold R. Stark in London, U.K.
18 in and around Matleg Pass in support of Brig. Gen. Paul Robinett’s Combat Command B headquartered at Bir-elHatig, almost cost Ortiz his life. After setting up a base camp, at 2300, Ortiz struck off alone in search of enemy tanks. It had been raining for three days, and his progress was hampered by knee-deep mud. Just as he was about to turn back, a burst of automatic fire shattered his right hand and wounded him in the leg. Ortiz fell to the ground and spotted a machine gun and vehicle about 30 yards ahead. Rising to one knee with his good left hand he threw a Mills grenade that fell short, followed by a Petard grenade [probably a MK 74 "sticky bomb"] that scored a direct hit. Avoiding rifle fire, and despite loss of blood and suffering from shock, Ortiz managed to crawl back to the base camp and, with his team’s help, make it to friendly lines. During his convalescence, Ortiz was airlifted back to Washington, D.C., where he wrote a detailed report of his experiences for OSS Commander Col. William J. Donovan. After reading it, Donovan wrote across the top of the first page, “Very interesting, please re-employ this man as soon as possible.” When Ortiz recovered, he was sent to the Congressional Country Club near Washington, D.C., to begin training for
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his new assignment as a member of the multinational Jedburghs. By the end of December 1943, he had completed training and was ready for his new assignment. On Jan. 6, 1944, Ortiz, British Col. H.H.A. Thackthwaite, and Frenchman Andre “Monnier” Foucault, regarded as one of the best radio operators in the OSS, and their weapons and supplies were parachuted into the HauteSavoie departement of the French Alps in Operation Union I. Union I’s mission was to assess the military capabilities of maquis units in the Savoie, Isere, and Drôme departements and assist in the organization and supply of the units. After landing, Thackthwaite and Ortiz changed from their standard issue civilian jump clothes to their military uniforms, thus becoming “the first Allied officers to appear in uniform in [occupied] France since 1940.” In Ortiz’s case, it was his Marine Corps service uniform with all its badges and French combat and campaign ribbons, the better to impress the French Resistance fighters they planned to meet. But his intention didn’t stop with impressing just the maquis. As Thackthwaite later wrote, “Ortiz, who knew not fear, did not hesitate to wear his U.S. Marine captain’s uniform in town and country alike; this cheered the French but alerted the Germans, and the mission was constantly on the move.” What the Union I team discovered was that there were many maquis willing to fight in the Resistance, but they had little means to do so. The maquis needed everything from arms and ammunition to radios, money, and blankets – every imaginable supply needed for military operations. The team organized base camps and hospitals and arranged for families of Resistance members to receive stipends, which helped boost morale among the maquis. As weapons and explosives arrived, the team trained the maquis in their use. Wearing his Marine Corps uniform, Ortiz helped lead sabotage missions, believing his uniform and medals would steel the French fighters’ courage. He also was instrumental in helping downed Allied airmen evade the Germans and reach safety in Spain. His role in rescuing four RAF officers in February 1944 resulted in him committing a spectacular act of theft that infuriated the Gestapo and led to him ultimately receiving the Order of the British Empire. According to his OBE citation, “In the course of his efforts to obtain the release of these officers, he raided a German military garage and took ten Gestapo [vehicles] which he used frequently. He procured a Gestapo pass for his own use in spite of the fact that he was well known by the enemy.” It was also during this period that Ortiz, who by now had garnered a notorious reputation with the Germans, committed an even greater act of derring-do, a Hollywood-style confrontation between himself and some German officers that, though true, makes for one hell of a sea story. Accounts vary in some of the details. What follows is one version. A group of officers from the German 157th Division, which had previously suffered at the hands of Ortiz and the maquis, were in the bar of a club (in a town, sadly, unknown) Ortiz occasionally visited and were loudly cursing the “tall American Marine” (Ortiz), the Allies, President Franklin Roosevelt, and the U.S. Marine Corps, among others. Ortiz, who was sitting nearby and dressed in civilian clothes, determined that he had heard enough. He returned to his safe house and donned his Marine Corps uniform and brace of Colt Model 1911 pistols over which he pulled on his raincoat. He then returned to the club and approached the German officers. Ortiz ordered drinks for them, then doffed his raincoat to reveal his dress Marine Corps uniform complete with badges and decorations, and aimed his pistols at the stunned officers. “A toast to the president of the United States,” he said. After the Germans had downed their drinks, Ortiz ordered another round and said, “A toast, to the Marine Corps.” Some accounts have him then shooting the officers, killing them. Ortiz said that he escaped without killing the officers because by letting them live, the story of his action would boost even more his legend and further erode German morale. While it seems improbable for him to be wearing his service uniform with decorations, that detail cannot be dismissed out of hand. Different, reliable accounts agree that on his two missions to occupied France (Union
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Left: The Operation Union II team the day after the jump into occupied France, Aug. 2, 1944. From left to right: Sgt. John Bodnar, Maj. Peter J. Ortiz, Sgt. Robert LaSalle, Sgt. Fred Brunner, Capt. Frank Coolidge, and Sgt. Jack Risler. All except Coolidge were Marines. Bottom: Maj. Peter J. Ortiz inspects members of the French maquis near
Photos courtesy of Laura Lacey
Albertville, France, Aug. 7, 1944.
I and Union II) he did carry his Marine Corps uniform. Also, when he returned to France in August 1944 in Operation Union II, maquis leader Raymond Bertand, a professional photographer, took photographs of Ortiz, now a major, in his Marine Corps service uniform in which his badges and ribbons are clearly seen, near German-held Albertville. Those photographs were reproduced in a California State Military Museum biography of Ortiz by Benis Frank and can be seen at www.militarymuseum.org/Ortiz.html. Union I was terminated on May 20, and the team was airlifted back to England to await reassignment. During this period Ortiz received his first Navy Cross for his actions in Union I and was promoted to major. On Aug. 1, 1944, Ortiz returned to the Haute-Savoie as leader of Operation Union II with a team composed of fellow Marines Gunnery Sgt. Robert LaSalle, Sgts. Charles Perry, John Bodnar, Fred Brunner, and Jack Risler, Army Air Force Capt. John Coolidge, and Joseph Arcelin, a Free French officer carrying papers identifying him as a Marine. Union II’s mission reflected the OSS’ changed priorities following D-Day and the impending Operation Dragoon, the Allied landings in the South of France. Union II was an Operational Group, a heavily armed force capable of “direct action” against German troops as they retreated to Germany. As well as sabotage, Union II-led maquis units were to seize and hold key installations and prevent their destruction by the Germans. In addition to the team, 864 containers were air dropped to supply their contact, the Free French “Bulle Battalion.” Despite ideal conditions and a daylight drop, the mission began badly – with Perry’s chute malfunctioning, causing him to fall to his death – and soon unraveled. German troops in the area refused to be cowed. On Aug. 14, Ortiz and his men found themselves far from their
operational base, surrounded in unfamiliar mountainous terrain where they narrowly escaped capture. Two days later, their luck ran out. En route back to their base, they encountered a German troop convoy in the village of Centron. The team split into two groups with Coolidge and Arcelin in one group and Ortiz, Risler, and Bodnar in the second. House-to-house fighting ensued, with Ortiz and his Marines drawing the bulk of the Germans’ attention. Reminded by villagers of recent German reprisals against civilians who were caught with the maquisards and Jedburghs, after conferring with Risler and Bodnar, Ortiz agreed to surrender. Ortiz called out in English, French, and German his desire to parley. Then, unarmed, he ignored German gunfire and began boldly walking toward the German lines. An old Frenchwoman ran up in an attempt to shield him with her body. He gently disengaged himself from her. When the bullets stopped, he made his proposal to the German commander, Maj. Kolb. Ortiz and his men would surrender, provided Kolb would give his word that the townspeople would not be harmed. Thinking he opposed a company-sized unit, Kolb agreed. The Germans were thunderstruck, and Kolb was furious, when only Bodnar and Risler emerged. Coolidge and Arcelin were also captured, with Arcelin rejoining at one point Ortiz, Bodnar, and Risler. Despite speaking no English, the Germans accepted the claim that Arcelin was a Marine. During their trip into captivity, Kolb talked with Ortiz and revealed so much about Ortiz and his mission that Ortiz became certain that there was a spy among the maquis with whom he fought. Despite attempts to escape, Ortiz finished out the war a POW. He received a Gold Star to his Navy Cross for his service in Union II. In 1946, Ortiz was discharged from active duty. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve, finally retiring on March 1, 1955, promoted to colonel on the retired list. Ortiz returned to Hollywood in 1946 and resumed his career in the movie industry. Two movies loosely based on his life were released, 13 Rue Madeline (1947) starring James Cagney, and Operation Secret (1952) starring Cornel Wilde. Ortiz served as technical adviser and had cameos in both. He formed a friendship with and appeared in several movies by director John Ford. He also appeared in movies by producer Joseph H. Lewis and appeared in two John Wayne movies, Rio Grande and The Wings of Eagles. A still from Rio Grande shows Ortiz, in the role of Capt. St. Jacques, wearing his Légion d’honneur. Ortiz died on May 16, 1988, at age 74. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to a Marine Corps honor guard, the funeral was attended by representatives from the French and British military, his Union II comrades Bodnar and Risler, and members of his family, including his son, Lt. Col. Pierre Ortiz, Jr., USMC. YouTube features 13 Rue Madeleine in its entirety at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9R4hZhUYn00.
CARPETBAGGERS The Air Arm of the OSS in Europe By Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Charged with conducting espionage activities behind enemy lines in World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) relied on dedicated U.S. Army Air Force special operations air groups to provide aerial support for its missions. In the China-Burma-India theater of operations, those missions were the responsibility of the 1st Air Commando Group, whose motto was “Any Place, Any Time, Anywhere.” In the European theater of operations, the OSS had the 801st/492nd Bombardment Group – the “Carpetbaggers,” a nickname taken from the first codename for its missions. Originally formed as the 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional), it was stationed in Harrington, a former Royal Air Force base in Northamptonshire, about 50 miles north of London, and initially composed of Army Air Force anti-submarine warfare (ASW) squadrons relieved of that duty when the U.S. Navy received delivery of its own ASW aircraft. Upon receiving additional squadrons in August 1944, it was redesignated the 492nd Bombardment Group. Because ASW B-24s were designed for low-level flight, they did not have the equipment necessary for high-altitude bombing missions. Though useless for high-altitude strategic bombing, the ASW Liberators were the right planes at the right time for the type of nap-of-the-earth missions the OSS planned. After swearing everyone to secrecy, OSS officers interviewed the squadron officers and crews for volunteers. Those declining were reassigned without prejudice. The B-24s were modified for their new missions, the most distinctive feature being the removal of the ball turret and replacing it with a hatch called the “Joe hole.” (Men dropped
A Carpetbagger B-24 takes off, wearing its gloss black anti-searchlight paint.
“It is safe to say that no group of this size has made a greater contribution to the war effort.” – Excerpt from the text for the Distinguished Unit Citation awarded to the 492nd Bombardment Group
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A B-24 Carpetbaggers Liberator “K” on a hard stand at Harrington. Note that the B-24 is painted a solid gloss black that affords maximum camouflage at night. The gloss finish was actually found to be better than a matte paint in delaying searchlight acquisition. The forward guns (or
National Archives photo
turret, later) and ball turret were removed from 492nd Liberators.
behind enemy lines were called Joes and women were called Janes.) The Joe hole was a smooth metal shroud 44 inches in diameter at its base and 48 inches at its exit. A hinged plywood door covered it during flight. When the aircraft reached its drop-off site, a green light would flash and the agent, a static line attached to his parachute, would slide down the Joe hole and parachute into the darkness. Col. Clifford J. Heflin, commander of the 22nd Antisubmarine Squadron, was named commander of the 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional) and would remain the Carpetbaggers’ commander through most of the war. The Carpetbaggers began operations, dropping agents and supplies into occupied Europe, in January 1944. Such missions were harrowing and demanded a high degree of skill and nerve from the crews. They quickly became adept at identifying landmarks and reached a skill level that made them able to conduct missions in adverse weather conditions that otherwise grounded conventional squadrons. By mid-September 1944, the A llied armies’ rapid advances across northern France in the wake of Operation Cobra and up from the South of France with the Dragoon amphibious landings closed the chapter of Carpetbagger missions supporting the French Resistance and opened a new, multitasking one that started with the ferrying of fuel. The liberation of France had precipitated a crisis: an acute gasoline shortage that threatened to stop the Allied armies in their tracks. The Carpetbaggers were assigned to airlift gasoline to Lt. Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army. In less than a week after the cessation of Resistance missions,
modified Carpetbagger B-24s were ferrying gasoline to the front. Every space on the aircraft that could carry fuel did. The bomb bay contained four 500-gallon fuel bladders. An additional 1,000 gallons were contained in P-51 drop tanks installed in the fuselage behind the bomb bay and over the Joe hole. Finally, the auxiliary fuel tanks were sealed off to prevent contamination of the higher-octane aviation fuel and filled with 80-octane gasoline for the tanks. Though the additional tanks were vented to the outside, the crews were never entirely comfortable with the flights. Landings were particularly challenging as the planes’ destination fields were either dirt landing strips hastily prepared by Army engineers, or recently liberated Luftwaffe fighter bases with short runways that were being cleared of mines even as the Liberators were landing. Fuel-hauling operations ended on Sept. 30, with the Carpetbaggers delivering 822,791 gallons of gasoline. Instead of removing and replacing the contaminated gas tanks in the modified Liberators, B-24 production had increased to such a pace that the squadrons were simply issued new B-24s. The clearing of the French-Swiss border by the end of September 1944 made it possible for the repatriation of interned American aircrews that had been forced to land or parachute into neutral Switzerland. A processing center was established at the Hôtel Beau Rivage at Lake Annecy, about 15 miles south of Geneva. From October 1944 to mid-February 1945, when new arrangements made the Lake Annecy mission unnecessary, the Carpetbaggers processed 783 airmen.
Meanwhile, up north at Leuchars Field in Scotland, near Aberdeen, Carpetbaggers were conducting a variety of missions to Scandinavia. The first and largest of these was Project Sonnie, or Operation Sonnie, which began on March 31, 1944. In addition to dropping agents and supplies to the Norwegian Resistance, Sonnie operated a clandestine airline. Unmarked, unarmed B-24s modified into passenger airliners and flown by aircrews wearing civilian clothes transported from Stockholm to Scotland 2,000 Norwegian aircrew trainees as well as American airmen interned in Sweden. As Sweden conducted commercial relations with Germany, American aircrews had the unsettling experience of parking their aircraft within spitting distance of the Germans’. During its 15 months of operation, the “Carpetbagger airline” carried about 4,300 passengers out of Sweden. Project Sonnie had the distinction of pulling off one of the great intelligence coups of the war. On June 13, 1944, at Peenemünde on the Baltic coast, Nazi rocket scientists launched A4 flight No. V89, a test flight of the ballistic missile later known as the V-2. The ground controller lost sight and control of the V89, which crashed about 200 miles away near Kalmar, in southeast Sweden. Swedish
authorities gathered the debris and, following secret negotiations between the British and Swedish governments, Lt. Col. Keith Allen flew a Carpetbagger C-47 to Stockholm where he picked up the wreckage and carried it back for study in England. The history of the Carpetbaggers also includes a remarkable rescue that occurred on the night of June 27, 1944, near West Eaton, roughly 20 miles east of Harrington. Lt. William E. Huenkens and his crew were flying at about 1,800 feet and returning to Harrington after completing a training mission. Suddenly tail gunner Sgt. Randall “Randy” Sadler saw the approaching silhouette of a Junkers JU-88 night fighter. Sadler shouted a warning just as the JU-88 intruder opened fire. Cannon shells ripped through the Liberator, killing two and starting a fire in the bomb bay. Huekens ordered the survivors to bail out. Navigator 2nd Lt. Bob Callahan and bombardier 2nd Lt. Bob Sanders were in the nose. Sanders tried to grab his parachute that was hanging by the bomb bay, only to discover it was on fire. He returned to find Callahan, wearing his chest-mounted parachute, preparing to exit the aircraft. Sanders shouted the news about his chute to Callahan, who quickly told Sanders to climb onto his back, cross his arms through the back straps of the parachute, and hold tight. Sanders did and Callahan then slid them out of the burning bomber.
National Archives photo
Jedburghs parachute from a B-24 Liberator.
National Archives photos
Clockwise from top left: A Carpetbagger B-24 dropping
Once clear, Callahan pulled the ripcord. The shock of the parachute’s opening almost caused Sanders to lose his grip. Callahan then told Sanders to work his way around to Callahan’s front so that they could better hold onto each other, which Sanders did. They landed in a wheat field, with Callahan suffering a broken ankle and Sanders spraining one of his and suffering some bruises and scratches. As they began limping toward a nearby road, they heard Sadler calling out. Though badly burned on the head and arms, he managed to bail out. They were the only survivors. Callahan was awarded the Silver Star for his role in rescuing Sanders, and the crew all received Purple Hearts. After he heard the story of the rescue, Heflin asked Callahan and Sanders to re-create it. A parachute was rigged to the crane and photographers recorded their re-creation. The complete story of the rescue and accompanying photos are posted in the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum section of the Harrington Aviation Museum website and can be seen at www.harringtonmuseum.org.uk/ CarpetbaggerMuseumHomePage.htm.
containers at low level during daylight hours (a container’s parachute is just opening beneath the tail of the Liberator); Carpetbagger A-26C Invader “Queen of Spades” at Harrington in 1945, used for Red Stocking missions; black de Havilland Mosquitoes of the 492nd fitted out for Red Stocking missions; dropping through the “Joe hole.”
With Allied armies crossing the German border in January 1945, intelligence about what was happening inside Germany became a priority – particularly when senior commanders received rumors of a last-stand “National Redoubt” in the Bavarian Alps. Missions inserting agents into Germany were given the codename Joan-Eleanor Project (or JE Project), sometimes also referred to as Operation Red Stocking. As the missions included drops near Berlin and other deep penetration targets, the Liberators were judged too slow and vulnerable. JE Project missions were assigned to the newly introduced smaller, faster, twin-engine Douglas A-26 Invader. Modified Invaders were stripped of all nonessential
Loading containers into the bomb bay of a B-24 Liberator. The containers carried arms, ammunition, communications gear, or any number of other items.
of two Belgian OSS agents inserted into the Kufstein region of Austria to organize Belgian workers for intelligence purposes and observe military traffic in the area. The pair successfully parachuted on March 23, 1945, landing in 5 feet of snow. Two days later they reported that they had been rescued by three Wehrmacht deserters seeking to create a local resistance group. On March 22, the three soldiers had spread a large Austrian flag on top of a nearby mountain, hoping to catch the eye of Allied flyers and receive assistance for their movement. The Doctor team’s arrival the following night astonished the deserters who were impressed with the speed of the Allies’ response. The team did nothing to discourage their belief. Together with the deserters and the addition of another two-man OSS team, Doctor created a network of agents that sent to headquarters 66 messages containing valuable information, including the locations of a jet base near Munich, a trainload of gasoline, and an oil depot near Halle. When the 492nd Bombardment Group was disbanded in July 1945, it had conducted – second only to Britain’s Special Operations Executive’s air arm – the widest range, both in distance and tasks, of aerial missions imaginable. From Norway to Yugoslavia, Carpetbaggers did everything asked of them, earning numerous individual decorations for valor, helping lay the foundation for future special operations air operations, and amply earning overall the Distinguished Unit Citation.
National Archives photo
equipment. The Joe, wearing an American parachute fitted with a British quick release harness, was ordered to lie down during the flight on a hinged plywood floor in a special compartment constructed in the bomb bay. When the aircraft neared its drop site, the Joe hooked up his static line and assumed a crouching position. Upon reaching the drop site, the release lever located in the cockpit was pulled, the wood floor dropped open, and the Joe was released bomb-drop fashion (reportedly something none of them liked). Communications between the agent on the ground and a Mosquito fighter-bomber flying above at 30,000 to 40,000 feet was made possible through the Joan-Eleanor voice/ recorder radio system developed by radio technicians Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Simpson, RCA’s Dewitt R. Goddard, and radio pioneer Alfred J. Gross. The name reportedly was the combination of the first names of Goddard’s wife and Simpson’s girlfriend. The agent was equipped with the Joan voice radio that had a range of about 20 miles. According to a prearranged schedule, the agent would broadcast his messages. Modified de Havilland Mosquitoes equipped with Eleanor recorder sets were judged ideal for the dangerous duty of flying alone over German airspace for the necessary extended time required for communication. The first mission was launched on the night of March 16-17, 1945, and ended tragically, with the low-flying A-26 crashing, killing all aboard. Fortunately, it was the only such mission to do so. Most of the Joan-Eleanor Project missions were conducted from a forward base near Dijon, France, and the inserted agents were able to provide invaluable intelligence. One mission that wound up having a seriocomic aspect occurred late in the war and involved Project Doctor, composed