Special Operations: Force Multiplier in Anti-Terror War
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2003 - Multitalented special operations troops
provide senior U.S. military commanders with an array of options
in addressing the multifaceted challenges presented by the war
on global terrorism, said DoD's top special operations official.
Army, Air Force and Navy special operators have proved their
worth in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, noted Thomas
O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low
These troops, O'Connell pointed out, are conducting combat missions,
strategic reconnaissance, psychological, civil affairs, counternarcotics,
and training operations worldwide in support of the global war
"There's no doubt," O'Connell maintained, that American special
operations forces "have done a magnificent job and have made a
dent in the terrorist infrastructures" and networks.
"They've been extremely successful," he continued, noting that
not all special operations' triumphs are publicized, due to security
For example, O'Connell noted, American intelligence gathering
might be compromised if the enemy knew right away that special
operations had captured a key operative.
An SOF member, O'Connell continued, is "an extremely well-trained,
highly motivated, mature individual who is willing to endure incredible
hardship and make very significant sacrifices for the welfare of
Special operators, he pointed out, provide myriad options for
combatant commanders, whether it's a Navy SEAL "takedown of a ship
at sea," an Army Ranger airfield seizure, or an Air Force special
operations combat control mission.
"These are extraordinarily dangerous missions," O'Connell emphasized.
He said special operations troops "go and train repeatedly to an
extremely high standard, so that when the call comes, they're able
to execute those very difficult missions."
The concept of joint operations is embedded in special operations
doctrine, O'Connell said, noting special operations forces "are
clearly a force multiplier."
"They've got to be able to operate in any theater . for any combatant
commander, conducting an extremely wide range of missions," O'Connell
continued. Illustrating the inherent flexibility of special operations,
he pointed to a SEAL team that had operated on land in Afghanistan.
And, O'Connell noted, many technological advances -- such as
night-vision devices, miniaturized communications equipment and
global positioning systems - - came from special operations research
and development programs.
"All (of) these things eventually benefited the conventional
forces," he pointed out.
Recognizing the importance of unique special operations capabilities
in prosecuting the war on global terrorism, DoD increased special
operations' annual budget for fiscal 2004 from $5 billion to over
$6 billion. The increase would pay for more MH-47 helicopters,
according to DoD documents, and 1,900 more special operations troops.
Special operations is also investing in the future, O'Connell
noted, pointing to the transformational capabilities of the long-awaited
V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft that's slated to enter initial
field-testing in 2005.
Osprey "bugs," such as leaking hydraulics and landing stability
problems attributed to the aircraft's unique tilt-rotor system,
have been addressed over the past several years, O'Connell noted.
Yet, "humans are much more important than hardware" within the
special operations arena, O'Connell noted.
"No matter how much the force transforms - technologically - it
will always be the special operations forces individual that is
the key to special operations success," O'Connell emphasized.