WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2011 — Special operations forces will become more important in the future, said Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, who turned over the reins of U.S. Special Operations Command today.
Navy Adm. William H. McRaven succeeded Olson, who will retire from the Navy later this month.
Olson was the first Navy SEAL to become a four-star admiral, and he has been in charge of the command since July 2009. While special operations forces come from all services, they have a similar mindset, he said.
“It was with purpose and focus, agility and talent, tenacity and courage, celebration and mourning that our forces moved forward,” he said during the transfer of command ceremony in Tampa, Fla. “Special operations forces by nature do not own mass or terrain. What they have is agility and speed, innovation and wisdom. They value knowledge over doctrine, experience over theory.”
Special operations forces form a community of “self-starters, deep thinkers, imagineers, problem solvers, aggressive leaders and teammates to whom they can and often do trust with their lives,” Olson said.
Special operations forces are a small part of the overall military, but they have become essential in two major lines of operation in Afghanistan – counterterrorism and the enduring local security force activities. Special operators also are key in training Afghan commandos and special forces.
“Their proven abilities to arrive unexpectedly, to kill those who plan to do us harm, to take precise action when required, to inspire their counterparts, all combine to make them a force in high demand,” Olson said. “To be closely associated with such forces is a true privilege. To serve as their commander is the highest of honors.”
The admiral said he has worked mostly with senior officers and senior noncommissioned officers during his time at the command, but he has tried to get out and speak with those on the ground at combat outposts and forward locations when possible. Roughly 85 percent of special operations deployments have been to Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m proud to note that our ranks are solid, [and] the future is bright,” he said.
Special operations forces have become the solution of choice for many of America’s military challenges, Olson said.
“They punch above their weight, and they absorb blows with abnormal toughness and stamina,” he said. “Our nation deserves and expects to have such a force that operates without much drama or fanfare, and whose greatest heroes are among the least acknowledged. This force is it. The yin and the yang – hunting enemies and bringing value to the people and places we go, are in close harmony.”
This is a force that America can and should be intensely proud of, and it is a force that America needs to face the threats of the future, the admiral said.
“Osama bin Laden is dead, but al-Qaida version 2.0 is brewing,” he added. “Conflicts over natural resources, borders, ideologies and theologies will continue. Cyber war looms. The lines between terrorism and crime will become less distinct. Global friction will intensify, and special operations forces will be necessary to turn down the heat.”
Olson said he is concerned about some aspects of the force, including the “conventionalization” of special operations forces and a potential decrease in support from the services because of budget pressures. He has expressed concern about the effects of persistent warfare on personnel and their families.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)