Demand Will Increase for Special Ops Forces, Olson Says

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)