Special Operations Command Europe

Spe­cial Ops Com­mand Europe Show­cas­es Pro­fes­sion­al­ism, Capa­bil­i­ty

By Don­na Miles
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

Civil­ian pro­fes­sion­als trav­el­ing with the Joint Civil­ian Ori­en­ta­tion Con­fer­ence looked on today as spe­cial oper­a­tors nego­ti­at­ed a mil­i­tary urban oper­a­tions train­ing site with real­is­tic gun­fire and smoke that dupli­cat­ed the kind of real-world mis­sions they’ve per­formed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 47 con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants spent sev­er­al hours today with Green Berets of the Army’s 1st Bat­tal­ion, 10th Spe­cial Forces Group, and Naval Spe­cial War­fare Unit 2 SEALS. These units, along with the 352nd Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Group at RAF Milden­hall in Eng­land, rep­re­sent the mar­itime, ground and air com­po­nents of Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand Europe.

Air Force Maj. Gen Frank J. Kisner, who took com­mand of Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand Europe in May, described the host of mis­sions that range from direct action, as demon­strat­ed today, to non-com­bat­ant evac­u­a­tion oper­a­tions, to advis­ing for­eign mil­i­taries to help them build capac­i­ty.

U.S. Euro­pean Command’s spe­cial oper­a­tors have deployed rou­tine­ly since the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks on the Unit­ed States, first pulling for­ward into Afghanistan, then into Iraq as well, Kisner said.

“A lot of folks have just come off of com­bat deploy­ments, and they will tell you it is tremen­dous capa­bil­i­ty that they have,” said Kisner. “But more impor­tant­ly, it is tremen­dous capa­bil­i­ty that they are will­ing to share, not only as they bring new team mem­bers on, but also as we are work­ing with oth­er nations’ forces both in Europe and in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

1st Bat­tal­ion, 10th Spe­cial Forces Group’s Com­pa­ny C demon­strat­ed some of that capa­bil­i­ty today dur­ing a mock delib­er­ate assault oper­a­tion on two build­ings sus­pect­ed of hous­ing tar­gets of inter­est.

“We have three prin­ci­ples for direct action: speed, sur­prise and vio­lence of actions,” said Army Maj. Pat Lange, com­pa­ny com­man­der.

Spe­cial Forces A teams, with embed­ded Navy explo­sive ord­nance ele­ments, moved with silent pre­ci­sion toward the build­ings before launch­ing an all-out attack. “We try to go as qui­et­ly as we can for as long as we can,” said Com­pa­ny C Sgt. Maj. Bob Irby. “I can’t tell you how many peo­ple we get out of bed who nev­er knew we were there.”

As they sought out their tar­gets, the spe­cial oper­a­tors made split-sec­ond deci­sions, nego­ti­at­ing through build­ings recon­fig­ured reg­u­lar­ly to keep them off-guard. “They’re prob­lem-solv­ing at a high rate of speed, and nor­mal­ly in the mid­dle of the night. They have to adjust to the unknown at a rapid pace,” Lange said. “If it sounds con­fus­ing, it is.”

“We man­hunt for high-val­ue tar­gets,” explained an armor­er on the Spe­cial Forces A team who asked that his name not be used. “You can think of us as a scalpel. Some­times you need a sledge­ham­mer, and that’s not us. We pro­vide pre­ci­sion appli­ca­tion of dis­crim­i­na­to­ry fire.”

The civil­ian lead­ers got some hands-on expe­ri­ence, live-fir­ing some of the weapons spe­cial oper­a­tors use: the MP5 9 mm machine gun, enhanced bat­tle rifle, M14 7.62 mm rifle, P226 and P239 pis­tols, Mark 46 and 48 machine guns and an AK-47 assault rifle.

They also walked through a sta­t­ic dis­play, where SEALS explained the div­ing, med­ical and com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment they use in their oper­a­tions.

Kisner encour­aged the civil­ians to chat with the troops about the oper­a­tions they con­duct and what moti­vates them to serve.

“They have phe­nom­e­nal sto­ries, some they will tell you and some they won’t,” he said. “They are from Amer­i­ca, from the towns where you live, the states that you live in. And I con­sid­er them a phe­nom­e­nal nation­al trea­sure for hav­ing the courage and deter­mi­na­tion to go out and do what they do.”

A Spe­cial Forces armor­er who asked that his name not be used explained that every mem­ber of his unit is a four-time vol­un­teer. All vol­un­teered to join the Army, to go to Air­borne School, to become Spe­cial Forces qual­i­fied, then to become part of EuCom’s elite, quick strike force that serves as the EuCom commander’s action arms in the most extreme cir­cum­stances.

Despite repeat­ed sep­a­ra­tions from his fam­i­ly and the dan­ger­ous mis­sions he’s reg­u­lar­ly called on to car­ry out, the armor­er feels a deep-down sense of duty. “I think you see less and less peo­ple stand­ing up for what they think is right,” he said. “I do this because it’s some­thing I believe in.

“Some­one has to do it. It has to be done. I am able, so it’s my turn. One day it will be my son’s turn, then after that, it will be his son’s turn.”

“My eyes are wide open, and I am in awe,” Sal­ly Prouty, pres­i­dent and CEO of The Corps Net­work, which over­sees the nation’s 113 Ser­vice and Con­ser­va­tion Corps, said after today’s vis­it. “See­ing what I have seen today gives me a pro­found sense of pride and grat­i­fi­ca­tion.”

JCOC is designed to famil­iar­ize civil­ian busi­ness, edu­ca­tion and civic lead­ers with the mil­i­tary. The par­tic­i­pants are wrap­ping up a week-long vis­it through EuCom vis­it­ing mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and spend­ing time with sol­diers, sailors, air­men, Marines and Coast Guards­men.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)