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Interview with Richard M. Holcomb, USASOC Deputy to the Commanding General

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.

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 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.

USASOC Holcomb

USASOC Deputy Richard Holcomb

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].

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John D. Gresham lives in Fairfax, Va. He is an author, researcher, game designer, photographer,...