The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), for those unaware of its composition, is an impressive organization, the largest component command of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). USASOC makes up around 50 percent of the total SOCOM manpower, and contains the most diverse group of units and capabilities within the U.S. special warfare community. This largest of SOCOM commands has commitments across the globe as it commemorates its 25th year of active service to the nation in 2014. Continuing to command USASOC into 2014 was legendary Green Beret Lt. Gen. Charles T. “Charlie” Cleveland, USA, supported by USASOC’s senior enlisted adviser Command Sgt. Maj. (CSM) George A. Bequer. Finally, Richard M. Holcomb, a Senior Executive Service (SES) and retired career Army officer, began his second year as the civilian deputy to the commander. This solid command team, backed by one of the most professional staffs in all of the American SOF community, helped lead USASOC through a difficult and uncertain year that included the specter of sequestration, and into what is hoped will be a future with fewer deployments but more fiscal certainty.
In this 25th anniversary year, we were extremely fortunate to be allowed to interview most of the subordinate unit commanders of USASOC, and we have let them speak for themselves about the state of their commands today in the regrettably small space that we can devote to them.
John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS)
In 2013, Brig. Gen. David G. Fox, USA, took command at the JFKSWCS, having previously served as the deputy commander just prior. While part of the 5th Special Forces Group (SFG) just after 9/11, Fox operated behind enemy lines during the “49 Days” that brought down the Taliban regime in 2001. As part of our special coverage of USASOC at 25, we asked Fox about the state of JFKSWCS today.
“The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, the Army’s Special Operations Center of Excellence, is daily carrying out its mission to select, train, and educate some of the Army’s most elite forces in Special Forces [SF], Civil Affairs [CA], and Psychological Operations [PSYOP],” said Fox. “As the proponent for these three regiments, SWCS remains the center of gravity for ARSOF [Army Special Operations Forces], developing professional, culturally attuned soldiers. We are constantly assessing our programs of instruction, updating them through close scrutiny of the lessons learned over the past decade-plus of war, and testing them in comprehensive culmination exercises like Robin Sage.
“The majority of these functional specialists are resident in USAR CA force structure. These soldiers must be identified, their civil expertise and capabilities must be harnessed and employed across the globe throughout the range of military operations to build partner-nation capacity and influence stability across regions. We must invest in this Army capability and make it attractive to these soldiers and their employers to support planned and immediate requirements globally.”
“Like all military units, SWCS is facing a period of uncertainty in the fiscal and strategic environment,” Fox said. “We must achieve a leaner, more efficient and capable force as we continue to look for ways to maximize our ability to train. Recognizing that the cost of an unprepared force would fall on the shoulders of those who are asked to deploy and respond to the next crisis, we will not compromise our training standards. Our staff, like the force we produce, is flexible and agile. As in the past, we will continue to work smarter and to innovate to ensure that our soldiers have the best training possible.”
In common with all other organizations within USASOC, JFKSWCS is responding to the needs of ARSOF as laid out within ARSOF 2022 in the training of SF, CA, and PSYOP soldiers.
“As noted in ARSOF 2022, the ability for Civil Affairs soldiers to apply functional specialty skills that are normally the responsibility of the civil government has become more critical,” he said. “The majority of these functional specialists are resident in USAR CA force structure. These soldiers must be identified, their civil expertise and capabilities must be harnessed and employed across the globe throughout the range of military operations to build partner-nation capacity and influence stability across regions. We must invest in this Army capability and make it attractive to these soldiers and their employers to support planned and immediate requirements globally. We must attract the right experts and work through the policy changes required to apply their unique expertise and knowledge to support partner nations in increasing their capability/capacity to conduct civil administration while working with indigenous institutions and the private sector for economic development. We also must be prepared to provide support to transitional military authorities during times of disaster or to transition following war.
“Where we need improvement is, we recently lost the stand-alone advanced skills necessary to produce the PSYOP soldier required to support ARSOF 2022. We provide our soldiers a basic level of their skills, then send them to the operational unit, and never provide them updated training on what it is to be a PSYOP soldier or how to execute our tradecraft. Many documents have identified this gap. Additionally, the regiment is a force of haves and have nots. The AC [Active Component] is at 68 percent strength, with a dwell rate of 1:1. The RC [Reserve Component] is conducting missions by cannibalizing their equipment to be able to deploy with a full set. Also, the RC receives four weeks of training vice the AC 44 weeks.