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USASOC Year in Review: 2011-2012

“Regardless of where along the range of capabilities one points, be it the ability to execute the most lethal, highly complex and sensitive special operations, wage unconventional warfare, conduct special operations rotary wing operations, or prosecute civil military and influence operations and tailored sustainment to it all, the world standard is found within our Army’s Special Operations Force.”

Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, USA, 2012 USASOC Command Statement

The past year was, by any standard, the busiest 12 months in the history of U.S. special operations forces (SOF) since 1944. Across the globe, more than 50,000 military and civilian personnel fought America’s clandestine battles, conducted discreet missions, and continued to select and train the next generation of SOF professionals. Once again, many of those SOF professionals were assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), which represents about half of that force. From the Green Berets of Special Forces Command (SFC) to the world-class aviators of the new Army Special Operations Aviation Command (ARSOAC), USASOC covers the full range of U.S. SOF, as it has done for 60 years since a colonel named Aaron Bank formed 10th Special Forces Group (SFG) on Smoke Bomb Hill at Fort Bragg, N.C., an anniversary that is being celebrated this year.

It was a year of enormous change and growth within USASOC, from changes in leadership to the standup of new commands and organizations. Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland was nominated to become deputy commanding general of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and Lt. Gen. (Select) Charles Cleveland was approved by the Senate to take over command of USASOC. [Mulholland was confirmed by the Senate late in June 2012–Ed.] Command Sgt. Maj. Parry L. Baer continued his duties throughout 2011, as did Deputy USASOC Commanding General Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller. This strong leadership is helping USASOC grow in size and capability as America enters its second decade of a global war.


Cultural Support Team (CST)

A team leader for a U.S. Special Operations Cultural Support Team hands out utensils during a women’s shura held at a local compound in the village of Oshay, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. The CSTs bring new capabilities to SF teams. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kaily Brown

John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (JFKSWCS)

JFKSWCS Commander Maj. Gen. Bennet S. Sacolick continued his leadership of a schoolhouse growing in size and capability, and commemorated its origins during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s famous visit to the center on Oct. 12, 1961. Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Irizarry also served throughout 2011, while the job of JFKSWCS senior enlisted advisor changed hands as Command Sgt. Maj. Peter J. Sabo handed over his responsibilities to Command Sgt. Maj. Ledford “JR” Stigall on Aug. 24, 2011. Finally, command of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (SWTG), the largest of the SWTGs within the JFKSWCS, was handed over by Col. Jack Jensen to Col. B. Ashton Naylor Jr. on June 2.

The pace of work at the JFKSWCS remained high in 2011, and went far beyond celebrations of the past. In fact, JFKSWCS is leading the rest of the U.S. SOF community into the future by training some of the first female special operations professionals. Beginning in 2010, JFKSWCS began to train the first female students in the Cultural Support Team (CST) course, with the first graduation actually taking place on Dec. 10, 2010.

“This is a landmark moment,” USASOC Commander Mulholland said at the graduation ceremony. “This is a significant step that is long overdue, and this course has set a new standard of excellence that will be examined and copied over and over. It is my hope that CST becomes an enduring competency within the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.”


U.S. Army soldiers conduct marksmanship training during cultural support training. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s cultural support program prepares all-female soldier teams to serve as enablers supporting Army special operations combat forces in and around secured objective areas. The Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program is conducted by the U.S Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

“Women have been performing this job in the field because it is necessary to the mission,” said Master Sgt. Lita J. Fraley, one of the CST course graduates. “The CST course gives female soldiers the training they need to bring new capabilities to special operations teams. Women have a larger understanding of the needs in their community. When the Army wants to understand the needs of an area, these women [in the communities] become a great source of information.”

In addition, JFKSWCS continued to grow its training base for the civil affairs (CA) community in 2011 by standing up a new company June 14, 2011, dedicated to training CA soldiers. D Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group will train officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to join the Army Reserve’s CA community to quickly and systematically identify critical requirements in the field needed by local citizens in war or disaster situations. Maj. C. Shawn Keller, the new unit’s commanding officer, said during the ceremony, “While we do serve under [SWCS], we must always recognize that our customers are all the Army Reserve officers and NCOs who will come through this schoolhouse on their way to vitally important yet often dangerous assignments around the world. It is my intent to provide for them the most beneficial, challenging, and rewarding training that we possibly can.”


U.S. Army Special Forces Command (SFC)

Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr. continued to command SFC during 2011, though he is presently scheduled for a promotion to major general and appointment to command the JFKSWCS in 2012. SFC’s senior warrant officer, Chief Warrant Officer Five (CW5) Douglas D. Frank, also continued his duties in 2011, while Command Sgt. Maj. Mario G. Vigil was relieved as SFC’s senior enlisted advisor by Command Sgt. Maj. William B. Zaiser.

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