By Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno June 13, 2014
General Odierno: I cannot tell you what an honor it is to be here tonight and having the opportunity to talk to such a incredible group of people gathered together to talk about and understand our Special Operations capability for the future. I think it is really an important time. I am so happy that we are able to do this. I have an ulterior motive, and that is anytime I can get out to Washington is a great day. (Applause) So this is a great day especially to be in the beautiful city of Tampa. So thank you very much.
Never in our history has Special Operations Forces played a more important role in our nation and its security in the future of our nation. That is why I think events like this are so incredibly important. I want to thank a few people. I will start with the Commander of Special Operations Command, Admiral Bill McRaven. It has been such a privilege of mine and an honor to call Bill a friend. I worked so closely with him in combat. Also we have worked together and planned future operations with the integration of Conventional and Special Operations Forces. Our experiences are broadening us in that direction. I could not ask for a better partner to work with than Bill McRaven. We are very fortunate. He is an incredible example to us all. Your passion, your innovation, your dedication to the men and women is unparalleled. Your advocacy for ground forces is unprecedented. Your leadership resonates throughout the Department of Defense, the inter-agencies, and all our forward partners. That is shown here tonight with their attendance. Bill I cannot thank you enough. (Applause).
I would also be remiss if I did not identify Command Sergeant Major Ferris. It is amazing how there are people you keep running into time and time again, usually in different places around the world. Sergeant Major Ferris is one of those people. I have the utmost respect for him and his incredibly lovely wife and all that they have done not only for this country, but for all our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. Sergeant Major, thank you for your leadership as well. (Applause).
I want to thank you both for having this great event here and all that you do, not only for Special Operations families at Central Command, but for all the other service members that call Tampa home. This is really quite a day. General Holland, thank you so much. Sir, it is great to see you again. All the leaders from all the Special Operations Forces from around the world, it is great to see you. To all of the Commanders, Deputy Commanders, Senior Enlisted Advisors that are here. To all of our distinguished individuals of industry, thank you so much for being here as well. Industries are vital. They are vital to us moving forward. They are vital to the technology they provide and the concepts they provide. I also want to thank industry for the incredible help you have given the families of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of Special Operations. So thank you so much for what you do. (Applause)
As I was flying in tonight I heard they closed the airport down because of all of the activity down here. I heard helicopters flying around. My initial thought was this is like being back in Baghdad and Special Operations is closing all the airspace. (Laughter).
What I found out is there were a lot of little birds flying around. I was thinking, and I am not saying this happened, but it brought the memory back over ten years ago when they pulled somebody out of a hole and strapped him on the side of a bird, and flew him up to headquarters. Then all the pictures of him had his hair all messed up and his beard was different. Everybody wanted to know why that was. I don't know why, but it might have been that he might have been strapped to the side of a little bird, but I don't know. (Laughter).
Special Operations Forces have come a long way from their humble beginnings. Many of our military leaders had little interest in Special Operations. Our country had a great history of irregular warriors, but by 1940 the focus was on really a peacetime conventional force in size and scale for the challenges of the world war that we were headed towards. This conceptual view was not surprising given that most of the officers at that time were reflecting on their own personal lessons from the First World War.
This lack of interest in Special Operations led to the creation of the Office Strategic Services under its first leader, Colonel Wild Bill Donovan. Donovan's thoughts and concepts are very much the foundation that the modern day Special Operations Forces community is built on. Going beyond simply analyzing intelligence, he saw and envisioned more important roles for Special Operations, such as the arrow of penetration that would soften occupied areas for Conventional Forces for potentially the invasion that would follow.
Even with that, World War II was fought mainly with Conventional Forces. It was not until the 1950's that Special Operation leaders were able to establish the Army Special Forces. Since that time we have had several periods of surging interest with the height in the 1960s during our involvement in Vietnam and in the 1980's supporting the insurgencies in El Salvador and unconventional warfare in Nicaragua.
However, what our military lacked was the ability to harness the total capabilities of our forces in a joint capacity. This was brought into focus during the Desert One tragedy in 1980 and again during operations in Granada in 1983. The military had to face up to the fact that we were ill prepared from a structural standpoint to meet the emerging threats that we faced. This led to critical reforms under Goldwater-Nichols, which created the Combatant Commands and eventually US SOCOM. For the first time in our history we would have a single Commander for all geographic regions and an independent and global Special Operations Command bringing together the unique capabilities from all the services.
During the twenty-seven year history of SOCOM, the challenges have been great. The security environment and threats facing our Nation have evolved. In support of our national security objectives, SOCOM developed into a globally diverse and discriminately lethal force able to conduct a myriad of operations wherever it might be. The end of the Cold War gave SOCOM the opportunity to demonstrate their potential in many of the regional conflicts in the 1990s. They provided not only direct action but also critical foreign internal defense and civil affairs in places like Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, and throughout the Balkans.
The terror attacks on 9/11 would prove to be a catalyst for significant change to not only our military capabilities but our strategy to deal with the ever increasing threat of terrorism, non-state militants and criminals that continue to act out around the world, and unfortunately a new one seems to pop up every single day. For the past several years, SOCOM has significantly increased the reach of their network against terrorism through cooperation with our allies and other international organizations around the world. However, the attacks on 9/11 drove our national security decision makers to exponentially increase our nation's investments in Special Operations concepts and capabilities. Today, many of those operating around the world engaging in many diverse activities which I don't have to say to you with the capability that we are going to continue to have to build and prove and use for the foreseeable future of our nation.
I am proud the Army continues to contribute nearly 60% of the total Special Operations Forces and over 70% of the operators to the joint fight every day. I have told the 75th Ranger Regiment that they are the standard bearers of our Army. Our 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment continues to expand their capabilities and portfolios. Our SF Groups operate in every corner of the globe. Then we have our forces that contribute to Joint Special Operations Command that conduct precision operations anywhere in the world at any time when it is necessary. I am also proud of our civil affairs capability and all the things they do around the world.
Despite the capabilities of SOCOM Forces in the late 90's and early 2000's, we still lacked the necessary synergy between Conventional and Special Operations forces. In some ways, conventional forces and SOF went on divergent paths, but through necessity over the past 10 years, those paths have now once again converged, and the results in my mind have been dramatic. It's up to all of us to make sure we never return to those separate camps again. (Applause) We must work together to ensure that. I remember in Iraq in 2003 when I was at a Commander one night in early May or early June, I was on an operation and all of a sudden Dale Daley walked up beside me. Stanly McChrystal was with him and a couple of Sergeants Major. We sat down and had a discussion for about an hour about how we had to think about something new because we were having trouble together figuring out what was starting the insurgency in Iraq. We were not sure how we were going to work together in order to capture the high value targets that we were looking for. We had long-term personal relationships, we had know each other for a very long time. We pledged that night that we would begin working together to make sure that together we would solve this very complex problem. Then three days later, I get from JSOC that almost all of my Brigade spots are hot at Division headquarters. We started working every day to try to figure out what was going on. In a few months by passing information and working together, by working different targets together. Then six months later Saddam Hussein was pulled out of that hole. That is because of this cooperation, the synergy that developed between Conventional and Special Operations forces. Now let's speed ahead two or three years. I come back as the Corps Commander in 2006 in Iraq. Sectarian violence is going around the area. We are on the verge of civil war in Iraq. We understand there are certain things we have to do. The Conventional Forces have to get out among the people again. We have to build confidence, affect the population. The Special Operations Forces has to start to build special capabilities within the Iraqi Army, but they were not quite ready yet. We needed to develop a task force that would be able to go after not only Al Qaeda and the Sunni extremists, but we had to go after the Shiite extremists. The work that they did to do that started when we interacted together actually. They realized that we were targeting all the bad guys. It did not matter whether it was Sunni or Shiite. That along with the work of the Conventional Forces drove back to reconciliation. We started to see incredible improvements in the security environments inside of Iraq. That is the power of bringing together the incredible capabilities of Special Operations Forces and the capabilities of our Conventional Forces. We cannot ever forget that. (Applause)
The close relationship also evolved in Afghanistan and continues today. Special Operations Forces have worked closely with Conventional Forces and Afghan local police in the Village Stability Operations program. They continue to go after high value targets in the networks. Of course we all know about the many other missions that Special Operations are able to do. If you had taken a poll ten years ago, less then 10% of people would have thought that Osama bin Laden would ever be found. Because of the hard work and dedication of many people within the interagency and because of that era with Bill Donovan that he thought was so important with Special Operations ability, they were able to do something that nobody thought would ever be done. That is the work that has gone on that we are so proud of and what our Special Operations community does. I talked about Iraq and Afghanistan, but we all know that world wide operations are being conducted in the Philippines, Columbia, Yemen, and North Africa, just to name a few. All are examples of the tremendous work being done every single day. There have been many successes.
Now obviously is not the time for us to relax. The world today is more complex and uncertain than I have ever seen in my 38 years of service. The pace of change is accelerating. The number of connections between people and societies has increased exponentially. Global media can elevate local actions instantly to strategic importance. Technology and weapons once reserved to states now find their way into the hands of disaffected individuals and disruptive groups. All of this is occurring as our domestic fiscal challenges require us to reduce the size of our military.
I know our Navy brothers are fond of saying that 72% of the world is covered by water. However, I must remind everyone that 100% of the world's population resides on land. (Laughter and applause). Now more than ever it is critical that we study where the intersection of land power occurs with the human domain. Our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly reinforced that. They also reinforce every day that work. All we have to do is look at what has happened over the last few weeks in Nigeria. I guarantee there will be somebody on the ground that will help try to solve that problem. 100% of the people live on land.
Destroying infrastructure and weaponry offers a physical approach to shaping an adversary's decisions, but by itself is rarely sufficient and it absolutely can occasionally be counterproductive. Success depends as much on understanding the social and political fabric of the surroundings as it does on the ability to physically dominate them. A security strategy that does not adequately take into account human factors and the need for land power to take and hold terrain in a future conflict will be fundamentally flawed. Thus, in order to protect and advance our vital national interests, the Army, in close collaboration with SOCOM and the Marine Corps, is looking at the Global Landpower Network concept. This is a multinational network that will be established around the world enabling us to respond rapidly in a time of crisis. The Global Landpower Network must build on our military alliances and treaty security agreements while we expand informal relationships.
Critical to this concept is an understanding of the Joint, Interagency, Inter-governmental and Multi-National environment that we live in. SOCOM is leading the way, and I believe we need to build on this as the security environment evolves. The one thing I do know though is whatever strategy we devise for the future, what will never change is that it will require the incredible talents and sacrifice of the dedicated men and women, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that do extraordinary work to protect our Nation every day. (Applause). SOCOM has no shortage of heroes who have given so much for the defense of our Nation.
We are fortunate to have heroes like Lieutenant Commander Jonas Kelsall, who enlisted in the Navy and completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 1997. He was the On Scene Commander for the Maersk Alabama hostage rescue of Captain Richard Phillips. On the night of August 6, 2011, LCDR Kelsall and his SEAL platoon were tragically killed in Afghanistan when their helicopter spun out of control and crashed while responding to a call from an Army unit on the ground.
We have Sergeant First Class Joseph Kapacziewski, who enlisted in the Army in September of 2001, serving in the Rangers. Despite severe injuries and amputation as a result of combat, his goal was to return to a squad leader position and lead Rangers. He re-qualified on the Ranger physical standards. He returned as a squad leader and was later promoted to a Platoon Sergeant. He was the first Ranger to return to the line with a prosthetic leg and has deployed to Afghanistan five times. (Applause).
Captain Matthew Manoukian, who joined the Marine Corps in 2006. On 10 August 2012, while conducting village stability operations, four Marines inside the tactical operations center came under small arms fire. He courageously drew heavy fire upon himself, disrupting the enemy pursuit of his comrades, and providing them the security needed to get to safety, ultimately saving their lives. For his actions, he posthumously received the Navy Cross. (Applause).
Tech Sergeant Robert Gutierrez who joined the Air Force in 2002. In 2009, Tech Sergeant Gutierrez was assigned to an ODA in Herat Province, Afghanistan. While conducting a high-risk mission, his team was attacked by a larger enemy force. Tech Sergeant Gutierrez was shot in the chest, but never relinquished his duties as the Joint Terminal Attack Controller, calling in fire to support his teammates. For his actions, he received the Air Force Cross and is currently the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge for the Combat Controller Silver Team.
It is not just our Special Operations service members who are the heroes. It is their families who have stood by our sides because they love their Soldiers, they love their Sailors, they love their Airman, they love their Marine. They have raised our families. They have stood by us as we deploy one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, ten or eleven times. It is our families, our children, our wives, our husbands, our mothers and fathers who have stood by our side. Let's give them a round of applause. (Applause).
Over time, our wars tend to recede from public memory. However, we should never forget about these heroes and all of the others who have served and sacrificed so much. The men and women of Special Operations Command continue to inspire me with their service and sacrifice to our Nation. I am incredibly proud that I have the opportunity to wear this uniform and stand by my joint comrades. I am also proud to stand alongside whether it be here in Tampa or in many far away places around the world, next to our Special Operations comrades. I know if I ever needed them, they will be there. Thank you very much for allowing me to talk tonight. God bless all of you. (Applause)
End of Remarks.