Magazine article National Defense

Coalition Training: U.S. Special Operations Forces Step Up Collaboration with Allies

Magazine article National Defense

Coalition Training: U.S. Special Operations Forces Step Up Collaboration with Allies

Article excerpt

Efforts by the U.S. Special Operations Command to cooperate with allies and help train other nation's military forces are getting a significant boost in the administration's 2006 defense budget proposal.

The command is slated to receive $4.1 billion, enough to add 200 civilians and 1,200 military personnel.

The 2006 budget allocates $50 million for new pay incentives that are designed to retain hard to replace senior enlisted SOF personnel who are considering retiring to take lucrative jobs in the private sector. Also included is $362 million during a five-year period to beef up special-operator language capabilities.

"Language is important," said Air Force Col. Joseph D. Clem, deputy commander of Special Operations Command-Korea. "One thing we've learned is that common terms have different meanings in other countries. Nuance is lost in translation."

An additional tool, passed into law in 2005, is authority for special operations forces for the first time to spend up to $25 million a year to pay foreign military units, irregular forces, groups or individuals supporting the fight against terrorism, said Thomas W. O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

Previously, only the Central Intelligence Agency had the authority to make such payments. In Afghanistan, special operators often found themselves waiting for the CIA to pay its indigenous personnel.

"This just makes it easier, if we have to, to do another Afghanistan," O'Connell said.

U.S. SOCOM maintains units in every regional unified command around the world.

Army Maj. Gen. Gary L. Harrell, as combined special operations component commander for the U.S. Central Command, oversaw "the largest gathering of special operations forces since World War II," about 20,000 personnel, he said. "In addition to providing forces, coalition partners have made important contributions [in Iraq] across the spectrum of operations, sharing intelligence, providing liaison teams and supporting planning efforts, and supplying materiel assistance; bases, access, over-flight permission, and humanitarian aid," he said.

Currently, Harrell said, coalition special operators are conducting direct-action, reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, civil affairs and psychological-operations missions.

He declined to name all of the nations providing special operators in Iraq. "Some countries don't want their contributions to become public knowledge," he said. For example, he noted, "if you think there is no Arab participation, you'd be mistaken."

Coalition special operators have been able to operate together in Iraq and Afghanistan for several reasons, Harrell said. First, he explained, Eastern European and Pacific SOF use the NATO standard for equipment and training, and second, the Central Command's special operators worked hard to achieve interoperability with their counterparts before deployment.

In Korea, joint training between U.S. and South Korean special operators plays a critical role, Clem said. "Common experiences are important," Clem said. "For us, jumping is a shared experience." The joint training helped South Korean SOF prepare for its deployment to Iraq, he said.

In trying to build an international standard for special operations forces, the United States must not leave the impression that it is seeking "to apply an American solution to international problems," Harrell said. …

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