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SF Trying to Adjust Army Doctrine

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  • SF Trying to Adjust Army Doctrine

    FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- During a recent visit to his wife's doctor, Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick winced when the physician lamented that it had been SEALs and not Army Special Forces operators who took down terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

    It wasn't the doctors' favoritism toward the Green Berets that irked Sacolick, the chief of the Army Special Warfare Center and School here. Instead it was the civilian doctor's assumption that taking down terrorists is the Special Forces' primary mission.

    "It was absolutely so apparent that he had no idea what SF guys do," Sacolick recalled during an interview in his office. "The fact is we're the only force specifically trained and educated to train and work with indigenous forces. Not hunting them down and killing them, but working with them to build partner capacity."

    After ten years of post-9/11 conflict, Sacolick is worried the mission of the Special Forces has veered too far toward direction action -- snagging "high value targets" and confronting terrorists and insurgent leaders in lightning raids -- and he's taking it upon himself to steer the commandos back on course.

    "I hate analogies like the pointy end of the spear. We're not designed to hunt people down and **** them," Sacolick said. "We have that capability and we have forces that specialize in that. But ultimately what we do that nobody else does is work with our indigenous partner nations."

    Despite his experience with Joint Special Operations Command and as the commander of Delta Force, Sacolick is working to change that "door kicker" perception by tweaking Army doctrine so battlefield commanders know more about SF capabilities. He wants to insert a new so-called "warfighting function" into Army doctrine that outlines what Special Forces bring to the fight.

    "Somehow over the last 10 years we maybe became a little too disengaged with the Army," Sacolick said. "So now we are reengaging with the Army . . . and talking about [what we do] outside the battlefield."

    Sacolick is working to reestablish Special Operations Coordination Cells in every corps and division so commanders can better use their Green Berets for missions interacting with local security forces, instead of seeing them simply as assault forces for difficult takedowns.

    But refocusing the SF mission goes deeper than reeducating headquarters, Sacolick admitted. Since the U.S. military has been primarily focused on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last decade, Special Forces troops have been on near constant deployments there -- with foreign engagements dipping from a pre-9/11 high of 91 countries down to about 50 today.

    Army leaders have pulled Special Forces groups that typically specialize in Europe, Asia or Latin America into Iraq or Afghanistan missions, depriving the Green Berets of the experience they need to work with forces in their primary region.

    "I have a generation of young men who are about to assume command of Special Forces battalions that know nothing but Iraq and Afghanistan," Sacolick said. "We're going to have to retrain a whole generation of officers."

    In fact, because of the focus on Afghanistan and Iraq, Army Special Operations had to turn down about 90 mission requests to work with foreign forces just last year.

    But as U.S. forces draw down from Iraq and Afghanistan, officials are confident they can refocus on working with partner nations so terror movements can't take root.

    "I'm pretty comfortable that once we get relief from Iraq and Afghanistan . . . we'll start sending these guys out to [other] countries and they'll pick up that mission again," Sacolick said.