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Special Ops Plays Key Role in Terror War While Transforming

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2005 – The global war on terror has increased the operational tempo among special operations forces "greatly," and said Thomas W. O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, "we don't see any decrease on the horizon."

O'Connell, in a March 2 interview with the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service, said special operators are supporting "the whole range of combat activities," from pre-conflict to post-conflict activities "and all those things in between."

Coordinating closely with other government agencies and conducting operations jointly with other services "nine times out of 10," special operations forces are bringing a full range of specialized skills to the fight, O'Connell said.

"We have forces in many countries around the world, both in combat theaters (and) outside of combat theaters that are dedicated to the global war on terror," he said.

As they carry out their mission, special operators are working more closely than ever before with other U.S. forces, O'Connell said. "I don't think there's ever been a time in history that special operations have worked as closely with conventional forces," he said.

In Iraq, for example, O'Connell said Special Forces A teams often work side by side with conventional forces. While those troops concentrate on conventional missions such as blocking, screening and patrolling, special operators concentrate on developing the intelligence needed to lead them to the insurgents.

And one successful encounter leads to what O'Connell calls "the bounce" - follow-on leads generated by quickly acting on intelligence gathered through interrogations, documents uncovered and other methods. "And that is what our special forces are so good at doing," O'Connell said.

As they make their contribution in the war on terror today, O'Connell said special operators are helping set the stage for tomorrow's forces. They're instrumental in fielding new systems that are transformational in nature, he said, including the CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the Advanced SEAL Delivery System.

O'Connell called the Osprey, designed to dramatically reduce strategic lift requirements, "an exceptional piece of equipment." The Advanced SEAL Delivery System, designed to reduce the risk to SEALS when they transit from submarine to shore while permitting them to conduct long-range special operations, "offers great promise for the delivery of SEALS for clandestine missions" and "has great intelligence applications," he said.

U.S. Special Operations Command is increasing the number of active-duty operators with civil affairs and psychological operations skills, specialties now confined largely to the reserve components, he said. In addition, it's adding "a few SEAL platoons and some aviators" to its active component force.

Another new initiative being considered involves inserting Marine Corps capabilities into some special operations units, O'Connell said, although no decision has yet been made.

As special operations carries out its mission and evolves for the future, O'Connell, who served as a special operator himself while on active duty in the Army, said its members stand as testaments to the force known as "the quiet professionals."

"I understand what it takes to become a special operator. I understand the dedication they display every day," O'Connell said. "They do a magnificent job every day and I think the nation owes them a debt of gratitude, and I am extremely proud to be associated with them."

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Biographies:
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict Thomas W. OConnell


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