Breedlove: Special Operators Provide Decisive Capability
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 2, 2013 Special operators, working together through the NATO Special Forces Headquarters, have provided the decisive edge during NATO missions in Europe, Afghanistan and Africa, and continue to improve their capabilities across the land, air and sea domains, the senior U.S. and NATO commander in Europe said today.
“These ‘quiet professionals’ provide unique current and emerging capabilities that enable our team to respond rapidly and precisely in ways no one else can,” Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, noted in a blog posting. “As our military teams across the alliance find more efficient and effective ways of providing the right forces at the right place and at the right time, we will increasingly look to our special operators to get the job done.”
Breedlove praised the role of special operators after presiding today over the NATO Special Forces Headquarters’ change of command ceremony. Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank J. Kisner passed command to Navy Vice Adm. Sean A. Pybus.
Breedlove recognized the operational support the headquarters has provided more than 2,200 allied and partner special operations service members serving in Afghanistan under the International Security Assistance Force mission. Meanwhile, the NATO Special Forces Headquarters has provided special operations expertise to Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Operation Ocean Shield off the Horn of Africa, Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea and other NATO missions, he said.
The general attributed much of the success of these missions -- and future ones -- to the NATO Special Operations Forces Training and Education Program. This initiative is “the centerpiece of building and sustaining allied and partner SOF capability,” he said, with more than 3,500 special operations personnel from 34 nations graduating from the program’s 26 courses that span the spectrum of special operations capabilities.
Breedlove singled out examples of these capabilities across the region. Members of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, based in Stuttgart, Germany, “are accomplishing great things every day on the ground, in the air and on the seas across the European theater and beyond,” he said.
New aircraft arriving in the theater will bring additional capability, specifically in support of crises response, disaster preparedness and emergency airlift missions, he noted. The first of two CV-22 Osprey aircraft at the British Royal Air Force base at Mildenhall, United Kingdom, represent “a first for U.S. special operations aviation in Europe, providing transformational vertical-lift capability to our theater,” he said.
Also arriving are the first of 12 MC-130J Commando II aircraft, “uniquely capable of low-visibility, low-level aerial refueling missions for special operations helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft, as well as infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of ground and maritime special operations forces,” the general said.
“These aircraft bring new capabilities to our theater that are welcome additions,” Breedlove said. “These important upgrades will allow our special operators to fly further, faster, higher and longer than ever before, dramatically increasing our theater special operations capabilities and range of modern support to our European partners.”
Meanwhile, Special Operations Command Europe continues to focus on expanding theater-wide SOF capabilities. Efforts to train, develop and enable European allies and partners “thickens our lines,” Breedlove said.
In Afghanistan, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force’s Combined Special Operations Task Force 10, led by the only U.S. special operations forces serving under NATO operational control, includes special operators from Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Breedlove recognized the contributions the element is making across nine Afghan provinces, with “profound effects on enabling the Afghans to assume full responsibility for their national security.”
Navy Special Warfare Unit 2, Special Operations Command Europe’s maritime element, also remains heavily engaged in Afghanistan, Breedlove noted. Teamed primarily with Romanian and Polish forces and Afghan law enforcement officials, they are “bringing some very bad people to justice,” he said.
Meanwhile, the unit has built strong relationships with allies from Greece and Denmark and Norwegian navy special warfare teams to create “a theater maritime response capability second to none,” Breedlove said.
Looking to the future, Breedlove said coalitions will remain the cornerstone of international military missions. Just as in current operations, he said special operators will be looked to “to get the job done.”
“From what I have seen thus far, our quiet professionals in NATO and Eucom are exactly the right people to meet this challenge,” he said. “They are a special breed, and I'm grateful for what they bring to our team.”