Special Ops Commander Appeals to Industry for Force, Family Preservation
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 21, 2014 All the equipment, the greatest plans and weapons systems in the world won’t be worth much if the force is broken, U.S. Special Operations Commander Navy Adm. William H. McRaven told the Special Forces Industry conference in Tampa, Fla., yesterday.
This year’s three-day Strengthening the Global Special Operations Forces symposium is a forum for military, government, academia and industry members to network and support the force.
Taking care of special operations forces and their families is McRaven’s combat priority through the SOCOM program, Preservation of Force and Families, to combat suicide, depression and other psychological issues, he said. The program’s website says the goal is to improve the well-being of special operations warriors and their family members.
“People from industry may say, ‘What can I do to help with the health of the force?’” the commander said. “I think there are a lot of things out there [such as] biofeedback programs and things we haven’t even considered that we can put in front of some of these young men and women who have been under the stress of the last 13 years [to] help them deal with some of the problems they’re facing today.”
Calling the challenges personal, McRaven encouraged those in such lines of business to bring forth some ideas. “What can we do for these young men and women and their families to deal with the pressures they’ve been under since I’ve watched them [following] 9/11?” he asked the audience.
A task force was formed in 2011 and during the course of 10 months, about 700 special ops force members and 1,000 family members were interviewed, McRaven explained. “A lot of information came out of that report that was anecdotal,” he said. “I knew we had to get ahead of this.”
The force in 2011 was frayed, he added, but had not collapsed under the strain of the coexisting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If people can be kept healthy, so they physically feel good, they’re “less inclined” to commit suicide, be depressed, and are more likely to do their job well, McRaven said.
“The human performance piece has been key,” he said of the program. “We leverage all the services. I don’t do anything that doesn’t have a service component.”
Calling the military services “magnificent” he said, “We are absolutely not better than the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines [than others in the war]. We’re no more heroic, smarter, more patriotic. We just have a different mission.”
Part of his job as the commander of special operations is to make sure the force is ready to support combatant commanders down range, McRaven emphasized.
“When I looked at this problem set, this fraying of the force, we realized we had to look at the human physical, psychological and family resilience pieces,” he said. “It shouldn’t surprise anybody, but if you want to talk about the health of an individual, you probably want to take a look at the health of the family, because the health of the spouse and the kids is very important to the health and the readiness of that soldier.”
Establishing the Preservation of Force and Families program wasn’t a business decision, McRaven said.
“It’s a moral obligation that we are taking care of the force and the families,” he said. “We’re making sure this program stays as healthy as can be as long as I can make it happen.”
Contact Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS