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Special Operators Praised During Change of Command

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2003 – Special operations forces received praise for their service as the reins of U.S. Special Operations Command changed hands in Tampa, Fla., today.

Air Force Gen. Charles Holland passed the command flag to Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown during the change-of-command ceremony. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld presided.

Rumsfeld said the war on terror is not a war the United States asked for, but it is a war the country must fight and win. "There's no safe, easy middle ground," the secretary said. "Either we take this war to the terrorists and fight them where they are, or we will have to deal with them here at home."

Rumsfeld praised the special operators, saying they are the nation's best warriors, but also least known. "The role that special operations forces play and will continue to play in this global fight to preserve our freedom is pivotal," he said.

Part of this anonymity is because many of the battles special operators fight cannot be on the evening news. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officials said there would be many battles against terrorists, both seen and unseen. "You are fighting that unseen war on terror," Rumsfeld said. "And though most Americans may know little about your truly remarkable exploits, they do take comfort in knowing you are in the fight."

The same knowledge that U.S. special operations forces are in the fight scares America's enemies. "Any moment, you could come through a door or a window," Rumsfeld said. "That knowledge puts pressure on them and that pressure causes them to make mistakes, mistakes that our coalition can and does exploit."

The secretary praised the members of the command for innovating in the midst of a war. "In Afghanistan you combined the most high-tech of weapons with the most ancient of capabilities a man on a horse with a modern weapon," he said. "It took only 49 days from the insertion of the first special operations forces to the fall of Kandahar and the defeat of the Taliban."

Special operations forces took that same sense to the battle to topple Saddam Hussein's regime. "Special operations forces slipped quietly into the country while Saddam waited for the air war to begin," Rumsfeld said. "You hunted Scuds, pinpointed high-value targets, secured oil fields, and established landing fields in the desert to expedite the flow of coalition forces.

"When we were unable to get our forces into Iraq from the north, special operations forces mobilized the Kurdish peshmerga and not only tied down Saddam Hussein's northern units, but captured Mosul and helped unravel the northern front with amazing speed."

Now the Taliban oppressors of Afghanistan are gone and Saddam Hussein is a hunted man taking cover wherever he can in Iraq. "Neither of these victories have been achieved without the skill and courage of U.S. special operations forces nor without the leadership of Gen. Charlie Holland and his team," Rumsfeld said.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers echoed the secretary's praise. "What you've done these last three years under Gen. Holland, and in particular since Sept. 11 in the war on terrorism, has been extraordinary and unprecedented," Myers said to the members of the command. "(Special Operations Command's) extremely important role in national security has certainly jumped to the tip of the spear where it belongs. You've reinvented yourselves as senior leaders have asked more and more of you."

Myers said Holland is a leader who embodies the term "quiet professional." He called the general "even-keeled" and said Holland "always kept this command right on course, regardless of the challenges you've encountered."

Myers said the command has changed quickly to fit the nature of the threats facing America. "No one likes change, but you have transformed here as much as anywhere in the Department of Defense, and fought the enemy simultaneously," he said.

Holland said the key to Special Operations Command's success lies, in part, with the concept of joint operations. "Today, more than ever, we must remain strong, resilient and adhere to the principles that have defined and defended our nation," Holland said. "To succeed against the enemies of our country, we must continue to approach warfare in a joint, combined and interagency manner. The SOCOM team defines the essence of joint teamwork."

Brown, the new commander, said the command is 46,000 members and growing. "Special operators serve every day around the world, mostly in small groups and in places with strange names, almost always on a joint team," he said. These warriors are specially skilled and specially trained people with unique skills and capabilities, he added.

Never before, the new commander said, have special operations forces been so broadly employed, so visible or in such demand. He said the command has been phenomenally successful, and while the command will study the successes, it is more important to confront the challenges ahead.

"What is immediately important is what we must face today and tomorrow," Brown said. "For us, that is the global war on terror. It's global, worldwide, (with) no borders, no geographic borders for (Special Operations Command), and there should be no boundaries in our thinking about the ways to win this war.

"It's war," he continued. "And that demands a go-to-war mindset that impacts on every decision and purpose."

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