U.S. Special Operations Forces Change "Face of War"
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2001 Army Special Forces and Rangers, Navy Seals and Air Force special operations commandos operating in Afghanistan "have changed the face of war," according to a top Pentagon official.
The highly trained, elite troops "dramatically increased the effectiveness of the air campaign, and on the ground, they turned the Northern Alliance into a conquering army," said Robert Andrews, principal deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and low intensity conflict.
Speaking at a Dec. 12 news briefing here, Andrews described U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., as "a small outfit." The unified command's 45,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen represent only 1.3 percent of the military's total personnel. Their mission includes special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare and direct action missions.
The special ops family also includes civil affairs and psychological operations specialists. The command's EC-130 Commando Solo aircraft are rigged as airborne broadcasting studios and air two five-hour radio programs a day over Afghanistan. U.S. aircraft dropped over 10 million leaflets produced by the 4th Psychological Operations Group of Fort Bragg, N.C.
Andrews, who was a Special Forces captain in Vietnam, said special ops units are made up of people who are generally older and more rigorously trained than their cohorts in the "regular" services.
"When you talk to them," he said, "you'll find that they're all motivated by a desire to do well at that which is most difficult."
In the ongoing fight against the Taliban regime and the Al Qaeda terrorist network, U.S. special ops forces have advised, trained and equipped Afghan opposition forces. From Kabul to Kandahar, the American fighters served on a battlefield with 15th century capabilities enhanced by 21st century technology.
While high-tech U.S. bombers and jet fighters pounded terrorist enclaves, U.S. special ops troops rode horseback alongside Northern Alliance counterparts. As Afghan ground forces advanced on Taliban and Al Qaeda strongholds, special ops forces called in coalition airpower.
Any pilot can tell you, Andrews said, it's a lot better to get information from a guy on the ground who's painting a target with a laser than to fly your plane and find your own targets using a "calibrated eyeball."
A "little device" called the JDAM -- Joint Direct Attack Munition -- represents a revolution in precision weaponry, he added. "Most of this stuff, as your accuracy goes up, so does your cost. The accuracy of this thing has gone up; the cost has gone down tremendously -- about 18,000 bucks a pop."
He closed his remarks about the special operations forces by quoting George Orwell. "He said, 'We all sleep safe in our beds because there are rough men who stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm,'" Andrews said. "And you as Americans -- you're being served by some very good people."