Mullen: History Will Reveal Decisive Special Operations Role
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
CORONADO, Calif., Mar. 5, 2010 Addressing a group of Navy SEALs here yesterday, the nation’s top military officer said history would show the decisive contributions provided by special operations troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addresses sailors assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 in Coronado, Calif., March 4, 2010. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I actually believe that when the story is told someday in history that the role of special forces in these wars will be told in a way where they were decisive – you were decisive – in many ways,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a group of SEALs at the Naval Air Station North Island here. “That’s sometimes hard to see when we’re doing it, but I believe that.”
Special operations forces, the sector of highly-trained covert military personnel who sometimes are described as “the tip of the spear,” are helping to lead U.S. efforts against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Mullen said.
“I am engaged with your leadership routinely,” he said, “to make sure that that edge is continuously honed.”
The chairman praised the SEALs for lowering their attrition rate without lowering their standards for fitness or other qualifications, moving the group closer to its goal to increase its ranks by 500 SEALs by 2013.
“We’re growing special forces across the board,” Mullen said, “and that growth will continue even as we come under increasing budget pressure, as I think we will in coming years.”
The rate of attrition among Navy SEALs undergoing the grueling six-month Basic Underwater Demolition School has lingered around 77 percent over the course of training. But that figure has decreased by about 10 percent, according to unofficial estimates by defense officials here.
“Just looking at the attrition statistics, it’s a great improvement [while keeping] the same standard and the same course,” Mullen said. “That’s something we’ve been seeking for a while. … That’s a big change for the positive.”
Mullen expressed his gratitude to the SEALs, who he said “represent the best of who we are in the military.”
“You serve in extraordinarily challenging times in a very difficult fight that’s going to be around for a while,” he said, “and I’m thankful for all that you do and that you’d make the decision to serve our country at this particular point in time.”
After meeting with about 20 spouses of Navy SEALs for about an hour before addressing the military operators, Mullen said the spouses allow the military to make a difference.
“I also want to express my appreciation to your families who support what you do, without which we couldn’t succeed,” he said. “They sacrifice a significant amount, as we all do. We could not do it without them.”
Mullen praised the leadership within the ranks of Navy SEALs, and in special operations forces more broadly, saying their contribution allows for military success at the strategic level.
“We are extraordinarily dependent on your success, believe me,” he said. “And I know that the leaders, from myself right through the president, understand that, and you’ve executed mission after mission successfully and we have great faith that you will continue to do that.
“I don’t take it for granted. You shouldn’t,” Mullen continued. “Future success is going to be generated based on the continued level of excellence that this community seeks.”