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Special Ops Forces expansion plan
Posted by: McQ on Friday, February 24, 2006

Over the past couple of weeks we've been discussing the needed shape of the furture military and the expanding need for special operations forces over several posts. I've been of the opinion that a rather large expansion of Army special operations forces is not only needed but something that is possible. Others have voiced their doubt in the comments section of the posts.

GEN Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff has now spoken out about the plan to expand Army special operations. GEN Schoomaker is particularly well versed in this area having once been the commander of the US Army Speical Operations Command.

Some of the things he said to the 50th anniversary of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Council in Fayetteville NC (we used to call it "Fayettnam" at a particular time in this nation's history and when I lived there):

On special operations in particular:
The Army will double the number of its civil affairs companies and add five Special Forces battalions and a company to each of the three Ranger battalions, he said. Special operations aviation, which flies small numbers of specially trained soldiers into hostile areas, will increase by a battalion, he said.
That's a pretty large expansion. Still not as much as I'd like to see, but pretty large. Some commenters noted that special operators don't grow on trees, and in particular Army Special Forces troops (Green Berets). Schoomaker updated that effort:
It can take one to two years to produce a Special Forces soldier, and the Army has increased the number of soldiers donning the green beret from 497 in 2000 to 1,101 in 2005.
That is a significant increase, but one they've managed in a year. I doubt whatsoever they've lowered standards to do that. Too much pride in the school to allow it regardless of pressure from above (and I'm only assuming this as a hypothetical issue, I have no idea that pressure to do so was ever applied).

Another point I made was that they must look within (among regular line units as well as airborne units) for candidates for special operations:
Reductions in the Army after the Cold War affected the talent pool from which Special Forces depended. Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased the “experience base” in the Army, he said.

“We now have an Army perhaps better postured to support the input to special operations forces,” Schoomaker said. “It becomes a logical place for some soldiers to go. They now come from organizations that have got a lot of operational experience.”
IOW he's saying we have a much larger experienced base from which to choose than we did a few short years ago even if the numbers in the Army haven't increased significantly.

Another point Schoomaker made was the Army intended to expand the size of elite airborne units. Or said another way (being a proud paratrooper myself) the demise of the airborne soldier is much exaggerated:
“We are actually increasing our holdings in airborne forces,” said Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff. “We are adding an additional brigade here” in the 82nd Airborne Division. The Army also is increasing airborne forces in Alaska and Vicenza, Italy, he said.

“What we’ve really done is postured airborne forces for quick reaction globally,” Schoomaker said in an interview with The Fayetteville Observer on Fort Bragg. “In that regard, I think the role of the paratrooper is much the way it has always been.”
The airborne forces mentioned in Italy are the 173rd Abn Bde ("The Herd").

So there you have it. The present plan for expanding Army special operations. Oh, one other item. The SOC command is being elevated from a 2-star command (MG) to a 3-star (LTG) command. That gives increased horsepower to the command which is especially important in the inevitable in-house turf wars to come.

All-in-all, a good start.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I’m glad to see a resonable expansion plan. You know it’s not tha many of us question paratroopers per se I just question the need for the 82nd Airborne Division. The 504th, 325th, 505th and the 173rd PIR/Brigade Groups are very useful. Just do we need a divison-sized element that was last employed in its supposedly primary role in 1944?

Certainly Panama, Grenada, and OIF have demonstrated the utility of airborne troops, unless you’e MK and then Airborne forces are simply the Army equivalent to Aircraft Carriers, implements of Imperial Enforcement. UNLESS< they are being threatened against Haitian strongmen and then they are agents of change and "restorers of Haitian Democracy (A very rare and possibly mythological beast)."
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I think, Joe, that the plan is to use corps headquarters as the place for joint force integration and division hqs will be the place for Army command and control and the level where that intergration plan is broken out with Army specific tasks.

Or said another way, a division may be in charge of commanding and controlling three (or soon 4) different bde level missions at once, something corps has no ability to do. It’ll be responsible for task organizing the force properly, ensuring the necessary support is available, and liason with the joint force headquarters (corps).
As chief of staff, Schoomaker has been changing the Army’s focus from divisions with 10,000 to 14,000 soldiers to brigades of about 4,000 that are easy to deploy and to interchange.

Fort Bragg is home of the 18th Airborne Corps, which is higher headquarters for the 82nd Airborne Division and three other divisions. In the future, an Army corps headquarters will be able to transform into joint task forces that can deploy overseas and be in charge of Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force units.
What that means is we may never again deploy the 82nd Airborne Division as a division, but that level of command will still be necessary for command, control, logistics and force integration plans. It will also be important in asset allocation through prioritizing missions and assigning division assets to meet those priorities. If it needs more assets to do a mission or simultaneous missions, then it goes to corps. And, it becomes the single point of liason and contact for corps in terms of joint operations planning (instead of corps trying to do that with multiple separate bdes).

Written By: McQ
In that sense a division is a fine thing... as an organizing and controlling element of several diverse brigade groups. And we got to call them somethng. I just get tired of hearing, "The Free World’s ONLY Airborne (insert unit here)."
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well that’s how they’ve functioned for years anyway. We’ve been deploying bdes for a while. There just hasn’t been a situation other than Iraq which has required much more. But C&C remains a requirement.

And hey, they are the only division size airborne unit in the free world. It’s a matter of pride. And having been a proud member of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 325th Infantry (as we were known then, I believe they go by Parachute Infatry Regiment (PIR) now) of the 82nd Airborne Division I can understand as I was immensely proud to wear the double A of the division on my shoulder and be identified with that tradition.

That sort of tradition is very important to esprit de corps. Units like the 82nd, 101st, 3ID, 4ID and others are building that traditon again in Iraq and Afghanistan and it gives them something of which to be proud. When you’re a part of building on to a storied tradition, you do you best not to let your side down. Keeping a divison identity helps in that regard.
Written By: McQ
Oh it’s not so much the divisional identity, but the "We’re the only Airborne Bottle-Washing Company in the Free World" or the like and my response is, "Yeah and so what? Do I REALLY NEED an Airborne Bottle-Washing Company or P-38 Heavy Maintenance Detachment?" How about just a regular QM detachment?

The PIR’s are kewlllll, lotsa history there... if the division or its component brigades just didn’t spend all their time trying to get a combat jump in EVERY deployment...which my friends seem to believe is a major goal of the 82nd any time they’ve been deployed near them.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Do I REALLY NEED an Airborne Bottle-Washing Company or P-38 Heavy Maintenance Detachment?" How about just a regular QM detachment?
Well you do if you’re going to be jumping in somewhere and airlanding isn’t an option. Part of the tail, and the tail needs to be as mission capable as the teeth.
...which my friends seem to believe is a major goal of the 82nd any time they’ve been deployed near them.
Of course they do, they’re paratroopers for God’s sake. ;)

Written By: McQ
Of course they do, they’re paratroopers for God’s sake. ;)
I know, but it’s that coveted combat jump badge they’re after, are my friend’s suspicions.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I think you guys are all wrong. What the modern military needs is a "shoot to hurt, not to kill" rule! Or better yet, we should just instruct all our trigger pullers to shoot the guns out of the hands of their enemies.

World Peace, here we come!
Written By: Jon Henke
I know, but it’s that coveted combat jump badge they’re after, are my friend’s suspicions.
Heh ... well of course they are. It’s hard to one-up fellow paratroopers and they’re naturally always on the prowl for a way to do so. Having a combat jump star on your wings is certainly one way to do it.
Or better yet, we should just instruct all our trigger pullers to shoot the guns out of the hands of their enemies.
Too bad Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger aren’t still alive ... they could be the instructors.
Written By: McQ
Too bad Gene Autry and the Lone Ranger aren’t still alive ... they could be the instructors.

Not for long, after they went into the field they’d be dead pretty quickly.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Hmmm... this plan does seem a bit more logical. The new plan is more deployable for ’fire brigades’, which will be the primary mission in the near future. The thing that makes me laugh though, is when they shuffle the numbers, they never challenge the ratio of tail to teeth- yeah, keep the bureaucracy. It’s doing so great. Let’s make everyone SOF and give them more staff to second guess them!

But keep the division for both history and of course there has to be some admin. We have to maintain a credible deterrent for the big one, just in case, while we put out the small ones. For me though, in the meantime they are going to have to do more to push that ’warrior ethos’ besides passing out cards to memorize. Some of you older guys- do you really realize what passes for Basic and Airborne in the RA these days? The USMC does a much better job in that area and others.

And to throw some gas on the fire, Joe’s warning was true for the last mustard stain of the 82nd in Panama- jumping into an airfield already controlled by SOF, getting in a firefight with friendlies. Don’t remember who’s call that was. But it gives a bunch of people pause when they think about it.


My opinion on these things has maintained it’s negative tone which I am having considerable problems moderating. The alternative being silence, I choose acidity... There are some big problems out there that I don’t think are being properly addressed, because it would be too difficult. People, and especially the political class, all talk a great game but do nothing. There’s always these great plans and programs but then they totally f*** up the implementation. My experience is that the success comes almost despite the brass and all that accompanies- and best when they don’t know about it. That seems to be our counterinsurgency doctrine- hope.

My opinions on Iraq follow these lines (great idea, but implementation problems), and of course the military has to make sense and bear the cost of it. I’m not a naysayer about that. But it makes me think hard about the experiences of my family and friends who served in conflicts prior- do we really have to accept that waste and political infighting at the cost of our combat readiness? And looking at what made the great armies of the past so great- it’s not because they had 20 thousand Generals. You have to find the good ones and let them make it happen. The Patton’s and such. Just look at how they stomped out Grange. Anyhow, maybe that’s why I’m sympathetic to the libertarian view and it’s ideals.
Written By: Sunguh

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