If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can read it here. And if you are not familiar with Special Forces history I recommend looking at my article Special Forces Primer: Lesson 1 – Correcting Misconceptions:
Special Forces traces its roots as the Army’s premier proponent of unconventional warfare from the Operational Groups and Jedburgh teams of the Office of Strategic Services. The OSS was formed in World War II to gather intelligence and conduct operations behind enemy lines in support of resistance groups in Europe and Burma. After the war, individuals such as Col. Aaron Bank, Col. Wendell Fertig and Lt. Col. Russell Volckmann used their wartime OSS experience to formulate the doctrine of unconventional warfare that became the cornerstone of the Special Forces. In June of 1952, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was established under Col. Aaron Bank. Concurrently with this was the establishment of the Psychological Warfare School, which ultimately became today’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Special Forces Soldiers first saw combat in 1953 as individuals deployed from 10th SFG (A) to Korea.
For eight or nine years Special Forces was getting further and further away from their roots. As the GWOT progressed, Special Forces commanders were only giving lip service to UW. Instead they focused more and more on DA. During this time there were people within the community screaming, that we can’t lose our UW skills. Behind closed doors there was intense and extremely heated debates. From the team rooms to the highest level of command, up and down the hallways there was the argument on UW vs DA.
With Iraq over in 2011, and (at the time) what looked like U.S. troops being pulled out of Afghanistan, coupled with the downsizing of the military, Special Forces Command finally realized the need to rebuild their UW capabilities, and use the lessons we learned from over a decade of war. In July of 2012, LTG Charles T. Cleveland took command of the United States Special Operations Command (USASOC) and in April of 2013 released ARSOF 2022.
LTG Cleveland said in a 2014 interview:
Last year, USASOC took a major step forward by introducing ARSOF 2022 as our blueprint for the future. ARSOF 2022 sought to clarify the narrative for Army special operations, provide direction to the force, and establish a process for future force development that leads to better support of joint force commanders in the future environment. It set in motion a number of changes primarily focused on the tactical aspects of our business and exploring the beginnings of SOF operational art.
ARSOF 2022 identified future threats that SOF forces may be called upon to deal with by 2022 and beyond. These threats range from conventional forces, to unconventional forces, irregular militias, paramilitaries, transnational terrorist groups, organized criminal elements dispersion and access to weapons of mass destruction, and the privatization of force. When you start mix and matching all of these into a hybrid force it gets harder and harder.
Special Forces will increasingly be asked to conduct operations against these threats and they must be able to seamlessly shift between, ethnic enclaves in the center of sprawling megacities to austere rural villages or anything in between.
The question then became two-fold,
1) How do we make Special Forces soldiers able to operate in this wide variety of operational environments with a variety of threat levels, and:
2) How can the command support them with things like logistics, intelligence and communications when they are deployed?
Factors that were considered:
- Geopolitical Constraints: Our battlespace will contain agile state actors and non-state actors operating across borders of sovereign nations and outside of declared combat zones.
- Policy Limitations: Forward presence will be affected by a reduced budget and national reluctance to act overtly and unilaterally.
- Hostile nation states: These states will be more capable and want more resources, but still will be unable to match U.S. forces.
- Threat networks: These networks (comprised of both state-sponsored and nonstate terrorist groups) will remain active; their attacks will have greater impact; they will use more sophisticated techniques; and they will retain freedom of maneuver
A year after ARSOF 2022 was published they released ARSOF 2022 Part 2.
Throughout this past year, USASOC conducted studies and explored concepts that would allow our force to take yet another critical, but necessary step in maturing the ARSOF profession. These actions focused on the challenging effort to reshape the force at the institutional-level and to develop new mission command capabilities, which will address contemporary and future operational requirements.
On 1 October, 2014, USASOC created the 1st Special Forces Command. This new command…is the result of the merging of the Army units who are specifically trained in UW. This command is based around the United States Army Special Forces Command (USASFC) and pulled in underneath them are Civil Affairs (CA), Military Information Support Operations Command (MISOC) formerly known as Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), and the 528th Sustainment Brigade.
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