Navy Adm. Eric T.
Olson: Demand Will Increase for Special Ops Force
August 10, 2011
Special operations forces will become
more important in the future, said Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, who turned
over the reins of U.S. Special Operations Command today.
United States must not break faith with those who have paid the ultimate
price, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during the change of
command for U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 8,
Adm. William H. McRaven succeeded Olson, who will retire from the Navy
later this month.
Olson was the first Navy SEAL to become a four-star admiral, and he has
been in charge of the command since July 2009. While special operations
forces come from all services, they have a similar mindset, he said.
“It was with purpose and focus, agility and talent, tenacity and
courage, celebration and mourning that our forces moved forward,” he
said during the transfer of command ceremony in Tampa, Fla. “Special
operations forces by nature do not own mass or terrain. What they have
is agility and speed, innovation and wisdom. They value knowledge over
doctrine, experience over theory.”
Special operations forces form a community of “self-starters, deep
thinkers, imagineers, problem solvers, aggressive leaders and teammates
to whom they can and often do trust with their lives,” Olson said.
Special operations forces are a small part of the overall military, but
they have become essential in two major lines of operation in
Afghanistan – counterterrorism and the enduring local security force
activities. Special operators also are key in training Afghan commandos
and special forces.
“Their proven abilities to arrive unexpectedly, to kill those who plan
to do us harm, to take precise action when required, to inspire their
counterparts, all combine to make them a force in high demand,” Olson
said. “To be closely associated with such forces is a true privilege. To
serve as their commander is the highest of honors.”
The admiral said he has worked mostly with senior officers and senior
noncommissioned officers during his time at the command, but he has
tried to get out and speak with those on the ground at combat outposts
and forward locations when possible. Roughly 85 percent of special
operations deployments have been to Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m proud to
note that our ranks are solid, [and] the future is bright,” he said.
Special operations forces have become the solution of choice for many of
America’s military challenges, Olson said.
“They punch above their weight, and they absorb blows with abnormal
toughness and stamina,” he said. “Our nation deserves and expects to
have such a force that operates without much drama or fanfare, and whose
greatest heroes are among the least acknowledged. This force is it. The
yin and the yang – hunting enemies and bringing value to the people and
places we go, are in close harmony.”
is a force that America can and should be intensely proud of, and it is
a force that America needs to face the threats of the future, the
“Osama bin Laden is dead, but al-Qaida version 2.0 is brewing,” he
added. “Conflicts over natural resources, borders, ideologies and
theologies will continue. Cyber war looms. The lines between terrorism
and crime will become less distinct. Global friction will intensify, and
special operations forces will be necessary to turn down the heat.”
Olson said he is concerned about some aspects of the force, including
the “conventionalization” of special operations forces and a potential
decrease in support from the services because of budget pressures. He
has expressed concern about the effects of persistent warfare on
personnel and their families.