Got bottle I'm gonna use it
Intention I feel inventive
Gonna make you, make you,
make you notice
--Brass in Pocket,
Why do we have Special Forces, and why did Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) devolve from this? How did they become 4-Star commands?
Do units that have 68,000 assigned personnel -- along with an unspecified number of civilian personnel -- qualify as “special”? If Special Operations Forces are so special and their missions classified, why do we wear flashy tabs and hats advertising our existence; shouldn’t Special Operations Forces (SOF) be all gash and no flash?
The Unites States Special Forces was modeled upon World War II's Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was modeled upon the British SOE. The OSS was a theatre asset responsive to the orders of the Allied Supreme Commander. Special Forces was just that: They were assigned missions outside of the traditional force structure.
SF worked with the State Department as part of a “Country Team”, in order to ascertain what was needed to benefit the host nation (HN). In addition to direct action, SF performed Foreign Internal Defense (FID), Internal Defense and Development (IDAD), intelligence functions and unconventional and guerrilla warfare.
The Rangers, Devils Brigade, Marine Raiders and Merrill's Marauders consolidated into United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance and the Rangers. Both specialized in direct action (DA), while performing some supporting intelligence roles, as well. Both are built on the British WW II commando model and are military in function, pure and simple.
So, how have the Rangers and USMC Force Recon come to be included under the rubric of SOF, which is other than simple DA? Ditto the SEALs, who morphed from the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) of WWII. The fleet simply does not need to send hired killers around the world. How did the killing of Osama bin Laden, for example, benefit the Chief of Naval Operations (other than making of him a Mortuary Officer?)
In Vietnam, SF were trained in and performed all the classic WWII OSS functions. The CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Groups) A-teams did Population and Resource Control (PRC), IDAD and FID. The Mike Force B-teams were DA, with some focus on intel gathering. All worked for the Theatre and Corps Commanders and were responsive to the maneuver commander’s guidance. All followed the chain of command and had a clearly delineated role.
Special programs like Studies and Observations Group (SOG) were DA, strategic intel and worked directly for the Theatre Commander. All used foreign troops under U.S. command, fulfilling the “force multiplier” SF mission.
All was fine until the failure of Desert Storm I, when it was decided that the Army needed an in-house special Air Force responsive to Special Operations’ needs; thus was created the 1st Provisional SOCOM. (It should be noted that in VN and before, SF had a prototype of SOCOM with the dedicate aviation units which had habitual relations with SF units like The Green Hornets (20th Special Operations Squadron; 20th SOS with SOG).)
The justification for the creation of SOF – SOCOM was the cry from SF commanders that Regular Army pogues did not understand SF capabilities, and therefore misutilized the assets. While that may be so, the current Special Operations empire has not ensured SF is used any better than it was in the bad old days. Instead of keeping SF special, it is now a miasma of cobbled forces and missions.
What does SOCOM do that any regular U.S. Army unit cannot do? The 10th Mountain, 24th and 25th, 4th and 3rd Division all fight just as hard as any SOCOM unit. Any unit can be special trained up for purposes in Iraq or Afghanistan. It appears SOCOM has ceased to be a war fighting organization and instead has become a series of small units focused on non-military operations.
It seems the one new thing for SOCOM is to serve at the beck and call of a president who wishes to order assassination strikes and avoid going through the National Command Structure.
In Ranger’s day, the military distrusted SF as being Central Intelligence Agency lackeys . It looks like the hens have come home to roost as SOCOM is now functioning as the military wing of the CIA.