Special Operations: SOCOM Grows And Shifts Its Weight



August 20, 2009: U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is adding 1,300 military and 220 civilian personnel. This includes another 1,100 for the U.S. Army Special Forces, and 400 for the U.S. Marine Corps special operations forces. The army increase includes 444 troops for an additional Special Forces battalion. Another battalion is being added to the army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. The Special Forces will add another battalion per year until all the Special Forces Groups have four (instead of the current three) battalions. Thus by 2013, the Special Forces will have 300 ODAs (Operational Detachment A, or “A Teams), compared to the 180 they had on September 11, 2001. The army would like to add a battaliom to the two reserve Special Forces Groups (the 19th and 20th), which would increase the number of A Teams to 420, but money has not been yet provided for that.

The 3rd and 5th Groups have been doing most of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are getting fourth battalions first. The other Groups have also sent many of their A Teams to Iraq and Afghanistan, but the 5th Group is the one that was trained for that region, and has the lead responsibility.

In the past year, SOCOM has been shifting forces from Iraq (where it had 5,500 personnel last year) to Afghanistan (where it had 3,000 troops). The ratio is being reversed. Most American allies have moved all their commando forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, where they not only do what they were trained for, but also train Afghans for special operations tasks. This has already been done in Iraq, where it worked quite well. The SOCOM troops in Iraq and Afghanistan account for about 80 percent of American special operations forces overseas. The rest are in places like Colombia, the Philippines and Djibouti (adjacent to Somalia).


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