RAF MILDENHALL, England (Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary) – U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, speaks to Air Commandos from the 352nd Special Operations Group during a town hall meeting Oct. 23, 2014, in Hangar 239 on RAF Mildenhall.
Currently, Votel directs all U.S. Special Operations Forces and is in charge of organizing, training, equipping and deploying special operators such as the Air Commandos of the 352nd SOG.
“Our nation has very high expectations of SOF,” said Votel. “They look to us to do the very hard missions in very difficult conditions. This particular unit has done impressive things. Whether it’s across Europe or Africa taking on a variety of contingencies, you are all contributing in a very significant way.”
The thing that makes SOF a unique element of the armed forces is the culture and ethos.
“It takes a special mindset that is focused on a mission,” the general stated. “But it also takes a whole team effort. We are not only about the guys at the very tip of the spear. It’s about more than a pilot and an airplane. It’s about the whole SOF component working together to get the mission done.”
Votel’s description of what makes SOF a singular force to be reckoned with is captured in the SOF Truths.
· Humans are more important than hardware.
· Quality is better than quantity.
· SOF cannot be mass produced.
· Competent SOF cannot be created after emergencies occur.
· Most special operations require non-SOF support.
The moniker for SOF, Quiet Professionals, isn’t just name. It carries the mindset which allows SOF to quickly, succinctly and quietly achieve the objective. It’s about personal satisfaction in knowing the job was done right without having to be congratulated.
“Quiet Professionals – that really is what we are about,” Votel said. “We are unconcerned about who gets the credit. Instead, we’re more concerned with getting the job done; sometimes that comes at great personal cost. We knowingly accept that to get the job done.”
SOF can be found in every major command since there are SOF elements worldwide – strategically positioned to be able to respond to whatever crisis crops up.
“We need to have a ‘One-SOF attitude.’ Whatever the requirement is, we all need to be on the same page, regardless of which branch of service you come from. We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of SOF throughout the globe,” Votel said. ”
We all need to be synched up, coordinated and prepared throughout the command.”
As Votel settles into his role as the USSOCOM commander, one thing that is high on his list of priorities is ensuring SOF has the training, skills and education needed to be razor sharp and poised to execute whatever mission SOF is tasked with.
“It’s not just about taking the shot and having pinpoint accuracy,” Votel said. “We have to look at what helped make that shot possible which is the result of a whole of training.”
As a result, SOF readiness is paramount in building and maintaining a force.
“Our ability to bring very precise capabilities to the front is a direct result of being ready right now, ready in the future,” he said. “We need to continue to have cutting-edge technology. I need to make sure we not only have the right stuff today, but be ready to invest in future technologies give us that more of an edge over our adversaries.”
While ensuring SOF personnel are trained and postured to move at a moment’s notice, the concern about service members and their families must be a primary consideration of maintaining a prepared force. From that concern, came Preservation of the Force and Family was created during the tenure of Admiral William H. McRaven’s , Votel’s predecessor.
“We have to continue to take care of forces,” Votel said. “People are our most important resource. We have to make the effort to address some of those invisible challenges our people and provide them with the right tools to help them. We must have a healthy force in order to succeed. Our people need to be mentally, physically and spiritually ready.”
Another key priority for Votel is preparing SOF for the future and all of the uncertainties it presents.
“The world changes very quickly and we need to be able to change with it and be able to react,” the general said. “We need to make sure we are well prepared for the future and those unknown challenges.”