New Commander for Pipehitters Local #69

General Votel in the field

JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command, is the guys who get out of the black helicopters and scarf up bad guys or sometimes simply ventilate them and allow them to return to room temperature. They are our pipehitters and have been running at an extremely high operations tempo since we began taking the fight back to the terrorists. There is a recognition of this among the leadership at SOCOM.

Most of us won’t ever know how hard the country’s Special Operations Forces have it, since elite troops largely work in the shadows. So when their commander, Adm. Eric Olson, says that they’re “fraying around the edges,” it’s a big deal. Only the demand for special operators will likely increase as general-purpose U.S. troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are many missions that our Special Ops forces are called om to do and in some cases the soft force missions are not what these guys signed up for. The hearts and minds, long war of Counterinsurgency (COIN) is a long way from kicking in doors and making dead tangos. That and other factors are affecting morale and retention of experienced operators. A SEAL still in the fray explains:

NSW (Naval Special Warfare) deployments have recently been upped to 9 months from 6, and that is not particularly popular either. Practically the entire force with the exception of management has grown up post 9/11 and have little or no recollection of the “old days” of a total FID-o-rama (Ed. Foreign Internal Defense is training the militaries of our allies) riding dirty in Thailand, PI, Panama, and EUCOM. They expect combat and NSW retention is hurting right now big time.

Well they have a new boss, and in some good ways he seems just like the old boss.

Army Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Votel for appointment to the grade of lieutenant general and assignment as commander, Joint Special Operations Command/commander, Joint Special Operations Command Forward, U.S. Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.

All of that means that a guy who knows the business and has been in the field commanding these units will be in charge. That is always a huge worry for the guys on teams, as an understanding of what they actually face in the field makes it more likely they will have their backs covered. He will still have to deal with a crushing op tempo and the strain that multiple, and potentially endless-seeming, deployments put on operators and their families. That is a tight rope to walk for sure and we wish him and all those under his command Blue Skies and Happy Hunting.