AUSA Video – ARSOF Value to the Nation

ARSOF Value to the Nation

ARSOF Value to the Nation. The October 11, 2017 panel presentation and discussion entitled Army Special Operations Value to the Nation held during the AUSA annual exposition was extremely informative.  [1] The Association of the United States Army once again provided an informative and entertaining annual conference. One of the forums was a headed by LTG Ken Tovo, the commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USASOC). The broad set of experiences provided by the panel participants ensured a wide range of topics of importance to Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) were discussed. Fortunately, the panel discussion was taped and the Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) has made it available online. [2]

USASOC Commander. LTG Tovo’s opening remarks were illuminating and helped to form the ensuing discussion. He emphasized how Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) provides a unique set of capabilities at the strategic level with a different approach to the national security objectives of the nation. Using the words from the Jerry McGuire movie Tovo said that SOF and CF ‘complete each other’. He stated that currently ARSOF is in 70-80 countries with about 4,300 personnel deployed overseas. He stressed the importance of interagency cooperation in developing a full team effort to managing conflict and crisis situations.

Four Capability Sets. Tovo outlined four distinct areas where ARSOF provides unique capabilities.

  • Indigenous Approach. ARSOF works through indigenous forces to establish or strengthen stability and security. ARSOF’s language ability, cultural understanding, and regional specialization sets it up for success with local national forces and government officials. This approach emphasizes the concept of foreign forces conducting their own operations.
  • Precision Targeting. USASOC units are able to target human and physical networks using kinetic and non-kinetic methods within the unique SOF targeting process.
  • Understanding the Environment. ARSOF’s repetitive and persistent presence in the more volatile regions of the world provide it with a greater understanding of regional and local conflicts. It also aids in the development of long-term relationships with partners and allies. That provides the ability to give policy makers the micro-context to many crisis and conflict environments.
  • Crisis Response Capability. SOF in general has a network of distributed forces around the world that provide on-location problem solvers that can leverage long-term relationships.

Ambassador Pyatt. The current U.S. Ambassador to Greece (and former Ambassador to Ukraine) was also a panel member. He high-lighted the importance of the relationship between special operations forces and the Department of State Foreign Service. Over the years he has spent some significant time in Europe working with Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). He observed that SOF conducted consistent, repetitive deployments to the same countries. He grew to appreciate SOF’s speed, flexibility, agility, and precision and its ability to interact with the Chief of Missions within the concept of the ‘country team’. He commended SOF’s involvement in the Ukraine pointing to the SF mission to professionalize the Ukraine special operations forces and the Military Information Support Operations (MISO) mission to help the Ukraine military to develop its Information Operations campaign. The ambassador also noted that SOF spends a lot of time in Greece – which pays huge dividends in the exchange of information, opens up new areas of cooperation, and fosters stability in the eastern Mediterranean region. His experience is that SOF and the Department of State is a critical partnership because of the ability of SOF to provide a flexible response to problem sets in today’s complex international environment.

BG David Komer. A member of TRADOC provided some insight on how interoperability of SOF with Conventional Forces (CF) has remarkably improved over the past decade and more. He as seen the relationship change from ‘deconfliction’ to ‘integration’. He also noted how the bigger Army is looking closely (and adopting) SOFs more streamlined and efficient acquisition process. He closed by outlining SOF’s role in the four objectives of multi-domain operations. [4]

COL Brandon Tegtmeier. The commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment stressed the importance of his unit’s synchronization with SOF and CF units. He noted that his regiment provides a core capability of precision targeting – what he referred to as Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, and Analyze or F3EA. Tegtmeier outlined how the regiment provides lethal, tailored options for crisis response. He described how the Rangers are now working very closely with host nation forces on mission sets utilizing kinetic and non-kinetic methodology. In addition, he provided information on how his Rangers are now working in an advisory capacity with some of the host nation forces they have developed long-term relationships with. He described the current situation in Afghanistan as improving. 2017 was a better year for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) than 2016 – with more ‘good news’ than ‘bad news’. With the new South Asian policy now implemented the Afghans are more optimistic of long-term U.S. support.

COL Bethany Aragon. The commander of the 4th Military Information Support Group described in detail the MISO role in the degrading of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa. Her vignette helped to emphasize the importance of lead-times in the employment of MISO teams.

LTC Tom Craig. A battalion commander in the 5th Special Forces Group, Craig has recently re-deployed from a six-month rotation to Syria. His task force (augmented with Civil Affairs, MISO, Marines, and Army CF units) worked with the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) in northern Syria. He stressed that the ‘indigenous approach’ was absolutely working. His assessment is that ARSOF is well-suited to this type of operation due to its regional orientation, cultural expertise, and language capability. His task force enabled its SDF partners with training, equipment, advise, and operational support [5]. He believes that his task force provided contextual understanding to senior U.S. decision-makers. SOF units were able to provide scalable, tailored, mission command nodes (providing C2) across the battlefield. The current fight in Syria is going well, partially because ARSOF is fully integrated with conventional forces, Department of State, USAID, and other agencies. His assessment is that the ground campaign in Syria is going well – ISIS has been steadily losing territory over the past 18 months.

Questions to the Panel. No panel discussion is complete unless there are questions from the audience. This article will not outline all the questions and answers but will note some of the more important ones. A few of questions concerned the fate of the SDF once ISIS is defeated. A comparison was drawn between the Montenards of South Vietnam who worked with U.S. Special Forces and the SDF. Will the US abandon the SDF or stick with them? Other questions for the panel were posed and some good responses were provided. How does MISO train up its personnel in the new information and cyber environment? How does the Army’s plan for Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) synch with Army Special Operations Forces? How is USASOC or the DoD in general learning from the Niger incident where four members of 3rd SFGA were recently lost. There were some excellent answers to the above questions and other questions as well. For that . . .  watch the video.


[1] See the website for the 2017 AUSA Annual Meeting & Exposition.

[2] AUSA 2017 – CMF 10: Army Special Operations Value to the Nation, October 11, 2017. The video is almost two hours long and every bit of it is informative.

[3] As commander of USASOC the ARSOF units are under his command.

[4] See the new FM 3.0, Operations (Fall 2017).

[5] Presumably ‘operational support’ includes ISR, fires, CAS, etc.


About John Friberg 201 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.