by DAVID AXE and BRYAN WILLIAM JONES
You rarely see them or read about them, but they’re out there, fighting and sometimes dying. Soldiers, sailors and airmen from U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wage war under a cloak of secrecy. Their deployments are not announced. Few reporters ever visit the units. When they fight, the results often make the news, but the commandos’ involvement is rarely fully explained.
It’s possible to glimpse special operations forces (SOF) only at the fringes. Recently, SOCOM invited The Washington Times to observe a special operations forces training event at Fort Irwin, in the Mojave Desert just east of Los Angeles. Before shipping off to East Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines or other conflict zones, commando units run a gamut of exercises meant to prepare them for the rigors of combat. Fort Irwin, home of the U.S. Army’s sprawling National Training Center, is one of the last stops.
The role of special operations forces has expanded significantly since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as the U.S. military has gotten involved in an ever wider range of counterterrorism and nation-building operations. Since 2001, SOCOM’s budget has tripled to nearly $10 billion annually. Last year, the Pentagon began an ambitious plan to add 13,000 new commandos to the existing 50,000-strong force.
More than 100 commandos have died in combat since 2001, not necessarily in Iraq or Afghanistan. In September, two SOF sergeants were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle on Jolo Island in the Philippines. SOCOM has been training the Filipino military to suppress an Islamic insurgency.
(Photo: Bryan William Jones)
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