Special Ops Working to Retain Seasoned OperatorsBy Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas OConnell said the new incentives, announced in February, are designed to help stem the loss of highly trained operators from the force at a time when their skills are critically needed in support of the war on terror.
Overall, recruiting and retention within special operations is on track, and schoolhouses that train them are full, OConnell said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service.
The problem area, he said, rests with special operators with 18 or more years of service with extensive training and experience under their belts. We have seasoned operators that are clearly much in demand by other government agencies [and] the civilian community, he said.
The new retention incentive package is aimed at keeping these experienced Army Special Forces, Navy SEALS and special warfare combatant crewmen, and Air Force combat controllers and pararescuemen in uniform. It provides:
Our investment in these professionals is great, and the experience gained through years of service makes them invaluable assets to our nations defense, said Army Lt. Col. Alex Findlay from U.S. Special Operations Commands personnel directorate, in announcing the new incentive package. Younger replacements can be trained, but experience is irreplaceable in the current worldwide war on terrorism.
While taking measures to retain its seasoned members and maintain its retention goals, Special Operations Command isnt willing to lower its standards to attract recruits, OConnell said.
Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown, who heads U.S. Special Operations Command, expressed similar views during March 1 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. We cannot dilute the high standards of our people, he told the committee. That is the bedrock of our capability.
To maintain these standards, OConnell said special operations has a very high cut for members who go into its training programs. And those programs, he said, present the most difficult, the most rigorous, the most advanced and the most demanding training in the world.
Its also risky in many respects, OConnell said, but acknowledged that the risk factor is believed to be one factor that attracts people into special operations in the first place.
And I think their success on the battlefield says that our recruitment [and] our training techniques are successful, he said.
OConnell said he and Special Operations Command welcome all volunteers into special operations forces. To help give prospective special operators the best chance of meeting stringent requirements, many are now receiving advanced training before they enter the program. This, OConnell said, helps get them up to the level so that they have the highest chance of success.
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