Air Force News

Special operations commander outlines future threats

Released: May 27, 1998

by Capt. John Paradis
16th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- More Chechnyas. If a military strategist needed to look at a good model for the typical future conflict, the war torn republic of Chechnya comes to mind, said Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, U.S. Special Operations Command commander in chief.

Speaking recently to about 2,000 Hurlburt Field troops at the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit hangar, Schoomaker said the only certainty in the future of warfare is that security challenges will be more ambiguous and will follow less traditional paths.

Looking at Chechnya as an example of future conflict, confrontation will likely differ from the more conventional and familiar "total war" by the inclination of future adversaries to use "psychological terror" and the influence of international media, the Internet and even cell phones to employ open brutality as an information warfare tactic.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin, determined to crush the secessionist drive of the tiny, mainly Muslim southern republic, ordered about 40,000 troops into Chechnya in December 1994. What was planned as a quick campaign turned into a long and costly war, in which the outnumbered rebels time and again dealt heavy blows to a demoralized Russian military.

It's such "asymmetric" opponents like separatists, rebel groups, insurgents and terrorists that U.S. special operations forces will need to prepare for -- enemies who won't attack U.S. strategic strengths, but will instead target U.S. vulnerabilities by executing unorthodox measures to gain success, Schoomaker said.

"That's the future. More Chechnyas," the general said. "We are going to see more conflict of this nature because it's a much different world we're facing."

In his first opportunity to address a large group of Hurlburt Field airmen, Schoomaker said U.S. special operations forces must remain operationally "unique and relevant" in order to meet such future challenges.

The general's 50-minute slide show presentation provided an overview of U.S. Special Operations Command, challenges and vision. As the USSOCOM commander in chief, Schoomaker is responsible for more than 47,000 special operations people from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Calling special operations forces "global scouts," the general said he reviews a weekly list of worldwide SOF deployments. Last week, SOF people were in 71 countries. On average, 5,228 SOF people are deployed each week, a three-fold increase in missions since 1991.

At one point this past year, SOF people were involved in deployments and military operations in Albania, Northern Iraq, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Namibia and the Republic of Congo, Schoomaker said.

Such a demand for SOF by theater commanders and a consistently high operations tempo continues to provide challenges and pressures, said Schoomaker, who added that he testified recently before both the House and Senate Armed Services committees to emphasize the impact increased deployments will have on SOF people and training.

Still, SOF will remain busier than ever, said the general. SOF, he said, must continue to play a leadership role in supporting a national security strategy of engagement and enlargement.

According to the USSOCOM 1998 Posture Statement, the strategy calls for U.S. forces to remain engaged abroad while supporting efforts to "enlarge the community of secure, free-market and democratic nations."

To help shape the international security environment in ways favorable to U.S. interests, SOF must focus on three elements, Schoomaker said: shaping, responding and preparing.

Looking back 18 years ago to the aftermath of the Desert One operation to rescue hostages from Iran and the eventual creation of USSOCOM, Schoomaker said SOF has come a long way. But the future, he added, including new AFSOC weapon systems such as the tilt-rotor CV-22 and the developmental MC-X, as well as new information-based technologies, would continue to keep SOF busy and on the cutting edge.

"What we're going to do in the next 18 years compared to the last 18 years will be a cakewalk," he said. "We're going to be challenged like we've never been challenged before."


* Air Force Special Operations Command
* Hurlburt Field, Fla.
* U.S. Army
* U.S. Navy
* U.S. Special Operations Command