Joint Special Operations University prepares to educate SOF world
Released: 30 Aug 2000
by Tech. Sgt. Ginger Schreitmueller
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFPN) -- United States Special Operations Command was born out of the need to integrate special operations into one operational entity. As this unified command enters its 12th year as a military powerhouse, a new evolution is taking place.
The USSOCOM commander in chief has established Joint Special Operations University as a focal point for meeting the unique educational needs of special operations forces and enhancing the understanding of the utility of special operations to national security decision makers outside of SOF.
"The university is not designed to replace existing training and education programs," said JSOU's first president, Army Brig. Gen. Ken Bergquist. "Indeed, the Air Force, Navy and Army special operations communities each train their forces most effectively. However, these training programs are inherently service centric and provide little instruction in the joint application of SOF. The service components produce the finest special operators in the world -- each focused on their service SOF functions."
JSOU's primary purpose, said the general, is to teach the integrated and synergistic application of these service SOF functions in accordance with joint special operations doctrine and to ensure the future leaders of SOF understand the joint employment of this potent force to satisfy operational and strategic objectives.
"Providing this education in the art and science of joint special operations cannot help but enhance the impact of unified military, diplomatic and economic action across the globe and the across the spectrum of conflict," said Bergquist, a 30-year special operations veteran.
"This is an education process and not a training process," he said. "We do give instruction to provide the basics of the joint employment of SOF, but the real emphasis is on the development of critical thinking skills. It is not enough to know the capabilities and doctrinal employment of joint SOF. Our future SOF leaders must understand that they undoubtedly will function in an uncertain and highly dynamic environment. There will be no template solutions. The only road to success will be creative thinking to develop a solution set applicable only to that unique situation and the flexibility to adjust as circumstances inevitably change."
Educating to achieve this advanced level in the art of applying joint special operations is also the only way to ensure that hard-won lessons of the past are not relearned in the future, added Bergquist.
"Although no operational environment will ever be exactly the same nor have the same solution set, enough commonality may exist to permit lessons and mistakes of the past to guide future SOF leaders clear of pitfalls in the future," said the general.
The courses established by the university, which is co-located with the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field, Fla., will be aimed at intermediate and senior officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers.
"These individuals," said the general, "are at points in their careers where they will assume staff and command roles in the joint arena and will inevitably deal directly with decision makers at the ambassadorial, interagency and CINC levels.
"They need to be able to render sound advice on how special operations can contribute to the overall success of a campaign plan, as well as to accurately describe SOF limitations in a given set of circumstances," said Bergquist. "Sometimes SOF may be a solution but by no means the best solution under the circumstances. Joint SOF professionals will know when someone else's capability is the better solution."
Ultimately, the general sees USSOCOM directing the service components to cycle students through courses offered by the university within certain phases of each individual special operator's career. The intent will be to ensure these operators get the necessary joint SOF education before they are assigned to positions where such education is essential to proper mission performance.
Although each service component has its own "schoolhouse," only Air Force Special Operations Command has training squadrons to conduct Air Force special operator training and a separate school, USAFSOS, to provide education in both Air Force and joint special operations.
According to Bergquist, it made good sense to use USAFSOS as the resident school for joint SOF education.
"USAFSOS already has a solid reputation in the SOF community for providing a quality educational experience in joint special operations for students from all services as well as civilians from the interagency community," said the general. "The university will bring in additional instructors from the components to ensure a balanced collection of experienced operators as faculty, and will considerably add to the joint special operations curriculum."
Although the university may be co-located with and have operational control of USAFSOS, AFSOC will still administratively control USAFSOS and be able to directly task the schoolhouse to accomplish the command's educational requirements that may be separate from the joint special operations curriculum of the university.
Ultimately, the general knows the university must establish a distance learning program to provide its educational courses to a wider audience.
"I envision a program that will service the needs of the SOF community worldwide, as well as enhance the programs within AFSOC and at Hurlburt Field," said Bergquist. "Often our people can't attend courses in residence due to operational commitments. With a web-based curriculum we can offer JSOU courses to a larger percentage of the SOF community."
Along with expanding the SOF educational opportunities, the general sees the distance learning program complimenting existing undergraduate and post graduate courses offered in and around the Hurlburt Field area.
"It just makes sense to give other providers of education at Hurlburt a shared capability to provide their students with the advantages of distance learning," he added.
Another key mission for the university is to provide reach-back capability for SOF leaders, or chairs, at other educational venues. SOF chairs, usually colonels or lieutenant colonels with extensive special operations backgrounds, serve as educational advisors at professional military education institutions across the Department of Defense. For example, the Naval War College and Air University each have SOF chairs on the staff to help integrate SOF education into their respective curriculum.
"The university's job will be to assist the SOF chairs in meeting that objective," said the general. "For example, if the National War College is revising its curriculum to include a major contingency operational exercise, the SOF chair can call JSOU for assistance and we can send three or four planners to help integrate special operations capabilities into the scenarios. We can also arrange for guest speakers -- subject matter experts in SOF -- to address students during the course of instruction; and, at the same time JSOU can ensure the SOF portion of the curriculum is doctrinally correct and relevant to the educational objectives of the institution being assisted."
The general also envisions the university's mission and role expanding as the institute matures. He sees a time in the future where the university will expand its library to serve as a repository for lessons learned, and serve as a center for study and analysis.
Preparing today's joint SOF team for the challenges of tomorrow is the overarching tenet of the university.
"Special operators must become well versed on the joint capabilities of the entire SOF community not just their individual specialty," said the general. "We need to ensure all special operators are comfortable in dealing with fundamental questions about the entire SOF mission. For example, a Navy SEAL needs to be able to speak about psychological operations. No one expects him to be the subject matter expert on PSYOP, but he does need to understand the fundamentals of PSYOP and how it contributes to the overall accomplishment a strategic or operational plan."
The establishment of the university is the next logical step in integrating joint SOF both within and external to the SOF community, said the general.
"The SOF community has matured and become an essential element in the defense and foreign policy endeavors of the United States and our allies," said the general. "Institutionalizing this success in the fabric of our defense and interagency community -- and keeping it relevant for the future -- is an educational process for which Joint Special Operations University is now responsible."