Admiral says Bragg's special ops will grow

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http://www.fayobserver.com/Articles/2009/08/12/924187

Fort Bragg's special operations population will grow by at least 500, even with 7th Special Forces Group leaving in 2011, Adm. Eric T. Olson said Tuesday in Fayetteville.

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The four-star admiral is in charge of U.S. special operations forces. He spoke to about 260 people at the Military Leadership Business Luncheon of the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce at the Crown Center.

Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Lumberton Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the admiral.

About 2,200 soldiers will move to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in two years due to the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment mandate, Olson said. About 4,000 family members will go to northern Florida with the soldiers, he said.

"The overall trend in special operations forces here in the Fayetteville area is a plus," Olson said.

Fort Bragg's 3rd Special Forces Group is activating its 4th Battalion on Tuesday. Much of the other growth is "incremental," he said. Civil affairs and psychological operations units also are growing gradually.

About $110 million of military construction is scheduled to accommodate the growth, he said.

Olson said after the luncheon that he has recommended further growth of 3 percent to 5 percent over the next four to five years.

Olson is commander of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. His command has a total of about 56,000 people worldwide, he said.

Special operations forces usually work in small groups in hostile or austere areas. They do jobs ranging from distributing information leaflets to performing humanitarian relief to conducting manhunts for terrorists.

"Also the special operations community is being injured and is dying at a higher rate than the rest of the force," he said. "We are subject to improvised explosive devices that are now the primary casualty producer on the battlefields. Special operations forces more so than most other forces are also subject to the close-in fight. They certainly take a higher percentage of gunshot wounds at close range."

Olson is the first admiral to head the four-star command that oversees special operations of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Retired Gen. James J. Lindsday, who became the first commander of U.S. Special Operations Command in 1987, attended the luncheon.

Fort Bragg is the home of two of Olson's commands, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command, which is commanded by a Navy three-star admiral. The Army has about 15,000 special operations in the area, and the Navy, Air Force and Marines have 2,000 to 3,000, he said.

In a departure from what is normally heard at functions in the Fayetteville area, the closing music for the event was the Navy song, "Anchors Aweigh."
 
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