Lieutenant General John Mulholland Jr.


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice

Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland Jr. assumed command of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command November 7, 2008. Prior to this assignment he was commanding general of Special Operations Command Central.

Mulholland graduated from Furman University in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in history and was commissioned there as a second lieutenant in the infantry. His first assignment was in Fort Clayton, Panama, from 1979 to 1980, where he served as a rifle platoon leader in Company C, 4th Battalion (Mechanized), 20th Infantry, 193rd Infantry Brigade. From 1980 to 1982, he was rifle platoon leader and weapons platoon leader in Company A (Airborne), 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry in Fort Kobbe, Panama. In 1983, he completed the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and then graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course. He then was assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group (A) at Fort Bragg, where he served as Operational Detachment-A commander and a company commander from 1984 to 1986. Mulholland returned to Panama from 1987 to 1989, where he was appointed current operations officer and later exercises and ground operations officer in J-3 (Operations), Special Operations Command South, U.S. Southern Command.

He attended the Defense Language Institute and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College from January 1990 to June 1991. From June 1991 to 1993, Mulholland served with 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (A) at Fort Bragg as operations officer and later as an executive officer.

Following his tour with the 7th SFG (A), he served as an assistant operations officer, deputy operations officer, and operations officer with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (A) until June 1996.

Mulholland commanded 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (A), U.S. Army Pacific Command in Torii Station, Japan, until June 1998. He then assumed a battalion-level command within the U.S. Army Office of Military Support in Washington, D.C., until August 2000 when he attended the National War College in Washington, D.C. He assumed command of 5th SFG (A) at Fort Campbell, Ky., in July 2001, and in October that year became commander of Task Force Dagger, Joint Special Operations Task Force North during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He later served as commander of Coalition-Joint Task Force West and then Coalition-Joint Task Force-Arabian Peninsula during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In August 2003, he was assigned as chief of the Office of Military Cooperation in Kuwait. From August 2005 through July 2006, Mulholland served as commanding general, U.S. Army Special Forces Command (A). From August 2006 until June 2007, he served as deputy commanding general, Joint Special Operations Command. He assumed command of Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) on June 22, 2007.

Mulholland’s military awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Valorous Unit Award, Special Forces and Ranger tabs, Combat Infantryman and Expert Infantryman Badges, Pathfinder Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, and Military Freefall Parachutist Badge.

Q: Please tell us about your role as commander of USASOC.

A: My charter is to provide our nation with unique, sophisticated and tailored capabilities built around specially selected and trained soldiers with proven, mature decision-making and problem-solving skills to operate in ambiguous, high-risk environments around the world. On any given day there are more than 5,000 USASOC soldiers operating in more than 50 countries—and that number has steadily grown since the war began in 2001.

To guide our efforts in accomplishing this charter, I have provided our leaders with my priorities: recruit, assess, select, train and educate the Army special operations soldier; invest in the Army special operations soldier as a system, incorporating the best practices in training, education and cutting-edge technology; provide strategic options to the geographic combatant commanders and ambassadors across the conflict spectrum; and provide the best quality of life for our families and wounded warriors.

Q: The scalpel versus the hammer method of attrition has been in the news quite a bit. What is your command’s position on this debate?

A: I am not sure this accurately captures the dilemma. The issue is about the precision of the use of force, and knowing when to apply that force. This translates into the need for tactical and operational excellence paired with consistently sound judgment on the complex counterinsurgency operational environment.

Through detailed intelligence work and targeting, outstanding application of tactics, techniques and procedures, and the superb judgment consistently displayed by Army special operations forces [ARSOF] small unit leaders, ARSOF elements work diligently to apply force precisely where and when required.

Q: Do you feel that this debate’s outcome will have a positive or negative impact on your budget requests going forward?

A: I believe there is great appreciation by our senior operational, theater and national leadership on what Army special operations forces brings to the fight. So, while all elements within DoD are undergoing belt-tightening, I do believe that ARSOF will continue to be appropriately resourced to meet our assigned missions.

Q: Do you think that the use of your civil affairs and military information support operations assets have reduced direct action requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are there opportunities to make increased use of their unique skills?

A: Civil affairs and military information support operations [MISO] are dominantly executed in support of both general purpose forces and special operations forces operations. Without question, when well integrated and executed within the populations relevant to the conflict at hand, the potential for reducing the need for direct combat operations is enhanced. A prominent example in execution today in Afghanistan are village stability operations, in support of the Afghan local police initiative.

Executed today primarily with Army Special Forces A teams, but also by Navy Special Warfare SEAL platoons and Marine special operations teams, these small teams of operators frequently incorporate civil affairs, MISO, and other enablers to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to participating villages. The purpose is to gain direct Afghan participation in their local security, thereby facilitating greater connection of villages to local governance and development opportunities.

Q: How are the Iraqi and Afghan special forces programs progressing? Can you describe USASOC’s role in organizing, training and preparing Iraqi and Afghani special forces capabilities?

A: Programs are proceeding very well. In both countries they are the premier response unit for any crisis that develops. In both countries the units possess a unilateral capability that requires minimal assistance from coalition special operations forces. They reached this point not because of any special equipment or training facility, but because of the partnership with USSOF partnered units such as Special Forces ODAs, Navy Special Warfare SEAL platoons and Marine special operations teams. USSOF partnered force integration and partnership with the Iraqi special operations forces, Afghan commando battalions (kandaks) and the now-forming Afghan special forces units is what sets those units apart from the rest of their national armies. This fact is recognized by the senior leadership in both theaters.

Q: With force expansion, are you able to find ways to solidify and shorten deployment times while increasing dwell time between deployments?

A: Not really, because demand for ARSOF continues to outpace growth, and I do not foresee a decrease in the demand for Army special operations forces—quite the opposite in fact. Managing the deployed/dwell ratio will continue to be a challenge.
Q: Recently 10th Group activated its fourth battalion; is this on track with the planned timetable? What’s next?

A: The 10th Special Forces Group activation was on track with our planned growth timetable. This was the third group to expand and both the 1st Special Forces Group and 7th Special Forces Group will add their fourth battalion in the coming months. We are also continuing to grow our 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, our 4th Military Information Support Group, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Q: Do you foresee fixed wing platforms joining the aviation mix at USASOC anytime soon?

A: No, I do not. We are fortunate to have the finest helicopter aviation unit in the world in our ranks—the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. USASOC’s focus will continue to be on ensuring we have the world’s finest rotary wing force sufficient to support Army and joint special operations forces.

Q: Are you satisfied with the level of tactical mobility of your forces to move around the battlespace—both on land and through the air? What are your plans to maintain this freedom of movement?

A: We are currently re-assessing our ground mobility requirements. We know we need to move beyond our current capabilities. There are serious resourcing challenges, though. The current wars have taken a heavy toll on the existing fleet while also adding significantly to the density and complexity of the overall ground tactical fleet. Hard decisions relevant to recapitalization, types of enduring and new capabilities are at hand.

In terms of aviation, the importance and criticality of our rotary wing capabilities has been made crystal clear. As you know, we continue to grow our 160th SOAR (A) capabilities so as to be able to better support special operations. Fixed wing support, which in SOF is provided by our Air Force Special Operations Command brothers-in-arms, has likewise never been more relevant. The struggle, as always, is to strike that right balance of sustainable capability.

Q: Does USASOC have a system master plan that is driving acquisition of unmanned air and ground systems?

A: USASOC uses the Unmanned Aerial System–Unmanned Ground Vehicle Roadmap that has been developed in conjunction with research labs, industry and academia. USASOC adopted this philosophy due to the fluid environment in which ARSOF operates. The rapid advances in technology mean that this approach allows USASOC to adapt the newest technology in the most expedient time frame. USASOC also leverages Army common systems as well. There is a persistent effort to locate new payloads for the vehicles, increase the range and endurance of current systems and the reduction of acoustic signature for all systems. USASOC is also looking to develop requirements for persistent multimission virtual take-off lift UAS for ISR, resupply and a lethal miniature munitions that is presently needed by deployed SOF teams. The bottom line is to leverage all of this capability to best support the warfighter downrange.

Q: Anything you would like to add?

A: Thank you for the opportunity to expound somewhat about the tremendous positive impact our Army’s special operations forces are having around the world every day. These dedicated, professional soldiers, their families, and the communities supporting them are some of the best our nation has to offer. If there is something in the security domain of importance to our country, in all likelihood there is an Army special operations soldier there. It is an extraordinary privilege to serve alongside of them.

Finally, I would ask you and your readers to please remember all of our men and women in harm’s way, to support our wounded and recovering warriors, to remember our fallen and their families.