FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The Army is on track to provide soldiers with two years at home for every year deployed, Adm. Mike Mullen said on Wednesday — unless you’re a member of Special Operations Command.
Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the Army’s elite during a visit to Special Operations Command headquarters on Wednesday, speaking to members of one unit that came home in February but was scheduled to deploy back to Afghanistan in July.
Mullen spoke of the increasing importances of Special Forces in the current conflicts, while hearing about the extraordinary of strain of multiple deployments.
Special Forces soldiers don’t do yearlong rotations like most combat units. Instead, they do shorter, more frequent deployments of varying lengths. And they likely will be in Iraq until the last day.
“There’s going to be no drawdown in Iraq for SOF,” said Col. David Maxwell, director of USASOC’s Strategic Initiative Group.
USASOC has no plans to lighten its footprint there as the U.S. pulls tens of thousands of other combat troops out ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline, he said.
As Mullen shook hands with each soldier, many looked nervous as the admiral neared.
Mullen’s comments were on the record. The soldiers’ answers were not.
The admiral asked nearly each man: “How many deployments do you have?”
When one soldier gave his answer, Mullen asked of the man’s son, “Does he know who you are?”
Later, addressing a full auditorium, Mullen again asked about rotations.
Seven deployments? One man raised his hand.
Three had done six. Most had done at least four.
But this is a window to the future Army, many at USASOC said. An intense expansion of facilities and training since 2001 has solidified special operations’ place.
“I think over the next 10 years it’s going to be the same,” Mullen said. “We’re going to have to continue to evolve, change, grow.”
At Bragg, there are no signs of letting up.
“It’s hardest on our families,” Maxwell said, but added, “We tend to find people who want to live and work overseas. Who want to do – you know, have this kind of lifestyle.”