Army special operations uses indigenous forces in the fight

Army special operations uses indigenous forces in the fight

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Army special operations provides a suite of invaluable tools to the nation, said Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, who leads U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Tovo made his remarks as part of a forum addressing Army Special Operations on the final day of the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition. Among the tools Army special operations employs is the use of indigenous forces in the fight against common adversaries.

Soldiers from Group Support Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), conduct weapons training during Enabler Integration Program on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. (Photo by Spc. Garret Smith)

Previously used by Special Forces in Vietnam, among other places, indigenous forces are among the approaches Army Special Operations employs.

“This provides a low-cost, high-impact approach,” offering knowledge of the local culture and the ability to use the local language, Tovo said.

Special operations forces tap into multiple ways to complete the mission, panelists said.

A recent successful mission that used a range of resources was the defeat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, said panelist Col. Bethany Aragon, who commands the 4th Military Information Support Group (Airborne).

The mission began in the wake of a highly publicized campaign about LRA leader Joseph Kony, Aragon said.

The notorious warlord had kidnapped more than 60,000 children, and killed or displaced more than 2 million people in Northern Uganda, Aragon said.

Describing an intricately orchestrated operation that included leaflet drops and aerial loudspeakers, Aragon described how a dedicated network created an effective campaign.

Part of that involved a psychological operations campaign targeting a key Kony deputy.

The deputy one day was walking through the jungle, when loudspeakers broadcast his mother’s voice pleading for him to come home, Aragon said.

The deeply personal approach, which included exposing him to photos of family members and other methods, were designed to make the deputy abandon the LRA. He did.

Working in conjunction with military and civilian partners, including the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Invisible Children, the operation prompted a series of defections and leaks.

The end result, Aragon said, was that the LRA went from some 2,000 members down to about 100.

“The Lord’s Resistance Army was rendered ineffective,” Aragon said. “It is the most effective psy-ops campaign on the continent today.”

The Kony mission is an example of the kind of nonlinear mission that special operations can execute, panelists said.

“They offer scalable, tailorable mission command nodes to be just right, or a best fit,” said Lt. Col. Tom Craig, who commands 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

In conclusion to the panel that was followed by a lengthy question and answer period, Tovo summarized his view of what special operations does.

“We’re an integral part of a giant capabilities team that serves the nation,” Tovo said.