Another soapbox harangue about SOF…and dancing soldiers

Apparently experts are telling us that SOF troops need to get away from direct action missions and back to FID.

“What is clear to me is that SOCOM should do a much better job than it has been doing on the institutional side . . . that is where long-term strategic impact comes,” Linda Robinson, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations…”SOCOM and SOF have accomplished some amazing things over the past decade, but there has been something of an operator mentality…I think it is now time for SOF to rebalance from this largely tactical and operational focus to concern itself more with the institutional development of SOF…”

Wow, that is brilliant. We hope she gets paid a lot of money for exercising her big brain and cool pedigree, especially if the money comes from the defense budget. All things being equal, that was some of the most poignant and striking testimony we’ve read (a more thorough analysis here).

So the Council on Foreign Relations is telling us we might ought to shift SOF focus…thank God for her input, but time for that later. Look. Dancing soldiers.

A non sequitur? Sure. But pundits and talking heads make us want to throat punch somebody…as do those who take something any number of seasoned operators (especially SNCOs) could tell you (for a fraction of the cost) and make a talking point for some politician out of it. Or, maybe these hangovers and blue balls are making us cranky.

Still…dancing soldiers.

Mad Duo Clear.

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About the Author

The Mad Duo
Richard Kilgore and Jake Call enjoy something of a celebrity status among action figures and 1/1 scale trigger-pullers alike. They are world renowned for their wit, objectivity, keen tactical insight and utter lack of exaggeration or hyperbole. They leverage tens of thousands of hours of training and operational experience to the betterment of all mankind (and shooters). When not saving helpless school children from terrorists, rescuing damsels in distress and removing insurgents from the gene pool, they write, blog and support single dancing moms one dollar bill at a time. This provides much needed wisdom and perspective to the vast community of trigger-pullers that so desperately hungers for it. You can reach them at or if you're not a SISSY.
  • Riceball

    So SOF should move more to FID missions, I thought that was why we had Army Special Forces, FID is their stock in trade. I say, let the FID experts handle the FID missions and let the other SOF units stick to what they each do best.

    • FormerDirtDart

      They’re just knee-jerking that someone not wearing camouflage had the gall to point out a known, real deficiency.

      • FormerSFMedic

        What deficiency is that? Robinson is not an “expert” nor did she make any valid point. Solutions to problems that don’t exist are always a waste of time. We can only hope that these ideas of hers don’t go anywhere. I agree with the Mad Duo on this. Decreasing our SOF Warfighters capabilities makes no sense.

  • Will

    This chick is saying reduce tactical proficiency and increase language training; I find no policy that includes reducing tactical proficiency sound thinking, especially from someone who has never spent time downrange.
    Did these people just not have anything better to do that day? ***?

  • RAAFieReservist

    Those dancing plastic army men are so suave!

  • Tom

    This lady is off her rocker if she thinks SF is not doing FID. Let’s look first at Iraq we had ISOF to include 36 CDO, ICTF, and ISOF Recce, and all of the regional commando battalions and that was on the MOD side. Then on the MOI we had the ERB/ERU and all of the regional SWAT Teams.
    Then in Afghanistan we have SF again did combat FID with the Northern Alliance, and then help to stand up the ANA, ALP, and ANASOF.
    Then we can shift again to Africa and look at the counter LRA mission where SF is training multiple countries to LRA freedom of maneuver and safe zones.
    SOF is also still engaged in South America and the Pacific conducting FID. All of these missions make an impact through the entire operational spectrum of tactical, operational, and strategic. In short this lady doesn’t know much when it comes to SOF and more exactly SF, which is the only unit that has a congressional mandate to conduct FID.

  • FormerDirtDart

    I suggest that maybe all of you knee-jerkers should read what was submitted to Congress. And, not the poorly done article that some how takes a couple of sentences completely out of context.

  • The Mad Duo

    Thanks for that, we should’ve put the link in for the whole testimony. So we’re clear, we’re not knee-jerking about civilians being involved in any process. The military, left completely to it’s own devices, has demonstratably shown a willingness and ability to be a cluster ****. Of course there should be civilians in the process, and we DID read the entire testimony before writing the article. Utilizing expensive think tanks with fancy pedigrees is important sometimes…sometimes it’s overkill and just a bureaucratic exercise in look-at-me ************. Her conclusions were largely correct. We question political machinations and bloviating that might lie behind using her to make them. This is important stuff and should be treated as such.

    Plus, you have to admit, the dancing army men were cool.

    In all seriousness though keep the dialogue rolling, discussions like this are bad ***.

  • Carl

    The Army’s Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) at Ft. Bragg started requiring mandatory regional language skills for all Special Forces Qualification Course students back in 2004. If you are not proficient in your regions language you do not graduate from the “Q” course.

    Of all the SOF commands under USSOCOM, I believe only Army SF Soldiers are required to have this language capability although since MarSOC has used the SF playbook, they might also have this incorporated into their training now.

    • FormerSFMedic

      Carl, you are correct about the Q Course. One of the things that has changed since I went through was when the language training is placed in the course and how it is taught. The language course in the new curriculum is part of the 2nd phase of training. The 2nd phase of training is actually the 1st part of your overall operational skills since the 1st phase is basically an INDOC type of curriculum. Since the language skills are taught first, the SF Candidate is able to master his language skills throughout the entire curriculum and become much more proficient by the time he graduates and reaches and ODA. For me, the language training was one of the last things I did. I was able to gain a level of proficiency that aloud me to pass and understand the basics but I had very little real world experience once I graduated. New Candidates will have a much higher proficiency level due to their experience in using the language and cultural skills during other phases of the course.

  • Clowe

    Couple things…first of all, though I met her in Afghanistan back in 2004 and she was perfectly pleasant and friendly, Linda Robinson is probably not the best person to be making policy advice to lawmakers on SOF. She is a former military reporter for US News and wrote one (not so good IMO) book on SOF in Afghanistan called “Masters of Chaos.” Then she hopped on the CFR gravy train and gets called to Congress as an “expert” probably by the minority staff (Dems). That’s just for background…She’s in a bit over her head when it comes to delivering advice to national policymakers based on experience merely as a reporter.

    Second, I reported about this subject here about a year ago when I interviewed JFK School commander Sacolick who was adamant about changing the public perception of “white” SOF back to all the things they do OTHER than DA. (Maybe the Mad Duo can help me with linkology — Milcom’s search is **** sandwich — but here’s a teaser…. Essentially what Mad Duo quoted is exactly what Sacolick (a former Delta commander and CIA liaison) had been shifting toward at the school last year…

    Just some food for thought…

  • Mike W.


    Big Thanks Linda, I think I remember seeing you doing Robin Sage. Or maybe you were the chick in SERE that laughed at me when I was naked.

    Then again, probably not. Now, how about more Dancing Soldiers!

    Makes me wonder if they make plastic dancing stripper chicks.

  • The Mad Duo

    The “party line” from the Army about changes to SF curriculum can be read in a number of articles over here;…. General Sacolick has indeed been talking about this sort of thing (as have many others) for some time now. MARSOC is currently doing a lot of FID and CFID, particularly for AFRICOM. We know this because we were just drinking beer with one of them who’d recently returned and trust us – they’re working their ***** off over there. Our point is that Ms. Robinson, in our view, falls short of a true expert and she said very little in her entire testimony that hasn’t already been heard a number of other places (or even been implemented). Which brings us back to our entire point. Money, time and effort that could be better used elsewhere is being wasted her for amorphous reasons and it’s aggravating. This isn’t an attack on her, nor on her message, it’s a scatalogical assessment of the dubious way our government does business. As for the dancing soldiers – if you don’t get it, you don’t get it. We couldn’t find one where they were capering to the sound of circus music.

  • FormerSFMedic

    I remember that write up very well Christian and I’ve developed some strong opinions toward the subject. Sacolick and Robinson are way off the mark. The ability to adapt is what makes Special Ops Special. If I said the word “tactics” to a Vietnam Vet and a young OEF Vet, the two individuals will likely have very different pictures in their minds of what tactics look like. The same goes for Unconventional Warfare. SOCOM is made up of adaptive forward thinking Warfighters. SOCOM, and more specifically SF, was given a mission to accomplish with their well known “outside the box” capabilities. We found out that not only could we conduct UW missions in the traditional sense, but we could more efficient and more effective by evolving UW for the 21st century. SF basically rewrote the definition of what UW could be and what it could accomplish. Telling those guys, ” hey, we’re going to get you back to your traditional UW and FID missions”, is like telling them to go back in time. Why would we want to limit these guys!?!? SOCOM cannot become absolute in their thinking! Losing the ability to evolve and adapt would simply make SOCOM conventional (or not special anymore). Linda Robinson also talked about “developing SOCOM’s institutional foundation”. Are you kidding me! Institutional inertia is the whole reason that our conventional forces can’t move forward and evolve. The lack of institutional inertia is what gives Special Operations their adaptability and their ability to implement change quickly while such change is still needed and relevant. It scares me to think that politicians are trying to control Special Operations. Essentially, Linda Robinson just spoke to Congress about how they can accomplish tying SOCOM’s hands behind their back!

    • E. Ronc

      Occasionally you all give me a chuckle. Now this is not my area and alls I can say is I knew some seals that hung out on subs. You all ***** some skirt is testifying like an expert. Agree that seems a bit weird. But she is basically parroting the guy who runs the show or at least the school, Brigadier General Bennet S. Sacolick. Sacolick seems to think you have strayed from your roots. I don’t think he wants to stop every thing you’ve learned in the last 20 years. Just wants to reemphasize core values. We spent a lot of money on your training. Why are you acting in DA that regular troops can cover? Don’t think you need to learn Farsi or become a demolitions expert to be on quick reaction force. The guy speaking Farsi should be the guy on the ground doing the more traditional roles, SR, FID and such. Like I said not my bag, but a guy we pay to be pretty much in the know and has been their and done that seems to think so.

  • Will

    SEALs do have mando language school now as well.

  • Will

    I like her even less after reading the full txt, especially how she feels the national mission force needs “a congressional or judicial review mechanism”.

  • Will….regarding ‘language training’. I am reminded of the reply given to one lady reporter who asked a group of SEALS about their missions. She wanted to know if they had to learn other languages. The reply? “No ma’am…we don’t go there to talk!”

  • I wonder how many missions Linda Robinson has pulled?

  • Pete

    I must say, as someone who reads Kit Up for the tips on new, innovative gear, this article was written in a tone and voice that is unbecoming of this site.

    I understand as people serving military that politicians can be frustrating, but the type of sarcasm and rebuttal, or lack there of, is downright lazy and just poor quality journalism.

    If you’re going to post political news and opinion, do so with argument and facts. Not belittlement and antagonism. You can do better, your readers deserve better. Otherwise stick to what you do best, finding cool as **** gear.

  • Stefan S.

    One word….Female… Nuff said!

  • xcalbr

    so being tempted to write a entire multiple paragraph post ill sum it up as quickly and concise as i can: Even though SOF have accomplished amazing things, we should undo 10 years of experience and development in favor of “fresh” perspective that appeases the bureaucratic system?

    institutional side? you mean the institution that stifles any changes and adaptability in the big army? As far as im concerned, this will undermine the advantages of Special Operations; who are otherwise the most adaptable and flexible forces in America’s inventory precisely because they are generally outside the realm of the “institutional side”. Does the word “unconventional” mean anything to Linda Robinson? Binning the well-known attributes of Special Operations is idiotic and defeats the purpose of creating such elite units to begin with.

    This really blows me away, “But as defense spending shrinks, SOCOM leaders are struggling to define the future role its elite units will play in the global military landscape.”

    Are you ******** me? “shrunken” defense budgets will affect the feasibility of deploying large conventional forces (due to costs of energy, logistics, etc), though increase the use of smaller SOF units which are more flexible, trained, and versatile. SOCOM shouldn’t be as concerned with perceived “cuts” as the pro-Cold War size Army crowd should be. As I have countlessly refuted before, the defense budget is NOT SHRINKING! “projected increases” are educated guesses and not set in stone 5-10-15 years from now.

    • E. Ronc

      Concur with most of your thinking their X. I always did like the fuzzy math most like to practice. We projected a growth of this, so when we cut it, it’s not the actual cut we site but from what we were projecting. My thing is the defense budget is in a little jeopardy right now with automatic cuts set to happen and to keep paying ever increasing entitlements. Lame politicos will reach for defense appropriations.

      Eventually we have got to do better. I can remember being on the sub and the mantra through out the year was save, save, save. End of fiscal year spend, spend, spend or we won’t get as big a budget next year. I bought a lot of those little black pens.

  • TygeRInfantrY

    This “expert” chaps my balls especially because of who deemed her the “Expert” on something she’s never done. I am sorry but I don’t barge into a cardiology convention and sit through their discourses and curriculum then go home and perform a bypass surgery on my significant other because I “happened to have heard some good information”!*SMFH* I don’t get why civilians can be so darn simple-minded sometimes to think that hiring a quasi-intellectual reporter/author to review our TTP’s & SOP’s & the likely roles therein implied that she could possibly resolve ANY damn thing. Simply put people who do not see the real world for what it truly is cannot and should not be qualified in any way to speak in front of a committee in any sort of a meaningful, impactful way! I am not saying we should not be accountable to the judicial sector, what I am saying is there is quite enough red tape that’s been created for our war fighters to cut through before they are allowed to do their Job especially at the SOCOM or JSOC level to have any more oversight & reviews. G’damn people, isn’t fighting this future batch of terrorists hard enough as it is!? Without growing government MORE to allow for even more trip-switches and fail-safes? Just sayin’….