Former Secretary of Defense Gates Addresses Special Forces Graduates In Fayetteville

– Robert M. Gates, Remarks at Dedication of OSS Memorial

[1] Robert M. Gates, Remarks at the dedication of the OSS Memorial,
Langley, VA, 12 June 1992, quoted in The Special Forces History
Society’s The Special Forces Regimental History Calendar, 1994, (Fort
Bragg, NC: Office of the Command Historian, U.S. Army Special Operations Command).
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates addresses Special Forces graduates in Fayetteville

http://www.fayobserver.com/ military/former-secretary-of- defense-robert-gates- addresses-special-forces- graduates/article_bcd3c442- a790-5ca1-8014-148c5f532cc4. html

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Addresses Special Forces Graduates In Fayetteville

Staff photo by Andrew Craft

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates addresses Special Forces graduates in Fayetteville
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Sahms, left, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Zets, Col. Miguel Correa, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Hart stand before graduates as the Army Song plays at the Special Forces Qualification Course graduation Thursday at the Crown Theater.

Related:Photos: Special Forces Qualification Course Graduation Ceremony
Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2015 7:21 pm | Updated: 11:52 pm, Thu Feb 5, 2015.

By Drew Brooks Military editor

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates thinks it’s a mistake to cut the size of the military.

After speaking to the nation’s newest Green Berets, the former head of the U.S. military for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama said he didn’t agree with ongoing efforts to trim the force in the face of budget pressure.
“After every major war, we tend to dramatically reduce our military, somehow thinking we will never be in another war,” Gates said. “The world isn’t that way. There will be another conflict. We’re facing all kinds of potential conflicts right now.”

Gates said the military can and should spend its budget more efficiently and better, while keeping the capabilities the force has built up over the past decade-plus of war.

But even in the face of those cuts, Gates expressed optimism when addressing the 288th class to graduate from the Special Forces Qualification Course.

Addressing 106 graduates during a ceremony at the Crown Theatre, Gates said the men who donned their famous Green Berets for the first time Thursday represented the “best of the best.”

He noted their “exploits don’t appear in books and movies” and their “faces don’t appear on Fox News.”
Fewer than one in eight soldiers who try make it through the grueling course run by Fort Bragg’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, he said.

“As an old intelligence officer, I have a particular affinity for the military’s unconventional warriors .,” Gates said. “Whatever or wherever the threat, chances are pretty good Special Forces will be some of the first in, some of the most frequently deployed, and eventually the last out.”
Neglected, sidelined

Special Forces have come a long way, he said, noting how they were neglected after Vietnam and then left on the sidelines during the first Gulf War, when U.S. Central Command leaders either didn’t welcome or didn’t know what to do with Special Forces teams assigned to them.

But in Iraq and Afghanistan, Green Berets were in the lead as the nation’s military learned nation building under fire.

Now their method of building partner capacity is the status quo for U.S. military operations.
The new Green Berets enter an uncertain world. Officials said many could be spread across the globe in a matter of weeks, working behind the scenes to build partner forces.

“Not too long ago, we were told the tide of war was passing and America was ready to turn a page on post-9/11 conflicts to other priorities in other regions of the globe and nation building here at home,” Gates said. “It’s always fashionable among military thinkers and armchair strategists to regularly proclaim a new age of warfare.”
But America’s enemies have a vote, Gates said. And the country has a perfect record of predicting what the next conflict will be – “We have never gotten it right,” he said.

Hours before Gates spoke, more soldiers left Fort Bragg bound for Iraq for what the former secretary of defense called “Round Three.”

Gates said it could be tempting to say American sacrifices by Special Forces soldiers and others were for naught, given grim news from that country over the last year.

“I tell you this was not so,” he said. “They accomplished their mission . In 2011 we handed to the Iraqis a country that was relatively secure, relatively democratic and had a pretty good military.”
Iraq mission

Speaking after his remarks, Gates said he had hoped, upon leaving office in June 2011, that the U.S. military would be able to leave some number of troops in Iraq.

Leaders underestimated the value of the military training and the ability of U.S. commanders to bring together leaders in Iraq while also serving as “guardians of quality.”

With no U.S. presence, competent leaders were replaced with “political appointees and hacks,” Gates said, adding that he believed 5,000 or 10,000 troops could have made a big difference in how Iraq turned out.
To the graduates, Gates said troops now faced a “more lethal, barbaric and sophisticated group of Islamic extremists.”

He said the Green Berets, who entered the theater amid smoke and bagpipes, will continue to inspire patriotism in American and “fear in the country’s enemies.”

“As long as you Green Berets are out there, those that wish our country harm may not rest easily,” he said.
Gates and the commander of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group, Col. Miguel A. Correa, were the first to greet the graduates on stage, with Gates offering each a beret and Correa doling out firm handshakes and slaps to the back.
Correa said the graduation was the culmination of more than a year of hard work.

Most in the class began in August 2013, but some – those training to be Special Forces medics – have been working for two and a half years.

The country made an investment to train and mold the men, Correa said. And they endured some of the most physical and mentally challenging tests there are.

“It’s always special coming down here,” Gates said at the end of his visit. “Being with troops was the only thing I liked about the job and I have missed that. It’s the thing I’ve certainly missed the most.”
He also said the trip bolstered his spirits.

“I’m always optimistic after I encounter soldiers,” he said. “I only get pessimistic in Washington, D.C.”
Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at brooksd@fayobserver.com or 486-3567.

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