Officer says special forces needed

December 01, 1996


Staff Writer

The United States must invest in its special operations forces to keep the Armed Forces strong, a retired four-star general told a group of retired military officers in Hagerstown Saturday night.

Retired Gen. Robert C. Kingston made the remarks at a gathering of Upper Potomac Chapter of The Retired Officers Association. The local group commemorated its 25th anniversary.

Kingston, who developed the Army's elite Delta Force, said the country probably could not meet its stated goal of being able to fight two Gulf War-size conflicts simultaneously.


"I can tell you, the United States military does not have the wherewithal to put the people into place to fight two Desert Shields," he said. "I don't see the wherewithal today."

Kingston said the need for special operations and special forces units has never been higher. From troubled hot spots throughout the world to drug interdiction missions at home, he said there are many roles the specialized units can play.

And at just more than $3 million a year - less than 3 percent of the defense budget - they are a bargain, he said.

"It is a very cheap psychological and military weapon that the United States has," Kingston said.

Kingston said the special operations forces have come a long way from the days of the Revolutionary War when the techniques and training were rudimentary.

Now, members of special operations units must complete a rigorous training regimen that includes language and cultural education.

"The United States realized you can not train people in special operations once the war has started," he said.

For the local TROA chapter, it was a night to savor a milestone. Only about 50 chapters nationwide have been around as long, said Jim Pauls, deputy director of council and chapter affairs for the national organization.

Pauls presented chapter president Frank Fields with a plaque honoring the achievement. He said the strength and activism of local chapters is vital to boosting lobbying efforts on behalf of retired military personnel. Pauls said the national organization spends a great deal of time pressing for those issues in Congress.

"None of that makes a difference unless people in the chapters tell the congressmen the same thing," he said.

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