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Special Operations and the Mission

JINSA Report #: 

August 8, 2011

They are all special forces; every American killed in service to our country is a special force. There have been 1,725 Americans killed in Afghanistan and 11,541 wounded (3,649 not returning to duty within 72 hours) before Saturday. But actual Special Operations forces are something else. One website that works with Special Operations units estimates that more than 50% of the Americans killed in Afghanistan were from the Special Operations community as well as nearly 10% of the casualties in Iraq. On Saturday, 31 Americans were killed in a single incident - a helicopter downing - in Afghanistan. The majority were U.S. Navy SEALs.

Navy SEALs are special to JINSA - we have been privileged to visit with them in their training bases; we have honored them with our Grateful Nation Award (including one who was a participant in the JINSA Military Academies Program in Israel), and met with their commanding officers and provided assistance funds where necessary. SEALs are the elite of our services and very close to our JINSA hearts.

So the tragedy of Saturday in Afghanistan cuts to the core of what we believe about the American military in every war and in the war in Afghanistan. It makes us ask as we mourn their loss, "What price are we paying?" "How many young men (and women) are we sacrificing?"

But those are the wrong questions. The only real question is the one the men and women of the United State military traditionally ask, "What is the mission and what resources can we marshal to accomplish it?" Because Special Operations - and all American forces - never shrink from the mission.

On 28 April 1944, on the British coast, 749 American soldiers and sailors were killed when German torpedo boats surprised Exercise Tiger, one of the allied landing exercises. In April and May 1944, over 12,000 men were killed and 2,000 planes lost in preparatory attacks for D-Day. German resistance caused more than 3,000 casualties before the allied troops could establish their positions by the end of the first day. Allied troops suffered more than 10,000 casualties on D-Day, including 6,600 Americans. We don't doubt today that D-Day was necessary to the defeat of Hitler and the liberation of Europe. And we don't doubt that the defeat of Hitler was essential to the cause of liberty and justice.

During the Korean War, 54,000 Americans were killed and more than 103,000 were wounded.

In 1968 alone, 11,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and 45,000 were wounded.

It isn't the numbers; it is the mission.

What we owe the 31 Special Operations troops in Afghanistan Saturday - who serve in an unbroken line of brave and selfless Americans - is the absolute assurance that their mission is justified and can be accomplished with the resources we have to give them.

Is it? Can it be?

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