A Salute to Special Operations Forces

The Department of Defense defines Special Operations forces as “one of the nation’s key penetration and strike forces, able to respond to specialized contingencies across the conflict spectrum with stealth, speed, and precision.”

That’s a little colorless. Our special ops troops — Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, Marine Recon and Air Force special operations — are the tip of America’s spear. Though very small in number compared to conventional forces, they are at the front of contemporary warfare, doing things others cannot and taking disproportionate numbers of casualties.

In 1980, a special operations joint force, under a plan called Operation Eagle Claw, were sent to Iran, in an attempt to rescue the Americans being held hostage at the Tehran embassy. The first boots on the ground were on a young Air Force officer, John Carney. He told me, “We had a terrible accident there in the desert. A helicopter collided with our C-130 airplane and we left behind eight special ops. Five airmen who were trapped and died inside the conflagration of the C130 and three young Marines in the back of the helicopter.”

A bit older, a bit wiser, and determined to serve the survivors of those men and their fellows who now serve, retired Air Force Col. John T. Carney Jr. is now president of a four-star charity, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF). “Between them, they left behind 17 children… and that’s what started it all,” Col. Carney told me.

“We decided we were going to provide a four-year college education or post secondary education for these children.”

“In fact — the pilot of the C-130, Hal Lewis — we put his son all the way through medical school, he is now a practicing surgeon at the Moffitt Cancer Institute in Tampa, Florida,” said Carney.

SOWF provides scholarships (not loans) and counseling support to more than 700 children. In 2006 SOWF gave a total of $1.5 million in grants, education programs and financial counseling. “We don’t have any professional fundraisers, we do it all ourselves — a staff of six,” said Carney.

“We have two counselors, one is a financial counselor and the other one is a school physiologist. Her whole role — which makes us different — is to stay with those children from the very beginning when we are notified that they have lost a parent.”

“We send them Christmas cards, birthday cards and we contact the surviving spouse at least bi-monthly, if not quarterly, just to see if there is anything we can help with while the child is growing up.”

In some cases Carney explained, “these mothers are pregnant and we can’t wait for these children to show up, so we go after them, that’s what makes us unique. We are very aggressive in making sure that we stay in contact so that they understand they have a college education waiting for them.”

Tonight, in Washington DC, SOWF will hold their annual dinner paying tribute to Special Forces serving around the globe.

Army National Guard veteran, Congressman Bill Young (R-FL) will be the Honorary Dinner Chair and guest speakers include Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, U.S. Army (Ret), and former Army Chief of Staff and Michael Durant, U. S. Army (Ret) and pilot of the black hawk that lead to the movie and the book Black Hawk Down.

Jed Babbin, editor of HUMAN EVENTS and long-time supporter of SOWF will be the master of ceremonies.

“It takes a Special kind of ‘quiet professional’ to meet the exacting standards of America’s Special Operations Forces,” says Carney “and as the war on terrorism continues to unfold, Special Operations Forces will be facing new challenges all too frequently. In fact, there has never been a greater need for Special Operations Forces than right now — and Special Operations Forces will continue to be the force of choice time and time again during this tumultuous period.”