Enduring Tasks – New tools in the SOF toolbox
The SOFID operated within the 365-person battle staff at CFLCC Main and was co-located within steps of the war-fighting commander, LTG McKiernan, and his senior staff. Assigned 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week, the SOFID night shift was responsible for preparing the next morning’s Battle Update Briefing (BUA), the C2PC COPSHOT, and COMCFLCC SIGACTs. These tasks ensured real-time evolutions and updates of Coalition and U.S. ground forces both inside Kuwait during the 2002 ramp up to the impending ground war, but likewise reported regarding ongoing CSOF preparations and operations in Jordan, Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan.
Likewise, aspects of the air campaign against Iraq, which began in mid-2002, were monitored via live feeds viewed in the command center at CFLCC Main were monitored and reported as was monitoring of individual U.S. SOF teams using Blue Force Tracking devices on their team vehicles. This was an especially critical tasking once U.S. SOF entered the ground war and began making their way toward Baghdad from the north, south, and west.
At the same time, due to terrorist as well as SCUD attacks in Kuwait, the SOFID began monitoring and reporting on such attacks where U.S. SOF conducting training offsite were concerned. For example, a terrorist attack on Faylaka Island, a site used by AOB 910 SF teams for multi-skill training, resulted in daily accountability reporting through the SOFID and for the situational awareness of the sponsoring SOF units as well as the seniormost commanders at CFLCC Main.
The key program in accomplishing this was the Common Operational Picture, or COP/C2PC. The C2PC, a Windows-based program developed for the U.S. military, allowed SOFID personnel to produce overlays and operational graphics for the war-fighting staff at CFLCC Main. It also provides a tactical data base of friendly and enemy unit locations as provided by multiple reconnaissance collection methods. This data base information can and was shared instantly with key conventional and SOF/CSOF commanders.
The SOFID also had access to highly classified live feeds coming in from the battlespace. This included air strikes throughout the CFLCC AOR as well as real time feeds coming from Task Force 20 operators as they conducted their WMD searches. Perhaps the most emotional as well as long-awaited operation was the rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch. Lynch, captured along with several others from her unit, became a theatre-wide topic as well as mission. Once located in an Iraqi hospital in the town of Nasiriyah a rescue mission involving elements of SF AOB 910, now forward deployed, elements of the 5th Special Forces Group, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and Task Force 20 was mounted.
The successful rescue of Lynch and the sad recovery of her deceased fellow soldiers from a mass grave on the hospital’s grounds was sent in real time back to CFLCC Main and the SOFID. The feed was then downloaded to two secure laptop computers and then relayed to the Pentagon and White House, where the news of her rescue was announced to the nation. Afterward, the momentum of the ground war surged as U.S. forces learned of her treatment at the hands of her captors and of the murder of her friends. It was a stunning psychological boost for all.