NSWU-10 Commissioning Provides SOCAFRICA Operational Flexibility on the African Continent
Special Operations Command Africa Public Affairs
Following speeches by Rear Admiral Edward G. Winters III, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, and U.S. Army Brigadier General Christopher K. Haas, SOCAFRICA commander, more than 80 guests and unit members looked on as U.S. Navy Commander Joseph Geary read his orders commissioning the unit and officially assumed command of NSWU-10.
"I am extremely proud of the sailors at this command. Some have been on board since 2009 and some arrived only a few months ago but they've worked hard not only to commission the command but more importantly, to support SOCAFRICA's objectives throughout the African continent," Geary said. "They are Naval Special Warfare's subject matter experts in African affairs and our nation is the better because of their dedication to the mission."
After the establishment of U.S. Africa Command in 2008 and its Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC) – SOCAFRICA – that same year, Winters determined he'd follow Naval Special Warfare (NSW) doctrine and establish a NSW Unit to support SOCAFRICA. He considered it logical to establish NSWU-10 since he believed Africa would require greater attention from U.S. Special Operations Command.
"NSWU-10 gives SOCAFRICA operational flexibility," Geary said. "We are the only force SOCAFRICA can use to quickly respond to crises or contingencies on the continent. We compliment the mission by first understanding SOCAFRICA's priorities and then by developing and executing strategies that meet the commander's intent."
As AFRICOM's TSOC, SOCAFRICA exercises operational control of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) within the command's area of responsibility, which includes 53 countries and more than 13 million square miles. The primary focus of the command is on SOF missions that develop African partner capacity, provide assistance and support theater security cooperation objectives.
"Having a NSW command focused on Africa which fuses NSW capabilities to meet U.S. Africa Command and SOCAFRICA's priorities will ensure our national interests are protected, violent extremists organizations are placed in check and key partner nations start controlling their own security posture," Geary added.
The process of commissioning NSWU-10 began in the spring of 2009 and though it took a relatively quick two years to go from concept to commissioning, there were numerous hurdles to overcome while coordinating with the secretary of defense, two combatant commands, the host nation government and garrison officials.
"We had to get orders for command personnel, get work spaces, develop a budget, and acquire resources to support the NSW personnel on the continent while working all the administrative hurdles to commission a navy unit working for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) on a U.S. Army garrison working for U.S. European Command on German soil at a base that was already overcrowded," Geary said. "The hardest admin hurdle was the Overseas Force Structure Request, which required Secretary of Defense Authorization to establish NSWU-10 in Germany."
Although Naval Special Warfare personnel comprise less than one percent of U.S. Navy personnel, they offer big dividends on a small investment, according to Naval Special Warfare Command officials. In addition to being experts in special reconnaissance and direct action missions, the skill sets needed to combat terrorism, NSW is postured to fight a dispersed enemy on their turf. NSW forces can operate from forward-deployed Navy ships, submarines and aviation mobility platforms, as well as overseas bases and its own overseas units.
NSWU-10 spent the last two years sharing office space and support facilities its sister unit, NSWU-2, which supports Special Operations Command Europe. And though the men and women of NSWU-10 are still waiting for construction on its own facilities to be completed, this has never deterred unit members from getting the job done, no matter what obstacles have arisen.
"Our people are our most potent weapon platform," Geary said. "We say we invest in human capital, and this was never truer than here at Unit-10, when in many cases the only resources we really owned were our own imagination and creativity to get the job done."
The breaking of the U.S. Navy pennant during the commissioning ceremony granted Geary special privileges as a commanding officer, and a chance to recognize one of his superior performers with an on-the-spot promotion. During a break in his speech, Geary promoted a surprised Petty Officer 2nd Class Barbara Tunia, unit supply department leading petty officer, to Petty Officer 1st Class.
"When she first arrived she was the only N4 rep on board. As an E-5 she had to work all the logistical requirements for over 65 deployed personnel throughout the African continent. She worked with the SOCAFRICA J4 (Logistics) to ensure our operators were at peak operational readiness. Often I'd see her at work over the weekend and late at night -- she definitely earned the right to be the first sailor at Unit-10 to get promoted through the Command Advancement Program," Geary added.
At the conclusion of an energetic, poignant and, at times, humorous speech undermined by rock-solid determination, Geary closed the ceremony referencing a quote from a person who may be considered the "father of the American Navy."
"As John Paul Jones stated, 'I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.' Naval Special Warfare Unit-10 will follow in the footsteps of generations of United States sailors; we will take our place on the front line and we will answer our nation's call every time without fail -- it is our duty."