Sustaining Response Readiness to National Re-Prioritization


From Armor & Mobility, May/June 2018 Issue

Command Sergeant Major
Patrick L. McCauley
Command Senior Enlisted Leader
U.S. Special Operations Command

Command Sergeant Major Patrick L. McCauley became the ninth Command Senior Enlisted Leader, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida on July 7, 2016. USSOCOM is one of nine combatant commands within the Department of Defense unified command structure. CSM McCauley enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve as an Armor Crewman in 1986 and attended basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Upon completion of his training as an Armor Crewman, CSM McCauley was assigned to A Company, 8th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division. CSM McCauley transferred to the U.S. Army in August of 1988 as an Intelligence Analyst. Upon completion of his initial training as an Intelligence Analyst, CSM McCauley was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry, Korea, where he served as an Intelligence Analyst. In 1989 CSM McCauley was reassigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company 2nd Infantry Brigade, Fort Riley, Kansas, where he served as a Personal Security NCOIC. CSM McCauley went to Special Forces Assessment and Selection and the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1990. He was then assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group in October 1990, where he served as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant until May 1994. In 1995 CSM McCauley assessed for a Special Mission Unit and served as a Team Member, Assistant Team Sergeant, Team Sergeant, Troop Sergeant Major, Operations Sergeant Major, Squadron Command Sergeant Major, and Unit Command Sergeant Major. CSM McCauley transferred to U.S. Special Operations Command Central in June 2015 where he served as the Command Senior Enlisted Leader before assuming responsibilities at his current assignment in July 2016. CSM McCauley has deployed multiple times throughout his career, supporting Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and INHERENT RESOLVE. CSM McCauley has completed the following military courses: Intelligence Analysis Course, Warrior Leader’s Course, Special Forces Assessment and Selection, Special Forces Qualification Course, Advanced Leaders Course, Ranger Course, Basic Airborne Course, Arabic Course, French Course, Static Line Jumpmaster Course, Advanced Land Navigation Course, Free Fall Parachutist Course, Free Fall Jumpmaster Course, Senior Leaders Course, United States Army Sergeant Major Academy, the Summit Course and the Keystone Course at the National Defense University.


A&M: With the National Defense Strategy shifting priorities towards the 2+3 model, how is SOCOM poised to execute the emerging requirements given the current operational tempo?

CSM McCauley: Special Operations Forces (SOF) remain not only relevant to the 2+3 challenges outlined in the latest National Defense Strategy (NDS) but an element absolutely vital to its success. From the battlefields of Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, to the nations bordering Russia, across Africa, the Indo-Pacific, and South and Central America, SOCOM personnel stand side by side with our partners collectively facing some of the world’s most difficult challenges. With nearly 9,000 personnel deployed to more than 80 countries around the world, USSOCOM is committed to providing trained, capable, and ready SOF in support of National Command Authority and Geographic Combatant Commander (GCC) requirements across the operational spectrum. 

In order to ensure the most effective utilization of a finite SOF resource, USSOCOM continuously evaluates and prioritizes efforts through the Global Synchronization of SOF (GSOS) process. Informed by national level priorities, the GSOS helps the command balance those areas of the world that may require more or less investment of unique SOF skillsets and those relationships where partner or conventional forces may be a better choice. In some cases, partner nation capabilities may have matured to a point where only episodic engagement is required. Simply put, we are trying to work ourselves out of a job from the very outset. This flexibility ensures SOF are able to balance commitments abroad with the training necessary to ensure readiness for all future contingencies. 

The commitment to meet the many challenges facing this nation, however, does not come without a cost to our most important resource; our people. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough SOF to meet every requirement arising from a troubled world. Although a high demand signal for SOF is a great testament to the efficacy of the force, USSOCOM is currently deployed at our maximum sustainable level. Sustainable, however, is far from optimal and places stress on the men and women that make up this command. To that end, all USSOCOM components have been directed to attain a minimum 1:2 deployment to home station ratio by the end of this year. USSOCOM takes this issue very seriously and realizes that although we still have some work to do, we are on the right glide path for the force going forward. In the interim, programs such as our Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) initiative will continue to be absolutely essential in sustaining a force and family that has seen steady state use in the longest conflict in American history. 

A&M: What techniques are you using or developing to keep personnel in the fight?

CSM McCauley: USSOCOM forces have been decisively engaged for nearly 17 years of continuous combat operations. This reality has generated significant stress upon our service members and their families. To help build resiliency across the force, USSOCOM created the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) initiative with a stated mission to provide and integrate resources that optimize mental, physical, spiritual, and social performance in order to maximize and sustain SOF mission effectiveness. These four areas, known as “pillars” serve as focal points at all levels of command.

The POTFF model differs from other models in that it seeks to embed capabilities at the local level or “point of need” allowing the Commander to meet the unique requirements of his or her element. Essentially, POTFF is administered in this decentralized manner to provide maximum flexibility and increased likelihood of utilization down to the levels that often need it most. Each organization’s team consists of experts from across the four pillars or domains to include; Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainers, Strength and Conditioning Coaches, Psychologists, Sport Psychologists, Social Workers, Nurse Case Managers, Chaplains, Peer Network Coordinators, and Family program leads. This is a robust team to be sure, but one that we see as absolutely necessary to maintain and sustain our most precious resource.

USSOCOM believes this commitment to our force absolutely must extend to our families. Our families are the foundation upon which the strength of our force is built. We simply cannot do what we do without them. A family that is resilient enables a SOF member to serve over a longer period of time, hopefully for an entire career. The families see and experience the commitment from their organization to take care of their loved ones while also taking care of the family unit itself. No doubt, this contributes to nearly 69% of SOF desiring to serve until retirement.

The SOF mission is incredibly demanding and takes a special type of service member to embrace. With that in mind, we recruit, assess, and select personnel specifically to serve in our formations. Certainly, this helps us ensure potential candidates have the right attributes for the demanding skillsets, but also are inherently resilient. Our missions are not easy, but our people have consistently proven that our processes work, and we have succeeded in building the greatest operators and enablers on the planet. The incredible demands on our SOF will continue for the foreseeable future, and USSOCOM will continue to work diligently taking care of our incredible force and families.

A&M: In terms of individual operator protection, what are current key priorities for the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) capability to tenable mission readiness for fielding?

CSM McCauley: TALOS is not a program of record, and there is no intent to field the Mk 5 prototype. The mission of the Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) has not changed from its inception in 2013: to serve as a research and development (R&D) accelerator, a risk reduction mechanism and demonstrator for technologies that protect the SOF Operator at his most vulnerable moment. The TALOS Mk 5 prototype is a combat suit integrated from subsystems of eight different functional areas, each incorporating multiple Science and Technology (S&T) projects that meet the four principal tenets that encompass our desired end state: superior survivability/protection, enhanced human performance, heightened situational awareness and surgical lethality. While the prototype will not be fielded, there will be technology transitions into existing SOF and Service-common programs of record, and potentially, the initiation of new programs of record based on future requirements.

From inception, the JATF understood that to significantly increase the ballistic protection coverage from today’s current armor would result in additional, untenable weight and proportionally degrade the Operator’s mobility and agility, and ultimately their security. Therefore, the JATF researched two different solution pathways for Superior Protection: to maintain the capability for carrying a heavy payload by designing an integrated, powered exoskeleton; and to aggressively challenge the armor industry to make significantly lighter products that maintain performance.

TALOS has focused significant resources on development of superior individual operator protection. Our team, comprised of industry armor designers and manufacturers, government subject matter experts, National Laboratory materials scientists and TALOS engineers, has worked hand-in-hand with SOF Operators embedded in the JATF to meet the extremely aggressive survivability goals laid out in 2014. The JATF team has been exploring novel materials, improved manufacturing processes, upgraded plate and helmet designs, next-generation padding systems protecting against blunt and blast injury, as well as more lightweight and robust helmet retention systems in an attempt to provide the SOF Operator with a leap-ahead capability in survivability. While the bulk of the effort has been in research of ballistic protection technology that can be incorporated into a combat suit – whether through research into integration of power with armor, or ballistic protection integrated with exoskeleton structural components – TALOS has also accelerated the state of technology within the industry. Our industry partners have utilized lessons learned from their work with TALOS and, combined with Operator feedback, implemented processes and material upgrades through independent research and development that have surpassed the objectives originally laid out for TALOS. The JATF has encouraged these efforts and is actively facilitating three near-term transitions to the operational Force. 

A&M: What is the state of SOCOM’s Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) 1.1 modularity and deployment with SOF units in maximizing firepower and operational effectiveness? 

CSM McCauley: Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 currently is in full rate production with SOCOM units training and conducting deployed operations using the vehicle. GMV 1.1’s modularity gives operators in a deployed environment the capability to tailor the vehicle to fit their needs. By tailoring certain vehicle attributes – a commander can maximize the vehicle’s effectiveness for assigned missions. For example, users have the flexibility to reconfigure the vehicle from an unarmored condition to an armored variation. This modular feature enables commanders to armor up the vehicle based on threat analysis to achieve an increase in protection. In these circumstances, a small degree of payload is sacrificed, but overall vehicle mobility remains high. On the other hand, if the mission called for an increase in payload, maintenance personnel have the flexibility to remove the armor prior to a mission.

GMV 1.1’s modular design enables additional configurations other than armor. For example, operators have the flexibility to make tradeoff decisions between protection, payload, and performance. Another more basic example is the seating kit. A seating kit is available; it can be installed at the user level to provide a capability to carry one additional SOF Operator on the vehicle. Additional modularity features available at the unit level include tailoring for mounting of individual or crew served weapons systems, medical evacuation with litters, personnel transport, and communications suite which all allow the commander to tailor the GMV 1.1 for mission success. 

GMV 1.1 has been deployed with SOF units in combat zones since the first combat mission needs statement for the vehicle was satisfied in May of last year. The combination of mobility performance over rugged terrain, maneuverability, ride comfort, and the overall vehicle power are some of the key attributes validated during overseas operations. Operators also like the GMV 1.1 for the center drive design of the vehicle and the low noise signature of the engine. The weapons mount on the GMV 1.1 has also been praised by operators for their accessibility and ease of use. Because the GMV 1.1 was deployed much sooner than expected, it has led to further investment by HQ USSOCOM to purchase more armor kits and accelerate the development and integration of a Common Remotely Operated Weapons System (CROWS) into the vehicle. 

GMV 1.1 hasn’t specifically held any SOFWERX events to date, but the Family of Special Operations Vehicles (FOSOV) program at large is very active there. SOFWERX, working with FOSOV and PEO C4, conducted a joint effort to integrate communication systems onto the Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle resulting in a proof of concept for vehicle C4 solutions and generated a project to look at C4 holistically on the GMV 1.1 which is currently underway. Additionally, FOSOV has engaged industry through SOFWERX to explore alternate fuel and electric power technology that resulted in direction from ​USSOCOM Commander General Raymond A. Thomas III to fund research of this technology in his POM20 guidance. The FOSOV team is looking at GMV 1.1 as a candidate for the CG’s alternative / electric power initiative.