April 25, 1980, was a defining moment for Special Operations as the tragic news of the failed Desert One mission became known that day. President Jimmy Carter announced a secret rescue mission for the Iranian hostages had failed; eight American servicemen were dead and several others were seriously injured.

Desert One

The tragedy at Desert One, problems with the Grenada invasion and failure to fix the Special Operations joint mobility issues led Congress to pass the Nunn-Cohen Amendment, mandating that the President create a unified combatant command for special operations with control over its own resources.

The U.S. Special Operations Command was formed April 16, 1987, with responsibility to organize, train and equip U.S. Special Operations Forces from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Gen. James Lindsay became U.S. Special Operations Command’s first commander and served as such from 1987-1990.

Since Lindsay’s command there have be eight subsequent commanders – Army Gen. Carl Stiner (1990 -1993), Army Gen. Wayne Downing (1990 – 1996), Army Gen. Henry Shelton (1996 – 1997), Army Gen. Peter Schoomaker 1997 – 2000, Air Force Gen. Charles Holland (2000 – 2003), Army Gen. Doug Brown (2003-2007), Adm. Eric Olson (2007 – 2011) and commanding today is Adm. Bill McRaven.

Today, USSOCOM has four components consisting of:

  • Naval Special Warfare Command, activated April 16, 1987
  • U.S. Army Special Operations Command, activated, Dec. 1, 1989
  • Air Force Special Operations Command, activated May 22, 1990
  • and the most recent component, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, activated Feb. 24, 2006.

MOH Recipients

There have been six Medal of Honor recipients since USSOCOM was formed:

  • Army Master Sgt. Gary Gordon and Army Sgt. 1st Class Randall Shughart received the medal posthumously for their attempt to save a downed pilot in Somalia Oct. 3, 1993
  • Navy Lt. (SEAL) Michael Murphy received his medal posthumously for trying to save his team near Asadabad, Afghanistan June 28, 2005.
  • Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor (SEAL) received the medal posthumously for diving on a grenade and saving his teammate’s lives in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 29, 2006
  • Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller received the medal posthumously for his actions battling a numerically superior force in Konar Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2008
  • Last, Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry was presented the medal for brave actions in the Paktya Province, Afghanistan, May 26, 2008.

USSOCOM responsibilities have significantly evolved from its original train and equip mission of SOF to the lead combatant commander for planning, synchronizing, and, as directed, executing global operations against terrorist networks.