Sixteen years of planning, hard work and advocating for higher education at U.S. Special Operations Command became a reality with the formal opening of the Joint Special Operations University campus April 20. Today, JSOU educates 12,000 special operations forces students each year. Ongoing education is critical to adapt to constantly evolving threats around the globe.
The ceremony was attended by USSOCOM Commander, U.S. Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, 14th District of Florida, USSOCOM Command Sgt. Major, Patrick L. McCauley and hosted by Dr. Brian Maher, president Joint Special Operations University and JSOU Command Sgt. Major John Campbell.
Speaking about the need for educating the SOCOM force Gen. Thomas said, "I can tell you on a daily basis that I can't imagine things getting more frantic. Every day somebody ramps it up a little bit more. It is critical this institution breed leaders who have the ability to deal with these challenges."
Representative Castor pointed out being a warrior today is much more than being proficient on the battlefield, but having an understanding and empathy for the global environment.
"These are the types of skills our Special Ops need," said Castor. "It's not just firing weapons and using drones -- it's that cultural understanding, the language. We want our Special Forces to be educated and understand the threats. They're not static. It's evolving all the time."
"We train for certainty but educate for uncertainty," Maher said, quoting U.S. Army Gen. Peter Schoomaker, SOCOM's commander from 1997 to 2000 who pushed for the university to be formed.
"Being smarter, being adaptive, outthinking, staying ahead, that's what we teach here" Maher said. "We don't teach physics and math and English. We do a lot of writing but it's analysis."
JSOU first opened at Hurlburt Field, Florida in 2000 as a way to educate operators and their enablers in subjects such as language, technology and culture. JSOU moved to Tampa in 2011 and had been housed in a building just outside MacDill's main entrance. Moving on base gives students easy access to MacDill lodgings as well as the headquarters.
The two-story structure has 16 classrooms, two auditoriums, a library, a historian office and research center. The university offers 67 courses to more than 12,000 military students — 7,000 in person and 5,000 online. The students are mostly military from the United States and allied countries, but recently the university had an interagency student from Homeland Security graduate.