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Last Updated: 28 January, 2016
This article is about the Joint Special Operations University, which provides post-secondary level education to Special Operations Forces (SOF) and non-SOF personnel of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), wider-military, interagency, and partner nations.
The article will outline the Joint Special Operations University and provide a brief history. It will then look at the role and mission of the university, as well as discuss the educational streams it pursues.
The article will then discuss the organisation of the university, which encompasses a command group and five departments.
Finally, the article will provide some useful links, documents and references for reading and research.
2.0 What is the Joint Special Operations University?
The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) is the educational component of USSOCOM.
3.0 Brief History of the Joint Special Operations University
As part of USSOCOM organisational streamlining, initiated by US Army General Shoomaker (Commander USSOCOM from 1997 to 2000), the HQ USSOCOM provided “a core staff for a new initiative”, the JSOU (USSOCOM, 2007, p.14). The JSOU was originally located at Hurlburt Field, Florida, with an initial cadre of 20 personnel.
The initial mission of the JSOU was to educate future leaders in the art of joint special operations, with a vision of providing support specific educational requirements for SOF and non-SOF national security decision makers.
In establishing JSOU, General Schoomaker noted that it would leverage and enhance existing joint and Service professional military education (PME) programmes. Consequently, JSOU assumed operational control (OPCON) of the US Air Force Special Operations School and US Naval Postgraduate School resident special operations curricula, as well as providing educational material to SOF faculty members at PME institutions.
In 2008, JSOU became the educational component of USSOCOM, still providing joint SOF education.
JSOU relocated to the Pinewood Facility at MacDill Air Force Base (AFB), Tampa in Florida, in October 2010.
In 2012, JSOU was incorporated into the USSOCOM HQ staff under the Force Management Directorate (which also encompasses the J1, J7 and J9 staff functions, commanded by an OF-7 level officer).
As of 2015, the JSOU has approximately 165 faculty and staff members.
During 2016, JSOU moved into a brand new JSOU specific-facility on MacDill AFB, but still near the existing USSOCOM complex.
4.0 Role of the Joint Special Operations University
As a PME institution, JSOU serves as USSOCOMs academic centre of excellence for special operations studies and research. JSOU was established to create, provide and sustain post-secondary education level knowledge through teaching, research and outreach in the strategic and operational art of joint special operations.
The JSOU is organised to facilitate the Title 10 United States Code responsibilities of the Commander USSOCOM by preparing SOF to carry out assigned missions and to increase the combat readiness of the force by conducting specialised courses of instruction. Consequently, JSOU is a production-oriented educational activity of the USSOCOM.
Within this in mind, the role of the JSOU is to educate SOF executive, senior, and intermediate leaders and selected other national and international security decision-makers, both military and civilian, through teaching, outreach, and research in the science and art of joint special operations. JSOU provides education to the men and women (Pellerin, 2015; Vogel, 2015) of SOF and to those who enable the SOF mission in a joint and interagency environment.
Consequently, JSOU invests in the entire SOF team of commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), warrant officers and civilians.
To enable its role the JSOU has a mixture of Active-Duty (Regular), Reserve and civilian faculty members from across the US military who deliver unique SOF educational opportunities to military, interagency and international communities using a variety of methods, such as:
- Distance learning and innovative applications of technology, such as apps;
- Traditional residential courses; and
- Integration of SOF curriculum with Service PME Schools (e.g. War Colleges).
JSOU provides tailored academic programmes that directly support its mission, and its departments are capable of delivering post-secondary education through graduate-level level curricula.
Since its inception, the ultimate goal of JSOU has been the professional preparation of all SOF personnel to lead integrated forces effectively in both peace and war, across a variety of military operations.
4.1 Mission of the Joint Special Operations University
The mission of the JSOU is (JSOU, 2015, p.2-9):
“To prepare SOF to shape the future strategic environment by providing specialised joint PME, developing SOF specific undergraduate and graduate level academic programmes and by fostering special operations research, analysis and outreach in support of USSOCOM objectives.”
4.2 Joint Special Operations University Educational Strands
JSOU is firmly based on four foundational elements that reinforce the SOF truth that humans are more important than hardware:
- Advanced Education: Provides opportunities for degree, fellowship, and certificate programmes and accomplishes this both in-house and through partnerships with civilian and military colleges. Aspiration to achieve degree granting authority to facilitate completion of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
- Professional Military Education (PME): Maximises the learning experience for SOF in PME, enhance SOF knowledge in the conventional, and promote SOF electives, core curriculum, and academic exercises.
- International Programmes: Enhances the SOF network through education, fostering academic relationships with SOF partners and allies, and collaboration with international PME institutions.
- Lifelong Learning: Promotes continuous educational opportunities throughout SOF operators’ careers utilising diversified delivery methods, continue to provide short course format designed for just-in-time learning, focus on operational & strategic level joint knowledge, while maximising college credit through articulation agreements.
4.3 Joint Special Operations University Publications
The JSOU provides its publications to contribute toward expanding the body of knowledge about joint special operations. JSOU publications advance the insights and recommendations of national security professionals and the SOF students and leaders for consideration by the SOF community and defence leadership.
JSOU conducts research through the CSOSR where effort centres upon the USSOCOM role of providing fully capable SOF to defend the US and its interests, as well as synchronising the planning of global operations against terrorist networks.
4.4 Joint Special Operations University Learning Management System
Blackboard is a ubiquitous online educational tool utilised by both further and higher educational institutions, of which the US military and JSOU are no different.
The JSOU Blackboard Learn 9.1 Learning Management System is utilised for online curriculum by a number departments within JSOU, as well as the wider-SOF community (Cannady, 2016).
5.0 Organisation of the Joint Special Operations University
JSOU is part of the Directorate of Force Management and Development (FMD), and reports to the Commander USSOCOM through the Director FMD, an OF-7 level officer.
Key personalities within JSOU include:
- JSOU President, a SES civilian.
- Executive Vice-President, Military Deputy (OF-5 level officer).
- Academic Vice-President, Academic Affairs (a SES civilian): whose responsibilities include academic standards, accreditation, curriculum and faculty development, admissions/registrar, academic counselling, education technology, and distance learning.
- Command Senior Enlisted Leader, a Command Sergeant Major (OR-9).
JSOU is organised around its five educational pillars, which include:
- Department of Academic Affairs;
- College of Special Operations;
- Joint Special Operations University Enlisted Academy;
- Centre for Continuing Education; and
- Centre for Special Operations Studies and Research (CSOSR).
5.1 Department of Academic Affairs
The Department of Academic Affairs is the primary source of student services, curriculum and faculty development, and institutional standards for JSOU. Consequently, its role includes:
- Preparing and setting academic rigour using evaluation and assessment along with education technology tools.
- Being responsible for ensuring JSOU meets relevant standards of accreditation.
- Maintaining the highest standards for curriculum and instruction to ensure quality courses are conducted while providing top rated student, faculty, and course support services.
5.2 College of Special Operations
The College of Special Operations is responsible for:
- Developing accredited graduate certificate and accredited undergraduate courses.
- The USSOCOM Research Library, which serves: JSOU, students; HQ USSOCOM staff; and the component commands.
- Supporting special operations-related content in officer PME in both service and joint intermediate and senior colleges.
5.3 Joint Special Operations University Enlisted Academy
This role is articulated by JSOU-EA’s mission, which is (JSOU, 2015, p.2-10):
“…to educate joint special operations forces enlisted leaders across a professional academic continuum, providing the knowledge to think critically and lead successfully in current and future operating environments.”
JSOU-EA achieves this mission by providing four levels of enlisted PME courses within the Career Education Programme (CEP):
- CEP-1: The Joint Fundamentals Course: develops the E-6 (OR-6) enlisted special operator and enablers for leadership careers in special operations.
- CEP-2: The Enterprise Management Course: develops the E-7 (OR-7) enlisted special operator and select enablers for leadership careers in special operations.
- CEP-3: The Joint Special Operations Forces Senior Enlisted Academy (JSOFSEA): brings together select E-8 (OR-8) and E-9 (OR-9) special operators and enablers from all four US military special operations service components, international and interagency partners to create a one-of-a-kind enlisted education environment. This course creates what is known as ‘Warrior Diplomats.’ The student gains valuable education in mission-oriented leadership fields of study, providing the student with the knowledge to think critically and lead successfully in the Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental and Multinational (JIIM) environment.
- CEP-4: The Summit Course: is designed to prepare the O-6 (OF-5) command level Senior Enlisted Leader (SEL) for service at a nominative level SEL position. The Summit Course focuses on applying cognitive competencies in strategic thinking to analysing and developing national policies and strategies to resolve problems at the local, regional and global levels.
5.4 Centre for Continuing Education
The Centre for Continuing Education focuses on specialised courses of study that address non-credit curricula, staff and functional courses, international courses through mobile education teams, and Theatre Special Operations Commands (TSOC) and component support. The core elements of this pillar are:
- Educational support to SOF Chairs and SOF faculty at PME institutions.
- Professional development and tailored SOF education at USSOCOM HQ, component HQs and TSOCs.
- SOF educational integration support to the NATO School.
- Joint Military Education Teams.
5.5 Centre for Special Operations Studies and Research
The Centre for Special Operations Studies and Research (CSOSR) was established in 2013 as an SOF intellectual centre that serves USSOCOM and the SOF enterprise.
The CSOSR is a SOF-focused organisation that conducts directed research and analysis in national security, military strategy, and global and regional studies. CSOSR publishes its research through the JSOU Press, its in-house publishing capability.
CSOSR is also considering the future publication of a quarterly, peer-reviewed, SOF professional journal. Although the US Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Centre and School (USAJFKWCS), part of the US Army’s Special Operations Command (USASOC), already publishes an authorised, official quarterly publication known as ‘Special Warfare’ with the aim of promoting the professional development of SOF by providing a forum for the examination of established doctrine and new ideas.
The CSOSR also provides teaching and curriculum support to PME institutions, i.e. the staff colleges and war colleges. It also advances SOF strategic influence by its interaction in academic, interagency and US military communities.
6.0 Useful Links
- MacDill Air Force Base: http://www.macdill.af.mil/
- US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM): http://www.socom.mil/
- Joint Special Operations University (JSOU):
- Public site: https://jsou.socom.mil/Pages/Default.aspx
- E-Campus (aka Blackboard): https://jsou.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/execute/tabs/tabAction?tab_tab_group_id=_331_1
- Library: http://jsou.libguides.com/welcome
- Google+ (as JSOU User): https://plus.google.com/106483251365918583184/posts
- CTX (Counterterrorism) Journal: https://globalecco.org/en_GB/home
- Special Warfare Journal: http://www.soc.mil/swcs/swmag
- US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC): http://www.soc.mil/
- Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC): http://www.marsoc.marines.mil/
- Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM): http://www.navsoc.navy.mil/
- Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC):
- Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC):
7.0 Useful Documents
- JSOU – Lesson, Introduction to Special Operations
- JSOU – Presentation, Promoting Innovation through Blended Learning & Fully Online Courses (Bauer, 2015), go straight to page 15.
- JSOU – The Future of SOF Education – A Vision for Global Special Forces Education (Porkolab, 2013)
- JSOU Factbooks, the reader will notice the continual improvement and adaptation of the JSOU to remain relevant to its evolving mission and role:
Cannady, R. (2016) Curriculum Vitae. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.indeed.com/r/Roger-Cannady/010f47a6f672ff4e?sp=0. [Accessed: 27 January, 2016].
JSOU (Joint Special Operations University) (2015) Special Operations Forces Reference Manual. 4th Ed. MacDill Air Force Base, Florida: JSOU Press.
Pellerin, C. (2015) SecDef Opens all Military Occupations to Women. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.therecruiterjournal.com/secdef-opens-all-military-occupations-to-women.html. [Accessed: 04 December, 2015].
USSOCOM (US Special Operations Command) (2007) United States Special Operations Command History, 1987-2007. MacDill Air Force Base, Florida: USSOCOM.
Vogel, J.L. (2015) Statement of General Joseph L. Vogel, U.S. Army Commander United States Special Operations Command before the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, March 18, 2015. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.socom.mil/Documents/2015%20USSOCOM%20Posture%20Statement.pdf. [Accessed: 29 December, 2015].
Werner, B. (2006) Elite 45: First Special Service Force 1942-44. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd.