Fighting the Wars of The Future Requires STEM and Fitness

Master Sgt. Eric Rideaux, 9th Air Force, performs lunges using shoulder weights during a fitness demonstration for the Air Force's special operations community at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Jan. 9, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joe Yanik)

In the future, very near future, the United States military will still be working hard to create the best-equipped soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and special operators. This will continue to be an evolution of the technology of gear and weapons and a steady reliance on physical conditioning to make these fighting forces the most capable on the battlefield. With both technology and the creation of more challenging tactical fitness programming and testing throughout the military, the world of STEM and physiology are meeting together like never before.

If you consider the growth of the Special Operations Command into a Unified Combatant Command in 1987, many conventional warfare commanders in the waning years of the Cold War did not want to make a "fifth branch of service" but agreed a joint special operations command system had to be developed for future low-intensity conflicts. In the end, the government realized making Special Operations a more unified and organized command structure will help with future missions in a joint arena.

Throughout the 1990's and early 2000's the world of Special Operations began to grow into a budget of more than $13 billion per year as the world turned violent with state and non-state actors engaging in terrorist activities. This mission has been an ideal fit for the men and women of the Special Operations Command – but at a cost.

From SOCOM's Pre-9-11 Posture Statement"The world remains a complex, dynamic and dangerous plank. It will continue to be an uncertain security environment, one for which the U.S. Special Operations Forces are uniquely situated, offering the capabilities to avert emerging threats and providing unprecedented opportunities to address the challenges in ways that advance U.S. interests." (2000)

SOCOM - Today's Mission: Provide fully capable Special Operations Forces to defend the United States and its interests. Synchronize planning of global operations against terrorist networks.

Human Performance in SOCOM – Human performance and resiliency programming have created a new fitness genre called Tactical Fitness not only in the SOCOM units, but throughout the military, law enforcement, and fire-fighting communities. In SOCOM, a $500 million contract was awarded to acquire the best equipment, training/trainers, for both mental and physical wellness. Building a stronger special operations member on the inside and out able to handle the stresses of decades of combat action is part of the future growth in this human performance and tactical fitness population.

Gone are the days of PT testing every six months to see if you can fit into a uniform, now the fitness and wellness standards are growing into an all-encompassing Human Performance Program expanding into the conventional forces as well.

Making these specialty units within the military apart of the Unified Command Structure will have benefits for years to come within all the other sectors of the military. Take the newly upgraded Cyber Command for instance.

The world of Cyberwarfare will benefit from the evolution of today's Special Operations Command in immediate and highly sensitive actions. In fact, CYBERCOM could be bigger than SOCOM in the next twenty years. This is saying a lot since the current CYBERCOM budget is similar to that of just the previously mentioned Human Performance budget of SOCOM.

CYBERCOM's first year as a part of the unified combatant command structure will have a $610 million budget in 2019. The budget supports a small but growing and vital force of 1,500 military and civilian personnel and contractors and a Cyber Mission Force of nearly 4,500 military and civilians.

Preparing for this profession will have a different journey than the typical military combatant. The threats of cyber warfare are real and growing every day with countries like China, Russia, and North Korea as well as non-state actors attacking the military and government networks more than ever before. Having a steady flow of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) capable recruits will be a massive undertaking for the government. Recruitment will have to be directed into the youth of today in order to have the numbers to grow this small community of Cyber Warriors into tomorrow's major command of the future.

New CYBERCOM Challenges Continue

Look for CYBERCOM to have a massive recruiting campaign in order to enhance the ability to work effectively with other commands of the Department of Defense and government agencies. Recruiting in high schools, colleges, even gaming competitions will be required to man this growing world of CYBERCOM. As the threat increases the budgets of these commands, the next challenge is finding reliable and trainable young men and women to perform these jobs.

This lack of STEM focus and the overwhelming obesity crisis in the United States will be two of the biggest problems in a high threat environment for the government.

Time to advance STEM for all schools as well as physical education as we are slowly becoming an unfit nation that cannot answer the call on either side of the academic and physical spectrum. It will all start with education, but having a basic health and wellness background will enable these educated young men and women to obtain these jobs and job training of the future within the military and government agencies.


One Third of Youth Obese

Overweight / Obesity In the Military

Investing in STEM

DOD Offers Scholarships and Guaranteed Jobs for STEM Participants

Combatant Command Structure History


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