WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2009 – The U.S. military needs more people trained in specialties critical to the fight against global extremism, the chief of U.S. Central Command said here today.

“The fact is, there are a number of, still, very-high-demand, low density skill areas” that need to be addressed by military personnel planners, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, told attendees at a one-day, symposium held at the National Press Club.

After overseeing the successful 2007 surge-of-forces campaign in Iraq, Petraeus later became chief of Centcom, which has responsibility for operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the region.

Petraeus recently queried the Army and Air Force about training up more joint tactical air controllers. JTACs maintain communications and provide close-air support to ground units.

There’s a “big shortage” of JTACs that regularly serve with platoon-sized security teams and Special Forces’ units, he said.

Electronic warfare is another critical specialty, Petraeus said. Electronic warfare specialists manage and protect military communications. For example, the enemy has used cell phone transmissions to detonate improvised explosive devices. The enemy may also attempt to jam friendly communications.

Information operations specialists also are in demand, the general said, noting that Internet communications “is a battleground that cannot be uncontested.”

The enemy, Petraeus said, “cannot have free rein out in cyber space, anymore than they can have free rein or sanctuary in some kind of physical, geographic location.”

Other required skill sets include languages and knowledge of the cultures in which they are spoken, he said.

Realizing the need for and developing military occupational specialties that support worldwide counterinsurgency operations reflects the changed landscape the military has operated in since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

However, Petraeus said, the military now possesses leaders who have “demonstrated the kind of flexibility and adaptability” required to succeed in irregular and counterinsurgency warfare.

The symposium, hosted by the Marine Corps University, based at Quantico
Marine Base, Va., was titled: “Counterinsurgency Leadership in Afghanistan, Iraq and Beyond,” but Petraeus told his audience that he wouldn’t address questions related to current senior-level discussions about the way forward in Afghanistan.

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