A Green Beret who spent much of his career on the Pacific Rim took command Wednesday of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s largest special operations unit.
Col. Otto Liller now leads the base’s 1st Special Forces Group, which has about 1,400 soldiers working around the world on missions mentoring allied militaries.
Liller served with the JBLM group from 1999 to 2002 as a captain and again from 2005 to 2008 as a staff officer. He commanded the 1st Special Forces Group’s Japan-based contingent from 2010 to 2012.
“It’s great to be home,” he said Wednesday.
Liller follows Col. Robert McDowell, who took command of the group two years ago and spent much of his time leading a Special Forces mission in the Philippines. The 1st Special Forces Group has had a presence in that country since 2002 collaborating with the nation’s military on counterterrorism efforts.
McDowell was charged with reducing the U.S. footprint in the Philippines and turning more operations over to local forces, said Army Special Forces Commander Brig. Gen. Darsie Rogers.
The 1st Special Forces Group has a presence in 42 countries, most of them in Asia. The unit has also fought in Afghanistan since the earliest days of the war.
As he said goodbye to his soldiers, McDowell credited them with a list of accomplishments, from maintaining a continual presence in Afghanistan to being among the first responders when a devastating typhoon struck the Philippines last year.
“They were already operating airfields and bringing in supplies before the first conventional forces could be established,” he said.
The group has recently rekindled some partnerships with Asian allies that it had set aside during the peak years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. For instance, it has renewed partnerships with Mongolia and elite units of the South Korean army, McDowell said.
McDowell is on his way to become deputy commander of the Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.