Special Operations News Update – Monday, May 11, 2020

View from MC-130J Commando II

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.

SOF News

SOF Veteran to Lead 82nd Abn. Major General Christopher Donahue will soon be returning from Afghanistan and heading to Fort Bragg. He currently is head of the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A). Read more in “The 82nd Airborne Division is getting a new commander”, Task and Purpose, May 5, 2020.

Mitchell on SOF Oversight. Col (Ret) Mark Mitchell has penned an opinion article about the need for an undersecretary for special operations and irregular warfare. This would be a step up in the hierarchy within DoD for the current ASD SO/LIC. Mitchell formerly served as acting ASD SO/LIC and is a former Special Forces officer. Read “Congress should elevate the top civilian position overseeing special operations“, Military Times, May 6, 2020.

TALOS – SOCOM’s Iron Man Suit. In 2016 SOF News published a story about the Iron Man Suit. Read a more recent story about the tale behind the Pentagon’s ill-fated quest for a real-life ‘Iron Man’ suit. (Military.com, May 7, 2020.

Robin Sage. The periodic invasion of the People’s Republic of Pineland by secretive U.S. Special Forces units is revealed. Read more in “Every year, the Army invades our greatest enemy, North Carolina”, AV Club, May 10, 2020.

U.S. SOF Using Drones to Advise. SOF personnel with the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR) have been using drones to train security forces in Iraq. This safe distance observation provides a form of advising yet meets the physical distance requirements to remain safe in the current COVID-19 environment. See “US special operations troops turn to drones to remotely advise Iraqis”, Stars and Stripes, May 4, 2020.

Raider Officer to be Promoted. Marine Corps Colonel Peter Huntley, the current deputy commander of MARSOC at Camp Lejeune, NC has been nominated for a one-star rank. He started his military career with the Army service with the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Flynn – Charges Dropped. The Justice Department is dropping charges against the former Trump aide Michael Flynn. He lasted about a month as the President’s national security advisor. Flynn is a retired U.S. Army general officer with significant time spent with JSOC.

Nominee for ASD SO/LIC. The Trump administration may be moving ahead with the nomination of Lou Bremer to be the head of DoD’s office of Special Operations / Low Intensity Conflict. For more info see “Trump taps private equity executive for top special operations job”, Defense News, May 5, 2020. See also an article wrote last Sep 2019 of Bremer entitled “Tequila-drinking Navy SEAL in the running to oversee elite troops”, Politico.com, by Wesley Morgan, September 9, 2019.

Navy SEAL Recruit Training Resumes. New social distancing rules are in effect at the San Diego training center for prospective Navy SEALs. Read “How the Navy SEALs are practicing social distancing during training,”, New York Post, May 6, 2020.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Perspective and Book. Dan Crenshaw, a Republican Congressman from Texas, has a new book out. Read more in “The Navy SEAL turned congressman who has no patience for outrage culture”, Jewish Insider, May 7, 2020.

Bronco II for USSOCOM? Three firms are teaming up to pursue a new contract to deliver a purpose-built, multi-mission aircraft that will support the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Armed Overwatch Program. (DefenseConference.com, May 4, 2020).

Former 19th SFGA Soldier is Pipe Bomb Suspect. The FBI arrested a man after discovering four homemade pipe bombs in his house. The former Captain in the Colorado National Guard served between 1994 and 2007. The FBI served a search warrant on the man’s home after he made threats that drew the attention of law enforcement. Details of the man’s military past remain somewhat scarce. (The Denver Post, May 7, 2020).

SOCOM Looking for Advancements in Technology. The United States Special Operations Command is looking to advance technology across six capability areas which are aligned with the USSOCOM Capability Planning Guidance. These are biotechnologies and human interface, hyper enabled operator, network and data management, next generation effects, next generation intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and next generation mobility. Read more in “USSOCOM Issues 5-Year Science & Technology Broad Area Announcement”, Soldier Systems, May 7, 2020.

Crum's Sauce

International SOF

Taiwan’s MPSSC to Train ME Country CT Force. A Middle Eastern country has agreed to a training event with the Military Police Special Services Company of Taiwan. The training will be conducted in Taiwan. See “Taiwan’s Night Hawks training troops from Middle Eastern country, Taiwan News, May 11, 2020.

Morocco SOF Receive U.S. Vehicles. Specialized vehicles were provided by the U.S. government to be used by the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces’s Special Operations (MSOF). The 21 vehicles will strengthen the ability of the MSOF to carry out special operations. (North Africa Post, May 8, 2020).

New Cdr of Iraqi CTS. Iraq has placed a general respected by the U.S. in charge of the Counter-Terrorism Service. (Task and Purpose, May 10, 2020).

SOF History

Laotian Fighters for SF and CIA Fled to the U.S. With the fall of most of Indochina to the communists in the early 1970s came millions of refugees from the countries of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Some of these refugees served as part of militias supported by U.S. Army Special Forces and/or the Central Intelligence Agency. Read the story of a Laotian who fled his country in “Soldier in the Secret War recalls experience 45 years after resettling in U.S.”, NBC News, April 30, 2020.

Wingate and His Chindits. A brilliant English tactician molded elite guerrilla fighters known as the ‘Chindits” during the Pacific War. He was unorthodox in thought and action, wore a colonial-era pith helmet and scruffy tropical uniform. Conventionally minded staff and command elements in the British Army thought he was “. . . an out-of-control visionary whose ideas about guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines were unworkable.” Read more in “Orde Wingate and His Chindits Pioneered Guerrilla Warfare”, Warfare History Nework, July 31, 2015.

Coronavirus and the Military

COVID-19 and Joining the Military. Some new rules for those seeking to join the military may be in the works. Some COVID-19 survivors who were hospitalized may not be able to join the armed services. (Military Times, May 7, 2020).

SF Vet Supplies Hand Sanitizer to Small Businesses. A former Green Beret and now business owner switched gears and started offering delivery on gel-based hand sanitizer to small firms. (CISON Web, May 9, 2020).

National Security

SFABs Continue to Recruit. A recent article provides information about recruiting for the Security Force Advisor Brigades and a recent training mission to Africa. The SFABs are a key initiative to relieve the Army’s BCTs and Special Forces of training missions for conventional foreign forces. Read “SFABs look to grow force, expand missions around the world”, Army News Service, May 7, 2020.

Contract for Black Hornet Nano Drones. FLIR Systems has won an additional $20 million contract from the U.S. Army for the Black Hornet 3 Personal Reconnaissance Systems (PRS). These ultra-small pocket-sized UAVs will support small unit operations. (Vertical Magazine, May 7, 2020).

Great Power Competition

Training for GPC. Tom Greenwood and Owen Daniels provide commentary on how the U.S. military needs to change the way it conducts exercises and experimentation. They propose that a return to big exercises like REFORGER and TEAM SPIRIT are needed. Read “The Pentagon should train for – and not just talk about – Great-Power Competition”, War on the Rocks, May 8, 2020.

Report – GPC and IO. The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has published a 41-page report (PDF) entitled Dangerous Synergies: Countering Chinese and Russian Digital Influence Operations (May 2020). The report finds that our adversaries attempt to undermine liberal democratic norms and institutions, weaken cohesion among democratic allies and partners, reduce U.S. global influence, and to advance Russian and Chinese positions.

Russia Offers Military Assistance to Baltic States in COVID-19 Fight. President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian military has sent assistance to the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Over the past few days OPERATION ISOLATION commenced as a first step in creating a strong Russian-led Corona Free Bloc. Putin added that since Russia has an unprecedented low infection rate that it is only natural for them to aid their Baltic neighbors with military assistance. Several divisions with their supporting medical units and “Little Green Medics” have crossed the borders and established medical aid and monitoring sites. Read more in “Russian Military to Occupy Baltics to Prevent COVID-19 Infections”, Angry Staff Officer, May 7, 2020. (warning – satire).

Middle East

Iranian Maritime Mishap. Apparently Iran blew up one of its own boats during a target practice event. Some 18 are dead and scores are missing.

Oppose Iran, Embrace Turkey, and Abandon the Kurds. A new strategic vision for the U.S. in Syria and the Middle East region could once again ally the United States with one of our NATO ‘partners’. Iran is driving our Middle East policy at the moment and the U.S. could align itself with Turkey. Read more in “Strategic Fail: Partnering with Turkey to Counter Iran Would Misread the Region”,War on the Rocks, by Blaise Miszial, May 4, 2020.

U.S. Soldier Dies in Iraq. A member of the 25th Infantry Division has died in a non-combat related incident in Iraq. His death is not COVID-19 related as well. (Army Times, May 6, 2020).

Canada Withdraws Choppers from Iraq. The Canadian Armed Forces has re-positioned all seven of its CH-146 Griffon helicopters and aircrews from Iraq due to the coronavirus pandemic. As COVID-19 spread and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) suspended all training exercises – coalition nations have been redeploying their troops either to their home countries or other locations outside of Iraq. CSOF has also significantly reduced the pace of operations in Iraq. (Vertical Magazine, May 8, 2020).


Map – Taliban Control. The FDD’s Long War Journal has mapped the areas of Afghanistan under insurgent rule. The map shows that since 2014 the Taliban have been resurgent within the rural areas. The LWJ reports that more than half the population live in areas contested or under the control of the Taliban. The number of districts contested or controlled by the Taliban add up to 164 districts; while the government controls 133 districts.


Rehabilitating Boko Haram Fighters. Bulama Bukarti, an analyst specializing in extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa, provides his thoughts about how to bring former Boko Haram members back into society. Read his detailed analysis in “The Challenge of Boko Haram Defectors in Chad”, War on the Rocks, May 6, 2020.

Wagner Group in Libya. A Russian private military contractor has been assisting the forces of eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar. Read more in “Up to 1,200 deployed in Libya by Russian military group: U.N. report”, Reuters, May 6, 2020.

Conflict Escalating in Libya. The civil war had been intensifying with foreign nations (Russia, Turkey, Egypt, UAE, and others) increasing their assistance to the different factions. Khalifa Haftar has been attempting to take control of Tripoli but is opposed by the Government of National Accord.

Upcoming Events

May 11-15, 2020. Virtual Event.
Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC)
National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA)

May 12-14, 2020. Online Seminar.
Great Power Competition: A Special Operations Perspective
Joint Special Operations University (JSOU)

May 15, 2020. Webcast.
KLE with Dr. Rob Johnson. The author of Lawrence of Arabia on War will be hosted by the Civil Affairs Association during a drink and talk session. The event will be held online via Zoom on May 15, 2020 at 6:30 PM. Three members of the association will engage with Johnson about his new book. Lawrence of Arabia was an iconic figure of World War I – viewed by many as a romantic guerrilla leader and early proponent of irregular warfare.

August 29, 2020. Virtual Fundraiser.
Combat Diver Foundation – Deep Dive 2020

Want to List Your Upcoming Event? Send an email to staff @ sof.news.


The Changing Nature of Warfare. John Laurens, an active duty officer in Her Majesty’s Forces, writes about military policy. His latest – “Warfare, Dinner Jackets, Hammers and Nails” (Wavell Room, May 7, 2020) – argues that “. . we need to be offering options that match the political ends of our Government which operates within . . .” the current international system. So of his main points:

  • the value of heavy forces is as a deterrent
  • use the Special Forces as a university for combat
  • light forces are the future
  • set up a military press agency
  • reversionary techniques will win the day
  • targeted killing generates improvement, not deterioration
  • contractorise until it hurs
  • proxy forces & militias need to be raised
  • catastrophic destruction will often be needed

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Small Wars Journal – Editor Passes Away. A previous article by SOF News provided information about the passing of Dave Dilegge – the founder and editor in chief of a well-known online website with military content. Other stories about Dave have also been published. This is one of the better ones – “Dave Dilegge, the ‘grandfather of urban warfare studies,’ has died”, Marine Corps Times,May 6, 2020.

Videos, Podcasts, TV, and Movies

Movie Trailer – Space Force. Everyone’s favorite four-star general – Steve Carell, has been selected to lead the newly formed U.S. Space Force. You can learn more about the “new SF” in this YouTube video posted by Netflix on May 5, 2020.

Chris Pratt – Our Newest TV SEAL. Pratt will play a former Navy SEAL who returns home after battle to discover a government conspiracy. The TV show, The Terminal List, is based on a book series by Jack Carr. Read and article about the upcoming TV show in “Chris Pratt Returns to TV for Amazon’s New Military Show”, Gamespot.com, May 6, 2020. Watch a promotional video about the book series.

New Film – Desert One. The 40th anniversary of Operation EAGLE CLAW took place in late April. A new documentary about the ill-fated operation by Delta to free hostages held by Iran in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran will hit theaters in late 2020 or early 2021. (We Are The Mighty, Apr 30, 2020).


Photo: U.S. Air Force airmen assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing, based out of RAF Mildenhall, U.K., conduct air operations out of an MC-130J Commando II over Greece. Members from 352 SOW conducted low-level flights out of the MC-130J in order to maintain flight proficiency and fulfill training requirements. This training mission enhances readiness and maintains proficiencies in support of multiple NATO Allies and partners in the Black Sea and Balkans region to keep NATO strong during the global COVID-19 crisis.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena, April 23, 2020)

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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.