Topics: Special Operations Forces, SOF, Ukraine, MARSOC, Special Forces, AFSOC, strategic competition, Russia, Afghanistan, AC-130J, AH-6, and more. Read curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
SOF News has come back from its long absence. The editor got distracted with the Afghan Evac effort and the publication of the Afghan Report. The return of SOF News will be measured at first but will gather steam in the coming weeks.
AF Commando Course and Females. The Air Force commando course has attracted some attention over the past few weeks. There has been some controversy over whether Air Force Special Operations Command gave preferential treatment to a female special warfare candidate in the training pipeline. The command has been experiencing some criticism coming from special warfare airmen, past and present. This includes criticism from the female candidate over who the controversy involves. Read more in “Air Force commando course to be overseen by someone who hasn’t gone through it”, Task & Purpose, February 10, 2022.
SOF Officer Assignments. Captain Brian Bennett has been nominated to be appointed to the rank of rear admiral (lower half). He is currently serving as executive officer to commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, Tampa, Florida.
AC-130J – A Great Aircraft. The 17th Special Operations Squadron took delivery of a new AC-130J Ghostrider gunship last summer and the airmen that fly in it are a bit excited about the new plane. “The AC-130J Ghostrider: Cannon Air Force Base’s newest gunship”, My High Plains, February 13, 2022.
Tough Foreign SOF Courses. La Escuela Militar de Lanceros and the Royal Thai Army Ranger School are considered two of the toughest special operations force courses that a U.S. SOF member can attend. Each course is similar in nature – lasting just over 70 days. (Business Insider, Feb 8, 2022).
Marine Raider Awarded Medal. A member of MARSOC has been recognized for rescuing two people from drowning while he was on vacation. He ran into a rip current to save a man and his son from drowning. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal during a ceremony at Camp Lejeune in January 2022. (Task & Purpose, Feb 10, 2022).
AH-6 of the Night Stalkers. The venerable AH-6 helicopter may soon be replaced with a more modern platform but the pilots who fly the small helicopter are adamant that the ‘killer egg’ can still contribute to the fight. There are two versions of the Little Bird in service with the Army’s special operations aviation unit. The AH-6 is the attack iteration and the MH-6 is the assault/transport version. The helicopter, flown by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, has been supporting U.S. commandos around the world for 40 years. Read more in “The Killer Egg: What Is So Great About the AH-6?”, National Interest, January 19, 2022.
John Singlaub Dies at 100. Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Singlaub was a decorated veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He died on January 29, 2022 at the age of 100. He was a member of the Office of Strategic Services in WWII when he parachuted behind enemy lines into France. During the Korean war he served in a CIA clandestine services field mission. He would later command MACV-SOG in Vietnam. “Special operations legend John Singlaub has died at the age of 100“, Marine Corps Times, January 31, 2022.
Navy SEALs and Secret Missions. Brandon Webb some of the missions that Naval special warfare personnel have conducted over the past several decades. This includes Operation Desert Shield and Storm, Gothic Serpent, Operation Mongoose, Phoenix Program, Urgent Fury, Just Cause, and others. “Navy SEALs: Secret Missions 1960-1990s”, SOFREP, February 13, 2022.
Green Berets and the Training They Provide. U.S. special operations units have been working in scores of countries for decades teaching local units how to become better fighters and win conflicts. Foreign Internal Defense (FID) is a primary mission set of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Some of the training in the Special Forces Qualification Course is on how to conduct FID missions. “Inside the Secretive Training US Green Berets Give Troops Who May Face Russia or China”, Military.com, January 19, 2022.
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Enduring SOTFs vs. Rotational SOTFs. Juan Quiroz puts forth the argument that a doctrinal change should take place that will bring about a reevaluation of command and control practices and the establishment of enduring Special Operations Task Forces that will foster long-term operational continuity. “Re-examining SOTF Command Protocols in the era of Strategic Competition”, The Civil Affairs Association, January 23, 2022.
SOF and ‘Radical Planning Theory’. A Civil Affairs officer argues that SOF and other irregular warfare experts must continue to look for new and innovative ways to strengthen their abilities to analyze conflict. “Lessons can be learned from social movements that offer insights into the motivation, organization, and mobilization of vulnerable populations across a variety of urban settings.” Read more in “Irregular Learning for Irregular Warfare: Radical Urban Planning and Its Applications”, The Civil Affairs Association, February 13, 2022.
Hybrid Warfare – U.S. Playing Catchup. Some national security observers wonder if the U.S. is playing checkers while its adversaries are playing chess. Both Russia and China have been embracing the use of hybrid warfare as a means to achieve its strategic objectives. This ‘war’ is fought in the shadows sometimes referred to as ‘the gray zone’. The U.S. has some capability in this arena but seems to always be one or two steps behind. “US adversaries have been mastering hybrid warfare. It’s time to catch up”, Atlantic Council, February 8, 2022.
SOF, GPC, and Maritime Sabotage. Alexander Powell provides a detailed history of the use of sabotage during conflict. Sabotage is defined as state and nonstate actors using operations with the aim of secretly disarming, obstructing, or destroying enemy war material or infrastructure. Many times the forces conducting sabotage have been either intelligence organizations or special operations forces (SOF). Maritime sabotage operations will see renewed attention as the nation’s SOF forces focus on the Indo-Pacific and other maritime regions around the world. “A Blast From the Past? The Role of Maritime Sabotage in Strategic Competition”, Modern War Institute, February 3, 2022.
Marine Raiders and GPC. The special operators of the Marine Corps are going to be playing a bigger role in the military’s competition with a resurgent Russia and rising China. MARSOC will see a lessened role in CT and COIN and return to its naval roots. It will adapt to be more supportive of naval expeditionary forces. Read more in “Commandant Sees Bigger Role for Marine Raiders in Great Power Competition”, Seapower Magazine, February 9, 2022.
Deterrence Across the Gray Zone. Three members of the United Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) discuss ‘integrated deterrence’ – how to shape adversary decision making in the contemporary international environment. Read the thoughts of Katie Crombe, Steve Ferenzi, and Robert Jones in their article entitled “Integrating deterrence across the gray – making it more than words”, Military Times, December 8, 2021. Watch a YouTube video on the same topic.
GPC – Implications for Defense. The emergence of great power competition with China and Russia has changed the conversation about U.S. defense issues from what it was during the post-Cold War era. CT and COIN are now a less dominant element in this conversation. Read more in Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense – Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (CRS), February 10, 2022, PDF, 67 pages.
Scandinavia and Russia. Both Finland and Sweden are keeping a wary eye on its large neighbor to the east. Russia’s aggressive posture in eastern Europe has both nations concerned and they are beefing up their defensive capabilities. “Russia Driving Sweden and Finland into the Arms of NATO”, Gatestone Institute, February 14, 2022.
More Icebreakers Needed. The Coast Guard currently has only two operational icebreakers in its fleet. The ice cap is melting in the Arctic and routes of passage are opening up. This is providing new routes for commercial transit, fishing grounds, mining of minerals, and oil deposits. Read more in “U.S. Needs More Icebreakers for Arctic”, DoD News, February 8, 2022.
Ukraine. The news media has been focused on Russia’s next move along the border of Ukraine. There are continuing reports of a Russian military buildup. Will they invade or not? Personnel of the Florida National Guard have been pulled out of Ukraine to a location in Eastern Europe. Various international organizations with a presence in Ukraine are pulling out their staff. The European community has had almost daily meetings and conferences over the crisis. Dire warnings have been issued to the Russians by the international community.
DoS and Ukraine. The U.S. embassy has been evacuated except for some key core personnel. The Department of State has issued several travel advisories on Ukraine, the latest one coming out on February 12, 2022 advising on the increased threats of Russian military action. The Department of State has warned Americans that they will not be evacuated by the U.S. and that they should make their way out of Ukraine immediately.
Ukraine and Other Nations. The United Kingdom has pulled out its troops that were in Ukraine on a training mission – although a small SOF element may remain. Canada has sent a small special forces detachment to Ukraine to identify ways to assist the nation in resisting a potential Russian invasion. The Canadian SOF unit is also tasked with helping to develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event of a full-scale invasion by the Russians.
A Russian Occupation? If the Russians do invade they may possibly be faced with a movement that utilizes the threat of citizen resistance. Ukraine is a major food supplier for the continent – some call it the ‘breadbasket of the world’ because of the large amount of grain exports. A conflict in Ukraine would have significant agricultural and food security implications.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Sentinel. The “newsletter of the quiet professionals” is published monthly by Chapter 78 of the Special Forces Association. It is a classy monthly journal and contains some very interesting articles about U.S. special operations forces. The February edition has stories on the Son Tay Raid, a combat interpreter who has a new leg, and more.
Photo: A soldier with the Moldovan Special Forces watches for enemy forces in a wooden area during Exercise Allied Spirit 22 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 25, 2022. The Allied Spirit exercise develops and enhances NATO and key partner readiness. Following training from Saber Junction in 2021, exercise Allied Spirit provided a unique opportunity for Moldovan Special Forces to take the lead and instruct the Lithuanian KASP (National Volunteer Defence Forces) on honing unconventional warfare skills. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alisha Grezlik)