Special Operations News Update – Friday the 13th

Paratroopers descend from a US Air Force cargo transport. (Photo USAF December 1, 2017).
Paratroopers descend from a US Air Force cargo transport. (Photo USAF December 1, 2017).

SOF News Update 20180413 – CT in West Africa and the Sahel, RAND pub – “Understanding SOF”, Flintlock 2018, book reviews of The Village, U.S. ‘War Gap’, Rhodesia in the news, SOF officer appointments, NATO and gender, book review of Road Not Taken, Syria, MARSOC in combat in Middle East, SOF leaders brief Senate, MARSOC cyber operators, US SOF getting less deployment time, female Ranger School graduates, and more.

SOF Officer Appointments. Navy Rear Admiral (lower half) Hugh Howard has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Howard is currently serving as assistant commander, Joint Special Operations Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

SOF Leaders Brief Senate. The commanders of USASOC, AFSOC, MARSOC, and NSW briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, April 11th. Nearly 3,000 SOF members are deployed in more than 90 countries at this time. Although U.S. SOF comprise only 2 percent of the defense budget and 3 percent of the manpower SOF plays an outsized role in the nation’s priorities and provides an extraordinary return on investment. Read more in “Special Operations Leaders Update Senators on Efforts”Defense Media Activity, April 11, 2018.

RAND Pub – Understanding SOF. Dave Maxwell, retired SF Col, comments on a recent publication (2018) by the RAND Corporation entitled “Improving the Understanding of Special Operations: A Case History Analysis”IINSTP, April 9, 2018.

MARSOC Cyber Operators. Marine Raiders are looking to place cyber sleuths near the front lines. These cyber experts would operate with Marine commando teams that operate in the remote areas of the world. Read more in “Are MARSOC cyber operators on the horizon?”Marine Corps Times, April 12, 2018.

Female Graduates of Ranger School. It has been five years since former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted a ban on women serving in combat roles. Three years ago the Army allowed women to enter Ranger School. Since that time 12 women have graduated from the demanding infantry leaders course. “12 Female Soldiers Have Now Graduated Army Ranger School”Military.com, April 9, 2018.

Video – “Rangers Creed”. The U.S. Army published a short 1-minute long clip. (U.S. Army YouTube.com, Apr 12, 2018).

US SOF Getting Less Deployment Time. It appears that U.S. special operations forces are getting more time off between overseas deployments. The Pentagon has a goal of active duty troops spending two days at home for each day on an overseas deployment. Read “Special Operators are Getting a Bit More Much-Needed Rest” Defense One, April 12, 2018.

“Top Cop” Award to member of 137 SOSFS. The 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron honored one of their Airmen with the “Defender of the Year Award” at the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City. (DVIDS, Feb 3, 2018).

Green Beret Running for Congress in Massachusetts. A former Special Forces soldier is filing to represent the 6th district in Massachusetts. “Field growing for 6th District race”, Gloucester Times, April 11, 2018.


Flintlock 2018. AFRICOM has started its annual special operations exercise in Africa. It is the largest SOF exercise held on the African continent. The two-week exercise involves eight Africa and 12 western countries. Read “US special operations troops launch war games in Niger with partner forces”Stars and Stripes, April 9, 2018.

Also read “US Stages Annual Military Exercise as Questions Linger About Its African Role”Voice of America, April 10, 2018.

CT in West Africa and the Sahel. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) takes a look at the evolving security situation in West Africa and the Sahel. Virginia Comolli, a senior fellow for the International Institute of Strategic Studies, writes about the successes and challenges of the CT and COIN efforts in this region. Read “Counterterrorism Yearbook 2018: West Africa and the Sahel”The Strategist, April 9, 2018.

Chad and the US Travel Ban. The citizens of Chad can now receive visas to the U.S. once again. The White House now says that Chad had improved its identity management and information sharing practices enough to be taken of the list. Chad has been one of the U.S.’s more reliable partners in the north African region in the fight against terrorism. Read “African nation of Chad is being taken off US travel ban list”The Washington Post, April 10, 2018.

Canada Supporting G5 Sahel Force. The head of Canada’s defense says that Canadian troops have been supporting the multi-national force fighting terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa. (The Star, April 9, 2018).

Rhodesia in the News. The country of Rhodesia ceased to exist in 1979 – it became Zimbabwe. Rhodesia declared its independence from Great Britain in 1965 and tried to maintain a white-ruled nation despite the whites being a very small fraction of the population. Insurgencies soon popped up supported by Russia and China. Many saw this as a black movement for the liberation of their country from white rulers. Others saw it in terms of the Cold War. The white Rhodesians fought on until 1979 when they finally agreed to a transition government that would bring black rule. During the 1970s t-shirts and posters became popular in the United States that depicted Rhodesian service men on patrol or with nifty sayings like “Be A Man Among Men”. The men’s magazine Soldier of Fortune provided monthly articles about the counterinsurgency war. Units such as the Selous Scouts, Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI), and the Special Air Service (SAS) received a lot of press from Soldier of Fortune. Mostly black units like the Rhodesian African Rifles (RAR) also saw some press. It appears that Rhodesia is back in the news but not necessarily in a good way. White supremacists have appropriated the cause of Rhodesia to advance their agenda. Read more in “Rhodesia’s Dead – but White Supremacists Have Given It New Life Online”, The New York Times Magazine, April 10, 2018.

Middle East

How and When Does the Syrian War End? Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies writes about the U.S. policy on Syria in “Syria: When and How Does This War End?”CSIS, April 10, 2018.

MARSOC in Combat in Middle East. The US military mission in Syria and Iraq is an ‘advise and assist’ mission. This would encompass staying at the higher hqs locations while proxy forces are doing the fighting. But recent awards presented to members of the Marine SOF units deployed in the Middle East tell a different story. Read “US Troops Have Fought ISIS in Direct Ground Combat More Than You Think”Task & Purpose, April 10, 2018.


Book Review of The Village. A book wrote by Bing West about a small element of Marines who worked and lived in a village in Vietnam as part of the “Combined Action Platoon” is being reviewed by several people for the Small Wars Journal. Thus far five reviews have been completed.

4th Review: The book offers lessons in counterinsurgency applicable to today’s conflicts that the U.S. is currently engaged in. (Small Wars Journal, April 9, 2018).

5th Review: While the book provides many lessons for the counterinsurgent one reviewer highlights four important ones. (Small Wars Journal, April 12, 2018).

Book Review of Road Not Taken. The latest book from Max Boot is The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (New York: Liveright, 2018). Through a biography of Edward G. Lansdale, one of the foremost warriors of the Cold War (and a proponent of counterinsurgency and nation building), Boot makes the case that the war in Vietnam was a lost opportunity. Mark Atwood Lawrence makes note of three different reviews of Boot’s book on Lansdale in “Revisiting Revisionism: Vietnam, Counterinsurgency, and the Lessons of Edward Lansdale”War on the Rocks, April 11, 2018.

U.S. ‘War Gap’? One military observer and journalist believes that the United States fail to understand the true nature of military conflict. He cites four reasons why American decision-makers and senior military leaders are missing the boat when it comes to understanding the enemies it faces. Read “Is the US Suffering a ‘War Gap'”, by Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat, April 6, 2018.

SFAB for AFRICOM? A U.S. senator is pushing to get the Army to assign one of the service’s new Security Force Assistance Brigades to AFRICOM. Read “Senate leader wants a new Army advisory brigade for Africa”Stars and Stripes, April 11, 2018.

NATO and Gender. A Royal Australian Navy officer, Jennifer Wittwer, writes about the implementation of National Action Plans of various nations to link gender, women, and equality to its peace and security efforts though defence and security sector reform. Read “Linking Gender, Women, and Equality to NATO’s Peace and Security Efforts”The Strategy Bridge, April 11, 2018.


Photo Credit: Paratroopers descend from a US Air Force cargo transports. Photo by USAF, December 1, 2017.

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