Special Operations News Update 20180509

AC-130U Gunship

SOF News Update 20180509 – Somali army unprepared, SF in Yemen, West Africa tribal conflict, NATO’s ‘trip wire’ in the Baltics, intel support changing, Military Review, gunships and jamming, frogmen and maritime hybrid warfare, more on Niger SF mission (Oct 2017), future challenges for SOF (Vickers), Rambo 5, Peggy Qualls – RIP, Medal of Honor recipients, SF in Yemen, and more.

SOF News

Gunships and Jamming. AC-130 gunship crews are taking extra precautions during missions in the skies of Syria due to new threats by electronic jamming signals. Read more in “Gunship Crews Practice Extra Vigilance Amid Jamming in Syria”Military.com, May 4, 2018.

Future Challenges for SOF. Dr. Michael Vickers – former Green Beret, CIA operative, SO/LIC, and official in DoD – writes on the impact on U.S. Special Operations in the coming decade in “Future Challenges for Special Operations Forces”The Cipher Brief, May 8, 2018. He says the new big warfighting challenge for SOF is Russian hybrid warfare, particularly along the periphery of the Russian Federation.

Frogmen and Maritime Hybrid Warfare. Ben Ho Wan Beng, a military studies analyst at Singapore’s S. Rajartanam School of International Studies, writes on the prospects of irregular or special operations forces conducting military operations at sea. Read “Little Men in Black: The Frogman Threat in Maritime Hybrid Warfare”Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), May 7, 2018.

Medal of Honor Recipients. The White House announced that Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) (Ret) Britt Slabinski will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in March 2002 during the Battle of Takur Ghar while serving in Afghanistan. (Navy.mil, May 7, 2018). An airman has been recommended for the Medal of Honor for the same combat action. Air Force Technical Sergeant John Chapman (Air Commando) died during the battle. Sean Naylor provides a detailed account of the battle (Newsweek, May 7, 2018). Some news stories indicate that there is some controversy with the MoH awards. Read more in “Operators Are Bitterly Infighting Over The Latest Medal of Honor Announcement”Task and Purpose, May 8, 2018.

Tragic Niger Misson – More Details? Another news story providing details from the 6,000 page investigation report has been published. This one seems to lay blame on a misleading CONOP submitted for the mission. These details keep trickling out. U.S. Senators were briefed on Tuesday by General Thomas Waldhauser – cdr of U.S. Africa Command – and others on the investigation in a closed-door hearing. I think we need to wait until the unclassified version of the report is released by DoD. Read “Leaders of U.S. soldiers killed in Niger filed misleading mission plan, say officials” NBC News, May 7, 2018.

New Cdr for JSOC. Air Force Lt. General Scott Howell has been nominated to be the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.

Brit SF Cdr to be Head of Army. A former director of Britain’s special forces will be named as the new head of the army. (The Times – UK, May 9, 2018).

SOCOM Sniper Weapon Changes. The hit probability for SOF snipers will increase with a new caliber round according to a news report. (Military Times, May 8, 2018).

Valor Awards for 10th SFGA. Green Berets assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group earned over 60 valor awards in just six months during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. (10th SFGA DVIDS, May 2, 2018).

SOF Members Inducted as Honorary / Distinguished Members. Several special operations soldiers (SF, PSYOP, and CA) were inducted into their respective regiments as distinguished or honorary members on Friday, May 4, 2018 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Read “Special ops veterans honored at Fort Bragg ceremony”The Fayetteville Observer, May 8, 2018.

SOF Iron Man Suit Delayed. USSOCOM’s tactical assault light operator suit (TALOS) is experiencing some development issues. It is hoped that the command will demonstrate a functional TALOS prototype of the exoskeleton subsystem it calls the Mark-5 in 2019. (National Defense, May 7, 2018).

Peggy Qualls – RIP. A long-time supporter of the Special Forces community. Those Green Berets stationed with 10th and 11th Special Forces Groups at Fort Devens in the late 1970’s may remember the efforts of Peggy Qualls as part of the New Hampshire loyal underground and auxiliary who supported special forces unconventional warfare, escape and evasion, and winter warfare exercises. She also participated in other events supporting the Special Forces community. Services are scheduled for Wednesday, May 9th.

Rambo 5. Sylvester Stallone is reviving the Green Beret character made famous in First Blood in 1982. A new movie is in the works. (The West Australian, May 6, 2018).


Somali Army Unprepared. A United Nations security council resolution requiring the African Union Mission in Somalia to withdraw by 2012 is causing some concern with senior leaders of AMISOM. Evidently the Somali National Army (SNA) has not made significant progress over the last several years. In the meantime AMISOM is downsizing. Read more in “AMISOM commanders raise concerns over Somali army preparedness”The Observer (Uganda),  May 6, 2018.

Tribal Conflict in West Africa. The nomadic (or semi-nomadic) Fulani herders have as their primary occupation the raising of livestock. This activity encompasses random movement of cattle and periodic migration between grazing lands and their homes or camps. The Fulani of Mali, Nigeria, and Niger find themselves in conflict with farmers over scarce resources – and that is also part of a struggle for political supremacy – complicated with the presence of militant jihadi organizations. Read more in “West Africa: Fulani conflict getting worse”Deutsche Welle, May 7, 2018.

Middle East

SOF in the ME. General Tony Thomas, commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) addressed the Middle East Special Operations Commanders Conference on May 7th in Amman, Jordan. He talked about the ‘gray zone’ that SOF is operating in around the world as well as in the Middle East. He stated that SOF needs to improve in three areas: (Defense News, May 7, 2018).

  • Build stronger alliances and partnerships
  • Share information
  • Enhance interoperability

ISOF Weakened by ISIS Tactics. Islamic State tactics have “. . . weakened the country’s special forces morale and dispersed their true roles” according to one Iraqi general speaking at the cdrs conference in Jordan. (Defense News, May 8, 2018).

MEDEVAC for SOF in Yemen. The U.S. Transportation Command is conducting market research to identify air carriers operating ballistic-protected fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft capable of providing medical and casualty evacuation services with Yemen and surrounding areas. Read “DoD exploring medevac options for special operations forces within Yemen”Marine Corps Times, May 8, 2018.

SF in Yemen. U.S. Army Special Forces continue to be engaged in the fight against Zaidi Shiite Muslim insurgents that control areas of Yemen. Recent news reports say that a detachment of Green Berets are assisting Saudi forces along the Saudi – Yemen border. The Yemen civil war is in its fourth year with one faction backed by Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and other nations and another faction supported by Iran. Read “U.S. Soldiers Secretly Fighting Saudi Arabia’s War in Yemen, Report Says”Yahoo.com, May 3, 2018. See also a related news report (same topic) in “Army Green Berets reportedly helped destroy missile threats on Saudi border”Military Times, May 5, 2018.

GBs in Yemen – (yet another article). Jeremy Kuzmarov, an author and commentator with unique perspective of things, manages to find ‘the dark side’ of the U.S. intervention in Yemen. Read “Why Are The Green Berets Now Operating on the Saudi Border with Yemen?”History News Network, May 8, 2018.

The Intel World

Intel: Shifting from COIN to Large-Scale Operations. Caroline Bechtel, an intelligence officer, thinks the next war will be far more dynamic and complex than counterinsurgency or stability operations. That requires a shift in how intelligence supports military operations. Read “What the Army’s Return to Large-Scale Operations Means for the Intelligence Warfighting Function”Modern War Institute at West Point, May 8, 2018.

CIA Director Nominee. Deputy Director Gina Haspel is having her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, May 9th to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. There is some stiff opposition to her taking on the top job at the CIA based on allegations that she was involved in the spy agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods. (The Hill, May 8, 2018).

NATO, the Baltic States, and Russia

NATO’s ‘Tripwire’ in the Baltics. Since 2014 events in eastern Europe have forced the U.S. and NATO to recognize the ‘new’ threat from Russia. Of deep concern is the defense of the three Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Read more in “GIS Dossier: NATO’s strategic dilemmas”, Geopolitical Intelligence Services, May 2, 2018.

Pubs and Journals

USSOCOM’s Tip of the Spear. The April 2018 issue of Tip of the Spear has been posted online. The issue has a number of interesting stories about SOF around the world.
www.socom.mil/TipOfTheSpear/Tip of the Spear the April2018.pdf

Military Review. The May – June 2018 issue of Military Review has been posted online by The Army University Press. Topics include an assessment of Saber Strike 2017, implementing best practices, Russia’s forms and methods of military operations, drones in the future, PTSD and TBI, effective resourcing at theater Army level, basic infantry building block (Slovenia), Case Study: Guadalcanal, the democratic coup d’etat, and more.


Photo: AC-130U Gunship from 4th Special Operations Squadron flies near Hurlburt Field. Photo by Julianne Showalter, USAF, Aug 20, 2016.


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