SOF News Update 20180525 – Syria, book – A Tiger Among Us, SOFIC 2018, counterterrorism, proxy forces, SEAL MoH award, 3rd SFG Memorial Walk, Nasty Nick, Petraeus on Gina Haspel, Russia in Africa (again), CTC Sentinel (May), CIA card game, Sweden’s conflict survival pamphlet, battle with Russian mercenaries in Syria, and more.
SOF Battle with Russian Mercenaries in Syria. Thomas Gibbons-Neff describes the battle between U.S. special operations forces and Russian mercenaries and their Syrian counterparts that took place earlier this year. Read “How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria”, The New York Times, May 24, 2018.
SEAL MoH Award – Some Controversy. The White House will award a Medal of Honor to a Navy SEAL who participated in a famous battle in the mountains of Afghanistan early in the war. However, there appears to be some discord in the SOF community on this topic. Read “With Medal of Honor, SEAL Team 6 Rewards a Culture of War Crimes”, The Intercept, May 22, 2018. But then . . . this is The Intercept. “Medal of Honor recipient faced allegations of excessive force”And then . . . there is this report . . . , Politico.com, May 22, 2018. But then . . . this is Politico. Britt Slabinski is interviewed by Breaking Defense (May 24, 2018). on his award.
Nasty Nick. If you are a Special Forces qualified soldier then you are familiar with the obstacle course at Camp MacKall. Students find the obstacle course very demanding. Some can’t complete the course due to the difficulty of some of the obstacles. Some students are recycled or dropped from the training due to injuries received going through the course. And some students just plain quit – usually while contemplating the more dangerous of the obstacles. Read more in “This is why the Special Forces obstacle course is called “Nasty Nick””, Popular Military, May 22, 2018.
3rd SFG Memorial Walk. The Special Forces group based at Fort Bragg added more memorial stones to its Memorial Walk outside of its group headquarters to honor the members of the group that have died over the past year. (Fayetteville Observer, May 22, 2018).
The Special Operations Forces Industry Conference – SOFIC 2018 – was held this week in Tampa, Florida. Staged by the United States Special Operations Command and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), SOFIC is a venue for defense firms and contractors to display their services and products to the SOF military community. Over 400 companies have representation at the Tampa Bay Convention Center. Read some news reports about SOFIC 2018 below:
- “Iron Man Suit Prototype Delivered by 2019, SOCOM Officials Vow”, National Defense Magazine, May 24, 2018.
- “No Joke: Top Special Ops Commander Says No Offense Intended, Lauds Press”, Defense One, May 23, 2018.
- “Shopping Tampa for Ukraine commandos: Bomb-sniffers, drones and laser-proof sniper scopes”, Tampa Bay Times, May 23, 2018.
- “SOCOM’s next five-year plan will transform the force”, by Jen Judson, Defense News, May 22, 2108.
- “As special ops conference opens in Tampa, Centcom works to ease commandos’ burden”, Tampa Bay Times, May 22, 2018.
- “SOCOM Looks to Field New Drones, Upgrade Comms – Fast”, Breaking Defense, May 22, 2018.
- “SOCOM Pursuing ‘Hyper-Enabled Operator’ Technologies”, National Defense, May 22, 2018.
“Doing More With Less”. Stephen Tankel, an assistant professor at American University and fellow at the Center for a New America Security, says the United States needs to get its own house in order and to take a clear-eyed approach to its partnerships in order to have an effective counterterrorism strategy over the long haul. Read “Doing More With Less: How to Optimize U.S. Counterterrorism”, War on the Rocks, May 22, 2018.
New CIA Director. Gina Haspel has been sworn in as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Democrats are not happy with her record of supporting ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods. In addition, there is probably some consternation in the Democratic ranks that the Republicans were the first to have a woman as head of the spy agency.
Petraeus on Haspel. Former CIA director David Petraeus comments on the tasks ahead for the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Read “The Tasks & Opportunities Facing Gina Haspel”, The Cipher Brief, May 23, 2018.
CIA Card Game. It seems the Central Intelligence Agency has a series of card games that help newly-minted agents work out intelligence scenarios. Well a commercial firm will soon be marketing a similar board game called CIA Collect It All. Makes its debut in November 2018; just in time for Christmas shopping. Read “Real-Life CIA Card Game Makes Toppling Governments Fun!”, Geek.com, May 22, 2018.
NATO, Europe (and Russia, of course)
Sweden’s Survival Pamphlet. All citizens of Sweden will soon have access to a 20-page booklet with details on how to survive a war or conflict with Russia. Sweden has not been at war since its disagreement with Norway in 1814 (although it did entertain the Nazi’s during World War II – shades of “Occupied”). Read “Sweden issues Cold War-style conflict guide to residents”, Deutsche Welle, May 21, 2018.
Deterring Russia. The head U.S. general in Europe says that more troops and resources are needed to keep the Russia horde at bay in Europe. He believes that resources currently focused on counterterrorism may need to be redirected. (Reuters, May 24, 2018).
Votel on Syria. The head of Central Command, General Votel, says that the United States will remain in Syria to defeat what is left of the Islamic State (ISIS). Votel was interviewed on Monday, May 21st about Syria, Iran, and the greater CENTCOM area of responsibility. (Tampa Bay Times, May 22, 2018).
XVIII Abn Corps HQs to OIR. This summer elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina will head to the Middle East (Iraq) to replace III Corps which will head home to Fort Hood, Texas. (Army Times, May 22, 2018).
Cold War Revisited. During the Cold War the Soviet Union was heavily engaged in Africa – usually doing its best to support ‘National Wars of Liberation’. Once the Soviet Union collapsed it withdrew from its heavy Africa engagement. But now it appears that Russia is getting back into the mix. One prime example is its involvement with both the government and rebel forces of the Central Africa Republic. Read more in “Russia is Back in Africa – and Making Some Very Odd Deals”, Defense One, May 22, 2018.
Religious War in Nigeria? Attacks against Christians by the Boko Haram organization and Fulani herdsmen have increased in 2018. Read more in “Religious War Looms in Nigeria as Christian Body Count Climbs”, by Lela Gilbert, Newsmax, May 21, 2018.
Lake Chad, Climate Change, and Insecurity. Climate-fragility is readily apparent in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa. The area has been suffering form a huge humanitarian emergency since the rise of Boko Haram almost a decade ago. Read more in “Lake Chad: A Climate of Fragility”, E-International Relations, May 20, 2018.
The Usefulness of Proxy Wars. The United States – as well as other nations – uses proxy forces to advanced its national security interests. Daniel Byman explains what a proxy war is and how it is advantageous to use proxy forces. He also provides examples of how proxy forces can be a big problem. Read “Why engage in proxy war? A state’s perspective”, Brookings Institute, May 21, 2018.
Books and Publications
A Tiger Among Us. Green Beret and Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins has penned a book about his exploits as a Special Forces soldier serving in the Vietnam War. He served three tours in Vietnam. (Opelika-Auburn News, May 21, 2018).
CTC Sentinel – May. The Center for Combating Terrorism at West Point has published its May 2018 issue of the CTC Sentinel. Topics include the Islamic State, Jihadi brides, exploring pro-Islamic State instructional material on Telegram, and German foreign fighters in Somalia.
Ranger Water Jump. The 5th Ranger Training Battalion conducted a water parachute jump into Lake Lanier at War Hill Park, Dawsonville, Georgia on May 8, 2016. Watch a six-minute long video of the jump from a UH-60.
3rd SFGA Dietitian. Kate Burks, the THOR3 Performance Dietitian for 3rd Special Forces Group shares why she’s so passionate about her job and her opportunity to work with Special Forces soldiers. Watch Performance Dietitian Enhances Readiness, DVIDS, March 5, 2018.
Armor Branch. Want to view a little history of U.S. tanks? The Department of Defense published a short (2 min) long video entitled The Big Picture: The Role of the Armor Branch. Video is in black and white and probably 1950s/1960s era.
Top Photo: Photograph of vendor display area for the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) held in May 2018 in Tampa, Florida. Photo by DoD, May 22, 2018.