Special Operations News Update 20180911

Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) participating in a parade celebrating the liberation of Mons, Belguim in WWII. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brett Dodge, NATO, Sep 2, 2018.

SOF News Update 20180911 – Russian PMCs in Ukraine, Special Amphibious Corpsman, meddling in SEAL rape case, Canadian SOF and keeping secrets, USSOCOM’s super SAW, Global SOF Symposium (Madrid), Admiral Harward on life as a SEAL, Russia’s DPVs, UDPFs SOC, Iran’s Green Berets, cynical leadership needed, remembering an SF legend, CoC for NSW, new TACP PT test, papers, book reviews, analysis, commentary, and more.


Today is the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States that killed thousands of innocent American citizens. The tragedy was the event that triggered the 17-year long Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) that has cost the United States and its allies trillions of dollars and thousands of service personnel killed and wounded.

International SOF News

Russia’s Black Shadow DPVs. Russian Special Forces have been using the Black Shadow Diver Propulsion Vehicles in military exercises in the East Mediterranean. (Defence-Blog.com, Sep 10, 2018).

UK Courtmartial for Training Deaths. Two special forces instructors are on trial over the deaths of three reservists who died during an arduous rucksack march. See “Special Forces Instructors on Trial by Court Martial over Deaths of Reservists”, Forces Network, September 2018.

Exercise Flash Mint 2018. A joint training exercise involving US Navy SEALs and KD Sri Semporna of Malaysia has just concluded. Held during the month of August 2018 the two units shared experience, techniques, and tactics in carrying out maritime special operations. Apparently the Malaysian naval SOF unit prefers working with US Army Special Forces. (Daily Express, August 20, 2018).

“The Seal’s equipment was more up-to-date than ours but in terms of techniques and tactics, we are at par. Last year, we trained with the Green Berets. We will request an exercise with them again next year because they are more focused and very serious in training.”

Uganda Special Forces Command Accused of Abuse. According to some politicians the SFC has been using excessive force against journalists and lawmakers. Read more in “U.S. ‘gravely concerned’ by reports of abuse by Ugandan security forces – official”, EuroNews, September 10, 2018.

UDPF’s Special Operations Command. Mr. Dennis Katungi explains the role and mission of the Special Forces Command of the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF). (Kampala Post, Sep 4, 2018).

Iran’s ‘Green Berets’. It may be surprising to some that Iran’s elite unit wears Green Berets. Learn more in “This is why Iran’s Special Forces still wear US green berets”, We are the Mighty, September 7, 2018.

Canadian SF Keeping Secrets. When it comes to potential wrongdoing in Afghanistan the elite soldiers of Canada know how to clam up. At least according to a recent news report detailing possible misdeeds in Afghanistan several years back. (Our Windsor, Sep 7, 2018).

Global SOF Symposium. The Spanish Chief of Defense will be talking before the audience at the Global Special Operations Forces (SOF) Symposium in Spain in September, 2018. (Market Insider, Sep 6, 2018)


Theodore Roosevelt IV – Navy SEAL. One of America’s most famous families has had its share of members serving in the military. Some in special operations. Read “Teddy Roosevelt IV became a Navy SEAL to fight in Vietnam”, We Are the Mighty, September 7, 2018.

Meddling in SEAL Court Case. The military’s highest court ruled that the Navy’s top lawyer – Vice Admiral James Crawford – illegally meddled in the case of a SEAL accused of rape. (Navy Times, Sep 6, 2018).

NSW CoC. The Naval Special Warfare Command has new leadership. Rear Admiral Collin Green took charge on September 7, 2018 at a change of command ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Green most recently served as commander of U.S. Special Operations Command South. His previous assignments include SEAL Team 3, Naval Special Warfare Task Group – Iraq (OIF), Naval Special Warfare Unit 3, and Naval Special Warfare Group 1.

SBT 22 CoC. A change of command ceremony was held for Special Boat Team 22 at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. (DVIDS, Sep 7, 2018).

Harward – Life as a SEAL. Vice Admiral (Retired) Robert S. Harward – a former Navy SEAL – talks about life behind the scenes of the Navy’s SEALs and the Navy SEAL Foundation. (WGN Radio.com, Sep 6, 2018).

Coast Guard’s MSRT. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a specialized unit that is very similar in training and employment to maritime SOF units. The Maritime Security Response Team or MSRT is a counter-terrorism assault element of maritime law enforcement. Read more in “This is the Coast Guard’s hardcore equivalent to the Navy SEALs”We Are the Mighty, September 10, 2018.


Gender-Neutral PT Tests for BA Airmen. The U.S. Air Force is looking to establish a gender-neutral physical fitness test for its Battlefield Airmen (BA). The RAND Corporation was involved in the evaluation of the fitness test validation study. Read a 124-page report by RAND Corporation, August 2018.


Marine’s SARC. Read a great and in-depth article by Nick Coffman about the training and mission of the Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman. (NEWSREP, Sep 1, 2018).


Passing Selection. Steve Balestrieri wrties on how to get into good physical shape for selection. He believes when it comes to physical fitness ‘crawl, walk, run’ works just fine. Read “Passing Selection Means Being Well-Rounded and Durable”, Special Operations, September 10, 2018.

GB Served in Iranian and U.S. Army. A Green Beret, who was born in Iran, was a natural to serve in the 5th Special Forces Group. Read more in “The First Muslim Green Beret Was Also in Iran’s Special Forces”, We Are the Mighty, September 5, 2018.

Ernie Tabata – SF Legend Remembered. SGM (Retired) Ernie Tabata (now deceased) was remembered during the dedication of a training complex in his honor. The Tabata Special Forces Engineer Training Facility opened in June 2017 and was renamed on Friday, September 7, 2018. Read “Ernie Tabata, Special Forces legend, honored in dedication ceremony”, The Fayetteville Observer, September 7, 2018.

Post Office Dedication. A U.S. Post Office in Bristol, Rhode Island will bear the name of 1SGT Andrew McKenna – a Special Forces soldier who was killed during a firefight in Kabul, Afghanistan. See “Bristol post office to be named after Army Green Beret”, The Sacramento Bee, September 9, 2018.

5/19th Gets New Rigger Facility. The Colorado National Guard broke ground for a new parachute rigging facility for the 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. The facility will be named in honor of SFC Daniel Romero – a 5/19th SFGA Soldier who was killed in action on April 15, 2002 near Qandahar, Afghanistan. (DVIDS, Sep 5, 2018).

More SOF News

USSOCOM and the Super SAW. Jared Keller reports that the United States Special Operations Command plans to continue equipping its SOF operators with the FN America’s Mk 46 spec-ops designed M249 Squad Automatic Weapon variant as well as the Mk 48 “super SAW”. (Task & Purpose, Sep 5, 2018).

Counter-WMD Mission. The US Army has awarded a contract that expands the work on its Autonomous Unmanned Systems Teaming and Collaboration (AUSTC) for the counter weapons of mass destruction mission. This will benefit USSOCOM and DTRA’s efforts. (Army-Technology.com, Sep 10, 2018).

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Middle East

Paper – Sectarianism in the Middle East. Four writers have collaborated on a 144-page paper on the dualistic sectarian war between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims in the Middle East. The paper explores how this sectarian conflict developed and has changed over the past 1,300 years. RAND Corporation, August 2018.

3 Conflicts Examined. Anthony H. Cordesman provides his thoughts on the three major conflicts that the United States is engaged in. Read “Peace in Pieces: The Tragedy of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan”, Center for Strategic & International Studies, September 6, 2018.

Trouble in Basra. Protests – sometimes turning violent – have escalated in the southern city of Basra, Iraq. It sits on the border with Iran and is a strategic oil port. The quality of life (or lack of) is a major factor in the unrest.

Yemen – Peace Talks Unlikely. The United Nations effort to start negotiations between the Yemeni government and rebels is not gaining steam and the war is likely to continue. Meanwhile, the U.S. is continuing its use of drones to heat militant jihadists likely to engage in terrorism. The battle for the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah is likely to resume.

Houthi War Machine in Yemen. Dr. Michael Knights, a senior fellow with the Military and Security Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, writes about “The Houthi War Machine: From Guerrilla War to State Capture”, CTC Sentinel, September 2018.

Funding of Terrorism. Are counter-terrorist financing efforts paying? A former Treasury official discusses the evolving tactics used by terrorists and their supporters to fund their operations. “Survey of Terrorist Groups and Their Means of Financing”Washington Institute, September 7, 2018.


Things are heating up a bit in Syria. There is still the possibility of clashes between US and Russian forces – the US Marines just conducted a live-fire aerial assault exercise in southern Syria to warn off possible attacks on an American base in the area. Syria may be considering the use of chlorine gas in its offensive on Idlib – likely prompting another retaliatory strike by US, French, and other allies. Observers worry about the impending humanitarian disaster about to occur as a result of the Idlib offensive.

CRS Report on Syria. The Congressional Research Service has published a 61-page report that was submitted to Congress on the security situation in Syria. Read Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, CRS, August 21, 2018. Posted on website of USNI News.

Stabilization in Syria? There was a lot of publicity about President Trump’s decision to pull back $200 million in stabilization funding for Syria. But there is more to the story. Read “The End of U.S. Stabilization Efforts in Syria?”Real Clear Defense, September 8, 2018.

An Indefinite Stay in Syria? President Trump appears to have changed his mind on Syria – agreeing to extend the military and diplomatic effort in that conflict. Bad news for Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Russia – good news for some Syrians and the Kurds. It seems Trump has realized that Russia is being less than helpful. It would seem 5th SFGA will be keeping their presence in Syria a bit while longer. (Washington Post, Sep 6, 2018).

Battle for Idlib. The impending battle for Idlib, Syria will likely become a humanitarian disaster. The Syrian regime is about to deprive the Syrian rebel forces their last stronghold and could be one of the last major battle of the Syrian civil war. (U.S. Institute of Peace, Sep 5, 2018).


The summer fighting season is in full bloom across the country. Numerous Taliban attacks are occurring and the Afghan elite SOF units are busy responding. Fighting has intensified in northern Afghanistan – insurgents are threatening the provincial capital of Sari-e Pul.

How to Win in Afghanistan. The people are the key in a counterinsurgency fight. A bottom up approach is needed in Afghanistan that engages with and forms an alliance with the local population. Read “A Winning Strategy for Afghanistan”, by Stephen B. Young, Small Wars Journal, September 10, 2018.


Wargames in Korea. One observer of national security issues is in favor of scrapping the big annual exercises held in South Korea and going with smaller and more frequent exercises. Read “A Better Way to Prepare for War in Korea”, Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2018.


SOF Deployment Changes to Africa. Kyle Rempfer writes on upcoming changes for special operations troops deploying to Africa. Some modification of personnel assignments and pre-deployment training is in the works. The U.S. will continue to support the French-led trans-Sahel effort to fight the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in Mali. (Military Times, Sep 6, 2018).

Foreign Troop in Niger. There are a number of reasons for the stationing of U.S., French, and troops of other nations in the country of Niger. But there is opposition to their presence as well. Read “Explainer: the role of foreign military forces in Niger”EconoTimes.com.,  September 10, 2018.


Arming Ukraine. Brendan Chrzanowski, a Navy veteran and a student in the NYU Global Affairs graduate program, is worried that arming Ukraine is symbolically moral but risks an increase in hostilities that could devolve into a proxy war. Read “Arming Ukraine: Practicalities and Implications”, Th Strategy Bridge, September 5, 2018.

Russian PMCs in Ukraine. A little history of the Wagner Group and other Private Military Companies used by Russia in eastern Europe. (Real Clear Defense, Sep 7, 2018).

National Security

Paper on Security Cooperation. A 200-page report entitled Assessing, Monitoring, and Evaluating Army Security Cooperation: A Framework for Implementation looks where Army security cooperation can have the greatest impact. In addition it studies how the Army can implement an assessment, monitoring, and evaluation framework to ensure its security cooperation activities have the greatest impact. RAND Corporation, August 2018.

Competing in the ‘Gray Zone”. The Chief of Naval Operations – Admiral John Richardson – recently addressed a conference where he said that “. . . competition with other great powers has to be seen on a spectrum and that the Navy must compete in all realms to stay ahead.” Read more in “US Navy must be able to compete in ‘gray zone’ conflict, says top service officer”, Defense News, September 5, 2018.

Wanted: Cynical Leadership. Two Army Majors worry that some US general officers may be too ‘optimistic’ and we are better off with those who are realistically ‘grim’. Read “Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Case for the Cynical Military Leader”, Modern War Institute at West Point, September 7, 2018.

Russia’s Operational Art and ‘New Type Warfare’. LTC Ronals Sprang, an infantry officer currently serving as deputy CJ35 (Future Operations) with CJTF-OIR, explores the ‘New Type Warfare‘ that Russia has refined and is now using as a counter to US influence. (Small Wars Journal, Sep 10, 2018).

Reforming Security Assistance. Two defense experts provide reasons why the State Department shouldn’t lead from behind in the quest to help countries around the world improve their militaries, border guards, and police. To help DoS to do its job some reform is needed. (The RAND Blog, Sep 5, 2018).


Military Assistance and ‘Strategic Dithering’. Dr. Jahara Matisek – a Non-Resident Fellow at the Modern War Institute and an officer in the U.S. Air Force, expresses his views on how the US government conducted military assistance during the Cold War and the problems encountered in assisting weak states in the contemporary era. Read “The Crisis of American Military Assistance: Strategic Dithering and ‘Faberge Egg’ Armies”, Modern War Institute at West Point, September 10, 2018.

GWOT Memorial? Paul J. Springer writes that the time has come for a Global War on Terrorism memorial. (Foreign Policy Research Institute, Sep 10, 2018).

Book Reviews & Pubs

Jonquille. Afghanistan, 2012. The French deployed a brigade to Kapisa and Surobi provinces, Afghanistan from 2008 to 2012. A French author has penned an account of his time as a company commander in 2012. While working as a contract Counterinsurgency Advisor in RC East I had the opportunity to spend some time with the French. They had an interesting and important mission in a very strategic area of Afghanistan. Read a book review entitled “Remembering the French War in Afghanistan”, War on the Rocks, September 10, 2018.

The Fighters. A new book by C.J. Chivers, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, follows six people in their journey through the long conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read a review posted by Small Wars Journal, September 10, 2018.

Australian Defence Magazine. The September 2018 issue of ADM has a five-page article about the Australian Special Operations Training and Education and Training Centre (SOTEC) on pages 110-115.

Sentinel. The September 2018 issue of the Sentinel has been posted online by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Military Humor

2LT: “Can I exchange this compass for a different one? It’s not working, it keeps pointing the same direction.”

Supply Sgt: (holding the compass which is pointing North as compasses do) “You mean it only points north?”

2LT: “Yes, exactly, I can’t get it to point east or anything.”

Supply Sgt: (hesitates) “Ummm . . . okay, try this one. But, . . . it takes time to activate. So try it out later in the day.”


Photo: Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) participating in a parade celebrating the liberation of Mons, Belguim in WWII. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brett Dodge, NATO, Sep 2, 2018.

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