Special Operations News Update 20181008

Jump Eloy DZ. Jumper prepares to exit airplane over Tunnel Drop Zone, Eloy, Arizona. Photo by Specialist Christopher Stevenson, 10th SFGA, September 17, 2018.

SOF News Update 20181008 – Miscellaneous papers and reports on national security, Army Futures Command, new NATO SOF aviation training center, fighting two wars at the same time, Kazakhstan combat divers, SF team in Nangarhar, Malaysia’s NSOF disbanded, AFSOC officer assignments, new SOF scope, SOF in Somalia, lack of discipline of Navy SEALs, SOF-capable sub, Russia’s UW, defending Latvia and Estonia, COIN in the dust, Israel’s YAMAM, facts on GRU, Tip of the Spear, roadkill dinners at SERE school, drone boats in Middle East, WV NG 19th SFGA, and more.

SOF News

SF Team in Nangarhar. A reporter / photo journalist embeds with a Special Forces team in southern Nangarhar. They are in the fight against the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP). Read (and view some photos) in “The Last Americans Fighting in Afghanistan”, New York Times, October 5, 2018.

New NATO SOF Aviation Training Program. By the end of 2019 there should be a new special operations aviation training center operating in Zadar, Croatia dedicated to training air crews who will conduct the insertion and extraction of special operations forces. The multinational special aviation program is composed of the countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia. (NATO News, Oct 4, 2018).

Israel’s YAMAM. A special police force in Israel is the topic in a recent article. YAMAM’s primary focus is on foiling terror plots and foreign governments having seeking its assistance and expertise. The organization averages about 300 missions a year to include stopping at least 50 suicide bombers. It is a special operations force that has the powers of the police, capabilities of a military unit, and expertise and assets of an intelligence agency. (Vanity Fair, Nov 2018).

Malaysia Disbands NSOF. The Malaysian government has disbanded the National Special Operations Force (NSOF). It had been established in October 2016. (Shephard Media, Oct 5, 2018).

AFSOC Officer Assignments. Colonel Brenda Cartier will be promoted to BG. Her next assignment will be director of operations, HQs, AFSOC. BG David Tabor, currently with USSOCOM, will be the assistant commander of support for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). BG Vincent Becklund will be promoted to MG and will be assigned as deputy commander, HQs AFSOC.

New SOF Scope. A recent contract awarded to Nightforce Optics will provide scopes to the SOF community. The ‘Squad-Variable Powered Scope‘ (commercially available as the ATACR Advanced Tactical Riflescope) will allow users to accurately engage targets up to 600 meters away but also provide utility in close quarters battle. (Military Times, Oct 5, 2018).

Navy SEALs and Discipline? Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly says that while there is concern on the latest problems of Navy SEALs there is no ‘cultural problem’. See “The Navy SEALs Don’t Have a Disciplinary Problem”, Military.com, Oct 4, 2018.

McRaven on Board of Directors. CononcoPhillips has appointed Admiral (Ret) William McRaven to serve as a board member. (Business  Wire, Oct 5, 2018).

USS Indiana – a SOF Platform. One of the newest submarines of the U.S. Navy has been commissioned. It serves many purposes – to include the launching and recovery of SOF teams and it has a role in irregular warfare. (Business Insider, Oct 4, 2018).

WV NG 19th SFG Trains in NY. Members of the 19th Special Forces Group of the West Virginia Army National Guard recently trained up in a location near Buffalo, New York. Read “Va. crews train, build trust with W. Va. special operators”, Army.mil, October 3, 2018.

10th SFGA Team in Action – Iraq 2007. Read the riveting account of three SF soldiers who assaulted a high value target and his band of fighters. See “Green Beret killed 6 insurgents and saved his men despite being shot twice and hit with a grenade”, Military Times, October 6, 2018.

Kazakhstan Combat Divers. So who says a land-locked country can’t have Combat Divers? Read up on Kazakhstan’s Navy and its special forces swimmers. (Covert Shores, Oct 4, 2018).

SOF and IW Symposium Tampa, Florida Dec 2018

National Security

Two Wars at Once? The Heritage Foundation has published its 2019 Index of U.S. Military Strength (see below under ‘Papers and Reports’). Aaron Mehta took a look at the report and finds that one conclusion is the U.S. would have difficulty fighting two major conflicts at the same time. See “Can the US fight two big wars at once? New report casts doubts”, Defense News, October 3, 2018.

Army Futures Command. The “. . . Army had to make difficult choices to defer modernization and instead support the demand for a steady rotation of forces optimized for counterinsurgency in the Middle East.” (ed. I am sure that the authors wanted to include Afghanistan as well; perhaps they lumped that country in with ME?). Read how the Army Futures Command will “. . . modernize critical core capabilities now to regain overmatch . . .” in “Seizing the High Ground – United States Army Futures Command”, Institute of Land Warfare at the Association of the United States Army, October 2018, 12-page PDF. (ed. not much on SOF in the article).

COIN vs Near-Peer Competition. Adam Wunische, an Army veteran and Ph.D. student at Boston College, discusses the ability of the U.S. military to leave the lessons of counterinsurgency in the dust and move on to ‘the big fight’. Fairly good article – touches on the importance of the new SFABs. There is one reference to SOF teams not being good trainers for conventional units in Afghanistan and Iraq that got me scratching my head. Read “America’s Military Is Losing Its Counterinsurgency Operations Capabilities”, The National Interest, October 2, 2018.

Europe, NATO, and ‘You Know Who’

Defending Latvia and Estonia. NATO has it work cut out if Russia crosses the border with military force. This could be after a big buildup of Russian forces or a quick lightning strike. Either way Russia will likely be successful in the initial days of the conflict. Ben Wermeling, a DoD contractor, identifies five scenarios and offers some recommendations for the defense of the two Baltic nations in a 14-page article – “Fighting Russia? Modeling the Baltic Scenarios“, Parameters Summer 2018.

Defending Sweden. The Nordic country’s ties with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are stronger than ever – thanks to worries about Russia. Sweden’s defense plan involves a mobilization of its citizen soldiers, defense in-depth, being ‘indigestible’ to Russia, and wait for help from allies who could arrive like the cavalry some months later. Read “Russia’s growing threat to north Europe”, The Economist, October 6, 2018.

Russia’s UW. Unconventional Warfare is a subset of Irregular Warfare (IW) and is practiced by Russia, China, Iran, and the US (and other countries as well). Each of the nations has their own ‘style’ of UW. Patrick Savage, a fellow at the American Security Project, writes about modern Russian unconventional warfare in the Summer issue of Parameters. He says conventional escalation is sometimes central to its UW activities. (10 page pdf).

Vostok 2018. The Russians conducted a large-scale exercise – billed as the largest yet in a number of years. Units of China’s People’s Liberation Army took part as well as units from Mongolia. Nicholas J. Myers reports on the exercise in “What Happened During Vostok 2018?”Real Clear Defense, October 5, 2018.

Middle East

Drone Boats in Yemen. Boats loaded with explosives that are remotely piloted by the Houthi group in Yemen have been intercepted by the Saudi Royal Navy. These attacks have been occurring since early 2017. (Business Insider, Oct 4, 2018).

Syria and Mission Creep. The mission to train and support a partner force to defeat ISIS in Syria may be expanding. Recent US government statements allude to the continuing US presence until Iran and Iranian-backed forces are withdrawn from Syria. If it is a negotiating tactic then . . . okay. But if it is a true objective and strategy for the US then that could be cause for concern. Read “The danger of mission creep in Syria”, The Lowy Institute, October 4, 2018.

A New US Syrian Strategy. The US has been using quiet diplomacy to regain lost influence in the Middle East and to keep the Assad regime isolated – at the same time it is countering Iranian and Russian efforts in Syria as well. By effectively combining “. . . diplomacy, messaging, and a forward-leaning military posture . . .” the US is working towards a Syrian endgame that works in America’s favor. Read “The New U.S. Strategy in Sryia”, National Review, October 7, 2018.


Somalia – US ‘Semi-Secret’ Base. A $12 million contract for ’emergency runway repairs’ at Camp Baledogle, Somalia has been awarded by the U.S. Defense Department. The base, used by AFRICOM, is used for training Somali Army Commandos – the trainers are U.S. contractors working for Bancroft Global Development. (Air Force Times, Oct 4, 2018).

Somalia – ‘Light Footprint’ and ‘Bad Intel’. The advantage of proxy war methodology and using a ‘light footprint’ to pursue national strategic objectives is negated by relying on the ‘locals’ for intelligence. But the ‘local’ sources may be less adept at intelligence gathering and analysis or even worse have their own agenda. Apparently this is happening when US SOf teams accompany Somalia units on raids. Read more in “Light Footprint Operations Keep US Troops in the Dark”, Defense One, October 5, 2018.

SOF in Somalia. Most people associated US SOF involvement in Somalia with the book and movie Black Hawk Down featuring JSOC, Rangers, and the 160th Night Stalkers. Less known is the role played by the 5th Special Forces Group, PSYOP, and Civil Affairs. Read “SOF Involvement Before the Battle of Mogadishu”, Shadow Spear, October 4, 2018.


US Soldier KIA in Afghanistan. Specialist James Slape, age 23, from Morehead City, North Carolina died on Thursday, October 4, 2018 in Helmand province, Afghanistan from injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to an EOD unit of the NC Army National Guard. (DoD, Oct 5, 2018).

Gender Integration in ANA. There a dozen advisers from NATO countries working with the Afghan National Army (ANA) to integrate women into the ranks. Despite lots of money and emphasis placed on growing the numbers of female soldiers in the ANA the results have been meager. And those women that do make the cut are marginalized in their jobs and face discrimination or worse. Read “The Many Dangers of Being an Afghan Woman in Uniform”, The New York Times Magazine, October 5, 2018.

Votel Says “No” to Prince’s Plan for Afghanistan. Jeff Schogol provides an update on the status of the plan for privatization of the Afghan conflict being advanced by Erik Prince. Read “CENTCOM Commander: Erik Prince’s Plan for Afghanistan Isn’t Happening”, Task & Purpose, October 4, 2018.

ANDSF Casualties Rising. A ‘difficult and bloody summer’ of fighting has resulted in higher battlefield casualties for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Read “American general says battlefield losses for Afghan forces are rising”, Military Times, October 4, 2018.

Sep 2018 Air Strike Summary. US Forces Afghanistan has released a news release detailing the 465 air strikes that took place during the month of September. (RS HQs, Oct 4, 2018).

The Intelligence and CT World

LTG (Ret) Mike Flynn, OSINT, and Social Media. Two writers collaborate on an article about how social media and open source intelligence is changing the modern battlefield. Read “Social Media Is Revolutionizing Warfare”, The Atlantic, October 2, 2018.

National Strategy for CT. The White House released a new document entitled National Strategy for Counterterrorism. The 34-page document defines the path to victory, outlines a new approach, and lists several accomplishments of the Trump administration in the fight against terror. You can read or download the document (PDF) on the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Facts on the GRU. Russia’s military intelligence agency has been in the news lately – not in a good way. (EuroNews, Oct 5, 2018).

Papers and Reports and Pubs

U.S. Military Strength. The Heritage Foundation has published its 2019 Index of U.S. Military Strength.very detailed report It is advertised as the only non-governmental and only annual assessment of U.S. military strength. Well, . . . okay. It is a almost 500 pages. You can read it online or download parts (or the entire doc) for reading or reference later. If you download the PDF and use the ‘Find’ function under ‘Edit’ and punch in ‘special operations’ you will navigate to many instances where SOF is discussed. There is no single chapter dedicated to SOF; it is intermingled in the entire report.

Tip of the Spear. The latest issue of Tip of the Spear is now available.


‘Hero’s Journey’. An interesting article by Meeghan Mobbs – West Point, OEF veteran – about understanding the desire for ‘baptism by fire’. Read “Why Soldiers Crave a ‘Hero’s Journey'”Psychology Today, October 4, 2018.

Another Mogadishu? With the passing of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu the editors of a newspaper in the Fort Bragg, NC area worry that our troops in Africa are not adequately resources and supported. Read “Our View: Reasons to fear another Mogadishu”, The Fayetteville Observer, October 4, 2018.


October 8-10, 2018
2018 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition
Association of the United States Army (AUSA)


Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II Speech, US Army, October 5, 2018. Medal of Honor recipient gives his speech after being inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes for his actions while serving as a Special Forces medic in Afghanistan’s Shok Valley on October 2, 2018. (7 mins).

Roadkill Dinners at SERE. A culinary expert at Camp MacCall, NC is featured in this video – he teaches service members how to cook whatever they find in the wild . . . or along side the road. Watch SERE’d: A Roadkill Dinner, DVIDS, September 29, 2018. ( 3 mins).

A More Lethal Force, Defense.gov DVIDS, October 5, 2018. A quick 30-second video provides some nice scenes of all components of DoD at work.

Votel on CENTCOM’s AOR.  General Joe Votel briefed up Pentagon reporters on October 4, 2018 on his 19-day trip through the Central Command’s area of responsibility. (45 mins). His opening presentation was followed by a Q&A.

NATO’s Close Protection Agents – the Silent Professionals, NATO, September 28, 2018 (2 mins).

How NATO Utilises IntelligenceNATO, October 2, 2018. A four minute long video explains how NATO uses intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to provide a personnel recovery team the information they need to carry out a crisis mission in a hostile environment.


Photo: Jump Eloy DZ. Jumper prepares to exit airplane over Tunnel Drop Zone, Eloy, Arizona. Photo by Specialist Christopher Stevenson, 10th SFGA, September 17, 2018.

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