Special Operations News Update 20190715

Iraqi Special Operations Force (ISOF)

Current news, analysis, and commentary on special operations, national security, and conflicts from around the world. Read about the Army’s new audiobooks, SOF in Eastern Europe, 1st SFGA Group busy in Pacific, CoC ceremonies, “Stop the boat”, Royal Lao Army (72-75), and more.

SOF News

U.S. SOF in Eastern Europe. The U.S. is conducting “Secretive, behind-the-lines mission rehearsals and other operations by 1,400 American and allied commandos to combat shifting Russian threats”. Eric Schmitt provides us with a revealing glimpse of special operations training missions in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. Read “American Commandos Gear Up for New Shadow War With Russia”, The New York Times, July 12, 2019.

1st SFGA Busy in Pacific Region. The 1st Special Forces Group has been busy in the IndoPacific area of the world. Read more in “Looking for friends: Green Berets are busy in China’s backyard”, Army Times, July 12, 2019. See also “Relationship with allies key to maintaining competitive edge, says SF commander”, Army.mil, July 12, 2019.

VP Visits NSW. Vice President Mike Pence spent some time with students at the Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL course at the Naval Special Warfare Center during a visit in mid-July.

Former 3rd SFGA Soldier Gets New Home. John Arroyo thought he was going to be interviewed by a member of the media – but when he arrived at the location provided to him he was presented with a new custom-built, mortgage-free home. “American Hero Surprised With New Burleson Home”, Cleburne Times Review, July 13, 2019.

Recon K9 and SOF. A North Carolina company is providing special operations units from the U.S. and abroad with canines specially trained for dangerous missions. Read “Charlotte company plays key role in protecting special forces”, WCNC.com, July 13, 2019.

Airmen Attend Ranger Assessment Course. Members of the Air Force attended a 19-day course that prepared them for attendance at the Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia. The course – Small Unit Ranger Tactics Program – was conducted by the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. Of the 23 that started 11 made the grade to go to Ft Benning. (DVIDS, July 10, 2019).

Alone at Dawn – Possible Movie? A book about U.S. Air force Combat Controller TSgt John Chapman may soon become the basis for a movie. Read “Story of Medal of Honor recipient TSgt John Chapman headed to Hollywood”, Connecting Vets – Radio.com, July 12, 2019.

SOF CoC, CoR, and Assignments

Summer Time and CoC / CoR Ceremonies. It is July and that is the time for leadership changes for many units of the U.S. military. There are probably one or two future one-stars in the news reports below.

SEL USSOCOM. Air Force Master Chief Gregory Smith became the new senior enlisted leader of the U.S. Special Operations command at headquarters USSOCOM, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida on July 11, 2019.

5th SFGA CoC. On July 12, 2019 Colonel Lewis Powers relinquished command of the 5th Special Forces Group to Colonel Joe Wortham. The “Legion” spends most of its time in the CENTCOM area of responsibility – and for the past few years has been very involved in the Syria conflict advising and assisting the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF). Wortham has a strong background with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta.

27th SOW CoC. Colonel Robert Masaitis will be taking charge of the 27th Special Operations Wing based at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. Masaitis has over 3,500 flying hours logged and has commanded the 34th SOS and the 492nd Special Operations Training Group. (Eastern New Mexico News, July 14, 2019).

AFSOC Assignments. Major yalunda Akinloba has assumed command of the 27th Special Operations Contracting Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, NM. Lt. Col. William Compton is the new commander of the 15th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 15th SOS flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II.

10th SFGA CoC. The 10th Special Forces Group held a change of command ceremony on July 10, 2019. Colonel Brian Rauen assumed command of the group from Colonel Lawrence Ferguson.

New Ft Campbell Cdr. Fort Campbell has a new garrison commander. A former 5th SFGA bn cdr takes charge. “Fort Campbell welcomes Colonel Jeremy Bell as Garrison Commander”, ClarksvilleNow.com, July 11, 2019.

International SOF

SAS and Their Drinks. A former member of the Special Air Service has launched a new beverage named after the Roman wall built to keep the Caledonians out of England. Read “Former SAS member launches new Scottish gin inspired by Antonine Wall”, Scotsman Food and Drink, July 11, 2019.

ASSF Raid Medical Clinic. According to a report by Human Rights Watch member of an Afghan special forces unit raided a medical clinic in Wardak province run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) and executed four people. Read “Afghanistan: Special Forces Raid Medical Clinic”, HRW, July 12, 2019.

New Subs for French SOF. The Barracuda-class submarines scheduled for the French Navy will be able to secretly deliver teams of combat divers to their mission areas. They will be outfitted with dry deck shelters to transport SOF equipment or undersea vehicles. Read “France’s new Barrachuda-class sub ‘a hunter'”, Asia Times, July 13, 2019.

CANSOF – Relocation on Hold. The increased cost of moving the location of Canadian special operations units from Ottawa to Ontario may cause cancellation of the relocation. (Calgary Herald, July 12, 2019).

Afghan General Fights the Trend. A young and not yet corrupt Afghan officer is taking charge of the Afghan police. He has a special operations background and is highly thought of by U.S. SOF. Can he fix the Afghan National Police? (The New York Times, July 12, 2019).

SOF History

10th SFGA Soldier Retraces Family Roots in WWII. Read the story of how a B-17 crew member bailed out over occupied territory during WWII and was rescued by French resistance fighters. “77 years after WWII plane crash, family returns to learn of extraordinary rescue”, DVIDS – Special Operations Command Europe, June 20, 2019.

Larry Thorne – Bio. A native of Finland who fought in the Finnish Army against the Soviets in the “Winter War” would find himself in two other armies as well. Read “From German Waffen SS to Amercan Green Beret”, HistoryNet.com, August 2019.

512th Airborne Signal Company. 75 years ago, July 14, 1944, the 512th was activated in North Africa to provide communication support to the 1st Airborne Task Force during the Allied invasion of Southern France (Operation DRAGOON) on August 15, 1944. If consolidated with the 112th Airborne Army Signal Battalion in April 1945. Today’s 112th Signal Battalion (Airborne) traces its lineage to the 512th Airborne Signal Company and 112th Airborne Army Signal Battalion of World War II. (Information from U.S. Army Special Operations Command Facebook post on July 14, 2019).

Military News

Army’s Audiobooks. The Army is beginning to release select publications to audiobook as part of a pilot program to get soldiers to absorb updated material. Soldiers should see initial distribution of selected FMs and ADPs this summer. (Army Times, July 8, 2019).

USMC’s Prototype Ground-Based Laser. The Compact Laser Weapons System – called CLaWS – is being fielded to the Marines for testing. The prototype directed energy system is designed to keep enemy drones from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground. Read “Marine Corps at the forefront for ground-based lasers”, Marines.mil,June 19, 2019.

Paper – Strategic Role of Land Forces. This paper points out how land power will play a key role as integrators and multi-domain effects providers – improving a joint forces’ overall resilience and maneuver capability. Read The Strategic Role of Land Forces: A French Perspective, Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (IFRI), July 2019.

A-10 Warthog – Not Going Away Soon. The Air Force has been trying for several years to retire the A-10s and replace it with the F-35s. However, the recent FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act is encouraging the modernization of the A-10 fleet. (News Yahoo!, June 23, 2019).

NATO and the Neighbor Next Door

Russia’s Military Adventures Explained. Two conflict observes say that focusing on Russia’s new style of hybrid warfare alone is a misguided interpretation of how the Kremlin wields power. See The West Fears Russia’s Hybrid Warfare. They’re Missing the Bigger Picture, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 3, 2019.

JFTC Change of Command. MG Adam Joks, Polish Army, assumed command of the Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) in Bydgoszcz, Poland on July 11, 2019. JFTC conducts a number of exercises throughout Europe for NATO as well as advisor training for NATO officers and NCOs deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq. (JFTC, July 11, 2019.

Dangers of the Romeo Spy. Any one with a security clearance likely has access to secrets that foreign adversaries desire. Read “Beware the Romeo Spy”, ClearanceJobs.com, July 11, 2019.

Baltic Security. An organization has been established with the goal to promote and foster regional defense and security in the Baltic States region. See “Baltic Security Foundation established to promote regional defense synchronization”,The Baltic Times, July 12, 2019.

NATO Member (Turkey) in Military Exercises with Azerbaijan. The armed forces of Azerbaijan and Turkey conducted two late spring joint exercises that were designed to increase the level of coordination and interoperability between the two militaries. Read “Azerbaijan’s Military Exercises Send Defiant Message to Armenia”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 11, 2019.

Middle East

ISF Offensive. The Iraqi Security Forces have begun an offensive to degrade the Islamic State along the Syrian border. The Islamic State fighters have, since their losses over the past few years, reverted back to an insurgency. The intent of the ISF operation is to secure the western province of Anbar and the central and northern regions of Salahuddin and Nineveh provinces. (Military Times, July 8, 2019).

Protecting Shipping Lanes. Recent attacks on oil tankers and threats by Iran are prompting the United States and other countries to plan for an international naval force that can keep critical waterways and shipping lanes safe. See “US Builds Global Coalition to Protect Gulf Shipping”, Voice of America, July 12, 2019.

Turkey Receives Russian S-400s. The Russian air defense system is being shipped to Turkey. This is going to put a damper on the relationship between Turkey and the U.S., possibly affect Turkey’s membership in NATO, and have ramifications for years to come. Now the world awaits the U.S. response (sanctions?) and the Turkish reaction (think Incirlik and Syria). Kerim Has of the Middle East Institute examines this dilemma in detail in Turkey, Russia, and the Looming S-400 Crisis, July 10, 2019.


Royal Lao Army (72-75). Matthew Doherty documents the role that a British officer played in Laos during the later stages of the Indochina War. Read “Malice in Blunderland – J.P. Cross and the Royal Lao Army – 1972-75”, Small Wars Journal, July 12, 2019.

Need for a ‘SIPMG’? Commander Bob Jones (U.S. Navy), a senior military fellow at the Center for New American Security (CNAS), believes it is time for a ‘Standing Indo-Pacific Maritime Group’. Read “A Bold Idea for Security Reform in the Indo-Pacific Region”, CNAS, July 9, 2019.


UK Choppers Support Opns in Sahel. The British are extending their deployment of helicopters in the Sahel region of Africa. Royal Air force Chinooks will continue their support the French-led Operation Barkhane. (The Defense Post, July 8, 2019).

Somalia – Kenya Dispute. Tensions between two African nations is a threat to the regional cooperation needed to defeat al-Shabaab in Somalia and the neighboring countries. Read “Somalia-Kenya Maritime Border Dispute Could Threaten Counterterrorism Gains”, The Jamestown Foundation, July 12, 2019.


‘Horizontal Escalation’ – Probably Won’t Work. There is a military school of thought that says if Russia attacks one (or more) of the Baltic States or ‘Red’ China moves on Taiwan the U.S. can respond with ‘horizontal escalation’. This means attacking an enemies weak spots where it is exposed – China’s merchant marine capability or Russia’s presence in Syria. Hal Brands, an opinion columnist, doesn’t think this will work. Read “The Too-Good-to-Be-True Way to Fight the Chinese Military”, Bloomberg Opinion, July 9, 2019.

Search for MIAs. Donald L. Gilleland spent part of his long military career with the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) in South Vietnam. He writes about his experiences in “We will never stop looking for our MIAs”, Florida Today, July 12, 2019.


“Stop the Boat!” Watch this one-minute long video of Coast Guard crew members boarding a self-propelled semi-submersible drug smuggling vessel in June 2019. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) crew members board a SPSS while operating in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Purpose-build smuggling vessels like SPSSs are designed to hold large quantities of contraband while evading detection by law enforcement authorities. The SPSS was carrying thousands of lbs of cocaine. You don’t want to miss this one! (DVIDS, June 18, 2019).

Fuerzas Comando 19. A two minute long summation of the recent special operations competition – Fuerzas Comando 2019 – held in June 2019 in Chile attending by SOF units of 19 different countries. (DVIDS, July 12, 2019).

23rd Special Operations Weather Squadron. Members of the 23rd SOWS explain how they track weather to keep Air Commandos safe and ready. (1st SOW PA, DVIDS, July 11, 2019, 1 min).


Photo: ISOF – Iraqi Special Operations Force. DoD photo April 2018.

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