Special Operations News Update – July 17, 2019


SOF News 20190717 Update – Current analysis, commentary, and news about special operations, national security, and conflicts from around the world. Scaling back in the Middle East, maritime backpack, National Military Strategy explained, ‘gray zone’, PMCs, new publications and books, and more.

SOF News

New JSOU SEL. CSM Jeremy Lile, currently assigned as the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A) command SEL, Afghanistan, has been selected to serve as the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) command SEL, at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida.

AFSOC Officer Transition. BG William Holt, currently the special assistant to the commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida, will be assigned as director, joint exercise and training, J-7, U.S. Space Command.

DSC Awarded to Army SOF Operator. In 2015 a hotel in Bamako, Mali was attached and a hostage crisis ensued. U.S. military personnel responded alongside Mali troops. An Army special operator has received a valor award for his actions during the incident. (Army Times, July 16, 2019).

SOCSOUTH’s SEL on Team Effort in LA. Special Operations Command South works with Latin American partners to promote the development of noncommissioned officers in the region. The Senior Enlisted Leader of SOCSOUTH explains why this is important and how it is done. Read “Senior Enlisted Leaders Boost Joint and Multinational Team Effort”, Dialogo Digital Military Magazine, July 15, 2019.

Former Recon Marine Now USMC Commandant. LTG David Berger has replaced General Robert Neller as the top Marine. He is the 38th commandant. He has a wealth of combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and is a graduate of the Army Ranger School, Jumpmaster School, Navy Dive School, and Marine Corps Amphibious Reconnaissance School. For details on where he is taking the Marine Corps read hisCommandant’s Planning Guidance, July 2019, 26 pages.

Hemingway, His Books, and Special Forces. Luke Ryan, a former Army Ranger, has compared the hero in Ernest Hemingway’s book about the Spanish Civil War to today’s Green Beret. Read “How Hemingway’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ Provides Insight into Modern Special Forces”, Coffee or Die Magazine, July 16, 2019.

USSOCOM to Upgrade Maritime Backpack. The Program Manager for Special Operations Forces at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) at the Soldier Center at Natick, Massachusetts is heading the effort. The new system would be comprised of several components. See “USSOCOM Seeks Maritime Backpack Suite”, SoldiersSystems.net, July 16, 2019.

International SOF

Australia’s SOF / Infantry Rifle. There is a bit of discussion revolving around the future rifle for the Australian Army. A warrant officer with Australian Special Forces weighs in on the matter. Read “The EF88 versus the M4/AR-15: a special operator’s perspective”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), September 25, 2015. (an old article but one of interest).

Afghan SOF Take Heavy Losses. A fierce fight between Afghan special operations forces and the Taliban resulted in steep losses on both sides. Some news reports say that the Afghan SOF suffered 18 KIA with an additional 6 captured. (Khaama Press, July 16, 2019).

France’s ‘Flyboard’. The French may be slightly ahead of USSOCOM in the development of hoverboards – a flying platform for the individual soldier. (Task & Purpose, July 15, 2019).

Military News

3rd SFAB Comes Online. The third Security Force Assistance Brigade was officially activated this week at Fort Hood, Texas. Apparently it is destined to deploy at the end of the year to the CENTCOM area of responsibility. (Army Times, July 16, 2019).

U.S. National Military Strategy. The CJSC provides a description of the National Military Strategy – a document that addresses the problem sets of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremism. Jim Garamone, a DoD news writer, provides more information in “National Military Strategy Addresses Changing Character of War”, U.S. Dept of Defense, July 12, 2019. See also an 8-page PDF description.

“A military contingency in one country will quickly spread around the world, and this reality is what the new National Military Strategy addresses”.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford.

Gray Zone Conflict. Carl Pringle dissects the recent report by the Center for Strategic & International Studies about competing in the gray zone. Read his article “How should the US respond to ‘gray zone’ activity? Here are three options“, Defense News,July 13, 2019.

Confirmation Hearings – SECDEF. The nominee to be Secretary of Defense had to defend himself against attacks by Democratic Senators during testimony on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Watch a video of his 8 min long opening statement. (DVIDS, July 16, 2019). Very little mention was made about Afghanistan – as if the war was over.

“I went to war for this country, I served overseas for this country, I’ve stepped down from jobs that have paid me well more than what I was working anywhere else, and each time it was to serve the public good and to serve the young men and women of our armed services,” . . . “I think the presumption is, for some reason, anybody who comes from the business or the corporate world is corrupt.”

Current Secretary of the Army Esper.

NATO, Europe, and . . . Russia

Photos from Ukraine. A photographer for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty shares his photos from the Ukraine conflict. He has been covering the war since the invasion by Russian troops and their proxy forces. View his photos in “One Photographer’s War in Ukraine”, RFE/RL, July 2019.

Estonia’s Defense Policy. The small nation of Estonia sits on the front lines of a possible future conflict with Russia. It has to dedicate scarce resources to counter the threat. It relies heavily on assistance from the United States and other NATO countries. Read more in “Estonian defense policy official on alliance relations and Russian stability”, Defense News, July 16, 2019.

Finnish – U.S. Air Force Relationships Deepen. The U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, General Dave Goldfein, recently visited Finland. Read more about his visit in “The US Air Force’s top general gets a taste of Finnish fighter tactics”, Defense News, July 16, 2019.


U.S. Needs to Scale Back in Middle East. Mike Sweeney provides his perspective on the current status of military bases throughout Southwest Asia. He thinks the Middle East is due for a re-do of the “2011 Arab Spring” and this next time will be worse. He believes its time to judiciously scale back our presence while still maintaining a military capability in the region. Read “Nothing is forever: When the US military eventually leaves the Middle East, it’s going to need a plan”, Modern War Institute at West Point, July 15, 2019.

Use of PMCs / PSCs in War Zones. Christophe Bellens, a policy advisor at the European Parliament, examines three options for the use of PMCs and PSC in conflicts – from the perspective of the U.S. government. Read “Options for U.S. Use of Private Military and Security Companies”, Small Wars Journal, July 16, 2019.


Call Sign Chaos. General (Ret) Jim Mattis (also former SECDEF) has his new book release scheduled for September 2019. It should be an interested read. Available on Amazon.com.

DoD Digital Modernization Strategy, Department of Defense, July 12, 2019. Read up on the DoD information resource management strategic plan for FY19-23 in this 72-page report (PDF). The strategy has four strategic initiatives: innovation for advantage, optimization, resilient cybersecurity, and cultivation of talent.

Statecraft by Stealth. A new book is out about British rule in Palestine and the use of secret intelligence operations. It is a history of the espionage and clandestine policy-making. Available at Cornell University Press, July 2019.


Video of Dignified Transfer: SGM James Sartor. KKTV 11 News, Facebook, posted July 15, 2019. SGM James “Ryan” Sartor was killed in Afghanistan on July 13, 2019.


Photo: MARSOC MWD conducts MAROPS Training at Naval Air Station Key West, 2018, photo by DoD. Caption by SOF News.

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