SOF News Update – A curated summary of current news, analysis, and commentary about special operations forces, national security, and conflicts from around the world. EOD techs and SOF, Rep Waltz on CT, Iran-U.S. tension, Joe Dennison (RIP), new Israeli commando school, CT not going away, Iran-U.S. tension, Milley on the future, and more.
Sad News – Joe Dennison. On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, a highly-regarded Special Forces soldier passed away. Joseph Dennison was a retired Command Sergeant Major well-known and respected in the SF community. Obituary.
EOD Techs and SOF. Thomas Gibbons-Neff, a reporter for The New York Times, has written an article that claims EOD techs are at risk when attached to SOF elements in Afghanistan. According to the article, there are about 20 Special Forces teams operating across Afghanistan. Read “Fighting Next to U.S. Commandos, but Without the Same Training and Gear”, NYT, July 17, 2019.
“The Army has failed to adequately train and equip the military bomb technicians and infantry troops who are increasing accompanying American commandos on high-risk missions in war zones . . .”
McChrystal Endorses Moulton. Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA) is running for President. A former JSOC and ISAF commander, retired General Stanley McChrystal has come out in support of the presidential candidate. Moulton is a former Marine infantry officer who deployed to Iraq four times. McChrystal backed Moulton during his 2014 run for Congress. (Task & Purpose, July 18, 2019).
GB Speaks to Trump about Feres Doctrine. A Special Forces NCO with lung cancer was misdiagnosed by doctors at Fort Bragg, NC. The Feres Doctrine says he can’t sue for damages. But there could be changes in the law soon. “Dying of Cancer, a Green Beret makes his Feres Doctrine case to President Trump”, Military Times, July 19, 2019.
Special Warfare Airman Receives Awards. A Special Tactics Combat Controller, Tech. Sgt. Michael Perolio, was awarded the Silver and Bronze stars for his actions in Afghanistan while attached to a special operations unit in 2018. (USAF, July 19, 2019). See also “Silver Star for combat controller who rallied his team during insider attack”, Air Force Times,July 19, 2019.
Fire Fighter Gets Grief for Saving Flag at Burning Home. A former Green Beret (now fire fighter) saved a flag from burning at the front of a family home. A picture was posted on social media and some folks went beserk – calling it a political act. Oh my. (Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 19, 2019).
Rangers Testing Mystery Ranch Ruck. Three versions of a civilian ruck are being evaluated by Army Rangers. The testing includes parachute operations. (Army Times,July 19, 2019).
New Israeli Commando School. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is undergoing some significant organizational changes. One of these is a the establishment of a centralized special operations training institution. Read more in “IDF Officially Opens New Commando School”, The Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2019.
Philippine SF Train Actors. The Philippine Army’s Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) has been busy assisting the film industry. “PA Special Forces train ‘Descendants of the Sun’ actors”, Philippine News Agency, July 19, 2019.
CT / COIN Missions Not Going Away. Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL) (and former Green Beret) took part in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He says the shift in national strategy towards ‘near peer’ competition may negate lessons learned during the long Global War on Terror. (Army Times, July 18, 2019).
Milley on Moderization. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee General Mark Milley stressed some key challenges and issues facing the Department of Defense. Afghanistan, space, moderization, cyberspace, and delayed defense budgets were among the high priority topics discussed at the hearing. Read “Milley talks modernization at confirmation hearing”, army.mil, July 16, 2019.
Iran and U.S. Tensions
Usually Iran gets filed under “Middle East” in this newsletter; but there is lots to report. Oil tankers being seized, drones shot down, and more. Then there is all the stuff we don’t hear about!
Iran’s “Ulcer Strategy”. James Holmes, Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College, wrote about how Iran could channel an old British strategy against Napoleon to fight U.S. forces in the Middle East. Iran can continue to keep the U.S. off balance by conducting a series of operations that would not prompt an all out war but yet would – over time – wear the U.S. down so that eventually it reduces its military presence in the Persian Gulf. Read “Ulcer Strategy: How Iran Can Wage War Against America on the Cheap”, The National Interest, July 19, 2019.
Iranian Drone Shot Down. Things are heating up in the Middle East. A U.S. Navy ship shot down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, July 18, 2019. The USS Boxer was traveling in international waters into the strait when a drone approached within threatening range. U.S. Marines used counter-drone jamming equipment against the drone. This follows a drone shootdown by Iran a few weeks back. The U.S. drone that got killed last week was much more expensive than the Iranian drone; so we are not exactly even in score. (Stars and Stripes, July 18, 2019).
British Tanker Seized. Iran has taken control of a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The Stena Impero had 23 personnel on board. It was surrounded by four vessels and a helicopter. A second vessel – the Mesdar – was stopped by ten speedboats and boarded; but is now free and underway to its destination. The seizure of the Stena Impero will likely lead to negotiations and the release of the UK-held Iranian vessel (Grace 1) allegedly carrying oil to Syria in violation of international sanctions. Read “Iran seizes British tanker in Strait of Hormuz”, BBC News, July 20, 2019.
Army Casualty. The Department of Defense announced the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). Sergeant William Friese, age 30, from Rockport, West Virginia, died on Thursday, July 18, 2019 in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 111th Engineer Brigade, Summersville, West Virginia.
Turkey, F-35s, and S-400s . . . and Syria. The Trump administration has removed Turkey from the F-35 program after it starting receiving Russian weaponry. It remains to be seen what kind of sanctions the Trump administration will place on Turkey. In the meantime Russia is positioning itself to sell military jets to Turkey – to replace the lost F-35s. In the meantime, Turkey is complicating the U.S. relationship with the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) in northwestern Syria. There are indications that Turkey may make a military thrust into Manbji – displacing Kurds that are currently located there. Galip Dalay examines the Turkish-US relationship and how it has been affected by Russia in “Why is Turkey betting on Russia?”, Brookings Institute, July 15, 2019.
Russia and Defending Europe
Russia’s ‘Spookovik’ Gunship. Still in the planning stages – but it could be on the battlefield in a few years. See “Russia Wants to Make its Own AC-130 Spookovik Gunship”, The National Interest, July 20, 2019.
Countering Russia in Macedonia. Although not in NATO (at least not yet) the U.S. is training with Macedonia’s military. The U.S Army is currently participating in an exercise called Decisive Strike. One objective of these types of exercises in the Balkans is to strengthen ties with nations of the region and to counter Russian influence. (Army Times, July 19, 2019).
Photo: Combat Divers, USASOC Twitter, 20190709