Special Operations News Update for September 3, 2019

HH-60G, 33rd Rescue Squadron

Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jose Diaz de Leon, special mission aviator assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron, looks out the gunner’s window aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk, July 31, 2019, out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cynthia Belío)

SOF News Update – Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world for September 3, 2019. Syria’s ‘safe zone’, Italian ‘human torpedoes’ of WWII, Navy SEAL fundraiser, female Airman earns Ranger tab, CIA’s rectal tool, UK’s SRR, and more.

SOF News

Memorial Service for SFC Will Lindsay. A 10th Special Force Group Green Beret who died on March 22, 2019 in Kunduz province, Afghanistan was honored by his family and community on Saturday, August 31, 2019. Read “Green Beret honored in Cortez memorial service”, The Journal, August 31, 2019.

Female Air Force LT Earns Ranger Tab. An airman who was a member of the 374th Security Forces Squadron in Japan graduated from Ranger School in late August 2019. Read “Female Airman Earns a Ranger Tab”, AFIMSC, August 30, 2019.

‘Swim With a Mission’ – A Big Success. A fundraising event by current and former U.S. Navy SEALs raised a lot of money for the Navy SEAL Museum and other Veterans services in New Hampshire. Over thirty Navy SEALs took part in the event including retired Command Master Chief Rick Kaiser and Vice Admiral Bob Harward. Read “3rd Annual Swim with a Mission Raises Over $1 Million”, The Laconia Daily Sun, August 30, 2019.

5th Group and Tiger Stripes. Members of the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky went retro during a recent training exercise. They were sporting ‘Vietnam era’ tiger stripe uniforms. If they wanted to be truly period correct they wouldn’t have sported the Ranger Tab on their uniforms. The wear of the Ranger and SF tabs together was not authorized until the early 1980s. (Soldier Systems, Sep 2, 2019).

MC-130J Flies the Taiwan Strait. A USAF special operations aircraft flew the waters between Red China and Taiwan recently. Read more in “USAF MC-130J Spec Ops Transport Flies Through Taiwan Strait with U.S. Spy Plane Nearby”, The WarZone, August 29, 2019.

International SOF

Italy’s ‘Human Torpedoes’. Robert Farley tells the story of how Italian frogmen took out several British warships in the early years of World War II in the Mediterranean. Read “How Italy Used ‘Human Torpedos’ to Terrorize British Battleships During World War II”, The National Interest, September 1, 2019.

Guns of the UK’s SRR. Warren Gray introduces us to the super secret Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SSR) of the United Kingdom. The relatively new SOF unit has been heavily involved in the Afghan, Iraq, and other conflicts around the world. Read “Guns of the Ultra-Secret Special Reconnaissance Regiment”, Gunpowder Magazine, September 1, 2019.

Syria Renames SOF Unit. The renaming of a Syrian special operations / intelligence unit may indicate a lessening of Russia’s influence on the Syrian military. Or not. Read more in an article by The Middle East Media Research Institute, September 2, 2019.


Virtual Training – Pros and Cons. Doug Livermore, a Special Forces officer, discusses the positive benefits of virtual training. Read “Live vs virtual training? Its all in the balance”, Army-Technology.com, August 29, 2019.

Pass the Torch from CIA to SOF. Doug Livermore, a Special Forces officer, argues that the responsibility for paramilitary, covert operations should be passed from the CIA to USSOCOM. Read “Passing the Paramilitary Torch from the CIA to Special Operations Command”, Small Wars Journal, September 2, 2019.

‘Getting Advising Right’. Bill Nance, an armor officer with some time served as an advisor, provides his views on how the U.S. Army can increase the effectiveness of its advisors and advisor units. He believes we should concentrate on institution building rather than advising at the tactical level. He also offers recommendations to improving the performance of the Security Force Assistance Brigades or SFABs. Read “Getting Advising Right: The Army Needs a Fundamentally Different Approach to Building Partner Forces”, Modern War Institute, August 29, 2019.

Experimentation and Building Partner Nation Capability. The United States has a mixed record in building security partners (as in Iraq and Afghanistan) despite long years of involvement and loads of money put into the effort. Thomas-Durell Young, author and Editor-in-Chief of Defense and Security Analysis, provides his thoughts on how to improve. Read more in “Experimentation Can Help Build Better Security Partners”, War on the Rocks, August 30, 2019.

Publications and Books

Infantry Magazine Online. Number articles are published in the Summer 2091 issue. Weapons, leadership, Army aviation, multinational interoperability, lessons learned, and TCCC training.

Book Review – Spies of No Country. In the late 1940s Israel set up an ‘Arab’ section of its intelligence service where Jews would live in Arab countries and conduct intelligence operations. Read a review of Spies of No Country: The Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, by Matti Friedman.

Middle East

The government forces of Syria have been making some gains in Idlib province in northwest Syria, the only remaining territory held by rebels, with a little help from the Russians. The Turks may not need the F-35 (punishment for accepting the Russian air defense system); and may opt for Russian fighter jets instead.

‘Safe Zone’ Drama in Syria. The president of Turkey has declared that he will launch a unilateral offensive into northeastern Syria if the conditions of the ‘safe zone’ do not meet his expectations. Turkey is seeking a 19-25 mile deep zone within Syria running east of the Euphrates River to the border of Iraq. See “Turkey”s President Vows Syria Operation if US Falls Short in Safe Zone”, Military.com, September 1, 2019.

The Syrian Debate. Elizabeth Dent takes a ‘realistic’ view of the Syrian situation and proposes the future U.S. level of involvement should have a narrower focus. Read “Syria: Debates won’t change reality”, Middle East Institute, August 29, 2019.

Sinjar – Key to Iraq Security. The Sinjar district in Nineveh province is central to security Iraq against an ISIS return. (The Jerusalem Post, Aug 31, 2019).

Yemen Gets More Confusing. Former allies are now fighting each in southern Yemen. Control of Aden is up for grabs with a battle raging between government forces and separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates.


Morrocco Visited by AFRICOM Cdr. General Stephen Townsend, the commander of Africa Command, paid a visit to Morocco and praised the countries strong stance against terrorism and participation in regional military exercises. See “US Military Official: US Shares Morocco’s Concerns About Instability in Sahel Region”, Morocco World News, August 30, 2019.

Mozambique’s Insurgency. The country of Mozambique has a small terrorism problem, but the government response is one of overreaction. The heavy-handed crackdown is inflaming tension and may result in a surge of support for the insurgency. Read “Counterproductive Counterinsurgency: Is Mozambique Creating the Next Boko Haram?”Lawfare Blog, September 1, 2019.


EU and a Global Maritime Security Presence. The European Nations may soon be embarked on a concept to deploy member nation’s naval forces to protect key shipping lanes. This projection of naval power is beyond that the regions of the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, or Strait of Hormuz. (Defense News, August 30, 2019.


CIA and Militias. Senior White House advisers have proposed secretly expanding the C.I.A.’s presence in Afghanistan if international forces begin to withdraw from the country. But the CIA may not be on board with the plan. Read “Trump Administration Officials at Odds Over C.I.A.’s Role in Afghanistan”, The New York Times, September 2, 2019.


3rd SFGA Command Video. The 3rd Special Forces Group deploys its units and members worldwide conducting a full range of military operations. The group provides a scalable and self-sustaining operations capability operating by, with, and through partnered forces to address the nation’s most complex problems. (3rd SFGA, Aug 26, 2019, 3 mins).

10th SFGA Dive Video. Members of Special Forces Dive Teams from the 10th Special Forces Group hone their combat abilities by training in a wide variety of underwater environments. (10th SFGA, July 15, 2019, 1 min).

CIA’s Rectal Tool Kit. What tools do you think of when you think of spies conducting their trade? A heel knife? A code ring? Umbrella guns? Sure. Then there is the rectal tool kit. Watch a 3-min long video entitled A CIA-Issues Rectal Tool Kit for Spies, Atalas Obscura, January 15, 2019.

Video – AJSOF NCO Course. A 6-minute-long video provides an interview of two former graduates of the Colombian Advanced Joint Special Operations Forces NCO Course. The two graduates are assisting in course presentations for the follow-on course – set up by the U.S. Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) and Special Operations Command South (SOCSouth). DOD, September 2019.

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