Special Operations News Update – Sep 16, 2019

Paratroopers of Italian Folgore Brigade

Photo: Paratroopers from the Italian Folgore Brigade conduct a HALO jump during Exercise Saber Guardian. Photo courtesy of Special Operations Command Europe, September 2019.

SOF News Update – Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. SOE in Burma, famous people of OSS, Golsteyn trial, CAS planes for USSOCOM, intel topics, rebreathers, UK’s ‘Bond Boat’, and more.

SOF News

AF Cross for Valor Pinned. Technical Sergeant Daniel Keller, a combat controller of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron was awarded the Air Force Cross during a ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky in August 2019. He earned the award – second only to the Medal of Honor – on a battlefield in Afghanistan. (123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs, Sep 13, 2019).

Transfer Attack Planes to USSOCOM? Mike Waltz, a U.S. representative from Florida (and former Green Beret) is advocating for the United States Special Operations Command’s ability to procure light attack aircraft. He is frustrated by the U.S. Air Force’s slow fielding of propeller-driven attack planes to support ground troops. The Air Force has shifted focus from counterinsurgency operations to getting ready to fight the near-peer competition. However, Waltz says that we are in a generational war against violent extremism and light attack aircraft are key in the COIN fight. Read more in “US Lawmaker Threatens to Give the Next Attack Plane to the Army”, Defense One, September 11, 2019.

Dec Date for Golsteyn Trial. A Green Beret officer, Major Matthew Golsteyn, will finally have a trial after an incident almost ten years ago in Afghanistan. He is scheduled for a court-martial in December at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In February 2010, while commanding a Special Forces A-team, he allegedly executed an Afghan villager who had been identified as a bomb-maker. As a service member pending trial, Major Golsteyn enjoys the presumption of innocence. (Task & Purpose, Sep 14, 2019).

USSOCOM and Tracer Rounds. The U.S. Special Operations Command is looking to replace tracer rounds for its machine guns and sniper rounds with a ‘small arms spotting round‘. Read more in “U.S. Commandos Want to Get Rid of Tracer Bullets”, The National Interest, September 14, 2019.

Replacement for MH-6 Little Bird? USSOCOM is in the market for a new specialized attack helicopter that is capable of inserting small special operations teams for strategic missions. Read “Special Ops May Get Army Future Vertical Lift Helo to Replace MH-6 Little Bird”, Military.com, September 9, 2019.

Top Ten SOF Aircraft. Multiple special mission equipment options make the C-130J-SOF the best special mission aircraft available at this time. Read about the top ten SOF aircraft – based on performance parameters such as payload capacity and range. See “Top ten special mission aircraft”, Air Force Technology, September 13, 2019.

Fixing SOF Culture. Special operators have been in the news the last few years as a result of unfortunate incidents. Drug trafficking, murders, and more have tarnished the reputation of the U.S. special operations community. Andrew Milburn, the former commander of the Marine Raider Regiment and CSOTF-I, provides his perspective in “How to Fix a Broken Special Operations Culture”, War on the Rocks, September 13, 2019.

Coping With War. A retired Special Forces soldier with 21 years of Army service provides insight into PTSD, TBI, and multiple combat tours. Read “Soldier to Solider: Coping With the Scars of War”, The Epoch Times, September 13, 2019.

Special Hawaii Vacation – Diving with Navy SEALs. Did you miss out on BUD/S or SF Combat Dive school during your military career? You can make up for that ‘water experience’ with a vacation to Hawaii and attend a dive school with Trident Adventures. Try out their “Navy SEAL For A Day” course that includes a helicopter insertion into the ocean or the “Navy SEAL Land Navigation & Survival” course. Read more in “Adventures With Navy SEALs in Paradise Could be Your Dream Vacation”, Forbes.com, September 15, 2019.

Dangers of Parachuting. George Hand, former SOF guy and writer, provides his perspective on the dangerous occupation of the paratrooper. Read “Beware the Unit Cartoonist Lurking Nearby; Red Light Randy Strikes”, We Are the Mighty, September 13, 2019.

International SOF

Mammoth Hunters Club. A former Australian soldier is helping men ‘find a tribe’ and ‘have a mission’. He says this is the secret ingredient to positive mental health. Read more in “Former Special Forces soldier to help Brisbane men tackle depression”, Brisbane Times, September 8, 2019.

UKs ‘Bond Boat’. A state-of-the-art 39 foot long vessel now in the British special operations inventory is something straight out of a James Bond 007 movie. The VICTA Diver Deliver Unit can be dropped from a helicopter, speed along the surface at 40 knots, and dive to 100 feet. With a range of 250 nautical miles, it is helmed by a two-man crew and can carry another six commandos in dive gear. (The Sun, Sep 15, 2019).

Israeli Paratrooper in Quest to be PM. Retired General Benny Gantz is running for the office of Prime Minister of Israel. He was a paratrooper in the IDF and is a former commander of the Air Force special operations unit called Shaldag or Unit 5101. Read more in “Benny Gantz: Military man on a mission to beat Netanyahu”, The Times of Israel, September 15, 2019.

SOF Guy now in the Movies. A former member of the Israeli Defense Force with some experience in special operations now is working in Hollywood. In his next film he portrays a police captain in “Rambo: Last Blood”. Read more in “Aaron Cohen: Soldier, Actor, Writer, Spy”, Jewish Journal, September 11, 2019.

Panama’s SENAFRONT Gets Six UH-1H Helicopters. The U.S. has supplied the Special Forces Group (AFFE) of the Panamanian National Border Service (SENAFRONT) with helicopters to increase its capabilities. The unit’s commandos focus on countering organized crime, drug trafficking, and other high risk criminal activities. See “SENAFONT’s Special Forces Strengthen Capabilities”, Dialogo – Digital Military Magazine, September 10, 2019.

SOF History

Famous People Who Served in the OSS. Meet five former members (well, maybe four) of the Office of Strategic Services who may be well-known to most Americans. Read “5 Old-Time celebrity favorites who wanted to join the OSS”, We Are the Mighty, September 12, 2019.

SOE Logistics in Burma. Learn about how the Special Operations Executive supplied its units in the Pacific region. Read “Logistics: Supplying SOE in Burma”, September 15, 2019.

SOE and Ceylon During WWII. This short article describes the support provided to the British Special Operations Executive during World War II from the Ceylon political, civil, and military leadership. Read “Clandestine Operations in Ceylon World War II”, Eleven Media Group, September 15, 2019.

Intel and CT Topics

CIA, Pigeons, and Spy Cameras. A recently declassified report has details on the Central Intelligence Agency plans for using pigeons carrying small cameras to photograph secret Soviet military installations. See “CIA unveils Cold War spy-pigeon missions”, BBC News, September 14, 2019.

CIA’s Mind Control Experiments. In the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. maintained a center that had secret programs conducting research on how to control minds through drugs. Read “The Secret History of Fort Detrick, the CIA’s Base for Mind-Control Experiments”, Politco, September 15, 2019.

Azerbaijan Gets Intel and CT Help. A Virginia-based company – VSE Corporation – has received a $10 million contract to upgrade the intel and CT capabilities of Azerbaijan’s Maritime Security Program for the Caspian Sea. Read “Pentagon Helps Azerbaijan Modernize Its Intelligence and Counterterrorism Capabilities”, Caspian News, September 14, 2019.

OBL’s Son Killed. News reports have been circulating over the past two months that the son of Osama bin Laden has been killed. President Trump made it ‘official’ in recent days. Read more in “Osama Bin Laden’s Son Killed in U.S. Counterterrorism Operation, Trump Says”, NPR, September 14, 2019.

AKs and Intelligence Analysis. Tom Ford, an armoured cavalry trooper in the British Army Reserve, cites the value of analysis of weaponry allows intelligence analysts to put together the strategic picture. It tells us who is supplying who, who is where, and more. Read “Infantry Weapons Recognition in Intelligence Analysis”, Grey Dynamics, August 9, 2019.

Military and National Defense

Diving and Rebreathers. Those who have used the Draeger will appreciate this article about the commercial use of rebreathers in the civilian diving community. Read “The Technical Diving Revolution”, DiverNet, August 2019.

Drones and Future War. The recent drone attack against Saudi Arabia oil facilities has the Internet buzzing about how the new technology (UAVs) will change future warfare. A fictitious short story about using drones to protect infantrymen in the future can read in “Virtual Command Part 3 – Hostages”, Grounded Curiosity, September 15, 2019.

Sig Saurer’s Night Vision Operator Course. A weapons manufacturer is incorporating night vision and thermal imaging equipment into one of their firearms courses. Read “Sig Sauer Academy partners with Flir Systems on night vision tactical training”, Military Times, September 10, 2019.


Recording the History Contemporary Conflict. The U.S. government has not done a good job of managing the millions of documents captured during the last 30 years in the conflicts it has fought in. Some academics believe that the documents should be turned over to a research or educational institution so they can be studied and used as primary sources for research papers, publications, and books. Read more in “The Ghosts of Past Wars Live on in a Critical Archive”, War on the Rocks, September 11, 2019.

“Soft Counterinsurgency”. Brandon Brooks, currently an International Protection Officer in South Sudan, writes on the differences between “hearts and minds” coin and “enemy-centric” coin. See “Western COIN: The Rise of “Soft” Counterinsurgency Doctrine”, Small Wars Journal, September 15, 2019.

Middle East

Drone Attack on Saudi Oil Facilities. It appears that an Iranian-staged or sponsored attack on two Aramco oil facilities have temporarily shut down half of the oil production in Saudi Arabia. A military spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi militia (supported by Iran) has claimed responsibility for the Saturday (Sep 14th) attack by approximately ten drones. However, some observers believe Iran is directly responsible for the attacks. See “Saudi Arabia: Drone Attacks Halted Half its Oil Production”, Voice of America, September 14, 2019.

Paper – Threats to Saudi Arabia’s Infrastructure. A 13-page paper provides details to the Iranian threat to the Saudi kingdom’s infrastructure to include a drone attack against oil facilities. Read more in Iran’s Threat to Saudi Critical Infrastructure: The Implications of U.S.-Iranian Escalation, by Seth Jones (and others), Center for Strategic & International Studies, August 5, 2019.

UAE and Combat Rescue Helicopters. The United Arab Emirates is shopping around for a new combat rescue helicopter. They may settle on the HH-60W. Read more in “UAE Considering Combat Rescue Helicopter Buy”, Air Force Magazine, September 12, 2019.

Captured ISIS Fighters Face Uncertain Future. Foreign Fighters of the Islamic State captured by the Syrian Democratic Front are finding that their home countries do not want anything to do with them. The SDF is overwhelmed with captured IS fighters and their families. Many of them come from other countries. One solution appears to be the transfer of captured fighters to Iraq where they face trial and death row. Some of these fighters were captured and turned over to Iraq under the U.S. Operation Gallant Phoenix program. Read more in “They Left to Join ISIS. Now Europe Is Leaving Their Citizens to Die in Iraq”, Foreign Policy, September 15, 2019.

Syria’s Buffer Zone. The U.S.-led coalition has said that initial implementation of a buffer zone between northern Syria and Turkey is going well. Turkey is expressing dissatisfaction with the current status and continues to threaten to unilaterally set up its own ‘safe zone’ with its troops. See “Coalition says ‘Good Progress’ in North Syria Buffer Zone”, Voice of America, September 15, 2019.

Turkey’s Security Priorities in Syria. Patrick Hoover explains the objectives of Turkey in Syria in a 16-page essay. Read “Understanding Turkey’s National Security Priorities in Syria”, Georgetown Security Studies Review, August 2019.

Panel Discussion – Iran in Syria. Three Middle East observers provide their insight into Iran’s activities in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. Read the transcript of a panel discussion held in early September 2019 by the Foreign Policy Research Institute entitled Roundtable: The Iranian Way of War. Participants include Aaron Stein, Ariane Tabatabai, and Afshon Ostovar.


RSF – Sudan’s Military Export. The Rapid Support Forces of Sudan have been engaged in strength in Yeman and now in Libya. They are backed and financed by the United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia. Read more in “Sudan’s Mercenary Foreign Policy Repeats the Mistakes of the Past”, Small Wars Journal, September 2019.

Counter-Insurgent Unit Targeted. An al-Qaeda affiliate – the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM) – claims it has targeted forces from the G5 Sahel in a deadly attack in Mali near the Burkina Faso border. The incident took place just days before a summit to discuss counterterrorism in the Lake Chad and Sahel regions. See “Ahead of ECOWAS counter-terror summit, JNIM targets ‘G5 Sahel’ forces in Mali”, The Defense Post, September 13, 2019.


Security in the Arctic. Representatives from Baltic and Nordic countries met in the United States for a forum to discuss their interests in commerce and security in the Arctic region. Read more in “DOD Strengthens Ties With Nordic, Baltic Nations”, U.S. Dept of Defense, September 13, 2019.

Russian Doctrine Update. Dara Massicot, a researcher for RAND Corporation, identifies nine things to look for in a new military doctrine for Russia. Among these is the growing role of private military companies. Read more in “Anticipating a New Russian Military Doctrine in 2020: What It Might Contain and Why it Matters”, War on the Rocks, September 9, 2019.

The Finnish Way of Countering Hybrid Warfare. The Finnish approach of comprehensive security, combined with conscript based military has evolved over the past few years. Read “Countering Hybrid War 2019”, Vantage Point North, September 16, 2019.

MAST 13 for UK’s Navy. The Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed 13 is an autonomous surface vehicle that will test out new capabilities for the UK’s naval service. Read more in “Royal Navy Receives MAST 13”, Shepard Media, September 16, 2019.


Miltary Police. The Fall 2019 issue of the professional bulletin of the U.S. Army’s Military Police Corps has been posted. The 50-page PDF has lots of articles about . . . well, military police operations. Two could be of interest to the SOF crowd: “Revision of ATP 3-39.20: Police Intelligence Operations for the 21st Century” and “The Train, Advise, and Assist Mission as a Joint Task Force in Afghanistan”.

Movies and Videos

Counter-ISIS Coalition. Watch a 1 1/2 hour long video of a panel discussion entitled The Counter-ISIS Coalition: Diplomacy and security in action, presented by the Brookings Institution on September 10, 2019. Participants included General (Ret) John Allen, Brett McGurk, Lise Grande, and Susan Glasser.

SOF Horsemanship Course. Members of 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group attended the SOF Horsemanship Course at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. Watch a 8-minute long video about the course. Defense Media Activity – Marines, September 11, 2019.

GSB Jumps From the Skies! Soldiers from Group Support Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group conduct airborne operations with support from the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Carson, Colorado. 10th SFGA, Sep 5, 2019, 1 minute.

Advisor Forge and 1st SFAB. The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade enhance their capabilities in an exercise during a two-week period at Fort Benning, Georgia. DVIDS, August 2019, 2 mins.

17 Great War Films. A U.S. Army LTC, Brendan Gallagher, provides his opinion on the best war movies. (Modern War Institute, Sep 9, 2019).

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