Special Operations News Update – Monday, January 13, 2020

5th SFG Soldiers ascend a rope ladder while conducting maritime exfilitration.

SOF News Update – Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Key SOF positions within DOD need filling, GB’s tab still revoked despite pardon, valor awards for 7th SFGA soldiers, SOF aircraft improvements, integrating PSYOP and Cyber, “Salty Frog Gear”, al-Shabaab attack on SOF base in Manda Bay, Russians training Kurds, Sahel stability deteriorating, pubs, books, and videos.

SOF News Returns

The editor and very small staff here at SOF News are excited to be back at work. Several short-term contracts supporting DOD SOF military exercises and the holiday season put the newsletter on hold for a few months. But we are back! Over the next few months we hope to institute some changes to provide a more informative reading experience for our subscribers. This includes adding a few more writers to the staff. You can follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

U.S. Casualties Identified

The Department of Defense has identified two casualties who were killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar province, Afghanistan on Saturday, January 11, 2020. They were assigned to the 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

SOF News

Key SOF DOD Position Filled. Chris Miller, a retired Special Forces officer, has moved from the White House where he worked counterterrorism issues to the Department of Defense. Miller will serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism. His office is responsible for developing policy guidance and oversee the implementation of all DOD policies, strategies, and plans related to special operations and combating terrorism. Some of these responsibilities include the oversight of employment of SOF in CT, UW, DA, SR, FID, and counterproliferation. He had served as the National Security Council’s senior director for counterterrorism until December 2019. Read more in “More Officials Leave Pentagon; Special Ops Office Gets Some Needed Help”, Breaking Defense, January 9, 2020.

ASD SO/LIC Vacancy. There are other important SOF vacancies that need filling including the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) for Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict (SO/LIC). Read “The Missing Assistant Secretary of Defense and the Soleimani Strike”, by Luke Hartig, Just Security, January 3, 2020.

Golsteyn’s SF Tab – Still Revoked. Major Mathew Golsteyn has had his request to reinstate his Special Forces tab denied by LTG Fran Beaudette – the commander of United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). Golsteyn had recently been pardoned by President Trump before he went to trial for premeditated murder for an incident in Afghanistan years ago. See “Army Spec Ops boss won’t reinstate Special Forces tab to officer pardoned by Trump”, Army Times, January 9, 2020.

Valor Awards for 7th SFGA Soldiers. An awards ceremony was held at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida on January 9, 2020 for soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group. A number of Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, and Army Commendation Medals (Valor) were presented. The awards were the result of actions during a six-month rotation to Afghanistan where 2/7th operated along side other SOF elements in the Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan. See “Ceremony recognizes valor, sacrifices of 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers”, DVIDS, January 9, 2020.

RS Cdr and his Glock. General Austin “Scottie” Miller, the commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan (and former JSOC Cdr) is sporting a Glock. Read more in “Did America’s top commander in Afghanistan ditch his 1911 for a (tricked out) Glock?”, Military Times, January 6, 2020.

MC-130H Radar. The Combat Talon II’s nose radar offers capabilities that newer MC-130Js seem to lack. Read more in “Check Out the Crazy Radar that Lies Beneath the MC-130H Combat Talon’s Gonzo Nose”, The Drive, December 30, 2020.

PSYOP and Cyber. Dr. Herb Lin, a senior research scholar for cyber policy and security, comments in a lengthy essay about the mixing of PSYOP and Cyber operations by the U.S. Cyber Command. Read “On the Integration of Psychological Operations with Cyber Operations”, Lawfare blog, January 9, 2020.

Upgrades for AC-130 Gunship. The lethal AC-130 is getting important new upgrades to its avionics and weapons systems that will increase the effectiveness of the attack platform and extend its service life into future decades. Read “Death From Above: The Air Force’s Fearsome AC-130 Gunship Is Getting Upgrades”, The National Interest, January 10, 2020.

Tampa Bay Frogman Swim. The annual fund raising event was held on Sunday, January 12, 2020. It is an official Navy SEAL Foundation fundraiser and has raised over $3 million for the Foundation. The Foundation has been certified by Charities of America as a ‘Best in America’ charity. Read more about the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim.

Laser Countermeasure Upgrades for MH47Gs. The helicopters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment are receiving some impressive upgrades. (The Aviationist, Jan 10, 2020).\

Eddie Gallagher and his “Salty Frog Gear”. The SEAL pardoned by President Trump has launched an apparel line featuring hoodies, t-shirts, and drinkware. Gallagher was acquitted of charges relating to the death of an Iraqi militant while deployed with the Navy SEALs. He was convicted of posing in a photograph with the body of the dead insurgent.

Former Green Beret Aids in Escape from Japan. Carlos Ghosn, a former auto executive facing trial in Japan, escaped to Lebanon. Apparently he was assisted in the escape by Mike Taylor – a former Green Beret who served with the 10th and 11th Special Forces Group. Mike Taylor has a wealth of experience working in the security field both domestically and in foreign lands. He is apparently not shy in accepting jobs that many security professionals would decline. Read “Carlos Ghosn Was Aided in Flight from Japan by Former Green Beret”, The New York Times, January 3, 2020.

Nagata Joins CACI. LTG (Retired) Michael Nagata, a former Special Forces officer, has been named a senior vice president and advisor at CACI International. (GovConWire, Jan 7, 2020). Nagata had served in a couple of SMUs and is a former commander of SOCCENT.

Military News and National Defense

Army’s Sniper School. An NCO at the U.S. Army sniper Course at Fort Benning, Georgia writes about the improvements made to the sniper course in the past few years. Read “The Army Sniper”, Small Wars Journal, January 10, 2020.

Fort McCoy’s Cold Weather Operations Course. Decades ago I attended a Winter Warfare course at Fort McCoy. It seems it still is a site for learning to work and survive in cold weather. Read about the experience that Marines and Soldiers had attending the 14-day CWOC in December 2019. (DVIDS, Jan 9, 2020).

Who Joins the Military? Turns out many recruits are from families or communities where military service is common. Read “Who Signs Up to Fight? Makeup of U.S. Recruits Shows Glaring Disparity”, The New York Times, January 10, 2020.

CA / PSYOP AIT To Move To Fort Jackson. Apparently the Army is transferring Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Advanced Individual Training (AIT) courses from the Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, NC to Fort Jackson, SC. See “Columbia’s Army footprint expanding with new training school coming to Fort Jackson”, The State, January 7, 2020.

SFAB Heading to Pacific. The news is out that one of the Army’s new Security Force Assistance Brigades may find itself employed in the Pacific. Read more in “Army adviser brigade headed to Pacific in FY21”, Defense News, January 10, 2020.


Russians Replacing U.S. SOF in NE Syria? Russia has been working to develop a local military force in the Kurdish region of northeast Syria. They are primarily recruiting ethnic Kurds. The Russians may very likely have long-term plans for staying in Syria and establishing local military units in the region loyal to the Russians – aiding in the expansion of Russian influence in Syria and the region. See “Russia Seeks to Build Local Force in Northeast Syria”, Voice of America, December 19, 2019.


U.S. SOF Base in Kenya Hit by Terrorists. USSOCOM lost a couple of special operations aircraft and three Americans died during an attack by al-Shabaab on the Manda Bay Airfield adjacent to Camp Simba in Kenya on January 5, 2020. Several aircraft were destroyed to include a Dash-8 and C-146A Wolfhound. A U.S. Army Soldier and two contract pilots were killed during the attack. The facility, on the Kenya coast just south of the Somali border, is used to train up Kenya naval and army forces as well as to provide assistance in the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia. See “Somali terrorist group destroyed U.S. spy aircraft in an attack on military base in Kenya”, Defence-Blog, January 5, 2020.

Al-Shabaab Warns U.S. Allies in Africa. The East Africa terrorist group that operates primarily in Somalia but also in northern Kenya has issued a warning to African nations aligned with the United States. The group says that the U.S. will abandon its allies when things get tough. Read “Al-Shabab warns US partner forces in Africa that America will abandon them like it did the Syrian Kurds”, Military Times, January 10, 2020.

French Commandos Kill 50 Terrorists. Supported by armed Reaper drones, helicopters, and fighter jets – French troops deployed to Operation Barkhane conducted three helicopter-borne assaults. Read “More than 50 terrorists killed in French commando operations in Mali”, The Defense Post, January 10, 2020.

G5 Sahel States and France to Meet. Representatives from Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad will meet with French political and military leaders (and others) to develop new strategies against the jihadists in the Sahel. Resistance to the presence of French troops in the West African region is growing but France will most likely continue its anti-jihadist effort. Read “Africa’s Sahel seeks new ways to fight terrorism“, Deutsche Welle, January 9, 2020.

Do Sahel Meetings Have the Correct Focus? Some critics say that these coordination meetings are focused on military concerns and ignore governance and development issues that fuel instability and insecurity. Read “More coordination won’t fix the Sahel”, European Council on Foreign Relations, January 2020.

Publications, Papers, and Books

Book Review – SOE in Malaya. Rebecca Kennelson wrote a book about the SOE in Malaya during WWII. The book is reviewed by Richard Duckett. Read more about The Special Operations Executive in Malaya: World War II and the Path to Independence, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019, 256 pp.

Prism. The January 2020 issue of a military journal published by the National Defense University Press is now online. It has a number of interesting articles (but nothing on SOF) in the 184-page PDF. Contents include Cyber, telecommunications, directed energy weapons, neuroweapons, emerging military techonologies, UAVs, artificial intelligence, and a lot of other stuff way beyond my comprehension.

Russian PMCs in Africa. Dr. Sergey Sukhankin, a Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, wrote about Russia’s use of private military corporations in Africa. Read “The Hybrid Role of Russian Mercenaries, PMCs, and Irregulars in Moscow’s Scramble for Africa”, The Jamestown Foundation, Jan 10, 2020.

NCO Guide – TC 7-22.7. The U.S. Army has updated The Noncommissioned Officer Guide with the history of the NCO, core competencies and attributes, an approved Change of Responsibility script, and more. (U.S. Army, Jan 2020).

Pub by CRS on SOF. A three-page document entitled Defense Primer: Special Operations Forces by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) was updated on January 2, 2020 to inform members of Congress on some broad aspects of the U.S. special operations structure, organizations, missions, and more.

Pub by CRS on Navy IW and CT Opns. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has updated its publication entitled Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress dated December 17, 2019. The pub is available online in PDF form and is 60 pages long.


Saber Junction: How Green Berets and Paratroopers Will Fight the Next Big War“. A staff member of the Coffee or Die Magazine, Marty Skovlund, observes the Operation Saber Junction exercise in the Bavaria region of Germany where U.S. and allied SOF resist a fictional invasion by the Russians.
Coffee or Die Magazine (YouTube), Jan 10, 2020, 25 mins.

Dutch Version of Top Gun. This trailer highlights the coming of age of three young cadets during and after their training as fighter jet pilots. Against the backdrop of a changing geopolitical landscape they mature into experienced pilots. Filmed in cooperation with the Dutch Air Force.

“Army Riggers”. Parachute riggers from the 7th Special Forces Group are featured in this short video.
U.S. Army (YouTube), Dec 4, 2019, 2 mins.

Make Your Move“. A recruiting video for the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
U.S. Army (YouTube), Dec 16, 2019, 30 secs.

A Glimpse Into an Army Sniper’s Thoughts“. Snipers train and practice for months and years, preparing them to process every unique aspect of a precision shot. This is a glimpse into the things they think about to execute a perfect shot.
U.S. Army (YouTube), Jan 7, 2020, 40 secs.


Photo: 5th Special Forces Group soldiers ascend a rope ladder while conducting maritime operations on August 24, 2019 on a U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawk. Photo by SSG Justin Moeller, 5th SFGA Public Affairs.

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