Special Operations News Update – January 17, 2020

An AC-130 Gunship shoots off flares. Photo by AFSOC, January 1, 2020.

SOF News Update 20200117 – Curated news about special operations, national security, military defense, and conflicts from around the world.

SOF News

Green Beret Dies in Parachuting Accident. A SOF service member died in a military freefall parachuting accident during training near Eloy, Arizona on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Freefall training courses and events are conducted at the Eloy Municipal Airport. The airport is about a 3-hour drive east of the JFKSWCS basic military freefall course run at Yuma Proving Grounds. Read more in “MSG Nathan Goodman – RIP, 3rd SFG(A)”, SOF News, January 15, 2020.

Robert Howard and MOH. The story of how Robert Howard earned his Medal of Honor in Vietnam is recounted in this article entitled “This Army Special Forces Veteran Was Nominated for the Medal of Honor Three times”, We are the Mighty, January 16, 2020.

USSOCOM’s MG 338. Sig Sauer has delivered a number of its MG 338 machine guns to USSOCOM along with ammunition and sound suppressors. The weapon weighs around 20 pounds and has a longer range than other machine guns currently used by U.S. SOF. The weapon will undergo further evaluation to determine its long-term suitability for the force. Read “Special Operators are Eying This Machine Gun to Solve a Number of Problems”, The Drive – The War Zone, January 15, 2020.

Marine Corps BG Gets Promotion. Brig. Gen. Francis Donovan has been nominated for appointment to the rank of major general. He is currently serving with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Becoming a Navy SWCC. Jonathan Weiss, a former Navy SWCC and Special Operations Combat Medic, writes about the process of becoming a Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman or SWCC. He informs us of the four major portions of the SWCC training pipeline. Read more in “We Ain’t Navy SEALs: The Path to Becoming a Navy SWCC”, SOFREP, January 15, 2020.

Two Ranger Medics Save Six Lives in Combat. Last summer two Ranger medics of 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment risked their lives to save others. During the combat engagement they employed the Ranger O-Low Titre protocol or ROLO. Read more in “Ranger Medics Save Lives in Combat”, Army.mil, January 13, 2020.

SOF Leaders Recognized. Two leading members of the special operations community, James “Hondo” Geurts and Ramon Colon-Lopez, were recognized by the Special Operations / Low Intensity Conflict division of the National Defense Industry Association. Read “Geurts, Colon-Lopez receive highest honors of NDIA’s SO/LIC division”, Cision PR Newswire, January 14, 2020.

International SOF

New Malaysian SF Vehicles. The Malaysian Army is looking for a new supplier of vehicles for its special forces regiment. The vehicles, two different types, would be issued to the Grup Gerak Khas (GGK). (Janes.com, Jan 14, 2020).

Operation Aweless (UK). A task force of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines was tasked with interdicting the supply of weapons and munitions to paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. In one of these missions, in 1975, two Special Boat Service (SBS) kayak teams were inserted from a ship to conduct an anti-gun running operation against the IRA. Read “Submarine Canoe Insertion against the IRA”, Royal Marines History, January 16, 2020.

Military and National Security

59-Year-Old Rejoins Army. A former Marine and Civil Affairs soldier has re-enlisted into the Army Reserves after a ten year break in service. He is heading off to boot camp. Read more in “59-year-old Afghanistan veteran will report to Army basic training this summer”, Army Times, January 15, 2020.

SFABs to Deploy Regionally. The army is looking to align its six Security Force Assistance Brigades to geographic combatant commands. One SFAB will find itself heading to the Pacific region. (Army Times, Jan 16, 2020).

Bradley Replacement Process Stalled. The program to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) is experiencing a ‘tactical pause’. The Army has decided that “. . . it is necessary to revisit the requirements, acquisition strategy, and schedule moving forward.” See “US Army cancels current effort to replace Bradley vehicle”, Defense News, January 16, 2020.

IC Threat Assessment Due Soon. At the beginning of every year the U.S. intelligence community issues an unclassified assessment to Congress that details the worldwide threats to American interests. Some observers believe that this years assessment will get a lot more publicity than normal. (Just Security, Jan 15, 2020).


NATO Training Resumes in Iraq. The U.S. and the Coalition have gone back to training the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) after a couple of weeks of standing down. The cessation was needed to increase the force protection posture in the wake of the heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Read more in “Canadian military resumes some operations in Iraq following Iran scare”, National Post, January 16, 2020.

Operations Resume. In addition, the U.S. is resuming operations against the Islamic State militants in Iraq and in Syria. (Military Times, Jan 16, 2020). The U.S. is still in conversations with Iraq following the operational pause. They will hopefully resolve what the U.S. force posture is going to be in the future.

Iranian Missile Strikes Downplayed by DOD? The news is now being published that eleven US troops were injured in the January 8th Iranian missile strike against two bases in Iraq. The troops were medevaced to Germany and Kuwait to be treated for traumatic brain injury. (Defense One, Jan 16, 2020).


More French Troops for Sahel. Another 200 plus troops will arrive in Africa to augment the 4,500 members of the Operation Barkhane force currently engaged in counterterrorism efforts. They will conduct combat operations alongside units from Burkina Faso, Maurintania, Niger, Mali, and Chad. Read “Macron sends more troops to Sahel within new counterterrorism plan”, Africa Times, January 14, 2020.

New Unified Command for COIN in Sahel. France and Group of 5 Sahel countries have agreed to unify the command structure of forces fighting jihadist. The new name for the effort is called “Coalition for the Sahel”. The G5 heads of state expressed the desire for French military involvement in the Sahel to continue. The purpose of the new framework is to fight terrorism, strengthen the military capabilities of the states in the region, speed up the return of administration and public services to conflict regions, and to address development issues and humanitarian challenges. Read a statement by the French government on the results of the recent conference (Pau Summit). (France Diplomatie, Jan 13, 2020).

Syrian Fighters in Libya. Over 2,000 Syrian fighters are (or soon will be) in Libya to support the Libyan government’s fight against Khalifa Haftar – a military commander who leads a major faction in the country’s civil war. Haftar is supported by other nations in the region as well as Russia. Most of the fighters appear to be from Syrian rebel groups that have been funded and supported by Turkey. The fighters crossed the border from Syria into Turkey and then were flown to Tripoli. (The Guardian, Jan 15, 2020).

Is al-Shabab Surging? The U.S. has increased its activities against the Somali-based insurgent group but al-Shabab seems to be stronger than ever. The terrorist group is conducting operations in Somalia, Kenya, and other locations at an increased level. “2019 saw record U.S. airstrikes in Somalia. Why is al-Shabab surging?”, The Washington Post, January 15, 2020.

More on Manda Bay Raid. AFRICOM credits quick action by a small team of U.S. troops in repelling a raid by al-Shabaab fighters in which several U.S. SOF aircraft were destroyed and three Americans died at a small U.S. base in Kenya. (Stars and Stripes, Jan 16, 2020).


Australia’s Future in the Competitive Indo-Pacific. The U.S. is caught up in the ‘near-peer’ competition with China in the Pacific region. Australia lies in the middle of this ‘cold war’ environment. Read more in “ASPI raises an important question: Who is leading the Indo-Pacific?”, Defence Connect, December 5, 2019.

Hybrid Warfare in the Pacific. A Research Analyst with the Military Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU, in Singapore writes on how the use of covert operations will increase in the Pacific. Read “Sound the Clarion! Hybrid Warfare Has Arrived in the Asia-Pacific”, Small Wars Journal, January 14, 2020.

China’s Political Warfare and Australia. Some leading Australian strategic thinkers are calling for a renewed and enhanced response to counter the increasing meddling of China toward Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Read “Strategic policy expert calls for enhanced Australian response to Beijing’s political warfare”, Defence Connect, January 6, 2020.

Books and Publications

Russia’s Hostile Measures. A host of authors have contributed to a recent RAND report about combating Russian Gray Zone aggression against NATO. The 116-page report, published in January 2020, is available in PDF form online.

Review of Book on Snipers. A team of writers collaborate on a book entitled The Sniper Anthology: Snipers of the Second World War, 2012. John Plaster (SF) provides the introduction while ten other writers contribute chapters. Christopher Mullins reviews the book in an article dated January 14, 2020 posted on Argunners.com.

IA Role Players in Army Exercises. The use of military forces by the U.S. around the world requires it to conduct engagement with a host of officials, diplomats, host nation personnel, and members of other U.S. agencies and organizations. This allows the U.S. military organization to leverage other international and US organizations to get to mission accomplishment. During training exercises prior to deployment ‘role players’ assume the place of members of the interagency world. Read more in “A Peek Behind the Curtains”, News From the CTC CALL, December 2019, PDF, 10 pages.

Nationalism and Turkey. RAND Corporation has published a 276-page report entitled Turkey’s Nationalist Course: Implications for the U.S.-Turkish Strategic Partnership and the U.S. Army, 2020.

Podcasts and Videos

COL (Ret SF) Mark Mitchell Podcast. This episode of the Modern War Institute Podcase features a conversation with Mark Mitchell – a retired SF colonel and former acting assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC). He talks about how the role of special operations forces has evolved over the last twenty years of war and what the future may bring for SOF. Listen to MWI Podcast: Competition and Conflict in a Changing World, MWI at West Point, January 10, 2020, 30 minutes.

Photo: An AC-130 Gunship shoots off flares. Photo by AFSOC, January 1, 2020.

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