SOF News Update – News, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, military topics, and conflicts from around the world.
New CSEL for SOJTF-Afghanistan. Army Command Sergeant Major Robert Teagle, currently assigned as the 3rd Special Forces Group Command Sergeant Major at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has been selected for the position of Senior Enlisted Leader of the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A).
Navy’s SDVs. H.I. Sutton has posted another informative article about the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Delivery Vehicles. The latest one is on the SDV-Mk-8-Mod-0. (Covert Shores, Jan 21, 2020).
New Suppressor for JSOC? A new machine-gun suppressor has been selected for evaluation by Joint Special Operations Command. The device is for the M240 machine gun. See “US Special Operators Could Use This New Suppressor That Relies on WWI Technology”, Military.com, January 22, 2020.
CoC at 15th SOS. U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John O’Meara is the new commander of the 15th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 15th SOS is home to MC-130H Combat Talon IIs which support special operations forces in unconventional battlefields worldwide.
‘Horse Soldier’s’ Saddle on Display. One of the saddles used by members of a 5th Special Forces Group team that infiltrated Afghanistan to fight the Taliban in the fall of 2001 is on display in New York as part of a 9/11 exhibit. (Commonwealth Journal, Jan 26, 2020).
New SEAC – Eyes and Ears. The new senior enlisted advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (General Milley) will be getting around the force to serve as a ‘directed telescope” for chairman. The top command has a special operations background. Ramon “CZ” Colon-Lopez spent most of his career as an Air Force pararescueman. General Milley served, in his early career, as a Special Forces Detachment Commander. Read “New SEAC to Serve as Chairman’s Eyes and Ears to Joint Force”, U.S. Dept of Defense, January 24, 2020.
Former SOAR Cdr Hammered by Social Media. Major General John Evans, a former long-time aviator in U.S. Army special operations aviation is getting skewered by social media and online news outlets for a somewhat ‘tone deaf’ Tweet on Twitter (@CG-ArmyROTC). On the morning of Monday, January 27, 2020 he tweeted:
“Lots of people mourning a basketball player this morning. I think I’ll
use my energy to remember SPC Moore and his Family. #RIP.”
In his tweet he linked to a story in Military Times published on January 25, 2020 about SPC Antonio Moore who died on 24 Jan in a vehicle rollover accident in Syria. Evans is the former commander of the US Army Special Operations Aviation Command and former commander of the 160th SOAR Regiment. News outlets seized on this lapse in judgement and quickly rolled out a number of critical news stories. A real shame. I served with Evans when he was on the staff at CFSOCC-A in Afghanistan in 2011. He is a class act . . . just needs to sharpen up his Twitter skills.
Program Manager for Fulton Extraction Passes Away. LTC Robert Stoney died at age 91 on January 3, 2020. He was a leading figure in the development of the Fulton Skyhook project. The surface to air recovery system could be used to exfiltrate a downed pilot, CIA officer, or Special Forces solder by a low-flying aircraft. Obituary.
CANSOF Soldier Guilty. A Canadian special forces soldier admitted to stealing gun parts, a generator, batteries, clothing, and more. (CBC, CA, Jan 24, 2020).
RM, FCF, and the ‘Grey Zone’. Change is occurring within the armed forces of the United Kingdom as it adapts to the new operational environment. The Royal Marines are working towards transforming into a Future Commando Force (FCF) and must be able to function within the new way of warfare. Read “FCF and the Grey Zone: Creating Ambiguity”, Puzzle Palace: The Unofficial Commando Think Tank, January 24, 2020.
CANSOF – Notes of an Operator. Wes Kennedy, a Canadian SOF operator talks about joining the force and what sets an SF apart from the rest of the military community. Read “Canadian Special Operations: What Does it Mean to be an Operator?”, SOFREP, January 24, 2020.
World War I Desert Rats. Read about the history of early British special operations by James Stejskal (author of Masters of Mayhem) in “WWI Desert Rats and the Origins of Special Forces”, Forces Network, January 23, 2020.
UAE Swat Challenge. On February 9-13, 2020 the United Arab Emirates will host an international competition for police SWAT teams. There are five challenge categories in which teams will compete. The event takes place in the Dubai SEAT Training Facility. Almost 50 teams from over 25 countries will compete.
Military and National Security News
Army’s Physical Fitness Problem. Matt Clark, a retired Special Forces officer and instructor at West Point, provides a criticism of U.S. Army culture that prevents leaders from properly planning and executing physical training in austere and time-constrained environments. He proposes steps that would make the U.S. Army more combat-ready. Read “The Army Has a Physical Fitness Problem, Part I: Eight Myths That Weaken Combat Readiness”, Modern War Institute at West Point, Janaury 25, 2020.
Mongolia and Great Power Competition. Great power competition is changing the geopolitical calculus on Mongolia. The military implications are significant – especially vis-a-vis China, Russia, and the United States. Article is authored by Jeff Goodson (U.S. Foreign Service retired) and Dr. Jonathan Addleton (former U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia). Read “How Great Power Competition is Changing the Geopolitics of Mongolia”, Stratfor Worldview, January 24, 2020.
Crash of USAF Aircraft in Afghanistan. Various Afghan news outlets are reporting the crash of an aircraft in Afghanistan on Monday morning, January 27, 2020. First reports indicated that it was a civilian airliner of Ariana Afghan Airlines carrying passengers. Later reports are identifying the aircraft as a U.S. Air Force jet carrying a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN). The aircraft type is reported to be an E-11A BACN. The crash site is reported to be in Dih Yak, Ghazni. Four U.S. E11As are assigned to the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron and usually operate from Kandahar Air Base. The E11A is a Bombardier Global 6000 business jet modified to accommodate the BACN payload.
Bombs Dropped in Afghanistan at Record Levels in 2019. Air Force data shows that the United States dropped more bombs and other munitions in Afghanistan last year (2019) than any other year since documentation began in 2006. See “US dropped bombs in Afghanistan at record level in 2019”, Stars and Stripes, January 27, 2020.
Mismanagement of Money in Afghanistan. Hamayun Khan provides his perspective on the administrative corruption prevalent in Afghanistan. Read “Mismanagement of funds: A Symptom of Corruption in Afghanistan”, Eurasia Review, January 27, 2020.
U.S. Casualty in Syria. The Department of Defense announced the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Specialist Antonio Moore, age 22, from Wilmington, N.C. died on January 24, 2020 in Deir ez Zor Province, Syria, during a rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations. He was assigned to the 363rd Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, Knightdale, North Carolina. See “DOD Identifies Army Casualty”, U.S. Department of Defense, January 25, 2020.
Syria – Staying the Course. The CENTCOM commander recently visited Syria to take a look at things on the ground. He says that the current mission for the near future is to continue the attacks on the Islamic State and work with the Syrian Democratic Front to provide stability to northeastern Syria. He is quoted as saying “I think we’re going to be here for a while.” He did a tour of five military bases in Syria. MG Eric Hill, the commander of SOF units in Iraq and Syria was with General McKenzie for most of the trip. There are currently about 750 U.S. troops in Syria. See “General: US committed to Syria fight; Missions up against IS”, AP News, January 25, 2020.
Lebanon’s New Government. The people of Lebanon have been in the streets demanding reforms and less corruption. Over the last three months protests have rocked the nation. It remains to be seen if the new government can satisfy the people of Lebanon. The country is in the middle of a severe economic crisis.
More Casualties From Iran’s Missile Attack. Additional U.S. troops have been flown out of Iraq for closer evaluation of potential concussion injuries from the Iranian missile attack of January 8, 2020. The DOD has released more information – stating that there were 34 cases of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Initially eleven personnel medically evacuated. Eight are currently at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. while some remain at a medical hospital in Germany and others have returned to duty in Iraq. (Military Times, Jan 22, 2020).
NATO To Increase Training Role in Iraq. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should increase its military training operation in Iraq to ensure that its members are not drawn back into combat there. See “NATO chief seeks beefed-up training role in Iraq”, Military Times, January 22, 2020.
Iraq’s Protesters. the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) continues to confront protesters in some of the big cities of Iraq. The effort has provoked some deadly clashes; especially in Baghdad and some of the southern cities. Iraqi strongman Muqtada Sadr withdrew support from the youthful protest movement and the ISF is pressing forward.
Paper – Reducing the U.S. Presence in the Middle East. Aaron Stein has penned a 45-paper that shows the way forward to lessening the commitment of the United States to the Middle East (while still retaining a presence) and reallocating resources to regions where Russian and China present a threat. Read Narrowing Interests in the Middle East: Planning for Great Power Competition, Foreign Policy Research Institute, January 2020.
SFA in Africa. Richard Kemp, a doctoral student at Walden University, wrote a 192-page paper about the effectiveness Security Force Assistance for partner nation security forces in Africa. See A Sub-Sahara African Army’s Perspectives of Security Force Assistance Training Effectiveness, Walden University, February 2020.
Libya and the Berlin Conference. Libya has been in a state of protracted conflict for the past eight years. A recent international conference in Berlin hosted by the United Nations and Germany attempted to reduce the tensions among the fighting factions. The hope was that the outside actors (Turkey, Russia, and more) would stop fueling the conflict and reduce the violence. Will the Berlin Conference have any real impact on Libya? Read more in “After Berlin, Will Foreign Actors Back Out of Libya’s Civil War?”, Small Wars Journal, January 22, 2020.
Kenya Receives MD-530F Helicopters. The commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), Major General Mike Turello (SF officer), took part in a handover ceremony for the transfer of six MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters to Kenya Army’s Joint Helicopter Command (JHC). Six more will be transferred in the near future. See “United States delivers MD-530F helicopters to Kenya Defense Force”, DVIDS, January 23, 2020.
Europe, Russia, NATO, Etc.
DEFENDER-Europe 20. The largest deployment of troops from the United States to Europe in 25 years will take place soon in 2020. The 20,000 U.S. service members will participate in various annual exercises to build readiness and interoperability with allies and partners. One of those exercises is Trojan Footprint – an annual U.S. Special Operations Command Europe-led exercise that brings together U.S., allied and partnered special operation units.
CTC Sentinel. The January 2020 issue of CTC Sentinel by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point is now posted online. Articles about the killing of Soleimani, lessons from the Islamic State’s ‘Milestone’ texts and speeches, U.S. Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, and the Islamic State’s strategy of civilian control.
Army History. The Winter 2020 issue is now posted online. There are several articles; a couple may be interesting to some: “Indian Regulars in the U.S. Army in the 1890s” and a book review of The Spearheaders: A Personal History of Darby’s Rangers.
Headquarters Gazette. The Society for Military History has posted their Winter 2020 issue (27 pages, PDF) online. Some interesting reading for those who follow military history.
Photo: A U.S. Marine provides security during visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) training in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, January 10, 2020. The training allows the Marines to one their ship boarding and seizure capabilities to better perform maritime interdiction operations. Photo by Marine Corps Corporal Isaac Cantrell.