Special Operations News Update – Wednesday, February 5, 2020

CV-22 Osprey during Emerald Warrior 10-1

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, defense, and conflicts from around the world.

SOF News

Army Changing SF Training. The Special Forces Qualification Course has had the tactical skills phase restructured to include an additional two weeks of foreign internal defense (FID) training. The FID slice takes place before the students head into the Robin Sage culmination exercise. The current ‘Q’ course is designed to be completed in just over one year (with the exception of the medics). PYSOP and Civil Affairs topics are introduced throughout the training. The SF training course has seen some significant changes with the elimination of subjects – shortening the course by many months. A very informative article on the changes to SFQC. Read “Army spec ops training changes for future fights”, Army Times, February 4, 2020.

Green Beret Attended SoU Address. SFC Richard Stayskal was in the audience when President Trump delivered his State of the Union address. Stayskal recently won his year-long battle for military medical malpractice reform. In January 2017 he underwent a routine CT scan performed as part of a required physical necessary before entering the Combat Diver Course at Key West. He was cleared by a military doctor at Womack Medical Center located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Shortly after he fell ill and his sickness was misdiagnosed and treatment was not expedited. He finally got clearance to see a civilian doctor and found out he had stage 3A lung cancer. (Sandhills Sentinel, Feb 3, 2020).

SEALs Swimming for the Fallen. The Tampa Bay Frogman Swim, an annual event, has raised more than $4 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation since 2010. The next Frogman swim event is scheduled for June 7, 2020 in Boston. It will be a colder swim! Former Navy SEAL Dan O’Shea began the event in 2003. Read more in “Swimming for the fallen: Florida frogmen take SEAL fundraiser to waters beyond Tampa”, Washington Examiner, February 3, 2020. [1]

USSOCOM Cdr Visits NPS. General Richard Clarke, the commander of United States Special Operations Command, paid a visit to the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterrey, California on January 23, 2020 to explore relevant research, engage with school leadership, and to visit with students. NPS has graduate programs that are specifically preparing professionals in special operations forces to innovate in the modern environment. (NPS, Jan 31, 2020).

USSOCOM Wants 75 Aircraft for “Armed Overwatch”. It appears that the United States Special Operations Command is going ahead with plans to test and buy aircraft to support SOF missions. These new aircraft – fielded by Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) – would provided armed reconnaissance, strike coordination, and airborne forward air control. Kind of sounds like an A-29 Super Tucano that the U.S. Air Force has provided to the Afghan Air Force. (Air Force Magazine, Feb 4, 2020). [2]

“Becoming a Green Beret”. A retired Special Forces NCO, George Hand, recalls the training he went through to become a U.S. Army Green Beret. Read “Cutting the Mustard in Special Forces: Becoming a Green Beret”, SANDBOXX, February 4, 2020.

‘Invisible Wounds’ of a Navy SEAL. The family of a Navy SEAL is pushing for greater recognition of the effects of traumatic brain injures after their son’s death. Ryan Larkin was a decorated SEAL and explosive breacher who committed suicide after suffering from undiagnosed TBI. After his death the 29-year-old’s brain was examined at Walter Reed National Medical Center where a doctor discovered that Ryan had a severe level of microscopic brain injury that was uniquely related to blast exposure.

The SEAL Ethos. Captain (Ret) Dan’l Steward (U.S. Navy SEAL) provides some professional advise to current SEALs. Recent negative events have led to concerns about the individual and collective integrity and culture of the Navy SEALs. Steward says some reflection of the ‘SEAL Ethos’ is in order. He writes about ‘Elite versus Elitism’, ‘Never Believe Your Own Propaganda’, ‘Loyalty versus Integrity’, ‘Trust and Respect versus Popularity’, ‘Rules, Ambiguity, and Leadership’, and ‘Standing Tall and Moving Out’. Read his article in “None of Us Is ‘That Man’ – All Must Aspire to Be”, Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, February 2020.

Defense & Military Topics

USMC’s New ACV. The U.S. Marines are testing it’s new Amphibious Combat Vehicle. The vehicle has been tested for about three years. The ACV should be bringing enhanced lethality, survivability, and maneuverability compared to the AAV. Read more in “Marines test new ACV’s ability to integrate with naval shipping”, DVIDS, January 31, 2020.

Combating Insider Threats. The Army has published a new pub entitled Foreign Security Force Threats, ATP 3-37.15, 30 January 2020. The pub will assist advisors in dealing with “green-on-blue” or insider attacks. the 74-page Army Techniques Publication (ATP) has several chapters and a glossary that deal with foreign security threat fundamentals, prevention, and training programs.

New Army Rifle Qual Test. The U.S. Army is rolling out a new rifle qualification test. The new standards mean soldiers will have less time to shoot from more positions. It’s going to be tougher to earn the expert rating on your M16 or M4! Read more in “Everything you need to know about the new army rifle qualification test”, SANDBOXX, February 4, 2020.

Army Wants to ‘See Through Walls’. ARSOF, C5ISR, and a few other organizations are collaborating on a project to develop technology that will help soldiers “sense through the wall system”. (Nextgov, Feb 4, 2020).

Middle East

Syria – Turkey Spat. It appears that things are heating up between the military forces of these two neighboring countries. A Turkish state-run news agency says Turkish forces hit 54 targets in Idlib killing scores of Syrian troops in retaliation for Syrian forces killing eight members of the Turkish armed forces on February 3rd. Syria would like to push further into Idlib . . . but Turkey. Other players in the conflict include Russia, Iran, and Hizballah. U.S. military forces are at a ‘relatively’ safe distance away to the east in the Kurdish region of Syria.


A Government for Afghanistan. A political settlement in Afghanistan between the current political elite and the Taliban will require a change in regime type. The choices may be between an electoral democracy or an Islamic Emirate. In this article Yaqub Ibrahimi argues that including the views of the people of Afghanistan could provide a common platform for reaching an agreement on regime type and help in achieving a political settlement of the conflict. Read his article “What Kind of Government Do Afghans Want?”, The Diplomat, February 5, 2020.

Georgian Troops Arrive at MeS. Another military unit from the Georgian Defense Forces has deployed to Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan. This unit will be responsible for guarding the base perimeter and entry access points. Georgia has been the largest non-NATO contributor in the Resolute Support mission.


Security Challenges in Africa. The top U.S. general responsible for Africa, General Stephen Townsend, presented his assessment of Africa to the U.S. Senate. He warned that violent extremist networks are expanding in Africa at a rapid pace. In addition he warned that both Russia and China are expanding their influence on the continent. Read more in “AFRICOM’s Assessment of U.S. Security Challenges in Africa”, International Policy Digest, February 3, 2020.

U.S. Continues Targeting al-Shabab. On Tuesday the United States conducted another airstrike against al-Shabab militants in Somalia. Multiple strikes against al-Shabab compounds and targets also took place in January 2020. On average there are about 650 to 800 U.S. service personnel in Somalia at any given time. See “AFRICOM continues strikes targeting al-Shabab militants in Somalia”, Military Times, February 4, 2020.


Special Forces in the War on Terror, by Leigh Neville, Osprey Publishing (UK), 2015. The author takes readers inside the shadowy war of special operations. He reveals the remarkable results of these SOF warriors in the war against insurgents and terrorists. The book includes maps, combat diagrams, and full-color photographs. Purchase Special Forces in the War on Terror from the SOF News Book Shop.

Unconventional Warrior: Memoir of a Special Operations Commander in Afghanistan, by Walter Morris Herd, McFarland & Company: 2013. A retired SF colonel writes about his time as commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A). Purchase Unconventional Warrior: Memoir of a Special Operations Commander in Afghanistan from the SOF News Book Shop.



[1] Dan O’Shea is a former colleague of the SOF News editor; both having worked together as Counterinsurgency Advisors for the COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) for several years in Afghanistan.

[2] Apparently USSOCOM is striking out on its own in acquiring the aircraft that it needs for its SOF ground forces . . . not waiting on Big Air Force it seems.

Photo: CV-22 Osprey during Emerald Warrior 10-1 at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Michigan on Jan 21, 2020. Photo by Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

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