Special Operations News Update – Saturday, April 4, 2020

HH-60G Pave Hawk GAU-18 Machine Gun

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

SOF and Coronavirus

There are thousands of articles posted online each day about coronavirus. About 40 of these are about what the military is doing or not doing about COVID-19. Below are a few of the more interesting articles about SOF and coronavirus. Plus some stories about the military in general and the Wuhan virus.

US SOF Withdraws From Around the World. The coronavirus pandemic has forced some drastic action on the part of the U.S. military. One of these is the withdrawal of special operations troops from some conflict zones and the shuttering of longstanding missions. The directive to redeploy will help reduce the strain on a small but often-deployed portion of the U.S. military and to contend with the risk of operating alongside local forces in countries flooded with coronavirus. Read “U.S. Commanders Cite Pandemic as They Pull Back Elite Units Around the World”, The New York Times, April 3, 2020.

COVID-19: Rumor Control. Rumors can easily circulate within communities during a crisis but there are some trusted sources of information to go to. Coronavirus: Rumor Control, U.S. Department of Defense, March 31, 2020. (I mean, yes, there is a certain DoD spin, but still useful).

1st SFGA Making Face Masks. Medical professionals, logisticians, and riggers stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are manufacturing personal protective equipment for the COVID-19 pandemic. The equipment includes respirator masks, face shields, and surgical masks for Madigan Army Medical Center and its regional partners. (Army.mil, Apr 2, 2020).

Marine Raiders: Adjusting Training. The Marine Corps elite special operations unit headquartered in North Carolina is being forced to adjust training to comply with state, defense, and federal health guidelines. Read “Marine Raiders adjust training, add online courses to weather COVID-19”, Marine Corps Times, April 2, 2020. (USAF, Apr 1, 2020).

Air Force Relaxes a Bit. The fly boys – on a temporary basis – have relaxed grooming and fitness guidance. Common sense prevails?

Navy Carrier Captain Fired. The Captain of a carrier with over 4,000 sailors aboard – many infected with COVID-19 – sent up a distress call on Sunday night (Mar 29th) for help. He wanted his sailors put ashore to alleviate crowded conditions, the spread of coronavirus, and to avert deaths aboard his ship. When his ship initially docked at Guam after a deployment in the Philippine and South China Seas the Acting Secretary of the Navy said nobody would be allowed to leave the ship “except on the pier.” His sailors finally got rooms in hotels in Guam (onshore quarantine) and by Thursday, of course, the Captain got fired. As he departed the USS Theodore Roosevelt for the last time the Captain was cheered by the crew.

Future reports on social media from a certain segment of the political world will likely reveal that the Captain was a chow thief during the mountain phase of Ranger school. There are some national security observers speculating that the firing took place because there were no recent violations of the fraternization policy. Can the Navy really afford to be firing Captains who DON’T ram other ships? In other news, the Navy is still conducting urinalysis exams – because, you know . . . national security overrides the welfare of the sailors.

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our Sailors.”

Captain Brett Crozier, former Captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

National Guard’s Role. Dennis Bittle, a member of the Mississippi National Guard, provides a description of the NG’s role in the battle against the Wuhan virus. Read “The Military and the Pandemic: An Explainer of the National Guard’s Role in the COVID-19 Response”, Modern War Institute, March 31, 2020.

More U.S. Military and Coronavirus News. Over 540 additional troops will deploy to the U.S. – Mexico border over COVID-19 concerns. The Pentagon confirms it has been asked to provide 100,000 body bags to FEMA. Morale is dipping in the Army for various reasons associated with the Wuhan virus.

SOF News

Disbanding CRF’s? This article says that U.S. SOCOM has ordered the disbanding of the five Crisis Response Force companies of U.S. Army Special Forces. The article may or may not be entirely correct. Read “Special Operations: Evolution in Action”, Strategy Page, April 2, 2020.

Armed Overwatch Demo. The US Special Operations Command will conduct a flight demonstration of light-attack aircraft prototypes in November 2020. The result may be the award of a production contract for 75 aircraft to be delivered over several years. (FlightGlobal.com, Apr 2, 2020).

PT and Preparing for Selection. Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and fitness author, provides advice to those seeking to enter the selection process of the U.S. military’s elite units. (Military.com, Apr 3, 2020).

“Medical Consequences of Diving”. The Department of Veterans Affairs published a letter that provides information on the disabilities that may result from diving. The intent of the memo is to ensure that VA decision makers are informed of the medical consequences of diving so that claims from veterans who were divers in service are properly developed and adjudicated. Read or download “Medical Consequences of Diving”, Department of Veterans Affairs, Training Letter 07-04, July 5, 2007, (pdf, 11 pages). Thanks to the Combat Diver Foundation for alerting us to this letter.

Release of CivTAK4.0.1. The public version of ATAK (used by SOF tactical teams for comms and situational awareness) is now available. Read “CivTAK4.0.1 Has Been Released & Its AWESOME”, CivTAK, March 31, 2020.

Long Tab Brewing

International SOF

Lithuanian SOF. The Lithuanian Special Operations Forces are celebrating the12th anniversary of becoming the fourth branch of the Lithuanian Army.

National Security

Casualty in Iraq Identified. The Department of Defense announced the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. SFC John Hilty, age 44, of Bowie, Maryland died on Monday, March 30, 2020 in Erbil, Iraq from a non-combat related incident. He was a member of the 227th Aviation Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. (DoD, Apr 1, 2020).

US Hostage Families Slighted? Is the government supporting US hostage families? The families say more can be done. (Federal Times, Apr 2, 2020).

New USMC Body Armor. The Marine Corps is fielding a next-generation protective vest – Plate Carrier Generation III. (DVIDS, Apr 2, 2020).

SPMAGTF-SC to Deploy. The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force -Southern Command was activated at Camp Lejeune on March 30, 2020. The unit wil be under the command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South and deploy into the Southern Command area of operations to provide crisis response preparedness efforts, security cooperation training and engineering events, and more. The intent is to help strengthen relations with partner nations throughout Central and South America.

Blacksmith Publishing

Middle East

Canada Pulls Out. In a temporary measure Canada has pulled its military trainers out of Iraq as the pandemic spreads. They have redeployed to Kuwait. A lack of Iraqi troops to to train, attacks launched on U.S.-led coalition forces in recent weeks by Iran’s proxy militias, and the coronavirus have been factors in the repositioning of troops. Canada also has troops deployed to Ukraine and Latvia.(CBC.ca, Apr 2, 2020).

Books, Reports, and Pubs

WMD and Non-State actors. Major Stephen Hummel and Colonel John Burpo have collaborated on a 36-page report that details the impact of emerging technologies on WMD development and terrorists’ capabilities. See Small Groups, Big Weapons: The Nexus of Emerging Technologies and Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, April 2, 2020.

Guest Writers for SOF News

Videos, Games, and Movies

Video – ATAK Map. Watch a promotional video about a civilian version of the Android Team Awareness Kit. This is an Android smartphone geospatial infrastructure and military situational awaremenss app. As of 019 ATAK had an estimated 175,000 military and civilian users. ATAK is heavily used by U.S. SOF. Watch a video about the civilian version. (2017, 3 mins).

Video – 352d SOW Airborne Operations. Watch U.S. Air Force special tactics operators based at RAF Mildenhall, UK execute military freefall jumps. (DVIDS, 25 Mar 2020, 1 min).


Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keon Miller, special mission aviator assigned to the 33rd Rescue Squadron, fires a GAU-18 machine gun aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk, July 31, 2019, out of Kadena Air Base, Japan. The HH-60G Pave Hawk’s primary function is to recover personnel in hostile conditions day and night, no matter the weather. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cynthia Belío)

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