Special Operations News Update – Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Spartan Paratroopers Descend Into Winter Wonderland

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

Coronavirus and the Military

Lots of stories about how the military is reacting to the Wuhan virus. Below are a couple of stories about the good and bad reactions.

DoD has issued guidance on the use of face masks to help slow the spread of the virus. It is encouraging the use of make-it-yourself masks if a proper mask is not available. The two Navy medical hospital ships were supposed to be used for trauma patients to relieve the burden of big city hospitals. But with the drop in vehicular traffic and outside activities there have been a drastic decrease in hospital visits for trauma patients. The Navy is now accepting coronavirus patients.

SF NG Officer and Congressman Now in Uniform. Congressman (and Colonel) Mike Waltz is now wearing a uniform and serving on the front lines of the coronavirus battle. A former Special Forces officer he served in Afghanistan as an ODA and AOB commander. (Roll Call, Apr 4, 2020).

COVID-19 and the Spies. How are the U.S. intelligence agencies coping with their function during a pandemic? Find out more. (Foreign Policy, Apr 3, 2020).

A Little Info about COVID-19 Statistics. The current goal of health authorities is to test in order to allocate scarce medical to the patients who most need it. Rather than to create a comprehensive dataset for epidemiologist and statisticians to study. Read “Coronavirus Case Counts Are Meaningless”, Five Thirty Eight, April 4, 2020.

Will the Military be Needed for Police Duties? As of early April 15% of the NYC police force is sick and absentee rates are high in other areas as well. National Guard personnel should be training up now. Read more in “We should prepare now to send U.S. armed forces to help police in hard-hit areas”, Brookings Institute, April 4, 2020.

Navy Captain Crozier Drama Continues. The aircraft carrier commander who raised the alarm over a coronavirus on his ship will not be discharged from the Navy; but will be reassigned. He has also tested positive for the Wuhan virus.

In related news, Acting Secretary of the Navy decided to travel 7,920 miles to Guam to visit the USS Roosevelt on Monday. So a ship struggling with a coronavirus outbreak has to contend with a VIP visit. But wait – in a hold my beer moment Modly decides in his address to the crew over the ships loudspeaker to call Captain Crozier “too naive or too stupid”. Of all the news reports on the incident Kevin Baron at Defense One seemed to sum up this mess the best. You can listen to Modly’s 15 minute speech here.

After returning from Guam Modly posted a letter on a Navy website responding to Teddy Roosevelt’s great grandson who had wrote an opinion piece of the issue in the New York Times. It will be interesting if the link still works over the next 24 hours. And there’s more. On Monday evening he issued an apology . . . of sorts.

Apparently President Trump is going to intervene in the case – says the Captain just “had a bad day”. This could get interesting.

Overheard in the Pentagon:
SECDEF: “Surely this week will be better than the last.”
SECNAV: “One ticket to Guam please.”

SGM of USMC Denies Haircut Addiction. He said to the press during a heated exchange that he realizes the danger of coronavirus and says he can quit getting a haircut whenever he wants. (DuffelBlog, Apr 5, 2020).

SOF News

New 10th SFGA CSM. Command Sergeant Major Larry White has returned to the “Originals” as the senior enlisted advisor.

Annual SOFIC Conference to Be Virtual. The National Defense Industrial Association’s annual special Operations Forces Industry Conference will be held in May as scheduled. But instead at Tampa in will be held over the internet. SOFIC is now vSOFIC.

SOF Units Modify Training. The coronavirus pandemic has forced special operations units to improvise in their training and selection. (Business Insider, Apr 6, 2020).

SWC Instructors See Silver Lining. Language lab is now done remotely with students now conducting training online. The SOF community has been doing some of its language training online since 2003 using the Special Operations Forces Teletraining System (SOFTS). There are a myriad of other types of training that can also be conducted via SOFTS. The online training vehicle was established by the USSOCOM language office.

Field training is continuing but now really in the field. Classes are held not in classrooms but living in the woodline and sleeping in patrol bases. Going rural is how SWC students will maintain their social distance. Looks like there is no need to update those PowerPoint slides. See “Special Forces instructors see a silver lining in COVID-19 response”, Connecting Vets.com, April 6, 2020.

First USAF with Ranger Tab Has Words of Advice. Chelsey Hibsch, the first woman in the United States Air Force to complete Ranger School says “Don’t Be Afraid to Succeed”, The Epoch Times, April 6, 2020.

7th SFGA Helps Repatriate U.S. Citizens. Members of the 7th Special Forces Group were involved in several recent flights bringing U.S. citizens home from foreign countries who had been stranded due to coronavirus. (The Destin Log, Apr 3, 2020).

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International SOF

Task Force Tabuka. Denmark will be providing EH101s for the special operations task force led by France in the Sahel. The medium-lift helicopter is used by several European countries. Task Force Tabuka was established on March 27, 2020.

Indian Army Commandos Killed. A total of five Indian soldiers from the elite Para-SF have been killed when foiling an infiltration attempt into Jammu and Kashmir. A big setback for the para commandos. The EurAsian Times, April 6, 2020.

Great Power Competition

Force Planning in an Era of GPC. Jacob Heim provides a perspective on how to use new analytical frameworks to reassess what force development looks like in today’s new world of global competition. Read “Force Planning in the New Era of Strategic Competition”, RAND Corporation, March 28, 2020.

Chinese Propaganda and the American Media. Nicholas guy, an SF NCO who served with 5th and 19th Groups, says that journalists are so mad at President Trump that they’ll publish anything to hurt him. Read more in “America Media Is Amplifying Chinese Propaganda”, Human Events, April 6, 2020.

Middle East

Iraq Update. Iran is continuing its efforts to force the U.S. to withdraw from the Middle East. It is working on the political front to move the Iraqi parliament into a more defiant stance towards the U.S. Meanwhile the U.S. has completed its closure compounds on three major Iraqi bases and several smaller camps. In addition, the U.S. handed over al-Taqaddum Air Base to Iraqi forces on Saturday. Official statements say that the base transfers “. . . are a result of success against ISIS” and are not related to recent attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups or COVID-19. Several European countries have recalled their troops home (temporarily?) or re-positioned them in Kuwait.

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Air Base 101 – Some Mismanagement. A very expensive air base established in Niger had some mismanagement problems. The construction of the $100 million drone base was delayed for years due to construction problems. The construction project was the topic of a recent report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General report published on April 2, 2020.


Faulty Afghan Peace Agreement Will Lead to More Humiliation. “The U.S. willingness to accept a flawed ‘peace’ deal with the Taliban has convinced Taliban sponsors within Pakistan’s military and all-powerful intelligence service . . .” that Pakistan can gratuitously humiliate the United States . . .” Read more in “Pakistan Is Showing U.S. Enemies How to Defeat America”, The National Interest, April 3, 2020.

$1B Penalty to Hurt ANDSF. The $1 billion cut in U.S. aid to Afghanistan announced by Secretary of State Pompeo after a recent visit to Kabul will undercut the effectiveness of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. The measure is intended to force President Ghani and former CEO Abdullah to come to a compromise agreement for governance and to take part in the peace negotiations with the Taliban. The money will come from a $4.2 billion Pentagon fund that is about 3/4s of the Afghan security forces annual budget. (Reuters, Apr 5, 2020).

COVID-19 and Afghanistan. As of April 3rd Afghanistan has a few hundred confirmed cases of coronavirus and six deaths. Most are in the province of Herat bordering on Iran. It is very likely the number of cases are under-reported. Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, tells us what to watch out for in the days ahead. Read “COVID-19 in Afghanistan”, FDD Policy Brief, April 3, 2020.

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Books, Reports, and Pubs

The Elite. Mark Corby reviews a book published in October 2019 by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. It covers the elite units from the Persian Immortals of the 6th century BC to the modern day. (Military History, Apr 2, 2020).

IC Working in Unclassified Facilities. The coronavirus is reshaping how the intelligence community is working – some personnel remotely and others in open work areas instead of closed self contained areas. Read a 72-page report entitled Moving to the Unclassified: How the Intelligence Community Can Work from Unclassified Facilities, Rand Corporation, April 2018, 72-pages, PDF.

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Video – Maintaining Fitness. COVID-19 has changed how people access many things. The gyms are included in that. The USASOC command team and senior leaders show you how you can stay fit to fight without a gym. (USASOC PAO, Apr 2, 2020, 10 mins)

Video – First Battle of Fallujah. April 2020 marks 16 years since the First Battle of Fallujah in Iraq. Also known as Vigilant Resolve, the operation was the largest combat mission since the declaration of the end of ‘major hostilities’. (USMC, DVIDS, Apr 4, 2020).

Podcast – Acting SECNAV Modley Addressing USS Roosevelt. SoundCloud, April 6, 2020. Listen to his 15-minute address to the crew.

Video – COVID-19 Social Distancing Options. The Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve provides some options for greeting. (SOJTF-OIR, Apr 3, 2020, 30 secs).


Photo: Paratroopers assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, conduct a parachute jump on Malemute drop zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 11, 2019. The Soldiers are part of the Army’s only Pacific airborne brigade with the ability to rapidly deploy worldwide, and are trained to conduct military operations in austere conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher).

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