Special Operations News Update – Thursday, April 9, 2020

MH-60S Seahawk Helicopter

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

SOF News

New SOCEUR SEL. Navy Command Master Chief Peter Musselman has been selected to be the command senior enlisted leader for Special Operations Command – Europe in Stuttgart, Germany. He currently is the Naval Special Warfare Unit Two and SOC Forward – Southern Europe command master chief. He will replace CSM Bruce Holmes.

New SOCCENT SEL. DoD announced the Army CSM Michael Weimer – currently command SEL for NSOCC-A / SOJTF-A has been selected to replace CSM Robert Flournoy as the command SEL for SOCCENT.

Insurgent Uprising – a UW Wargame. Two military officers invented a board game to teach and reinforce unconventional warfare theory to U.S. Special Forces. The Naval Postgraduate School submitted a patent and it was approved on April 7, 2020. The game was made for Army Special Forces teams in hopes of countering the tendency – developed as part and parcel of the GWOT – to look at every situation as a nail, and direct action as the hammer. (TechLink, Apr 7, 2020).

USAF Jolly Green II. The HH-60W is the Air Force’s new combat search and rescue helicopter. It just completed a month-long trial at the McKinely Climatic Laboratory. Read “Jolly Green II taken to extremes”, DVIDS, April 7, 2020.

SOF History

Weapons of SOG Warriors. Major John L. Plaster, U.S. Army (Ret.) describes the various weapons used by the Studies and Observations Group during the Vietnam War. MACV-SOG ran top-secret, covert operations across Southeast Asia to include missions into North Vietnam. These SOG recon teams roamed behind enemy lines – and carried foreign firearms so that recon teams would be “sterile”. Read more in “Behind Enemy Lines: Guns of Vietnam’s SOG Warriors”, American Rifleman, April 7, 2020.

SF Branch. The U.S. Army established the Special Forces Branch on April 9, 1987.

COVID-19 and the Military

Recall To Active Duty? Retired soldiers can now volunteer to once again answer the call to military service in support of COVID19 response efforts. Needed are former active duty or reserve medical professionals who have been retired for less than 5 years. If you meet the requirements and want to return to duty you can fill out the voluntary recall survey at:

New Acting SECNAV. The USS Roosevelt drama may be behind us. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle were demanding the resignation of the Acting Secretary of the Navy. This was as a result of his address to the crew of the virus-stricken USS Roosevelt after he fired its Captain. (read the transcript here). During his address aboard the aircraft carrier he accused the Captain of being stupid and rebuked the crew for their loyalty to him. The trip cost the taxpayers $243,000 (at $6,946.19 per flight hour). According to the Navy the trip round-trip flight on the C-37B Gulfstream took some 35 hours. He spent 30 minutes on the aircraft carrier and spoke on the loudspeaker for 15 minutes.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Modly resigned on Tuesday, April 7th – departing with a last shout out to the Navy with a rambling final message to the fleet. Modly had been appointed after Trump had fired then-Secretary Richard Spencer over his handling of the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson will fill in until Trump’s nominee, retired Rear Admiral Kenneth Braithwaite is confirmed by the Senate. SECDEF Esper provided a statement on the resignation.

DoD COVID-19 Update. As of April 6, 2020 there were 2,528 cases, 110 who are hospitalized, 176 who have recovered, and six who have died. (Note: there are conflicting numbers put out by DoD). A crew member on the Comfort has tested positive for coronavirus. The Army is not sending any more recruits to basic training for a while. The Navy has opened the USNS Comfort and the DoD run care facility at the Javits Center to COVID-19 cases. In related news a sailor about the U.S. aircraft carrier Nimitz has tested positive for coronavirus – making it the 4th carrier with the virus.

IG Report on Hospital Experiences. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has issued a 41-page report detailing the experiences of hospitals responding to the coronavirus. The key takeaway is that the biggest challenges are testing and caring for patients, keeping staff safe, capacity to treat patients, and the need for personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, staffing, and supplies.

National Security

Trump Fires Lead Pentagon IG. The official who had been leading the office of the inspector general for the Pentagon has been removed from that role. He was going to be the independent watchdog monitoring funds for the coronavirus fight. The office is responsible for producing independent reports about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – that many times included information a bit unfavorable to the narrative the administration would like to advance. It is viewed by many national security observers that the Trump admin does not want an ‘independent’ accounting of the expenditure of funds for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. (New York Times, April 7, 2020).

Trump recently removed the intelligence community inspector general as well. Still on the job is the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General – an office that recently released a report detailing server supply shortages at hospitals needed to fight the coronavirus. The countdown begins.

New Counterdrug Operation. The president announced that Navy ships, elements of an Army Security Force Assistance Brigade, and SOF units will be deployed to support a renewed CD effort. See “US Announces New Counterdrug Operation in Latin America and the Caribbean”, Dialogo-Americas.com, April 6, 2020.

Joint Civ-Mil Interaction. Thomas Matyok and Srecko Zajc have provided their views on the need for an enhanced understanding of joint civil-military interaction. (Small Wars Journal, Apr 9, 2020).

Barrett M-82A1. Melvin Ewing writes on the Barrett as a sniper weapon at snipercentral.com. (Apr 6, 2020).

New Senior WO Advisor to Army. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Yolandria Dixon-Carter has been named the senior warrant officer adviser to the chief of staff of the Army. “New Senior Warrant Officer Adviser Named”, Association of the United States Army, April 8, 2020.

Great Power Competition

Countering the Chinese Navy – Using Privateers. An interesting concept is floated by Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz – the issue of letters of marque to fight Chinese aggression at sea. Privateering could offer a low-cost tool to enhance deterrence in peacetime and gain advantage in wartime. Read “Unleash the Privateers!“, Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, April 2020.

U.S. China Containment Policy. Irfan Mahar says that “. . . both Washington and Beijing have contending worldviews which lead them to the divergence of opinions concerning security interests in South Asia.” Read “U.S. Containment Policy towards China: Threats to Security in South Asia“, Modern Diplomacy, April 8, 2020. This is certainly a different perspective – one coming from Islamabad.

GPC and Arctic Security. Dr. Ryan Burke, a non-resident fellow at the Modern War Institute, argues that the United States cannot afford to dismiss Russian Arctic advancement and aggression as routine. He believes it may prove to be a grave miscalculation. He writes that the Arctic is a twenty-first century battlespace and the region most closely linked to the security of the US homeland. Read “Great-Power Competition in the “Snow of Far-Off Northern Lands”: Why We Need a New Approach to Arctic Security”, Modern War Institute at West Point, April 8, 2020.


China and Afghanistan. With the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in motion one of Afghanistan’s bigger neighbors is assessing its future role in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Read “China’s Strategic Assessment of Afghanistan”, by Yun Sun, War on the Rocks, April 8, 2020.

SFA Lessons Learned from Afghanistan. Dan Grazier provides a lengthy and accurate read on the institutionalization of lessons learned during Afghanistan. He examines one of the major efforts of the U.S. in Afghanistan – the complicated mission of security force assistance. His article is a very detailed examination of security force assistance in Afghanistan. Read “Preventing Train and Defeat in Future Conflicts”, POGO, by Dan Grazier, April 8, 2020.

Central Asia Nervous About US Withdrawal. The Central Asia nations of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan all share borders with Afghanistan. They are particularly concerned whether the planned withdrawal of US-led coalition forces will lead to security threats for the post-Soviet republics. (The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, April 8, 2020).

Rockets Fired at US Base. ISIS claim responsibility for a rocket attack on Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan early Thursday. The five rockets launched at the base did not cause any injuries according to US military sources.

Middle East

Iraq Review by U.S. The United States has been vacating a number of large and small bases throughout Iraq. This is a major adjustment to the force disposition. In addition the U.S. will begin a strategic dialogue with the Iraqi government to determine the future role of the U.S. in Iraq – likely to occur in the June time frame. Read more in “US to review troop presence in Iraq”, Financial Times, April 7, 2020.

Iran – US Confrontation in Iraq. Another round of confrontations may be in the near future in Iraq. Rocket attacks by Iranian-backed militia groups are driving the escalation. Iran is using the Popular Mobilization Forces to attack U.S. interests, bases, and personnel. Tehran is seeking military leverage and Washington wants to capitalize on overlapping crises. Read “The U.S. and Iran Inch Toward Confrontation in Iraq”, by Hussein Ibish, Bloomberg Opinion, April 7, 2020.

Books, Reports, and Pubs

Tip of the Spear. The February 2020 issue of USSOCOM’s monthly journal is now available online.

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Video. A 5th Special Forces Group element conducted a 500 mile long range desert movement – using weapons systems along the way.
(DVIDS, 7 Apr 2020, 2 mins)

Video – The Caravan: Abdallah Azzam and the Rise of Global Jihad. An interview of and presentation by Thomas Hegghammer about his new book The Caravan. He discusses his book about the Palestinian cleric who led the mobilization of Arab fighters to Afghanistan in the 1980s, played a crucial role in the internationalization of the jihadi movement, and (now dead) remains one of the most influential jihadi ideologues of all time. Peter Bergen moderates.
(New America, April 6, 2020, 1 hr 20 mins)

Podcast – Dr. Richard Angel (SF). A former Special Forces Medic (18D) form 7th SFG(A) turned Emergency Room Doctor is just coming out of his battle with COVID-19. Hear his story on a podcast by the Glorious Professionals of GoRuck. He talks about his symptoms and recovery. In addition, he provides advise on how you can prepare you body to fight the infection, some home care regimens, and helpful items to have on hand. (April 8, 2020, 53 minutes).

Podcast – The U.S. Army in the 20th Century: An Interview with Brian Linn. A professor of of History at Texas A&M University and historian of the U.S. Army talks about his career, his books, and the state of the U.S. Army today.
(War Room, Army War College, April 7, 2020, 34 minutes)


Photo: ANDAMAN SEA (March 31, 2020) Naval Aircrewman 2nd Class David Quadra, assigned to the Wildcards of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, lowers a harness to a simulated casualty from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during a search and rescue exercise, March 31, 2020. HSC-23 is embarked aboard the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10). Gabrielle Giffords, part of Destroyer Squadron Seven, is on a rotational deployment, operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brenton Poyser/Released). The Andaman Sea is in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Thailand.

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