Special Operations News Update – Monday, April 13, 2020

SOCOM students FTX

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

SOF News

Women in SOF. Emma Moore, a Research Associate at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) wrote a paper entitled “Women in Combat: Five-Year Status Update”, CNAS, March 31, 2020. The article begins with a description of women integration into the four branches (Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force). About half-way through Moore goes into detail on the advances (or not) made in SOF with integrating women into the combat fields and SOF units. The article seems to be a fairly accurate – for the most part. She says that the progress in SOF has been largely unsuccessful due to cultural and mental barriers in organizations that are bastions “. . . of male-dominated hyper-masculinity”.

McCrystal on Leadership. Stanley McCrystal, a retired four-star general and former ISAF and JSOC commander, comments on the type of leadership that the nation needs. (CBS News, Apr 12, 2020).

International SOF

Embedded with French Foreign Legion. Ruth Mclean spent some time with one of France’s elite units in Mali. She was with the French Foreign Legion during their conduct of operations against jihadists as part of Operation Barkhane. Read “On the Road with the French Foreign Legion”, The New York Times, April 12, 2020.

Mark V SOC Boats for Greek DYK. Greece’s Hellenic Navy took delivery of four Special Operations Craft (SOC) from the United States on April 6, 2020. The vessels will be used by the Hellenic Navy’s elite special warfare unit, the Underwater Demolition Command (DYK). The Mark V SOC was introduced into the service of the US Navy for use by the U.S. Navy SEALs in 1995. (DEFPOST, Apr 11, 2020).

COVID-19 and the Military

USS Roosevelt. The number of confirmed COVID19 cases on the aircraft carrier is now at 550. It has moved about 3,600 sailors ashore on Guam leaving about 1,200 on the ship. Reports indicate that morale on the ship is low. The Navy reports that a sailor hospitalized in Guam has died of coronavirus. The sailor was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Navy hospital on April 9th and died on Monday, the 13th.

More on COVID19. US intelligence agencies are told to be flexible with contractors during coronavirus. The Air Force evacuated 3 government contractors with coronavirus from Afghanistan. They were transported on a C-17 in a Transport Isolation System designed during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. They will receive treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

National Security

More Missions for RQ-170. A drone that has been in existence for several years but which very little is known about appears to be picking up more uses. Read “The Air Force is Adding Missions For Its RQ-170 Sentinel Spy Drone”, The National Interest, April 12, 2020.

Paper – India / US CT. Two authors collaborate on a 34-page paper that offers recommendations to unite the US and Indian views on a new CT consensus in the Indo-Pacific region. Read “Towards an India-US Consensus on Counterterrorism Cooperation,” ORF Occasional Paper No. 240, April 2020, Observer Research Foundation, PDF.

4 Types of Narco Subs. As part of the Enhanced Counter-Narcotic Operations in the eastern Pacific and Caribbean illegal drug shipments are being seized. Some of these drugs are transported in hybrid vessels. Read more in “The 4 Types of Narco Submarines the Military Faces”, Forbes.com, April 12, 2020.


Military Backing Up the Police. A policy paper argues that the military may be needed to backstop and backfill certain police forces. As of mid April 15% of the New York Police Department has reported sick due to COVID-19, self-quarantining measures, and other ailments. Other large cities are experiencing the same effect on their police forces. This paper recommends conducting the training now to be prepared for the near future. Read The Military, Policing, and COVID-19, by John Allen (Gen Ret), John Donoghue, Rick Fuentes, Paul Goldenberg, and Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institute, April 2020, 9 pages.

Information Warfare and the Media. In a long but interesting article Irina Tsukerman provides her perspective on the state of the media, how authoritarian regimes use information warfare, and what needs to be done to help media find its way towards it true purpose. Read “Will Today’s Media Win or Lose Information Warfare for the West?”, Small Wars Journal, April 12, 2020.

Great Power Competition

China – an Adversarial Great Power. The Chinese regime is a strategic adversary. To compete, we need allies, regardless of their culture or values, including those with very similar culture to the Chinese. Sumantra Maitra, a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK, expounds upon this in “China is an Adversarial Great Power, Not a Civilizational Rival”, The Federalist, April 10, 2020.

Central Asia and GPC. The nations in the Central Asia region are caught between two large resurgent empires: China and Russia. In addition, Afghanistan lies to the south. Living in a dangerous neighborhood, these nations try to strike a balance between the superpowers of the world. Read more in an article by Stephen Blank entitled “Strengthening Central Asian Security”, Real Clear Defense, April 11, 2020.

Middle East

No Ceasefire in Yemen. Saudi Arabia recently declared a ceasefire in Yemen due to the coronavirus pandemic (and its desire to extricate itself from the confict). The Yemen Houthi rebels are not receptive to the ceasefire. They call it political and media maneuvering. (The Defense Post, Apr 9, 2020).

Time to Hit the Iranian Proxy Groups? One commentator believes we should not be in the retaliation business. Rather we should strike out against militia groups supported by Iran first. Our strategy should be two-fold: using our financial might and certain components of our military. Financial pressure needs to be maintained that prevents Iranian front companies and IRGC surrogates the ability to operate, move cash, and cause death and destruction. In addition, we should use our strengths – naval and air power, SOF, and intelligence to dismantle the Iranian proxy networks. Read more in “Now Is The Time to Shatter Iran’s Proxy Forces”, Real Clear Defense, by Charles S. Faddis, April 13, 2020.

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Video – IVAS Goggles. A new technology offers capabilities that troops need to regain and maintain over-match in multi-domain operations on battlefields that are becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. Soldiers are testing a new set of goggles at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Watch “Integrated Visual Augmentation System Soldier Touchpoints”, The U.S. Army, YouTube, April 9, 2020, 2 mins.


Photo: Students in the Special Operations Combat Medic Course (SOCOM) at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School drag a simulated patient to safety during field training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina March 24, 2020. Enlisted service members who complete the SOCOM course specialize in trauma management, infectious diseases, cardiac life support and surgical procedures and qualify as highly trained combat medics with the skills necessary to provide initial medical and trauma care and to sustain a casualty for up to 72 hours.
(U.S. Army photo illustration by K. Kassens)

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