Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
ARSOF and Russian New Generation Warfare. Steve Ferenzi and Bryan Groves authored an informative article on Russian New Generation Warfare and the role of ARSOF. Read “Unconventional Deterrence in Europe: The Role of Army Special Operations in Competition Today”, Real Clear Defense, April 16, 2020.
SERE Airman Parachute Accident Report. An investigation revealed that a master parachutist applied a full brake input for ten seconds at almost 300 feet causing the canopy to stall and spin. The airman hit the ground hard sustaining blunt force injuries and death. (Air Force Times, April 14, 2020).
SOF Not ‘Elite’? A Special Tactics Officer has penned an opinion piece saying that US special operations forces are not ‘elite’, just ‘special’. Hmmm. Can’t say that I agree with him. Read his article in “US special operations forces are special – but they’re not ‘elite'”, Business Insider, April 16, 2020.
Brain Injury Study. A team from the Uniformed Services University is studying the effects of heavy weapons training (think Carl Gustav recoilless rifle) on brains. The study has been taking a long look (five years) at the effects on Navy SEALs. Read more in “Navy SEALs and Sub-Concussive Brain Injury”, MilitarySpot.com, April 15, 2020.
MaT Defections? A recent news report indicates that there have been some recent defections to the Syrian regime from the US SOF supported Syrian rebel group known as Maghawir al-Thawra. MaT is based in a small area of Syria on the Jordanian border referred to as al-Tanf – a garrison for US SOF. (The Defense Post, April 16, 2020).
New CCA contract. United States Marine, Inc. in Gulfport, MS has been awarded a $108 million contract to produce Combatant Craft Assault boats for Naval Special Warfare Command. (Navy Recognition, Apr 14, 2020).
ISOF, UW, and SOCEUR Update. The international special operations forces community in Europe has been extremely busy. While ISOF is engaged with violent extremist organizations around the world it is also contending with an aggressive Russia along NATO’s eastern borders. Andrew White provides a detailed description of ISOF and SOCEUR activities that are addressing this threat. Read more in “International Special Operations Forces Strategic Shift Toward State-on-State Unconventional Warfare”, Defense Media Network, April 15, 2020.
New Sub for Pakistan SOF. The new X-craft Submarine is supporting the Pakistan Navy SEALs. The small submarine is probably being used by the Pakistani Navy’s Special Service Group known as SSG (N). Read more in “Mystery Submarine In Service With Pakistan’s Navy SEALs”, Forbes.com, April 15, 2020.
SOF Support Vessel for Russian Navy? A new boat has been launched that could possibly be used for the transport of small-scale submarines for special operations. Read more in “Navy gets new vessel for secret underwater operations in Arctic”, The Barents Observer, April 14, 2020.
CANSOF Getting New Wheels. Canadian special operations forces will be getting some new vehicles to support their missions. Read more about the Next Generation Fighting Vehicles (NGFV) program for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command in “Supacat teams to develop new fighting vehicle for Canadian special forces”, Defence Blog, April 15, 2020.
SF and the Secret War in Laos. U.S. Army Special Forces teams conducted covert reconnaissance operations into Laos. Over the course of time these operations had a few names to include SHINING BRASS and later PRAIRIE FIRE. Read more in “Secret War: Laos – The Panhandle and the Ho Chi Minh Trail”, Soldier of Fortune Magazine, April 12, 2020.
1st Black Navy SEAL. William Goines was one of the 40 men chosen to be part of SEAL Team Two when it was formed up on the East Coast in 1962. Read more in “William Goines; America’s first black Navy SEAL”, Face to Face Africa, April 13, 2020.
Navy SEALs and Blue Jeans. Fashionistas may wonder why the Navy’s elite warriors wore ‘dungarees’ during the Vietnam conflict. It seems they were comfortable, didn’t make noise, and could be worn for days without washing. Read more in “Why Vietnam War Navy SEALs Loved to Wear Blue Jeans in the Field”, The National Interest, April 14, 2020.
Gia Vuc A-Camp Vietnam. A Special Forces medic has a website about a SF camp in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Just a little bit of SF history. A great historical documentation of US Special Forces involvement in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.
Wuhan Virus and the Military
Coronavirus and Disinformation. Not wanting to waste a good crisis, Russia, China, and other nations are using the COVID-19 pandemic to spread disinformation to further their goals. Read how DoD is countering this effort in “DOD Working to Eliminate Foreign Coronavirus Disinformation”, DOD News, April 13, 2020.
More COVID-19 News. The Department of Defense has extended the order to stop movement of personnel until the end of June. At least 44 veterans have died since late March at the Holyoke Soldier’s Home in Massachusetts. COVID-19 has spread throughout the facility. The military medical facilities at the Javits Center and USS Comfort are not exactly overwhelmed with patients so Army medical staff members are working in some of New York’s medical centers instead. The head of the Marines was insisting that all Marine barbershops remain open – SECDEF says he is going to get a phone call to change that.
USS Roosevelt Update. Captain Crozier may be getting his job back according to the U.S. Navy – but it is too soon to tell. Some news reports now say that the coronavirus was brought on his ship by naval air crew members not a port call to Vietnam. His email that caused all the drama was released. It was addressed to ten Navy officers – all admirals or captains (O6); not 20-30 people as former Acting Navy Secretary Modly stated. Three admirals in chain of command, of 7 captains CC’d, 5 were on the carrier. The other two were executive assistants for the two most senior admirals. Very limited distro. He closed his email with “I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career.”
Great Power Competition
Russia, Ukraine, and Cossacks. There are indications that Russia could be making another move in the Ukraine conflict. Read “Moscow Sets Up New ‘Cossack’ Paramilitary Units for Possible Use Against Ukraine”, by Paul Goble, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, April 9, 2020.
Conducting HUMINT in a COVID-19 Environment. To counter threats to national security the conduct of human intelligence operations must continue. However, given the coronavirus threat, HUMINT officers must consider using technology in news ways. Learn more in an article by Jason M. Blazakis entitled “Coronavirus social distancing presents special challenges to spies”, The Hill Opinion, April 2020.
DoD Service Member Teleworking? The coronavirus has forced many U.S. military members (and contractors) into their homes and relying on the internet to conduct their jobs remotely. The array of software applications can sometimes be daunting to learn. However, the Chinese have extended a helping hand in the spirit of mutual military cooperation to allow members of the U.S. military to use some of their internet platforms. These include PLAKO, SurfPanda, and others. Read more in “Teleworking? Here are four Chinese websites sure to improve your connections”, DuffelBlog, April 15, 2020.
LAF and Partner Nation Forces. The A-29 Super Tucano has been in service with the Afghan Air Force for several years. It is also sold to other nations around the world as well. The light attack aircraft is a much-needed material solution to the problem of providing affordable air support to ground forces in irregular operations. Read “Beyond Advice – Operationalizing the Light Attack Aircraft”, Over the Horizon, April 16, 2020.
How Not to Take a Fun Ride in a Fighter Jet. A 64-year-old civilian got more excitement than he wanted in a ‘fun ride’ in a Dassault Rafale B jet. See “Man accidentally ejects himself from fighter jet during surprise flight”, The Guardian, April 14, 2020.
Threats in Northeast Syria. The local population is struggling to find clean water simply for drinking and cooking – much less for hand washing. In addition, test kits to detect coronavirus infections are desperately needed. Turkey is once again threatening military strikes and a further invasion further into north and east Syria. They already occupy a large section of the Kurdish region of Syria and want more. The Turks hope that the United States is sufficiently distracted with the coronavirus pandemic. Read more by Lela Gilbert in “Coronavirus, Turkish attacks threaten Kurds, Christians in northeast Syria”, The Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2020.
Update on the Yemen Conflict. Ammar Al-Ashwal, a Yemeni journalist based in Beirut, provides a look at the current situation in Yemen. He points out that the Saudi coalition is now fractured and local groups are now looking to organize and position themselves for a new phase of the war. Regional actors are now assisting local proxies to exploit and carry out their agendas and protect their interests in Yemen. See “Where is the Yemen War Heading?”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 15, 2020.
SOF Units Last to Leave? US special operators are likely to make up the bulk of the small, scale-able CT force that the US will keep in Afghanistan as most of the US troops head home. Read “US special operations units will be the last line of defense in Afghanistan”, Business Insider, April 13, 2020.
Lake Chad Region. A recent news article describes the current security situation in the Lake Chad Basin area. Read “West Africa: Is Counter-Terrorism History Repeating Itself in Lake Chad Basin?”, AllAfrica, April 16, 2020.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Report – The Problem with Militias in Somalia. Vanda Felbab-Brown has penned a 48-page report about militias in Somalia. They provide security – augmenting government troops; yet they are also a source of insecurity. This study analyses the pros and cons of relying on militias for security provision and counter-terrorism objectives in Somalia. Paper done in conjunction with the United Nations University, 2020.
Infantry Magazine. The Spring 2020 issue is now posted online. Some infantry news, professional forum, training notes, book reviews, lessons from the past, and more. One interesting article is about a new POI to better prepare snipers for the modern fight.
Book – No Ordinary Dog: My Partner from the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid. Will Chesney decided to become a dog handler and he got teamed up with a dog named ‘Cairo’. You can read the story of Cairo in a new book. (New York Post,April 16, 2020).
Report – Countering Iran in the Gray Zone. Over the past several decades Iran has become highly proficient in using its surrogates and proxies across the Middle East as a tool to achieve its interests while avoiding direct conflict with the U.S. The United States could learn from Israel’s operations in Syria. By Ilan Goldenberg et al, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), PDF, Middle East Security, April 2020, 30 pages.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Movie in the Works – Alive Day. There will be a new movie coming out in a year or so that revolves around a secret special operations team operating in Iraq in 2003. (Deadline, Apr 13, 2020). See also this article. (Military.com, Apr 14, 2020).
Podcast – Cadre Surfhog (aka Sean). A one-hour long podcast by Glorious Professionals – GORUCK Cadre, April 2020. A 30-year veteran of Special Forces talks about his most recent deployment and bringing the “deployment mindset” to home quarantine. He talks about the importance of ‘flutter kicks’ in building character.
Video – Russia’s Top 5 Myths about NATO and COVID-19. The Russian info ops machine is in full gear trying to discredit NATO and spreading falsehoods about coronavirus. NATO has just published a video rebuking these allegations. (NATO, Apr 16, 2020, 2 mins)
Photo: Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve senior leaders use teleconference and drone technologies to implement social distancing precautions, protecting both Coalition and partner forces during the COVID-19 pandemic, while advising and enabling partner forces in their mission to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
(Photo by Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill, U.S. Air Force)