Special Operations News Update – Monday, April 27, 2020

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

SOF News

SOF Funding Cuts. U.S. Special Operations Command will see a little less money in the future. Some procurement accounts are being trimmed. Read “Special Ops Command Faces Funding Cuts”, National Defense, April 23, 2020.

Is the Special Forces Dive Program in Trouble? A recent article says the Army has a growing problem with its Special Forces combat dive teams. (Business Insider, Apr 24, 2020).

Character in ‘Call of Duty’ Modeled after GB. Tu Lam can now add ‘video game character’ to his resume. The retired Special Forces Master Sergeant was used to create a character in a popular video game. Read “Meet the real life Green Beret that ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ turned into a playable character”, Task & Purpose, April 22, 2020.

AC-130s Going Boat Hunting? Apparently the Air Force’s aerial gunships will be ready to engage maritime targets in the Gulf region. (Stars and Stripes, Apr 25, 2020).

SOWF 40th Birthday. A promise made to 17 American children on April 24, 1980 has been kept. 40 years ago 8 special operations forces personnel died in a daring rescue mission in Iran – Operation Eagle Claw. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation was established to provide academic funding for the surviving children. since that time more than 890 surviving children of special operations warriors have been assisted.

CA Busy in Jordan. A U.S. Civil Affairs team in Jordan partnered with the Jordanian Civil Military Coordination Center (CMCC) for the distribution of clothing in February 2020. Read “Jordan Civil Affairs team leads a partnered effort to keep kids warm”, DVIDS SOCCENT, April 24, 2020.

Hollywood Actor with a ‘SOF’ Flavor. Max Martini has played a lot of military action roles – to include as a member of The Unit. His newest film is about a Marine veteran coping with civilian life. He is a troubled Iraq War veteran struggling to reintegrate into society. Sgt. Will Gardner is now available on Amazon Prime (watch the trailer). Read more about the movie in “Actor / Director Max Martini on bringing the military to the big screen”, Sandboxx Blog, April 24, 2020.

Rucking for Raiders. The COVID-19 pandemic is having a big effect across all aspects of American society. One area affected are fund-raising events for veterans and their families. As a result some modifications are made. Read about how the “4th Annual Rucking for Raiders Memorial March” is going virtual. (Marine Raider Foundation, Apr 24, 2020).

International SOF

SAS Selection. The Special Air Service has one of the most arduous and rigorous selection and training programs in the modern special operations community. Cross country ruck marches, jungle treks, and mountain climbing are just some of the challenges. Read “This Is What Makes SAS Selection the Toughest in the World”, Military.com, April 24, 2020.

Irish SOF Contingent Returning from Mali Mission. The Army Ranger Wing personnel who were deployed to Africa are heading back to Ireland by the end of April. The UN has asked the nation to extend the deployment but their mission will soon end. Fourteen personnel were in Mali as part of the United Nations stabilization mission. Replacement personnel are on hand to resume the mission. (The Irish Times, Apr 20, 2020).

COVID-19 and the Military

Captain Crozier Cleared. A Navy investigated has cleared the Captain of the USS Roosevelt – a Navy aircraft carrier – and has recommended that he be reinstated. The final decision rests with Secretary of Defense Esper . . . unless, of course, an errant tweet gets posted first. There’s always that.

USS Comfort to Leave NYC. Governor Cuomo says the hospital ship is no longer needed. It treated just 179 patients in three weeks. There are still some 50 patients onboard. The ship may be moved to another area that is hard hit with the virus. The Javits Convention Center’s makeshift hospital is still operational and has seen many more patients. (Task & Purpose, Apr 22, 2020).

West Point Graduation. Army cadets who have completed their senior year are now at their respective homes awaiting posting to their future schools. The military campus on the Hudson River has been closed for several weeks. The cadets had been released during spring break and never returned to campus; instead completing their classes online. The Army planned on having a virtual commencement with Vice President Mike Pence as its speaker. However, President Trump wants to address their commencement so the more than 1,000 cadets apparently will be part of a nation-wide recall to West Point for the event. It should be a wonderful close-quarters canine and equine photo op. Hopefully, as they travel to West Point from their homes across the country they wear their face masks. Could be helpful while flying in airplanes and traveling through NYC’s airports. New York is the nation’s number one coronavirus hotspot with over 260,000 confirmed cases and over 16,000 deaths.

City Flyovers. The Navy and Air Force wants us to know that they care during the hard times of the pandemic – so they will be doing some flyovers over major cities by the Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds the next few weeks. Those loud noises you hear are not meant to scare you – they are to provide a feeling of reassurance.

Military News

Unit Rotations. The Army has announced deployments for seven brigades over the next several months. Some are heading to Europe, the Middle East, or Afghanistan. (Army Times, Apr 24, 2020).

  • 1st Cav Division HQs to Europe
  • 101st Airborne Division Combat Aviation Brigade to Europe
  • 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) to Afghanistan
  • 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn Div to Iraq and Syria
  • 4th Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade to Afghanistan
  • 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Div to Kuwait
  • 2nd Armored BCT, 3rd Inf Div to Europe

New Undersecretary of Defense for Policy. A retired one-star general has been selected to head up the policy shop at DoD. He is a writer (several action novels), a Fox News contributor, and a Trump loyalist. He will replace John Rood who was pushed out of the position in February. Anthony Tata retired from the Army in 2008. He served with the 10th Mountain Division, CTF 76 (Afghanistan), and the JIEDDO. ASD SO/LIC comes under the policy section at DoD. His confirmation by the Senate is far from assured. (Defense News, Apr 24, 2020).

Army to Begin Training Again. Large scale training events and exercises were drastically scaled back by the U.S. Army. But preparations are being made to restart the training – and special precautions will be in place. (Military.com, Apr 24, 2020).

Great Power Competition

GPC, Winning, and the NE Patriots. LTC Bryan Groves – PhD, Army strategist, and SF officer – is the director of the USASOC G5 Strategic Planning Division. In a recent article he compares how the New England Patriots manage to stay on top in a football league that is based on parity. He says that, like the NFL, the international system is set up for parity. He wonders if the U.S. will be like the Patriots – able to have the strategic foresight and mental toughness to plan ahead in order to protect and advance its interests in the face of increasing parity with other great powers. A good read can be found in Winning in an Era of Great-Power Parity: Lessons from the NFL, Modern War Institute at West Point, April 24, 2020.

COVID-19 and GPC. Michael Austin examines China’s failure to halt the coronavirus pandemic and its reluctance to be honest with the world about the COVID-19 origin. Austin goes on to outline China’s propaganda campaign that is diverting criticism of China and has poisoned relations with the U.S. The article explains why it will be difficult for nations to proceed in a ‘business as usual’ fashion with China. There could be a reduction on dependency on China in the economic sense – perhaps a reduced economic relationship. Taiwan will likely emerge as a ‘winner’ in this new geo-political environment. The COVID-19 pandemic will be ushering in a new approach to Sino-U.S. relations. Read more in “The Coronavirus Will Simply Exacerbate the Geo-Strategic Competition between Beijing and Washington”, Strategika, Hoover Institution, April 23, 2020.

Video – Cold War 2 – but Now with China?. Is there a new cold war between America and China? Three guests discuss whether there is a new cold war and what defines the competition between the two nations. H.R. McMaster, Niall Ferguson, and John Cochrane weigh in. GoodFellows, Hoover Institution, April 21, 2020, 58 minutes.

Middle East

Syria and the Pandemic. The Wuhan virus will have a debilitating and lasting impact on the country’s health sector. In addition, Syrians will pay a heavy price for the corruption and destruction of the country’s health infrastructure under the Assad regime. Read more in “Ravaged by war, Syria’s health care system is utterly unprepared for a pandemic”, Middle East Institute, April 23, 2020.


Paper – Salafi-Jihadi Ecosystem in the Sahel. Katherine Zimmerman provides an eight-page paper on how VEOs coordinate and cooperate across organizational divides united by common objectives, shared histories, and ethnic ties – thus creating a unique ecosystem of ideology and terror. This ecosystem is growing and will become deadlier. The groups intend to transform Sahelian society and governance into their vision under Islam.
American Enterprise Institute (AEI), April 2020, PDF.

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Report on TSCTP Project in Sahel. A recent audit of Bureau of African Affairs of the Department of State projects in Africa found some deficiencies. The report found that some programs under the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) were poorly coordinated and implemented. Three projects are cited in the report. An aircraft hanger in Niger was not adequate for the purpose designed. A Hesco wall barrier crumbled at a base for the Rapid Intervention Battalion in Cameroon. Boats purchased for CT forces operating on Lake Chad were too slow to catch terrorists and smugglers. Read the 16-page DoS OIG report (April 2020).

Guest Writers for SOF News

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Miniseries – Fauda – Season 3. Lt Col (Ret) Rick Francona reviews the Netflix program about an Israel Defense Force undercover counter-terrorism unit. This fictional series is in its third season. Read Francona’s review.

Podcast – Votel on Middle East. General (Ret) Joseph Votel – former CENTCOM, USSOCOM, and JSOC commander, discusses the challenges facing America forces in the Middle East today. From COVID-19, to ISIS, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
(Middle East Institute, Apr 22, 2020, 20 mins)

Video – Knowledge Wins – Mentorship. MG Patrick Roberson, commander of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, provides his take on one of his biggest initiatives – mentorship.
USAJFKSWCS, April 8, 2020, 21 mins.

Video – 75th RR – Big 5. The 75th Ranger Regiment encompasses the “Big 5 Philosophy”: marksmanship, physical training, medical training, small unit tactics, and mobility for the success of the individual Ranger and the Ranger mission.
(U.S. Army, YouTube, Apr 23, 2020, 1 min)

Video – 82nd Parachute Drop. U.S. Army Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team from the 82nd Airborne conducted an airborne operational jump from CH-47 Chinooks at Camp Behuring, Kuwait. The jump brought together aviation assets from Task Force Saber who are assigned under Task Force Spartan Shield.
(U.S. army, YouTube, Apr 24, 2020, 3 mins)

Movie – Extraction. Netflix has a new action movie out starring Chris Hemsworth – a former Special Forces dude. Could be just the thing needed to spice up the quarantine we all are going through at the moment. Watch the trailer posted on the Netflix YouTube channel.


Photo: Electronics Technician 2nd Class Hao Lienh, assigned to Commander Task Force 56, stands watch on a Mark VI Patrol Boat before a weapons sustainment exercise in the Arabian Gulf, April 16. CTF 56 is responsible for the planning and execution of expeditionary missions including coastal riverine operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kory Alsberry, Arabian Gulf, April 15, 2020)

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