Special Operations News Update – Monday, May 4, 2020

Special Forces M-ATV Syria

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

SOF News

SOF Officer Assignment. The current commander of the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan (SOJTF-A) will soon be the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. MG Christopher Donahue is a graduate of West Point. His career has been mostly in infantry, Ranger, and JSOC assignments.

USASOC Jump Procedures Changed. A fatal military free-fall accident last spring has led to changes on how full mission profile jumps are conducted by Army special operations forces. The changes were approved by USASOC commander LTG Fran Beaudette. Read “Army spec ops makes changes after it took almost two hours to find Ranger lost in fatal free-fall jump”, Army Times, May 1, 2020.

Ex-GB’s Venezuela Adventure. The plan was simple – 300 heavily armed men would sneak into Venezuela, incite a popular rebellion, and topple a socialist government. What could go wrong? Read “Ex-Green Beret led failed attempt to oust Venezuela’s Maduro”, The Republic, May 1, 2020. In a related story the Venezuela government says that it foiled a marine incursion on Sunday, May 3rd by “terrorist mercenaries” who attempted to enter the country on speedboats from neighboring Colombia. (Reuters, May 3, 2020).

Col Dave Maxwell (Ret SF) on North Korea. The former Special Forces officer and two others spent some time answering questions and discussing the current situation in North Korea. The main topic is the health of the North Korean leader and what lies in the future. Read the transcript in “Understanding the Hermit Kingdom: Assessing North Korea’s Future”, Hudson Institute, April 28, 2020.

SOF’s FN SCAR 16S. The U.S. military, especially its special operations forces units, have been using the FN SCAR since 2009. Richard Douglas, a firearms expert and educator, evaluates the rifle for home defense use. Read “The U.S. Military Loves this Carbine: Meet the FN SCAR 16S”, The National Interest, May 2, 2020.

Navy Squelches Trident Use on Book. A recent book published in April 2020 had a Navy SEAL trident pin on its cover. The Navy objected. The book, No Ordinary Dog: My Partner From the SEAL Teams to the Bin Laden Raid, had been subjected to an 18-month long review prior to publication by the DoD. The DoD approved the publication and the book hit the bookstores on April 21, 2020. On the same day the book was published, the DoD then issued a cease and desist order on the use of the trident. (Coffee or Die Magazine, May 1, 2020).

Combat Diver Foundation contact info

SOF Ballistic Choices. The U.S. special operations community does a lot of testing and experimentation in various types of ammunition for its pistols and rifles. The specialty ammunition is needed because of the unique characteristics of special operations missions and need for specific ballistic solutions. Read “Special Operations Community Embraces ‘Wildcat’ Calibers”, National Defense Magazine, May 1, 2020.

USSOCOM Contract for Cloud-Based Software. A $41 million contract will provide a subscription service of a Library Management System (LMS) program to support TSOCs and JSOU patrons. (MeriTalk, Apr 30, 2020).

Huge USSOCOM Contract. 46 different contracts worth $950 million were awarded to a number of firms. The contracts will provide SOF core support services for education, training, engineering, technical, professional, administrative, and management support. (Department of Defense, May 1, 2020).

COVID-19 Pandemic and the Military

150th SOW Modify Training. The 150th Special Operations Wing held a ‘virtual unit training assembly’ in early April. Many reserve and National Guard units have cancelled training weekends. However, some training is online and the New Mexico Air National Guard approved the airmen to ‘telework’ from their respective homes. Much of the weekend training involved required annual computer-based training (CBT). See “150th SOW Airmen Train Through Virtual UTA”, DVIDS, April 30, 2020.

West Point Graduation Questioned. The Army’s military academy had planned on a virtual commencement for this years graduating class. The Army cadets had been sent home during spring break and never returned. They completed their course work online instead. Now the academy has decided to have the cadets return to campus where President Trump will be the guest speaker. Read more in “Army defends decision to have West Point graduation”, Army Times, April 30, 2020.

USNS Comfort Leaves NYC. The Navy’s hospital ship spent about a month in the New York City area and is now departing. It’s mission now complete. Read more in “Hospital ship Comfort departs NYC, having treated fewer than 200 patients”, Navy Times, April 30, 2020.

Capt. Crozier Update. The Navy has cleared the aircraft carrier of any wrongdoing – but now SECDEF Esper wants another investigation. So the Captain will need to wait at least another month to find out if he will get his job back.

Cdr of 919th SOMS on COVID Task Force. Lt. Col. Joseph Catalino, the commander of the 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron (Air Force Reserve) has been serving as the Department of Defense Representative to the White House COVID-19 Task Force. As part of the task force he helps to coordinate the DOD response to ensure manpower, equipment, capacities, and capabilities are distributed as needed to state and local authorities in order to combat the virus. Catalino has served as an enlisted flight medic and then was commissioned as a Medical Service Corps officer. In addition, he has civilian experience in hospital systems and healthcare. Read “Reservist selected for COVID task force”, 919th Special Operations Wing, May 1, 2020.

Army’s Voluntary Recall Program. Some retired Army personnel have been recalled to active duty. Learn more on the process and program that put them into the counter COVID-19 Fight in “U.S. Army Voluntary Recall Program”, Stand-To, May 1, 2020.

Great Power Competition

SOF and GPC. The role of SOF in the great power conflict. Thomas Trask, Mark Clark, and Stu Bradin provide their perspective. (Military Times, May 4, 2020).

“Congress must protect SOF programs that will prove critical in both Great Power Competition and Conflict. Failure to do so would be a return to the disastrous consequences of Operation Eagle Claw 40 years ago. We already know how that story ends.”

GPC Online Seminar. The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) will be conducting an online seminar on 12-14 May 2020 entitled “Great Power Competition: A Special Operations Perspective”.

Scramble for Africa. The 2017 National Security Strategy shifts the U.S. focus to ‘great power competition’ with Russia and China. As a result the U.S. is pivoting to Europe and the Pacific region. However, Russia, China, and some Middle East countries are moving into Africa in a big way. The GPC is taking place in Africa as well and the U.S. should not ignore this situation. Read “Great Power Competition and the Scramble for Africa”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, April 30, 2020.

Spy Games in Ukraine. The secret services of Russia and Ukraine have engaged in covert operations, sabotage, and espionage. Read more in “The Political Dimension of Russia’s Spy Games in Ukraine”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, April 30, 2020.

GPC – Conceptualization Issues. The term great power competition does not have a common meaning across the many strategic documents that reference it. This leads to a difficulty in the cooperation of US foreign policy and defense world stakeholders. Jack Maclennan, program director for national security studies at Park University, explains in “The Problem With Great-Power Competition”, Modern War Institute at West Point, May 1, 2020.

Countering Russia in the Arctic. A multinational antisubmarine exercise is being held in the northern oceans. The US and UK are joining forces to practice operations in the icy waters to ensure the two nations are prepared for future global threats. Read more in “U.S. and British ships conduct exercise in Arctic aim to counter Russia”, Defence Blog.com, May 3, 2020.

Middle East

Paper – Countering Iran in the Gray Zone. A host of co-authors outline what the United States should learn from Israel’s operations in Syria. This 30-page report (PDF) produced by the Center for a New American Security (April 14, 2020) is available online.

US Involvement in Yemen Conflict Needed. Bruce Riedel argues that the United States should become more involved in the Yemen crisis to avoid a disastrous humanitarian crisis from becoming even worse. Read “Following the separatist takeover of Yemen’s Aden, no end in sight”, Brookings Blog, April 28, 2020.


U.S. Drawdown Ahead of Schedule. The United States is ahead of schedule in its drawdown to 8,600 military personnel in Afghanistan. The U.S. will meet that goal within a few weeks; months ahead of the target date stipulated in the U.S. – Taliban agreement for the departure of U.S. troops. Troop strength as of the beginning of May is around 10,000. Attacks by the Taliban on the Afghan security forces are above ‘seasonal norms’.

Foreign Combatants in Afghanistan. Afghan government officials claim that – in violation of the U.S. / Taliban agreement – foreigners are are fighting alongside the Taliban. (Radio Free Europe, Apr 29, 2020).

Upcoming Events

May 5 – Webcast on Stabilization. The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) will be conducting an online discussion on the best practices the U.S. government can implement to conduct more effective and conflict-aware stabilization. You can view the webcast scheduled for Tuesday, May 5, 2020 (10:00 – 11:00 am) entitled “Pursuing Effective and Conflict-Aware Stabilization“.

May 5 – 6 Days. When armed gunmen seize the Iranian Embassy in 1980, a tense six-day standoff ensues while British soldiers prepare for a dangerous raid. Movie on Netflix.

May 11-15, 2020. Tampa, Florida
Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) – Virtual Event

May 12-14, 2020. Tampa, Florida
Great Power Competition: A Special Operations Perspective
JSOU Online Seminar

May 15 – KLE with Dr. Rob Johnson. The author of Lawrence of Arabia on War will be hosted by the Civil Affairs Association during a drink and talk session. The event will be held online via Zoom on May 15, 2020 at 6:30 PM. Three members of the association will engage with Johnson about his new book. Lawrence of Arabia was an iconic figure of World War I – viewed by many as a romantic guerrilla leader and early proponent of irregular warfare.

Want to List Your Upcoming Event? Send an email to staff @ sof.news.

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Book – Working Across Cultures. Many military professionals find themselves perplexed with the culture of other nations. But there are ways to work effectively with people from other cultures and meet your objectives in an open, honest manner. A new book explains all this: Save Your Ammo: Working Across Cultures for National Security, by Dr. Louise Rasmussen, (2020).

Documentaries, Podcasts, and Movies

Documentary – Korea: Chipyong-ni: Korean War Documentary. The 23rd Regimental combat Team was tasked to secure the village of Chipyong-ni in February 1951. They took the village but then the 5,000 man force was surrounded by more than 30,000 Chinese Communist Forces. The successful defense of this village in South Korea is still a model for study at the U.S. Army’s advanced military training centers. Watch the one hour long documentary published on April 21, 2020 by the Army University Press and posted on DVIDS.

Podcast – Det A in Berlin. Special Forces Berlin – Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956 – 1990, Cold War Conversations, 2020, 75 minutes. James Stejskal, book author, is interviewed about Detachment A in Berlin, Germany.

New TV Series Coming. Jon Steinberg, a producer on the ABC hit series “The Rookie”, is working on a television series based on the book Beirut Rules. The book is about the murder of a CIA station chief kidnapped and killed in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s war against America. William Buckley was also a Special Forces officer who served on active duty and in reserve status. He deployed to Vietnam on several tours during the Vietnam War.

Video – NATO Battlegroup Latvia Maintains Readiness. Even during the COVID-19 crisis the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is ready to respond to threats in the Baltic states. (NATO, April 28, 2020, 1 min).

Guest Writers for SOF News


Photo: Green Berets wait in a M-ATV Special Forces Vehicle for a gun truck from the Maghaweir al-Thowra (MaT) partner force to join their joint patrol mission near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, April 29, 2020. Coalition forces train and advise the MaT in southern Syria in pursuit of the enduring defeat of Daesh and to set conditions for regional stability.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. William Howard)

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