Special Operations News Update – Saturday, May 16, 2020

AC-130 Gunship

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

SOF News

Recruiting for SOF. With less than 1 percent of young Americans willing and able to join the military there is not a big pool of potential recruits for the service’s special operations units. Thus each of the services are looking a unique ways to recruit and to identify potential SOF personnel. Read “Special operations using artificial intelligence, personality traits to recruit and select”, Military Times, May 13, 2020.

Officer Promotion. Air Force BG Dagvin Anderson has been selected for appointment to the rank of major general. Anderson is currently serving as the commander, Special Operations Command Africa, U.S. Special Operations Command in Germany.

CA and Looking at Data. An Civil Affairs NCO describes the complementary disciplines of Civil Information Management (CIM) and Human Network Analysis (HNA). See “Holistic Thinking: Mapping Unknowns of the Human Domain”, The Civil Affairs Association, May 9, 2020.

Liberating the Oppressed in Venezuela. The family of an ex-Green Beret now in prison says they were on a mission to help the people of Venezuela. Learn how the family is coping with the situation. (Military Times, May 12, 2020).

SOF and Artificial Intelligence. USSOCOM is seeking to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities in order to compete with Russia and China as well as counter violent extremist organizations. This is especially true in the information environment where competition is taking place at a fast pace. However, AI and ML is important in all aspects of SOF to include the hyper-enabled operator concept, data management, networks, ISR, mission command, cyber, and more. Read “SOCOM All-in on Artificial Intelligence”, National Defense Magazine, May 12, 2020.

Changing Role of SOF. General Richard Clarke (USSOCOM Cdr) said during the vSOFIC that winning the fights of the future will require tech-savvy operators trained for the cyber and information battlespace. Read “Less Door-Kicking, More Influencing: The Changing Role of Special Operators”, Military.com, May 12, 2020.

USAF Changes Up SERE Training. The Air Force survival school is putting a new training model to the test – an adjustment to the coronavirus pandemic. Read “The Air Force is Making Changes to Its Enemy Capture Survival School”, Military.com, May 13, 2020.

Green Card, Military Service, Citizenship – and SOF. A recent article describes the process and provides resources for foreign nationals who would like to join the U.S. military and then – eventually – serve in special operations. Read “Joining the U.S. Military or Special Operations from a Foreign Country”, Military.com, May 14, 2020.

SOF’s Hyper-Enabled Operator. The new way of warfare will require a commando with better access to the internet of things and data analytics on the battlefield so they can make important decisions faster. Many of the technologies already exist in the commercial space – so officials want to integrate these COTS materials into a consolidated solution and make them available to SOF personnel. Read “SOCOM Moving Forward with Hyper-Enabled Operator Concept”, National Defense Magazine, May 12, 2020.

International SOF

Modern Theory of Special Warfare for UK. This article states that modern conflict or competition is predominantly a fight for influence. It says that competition and conflict will be human and biological rather than organizational or technological. The article makes the case for a renewed examination of theory of special warfare is needed to contend with the ever-important human domain. The British Army needs to invest in people over platforms. Read more in “Why We Need a Modern Theory of Special Warfare to Thrive in the Human Domain”, Wavell Room, May 14, 2020.

Canadian SOF Choppers Return from Iraq. The Coalition mission in Iraq is at a standstill because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many nations are pulling back units to the home countries until the health crisis subsides. Canada recently pulled six Griffon helicopters – 3 from the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron based in Petawawa. Less than 100 Canadians are left in Iraq. (Journal Pioneer, May 13, 2020).

Is Commando Training Relevant? Should the UK’s training for one of its elite units be changed up to reflect potential future conflicts? See “Train Right, Fight Relevant: Does Commando Training prepare Marines for a future operating environment?”, Puzzle Palace: The Unofficial Commando Think Tank, May 15, 2020.

Wuhan Virus and the Military

Guard’s Activation for COVID-19. Almost 47,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen have been activated to fight the coronavirus pandemic. This is the Guard’s largest domestic response since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Most efforts are focused on COVID-19 testing sites and the distribution of medical supplies and food. In addition, numerous medical units and personnel have been activated. (DoD, May 14, 2020).

Army Cancels ROTC Cadet Summer Camp. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Army to cancel summer training for thousands of ROTC cadets. The Army intends to conduct decentralized training this come year to make up for the cancellation. (Army Times, May 12, 2020).

Military News & National Security

SFAB’s and Advising in South America. The Army plans to task one of its Security Force Assistance Brigades with counter-narcotics advising in the SOUTHCOM area of operations. The Army is aligning the SFABs to the different regional commands.The head of the Army explains. (Army Times, May 14, 2020).

“Special Forces is very good at training tactical-type units; they’re good at accompanying tactical-type units. But SFABs build a professional military force, which is different. How do you do logistics. How do you maintain vehicles. How do you build a professional military that will provide security.”

Army Chief of Staff General James McConville, February 2020.

Great Power Competition

GPC and Fighting Terrorists. Despite the shift of our military to China and Russia there is still a key role for SOF to play in countering terrorists. General Clarke, commander of the Unites States Special Operations Command, says that “Going after the VEOs is not mutually exclusive to competing with great powers.” See “SOCOM Commander: Fighting Terrorists is Another Way to Counter Great Nation States”, Seapower Magazine, May 13, 2020.

Exercise Allied Spirit is On Again. An exercise involving U.S. and Polish troops originally scheduled for may will now take place in June. Allied Spirit was one of several exercises linked to DEFENDER Europe 2020. One of the units involved will be the 6th Polish Airborne Brigade. See “Defender Europe-linked exercise gets green-light in Poland”, Army Times, May 13, 2020.

Security in the Arctic. A sizable part of Finland lies above the Arctic Circle – an area that is seeing increasing geopolitical interest. Strategic interests as well as economic and navigational possibilities are seeing greater competition among nations for influence and position in the Arctic – and greater security challenges. Read how Finals is continuing to promote stability in the Arctic region in “A view from Finland: Security and defense in the Arctic”, Defense News, May 12, 2020.

Russian Hybrid Warfare. Nicholas Stafford, a serving British Army officer, has penned an 8-page article entitled Countering Russian Hybrid Warfare. Read the paper published May 12, 2020 on the website of the Arthur D. Simons Center for Interagency Cooperation.

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Report – SFA in Africa. A 32-page paper highlights how security force assistance might contribute to political fragmentation within African states and in their security forces. SFA efforts in some countries often appear to be ineffective and sometimes counterproductive. Read “Compounding Fragmentation: Security Force Assistance to Fragile States in the Sahel and Horn of Africa”, PRIO Paper, May 15, 2020, PDF.

Report – The Future of Warfare in 2030. A host of authors collaborate on a document that projects which countries the U.S. will fight with and against in the future, where the conflicts will occur, what they might look like, and when and why the U.S. might go to war in the first place. RAND Corporation, May 2020, PDF, 102 pages.

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Podcast – LTG (Ret) Tovo. The former commander of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), LTG Ken Tovo, does a deep dive on lessons of leadership, the history of SOF, and Operation Viking Hammer (Iraq 2003). Glorious Professionals, May 2020, 1 hour.

Video Interview – Conquering Adversity. In 2006, a young Captain Ken Dwyer was the detachment commander of a Special Forces Detachment – Alpha in Afghanistan, when he was struck by a rocket propelled grenade and nearly killed. Lt. Col. Dwyer gives an inspiring lesson on conquering adversity and what it took for him, minus one of his hands and one of his eyes, to return to active duty and continue his service as a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces. Video by U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School, May 11, 2020, 30 mins.


Photo: An AC-130 Gunship shoots off flares. Photo by AFSOC, January 1, 2020.

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