Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
19th SFGA in D.C. On June 5, 2020, SOF News published an article entitled “19th Special Forces Group in D.C.“. Some new articles add more to the story:
“Utah Army National Guard’s “Monument’s Men” return to Salt Lake City following D.C. civil unrest”, DVIDS 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, June 11, 2020.
SOF EW Spectrum – a Contested Environment. “Keeping SOF teams relatively safe in the shadows and shielding them from the glare of electronic snooping has emerged as a critical component of planning for current and future operations”. Read more in “Special Ops: ‘Further Behind Than We Know’ on New Tech”, Breaking Defense, June 10, 2020.
Bradley Hansell – Trump Nominee. A former SF officer is slated to be nominated as the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. See “Retired Army special forces officer named as Pentagon intel nominee”, Defense News, June 13, 2020.
MG Mike Turello Departs HOA. A change of command ceremony took place on June 8, 2020 at Camp Lemonnier for Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). MG Turello, an SF officer, is departing HOA for a new assignment with National Guard Bureau. (Stars and Stripes, June 9, 2020).
SBT-12 CoC. A virtual ceremony was held in Coronado, California for the change of command ceremony for Naval Special Warfare Group 4’s Special Boat Team 12. Commander Joseph Laher took command on June 5, 2020. He will head up a 300-man unit of Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, SEALs, sailors, and civilians. The unit fields 12 boat detachments that support three geographic combatant commands. The boat detachments provide maritime insertion and extraction for Navy SEALs and conduct maritime SOF missions in support of theater special operations commander’s objectives. (DVIDS, NSWG 4, June 5, 2020).
New Mini-Sub. SOCOM’s first Dry Combat Submersible is undergoing a year of testing by the Navy to work out new technologies, including a new power source. Read “SEALs Test New Mini Sub to Stay Dry, Ship to Shore”, Breaking Defense, June 12, 2020.
Biotechnology and SOCOM. The United States Special Operations Command is attempting to give operators the tools they need to be a peak performance. Read more in “SOCOM Gung-Ho on Biotechnologies”, National Defense, June 12, 2020.
400th Osprey. USSOCOM received the 40th V-22 on June 2, 2020. This was a huge milestone for the first production tilt-rotor aircraft. The CV-22 is the Special Operations Forces’ variant of the V-22. It’s primary mission is to conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions. Read “Bell-Boeing Delivers 400th Osprey”, Seapower Magazine, June 11, 2020.
Pipe Hitter Foundation. Eddie Gallagher and his wife have set up a nonprofit foundation to support military families defending themselves in court. The organization will provide financial support, including legal defense funds, advocacy, and public affairs assistance. The initiative comes almost a year after Gallgaher was found not guilty of murder and attempted murder while deployed with the U.S. Navy SEALs in 2017 in Iraq. (Fox News, June 11, 2020).
SF Soldier is Gamer for the Army. SFC Joshua David gets paid by the U.S. Army to play video games. He is a member of the Army’s esports team. (Business Insider, June 13, 2020).
Russian SOF Using Western Equipment. H.I. Sutton has penned an article that describes how Russian clothing and equipment are looking increasingly western-like. (Forbes.com, June 11, 2020).
Australian Intel Community. A little history about the creation and development of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and its follow-on history. See “The making of the Australian intelligence community”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), June 15, 2020.
160th SOAR Snatched a Mi-25 in Chad. Thirty-two years ago USAF air crews with the Special Operations Aviation Regiment stole a Libyan Mi-25 helicopter. Read more about Operation Mount Hope III. (Forbes.com, Jun 11, 2020).
GROM Anniversary. The year 2020 marks the 30th year that the Polish elite special operations unit has been in existence – established in 1990. The GROM was originally modeled on tier one special operations units such as the US Army’s 1st SFOD-D or US Navy’s SEAL Team Six. Read more about the Polish GROM in Wikipedia.
Protests, Riots and the Military
Renaming Forts. The protests and riots that resulted from the death of a black man by a police officer in Minneapolis has led to a number of calls for change on the social and political front in America. The U.S. military is being pressured to rename of U.S. Army posts named after Confederate generals. There has already been a call (in 2019) to rename Fort Hood after Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez – a Special Forces veteran of the Vietnam War who was a recipient of the Medal of Honor. See “It’s Time to Rename Fort Hood for a Truly Texan Hero: Roy Benavidez”, Texas Monthly, June 18, 2019. (Editor’s note: I spent a couple of days with Roy at a fund raising event in the early 1980s. He seemed to be a humble but inspiring man).
General Milley on Trump’s Photo Op. During a speech to the National Defense University Class of 2020 the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted that it was a mistake to ‘take the walk’.
“I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I learned from and I sincerely hope we all learn from it.”General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 11, 2020
SF Soldier Opines on Milley. Scott Patton, a former Army soldier who served in the 82nd, 101st, 5th SFG, and 19th SFG, provides his commentary on General Milley and ‘his walk with Trump’. Read “Milley: A flawed general who learned a lesson”, Army Times, June 14, 2020.
NPS’s SWAT. The Lafayette Square drama has prompted many of the journalists to take a look at the participants (well, at least those on the side of law and order, it seems). A recent article provides information on the National Park Service – an agency that has a United States Park Police Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT). Read more in “Why Does the National Park Service Have a SWAT Force?”, Sierra, June 15, 2020.
COVID-19 and the Military
Is it too soon to start talking again about the coronavirus pandemic? Despite the lack of news coverage (thanks to protests and riots) the pandemic is still ongoing. There has been a decline of cases in some states while other states are experiencing an increase. And the Center for Disease Control says there could be a ‘second wave’ later in the year. In all of this the U.S. military is sticking with some measures to reduce the number of cases; at the same time loosening up some restrictions deemed no longer necessary.
14-Day Quarantine. One measure still in force is putting individuals and units getting ready to deploy overseas into a 14-day quarantine environment. Learn how the Air Force Special Operations Command is doing this with some units at Cannon Air Force Base. (DVIDS, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs, June 20, 2020.
Proxy War Theory. Major Amos Fox, Executive Officer for 3rd Squadron, 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade, makes the case that there are different relationship models in proxy warfare. He believes that theories of proxy warfare need to be better refined so we can further analyze proxy wars and the interactions between actors therein. Read “Exploitative, Transactional, Coercive, Cultural, and Contractual: Toward a Better Theory of Proxy War”, Modern War Institute at West Point, June 11, 2020.
FY 2021 NDAA. The Senate Armed Services committee has published the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (June 10, 2020). Next step is a vote on the Senate floor. It takes into account the great power competition with Russia and China, the focus on the Indo-Pacific, on ‘rogue states’ like Iran and North Korea, and on terrorist organizations. It also has language that enhances ASD SO/LIC. (20 pages, PDF).
Trump and West Point Graduation. The Army’s latest class of graduating cadets were supposed to have a ‘virtual graduation’. The cadets had gone home for spring break but did not return due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They finished their academic year with online studies and the graduation ceremony was to be done at home and online. However, President Trump decided he wanted to speak at the graduation so the cadets all flew (or drove) back to West Point. Read the presidents remarks here (White House, June 13, 2020).
Great Power Competition
SOF and GPC. Ethan Brown, a former USAF Special Operations JTAC, provides a lengthy article on how U.S. special operations forces need to analyze how they are structured, developed, and used. He believes that a GPC-focused strategy for SOF is needed. Read “Vectoring Special Operations for Great Power Competition”, Diplomatic Courier, June 4, 2020.
Paper on ROC. A 12-page paper provides a description of the ‘Resistance Operations Concept’ for the defense of the Baltic states. ROC(K) Solid Preparedness: Resistance Operations Concept in the Shadow of Russia, by Otto Fiala and Ulrica Pettersson, National Defense University Press, June 2020.
NATO’s Eastern Flank. A group of writers argue that the current concept of defense for the Baltic States and Black Sea region is un-balanced. Read “NATO Needs a Coherent Approach to Defending Its Eastern Flank”, War on the Rocks, June 12, 2020.
NATO’s CTRC. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has launched the Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum. This program supports interested allies and partner countries in enhancing their abilities to develop national skills and improve counter-terrorism strategies. See “NATO launches Counter-Terrorism Reference Curriculum”, NATO, June 12, 2020.
Money To Ukraine. The Department of Defense announced its plans to provide funds for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) for training, equipment, and advisory efforts. Some of the money is destined to assist the Ukraine’s SOF. See “DOD Announces $250M to Ukraine”, DoD Release, June 11, 2020.
Poland’s ‘Fort Trump’ – Not so Much. Complex factors have put a big hold on plans to establish a permanent base for U.S. troops in Poland. Read “U.S.-Polish Fort Trump project crumbles”, Reuters, June 10, 2020.
China – India Confrontation and “New Cold War”. China is trying to paint the picture of the border dispute between the two nations as part of a new cold war between China and the U.S. Read “The China-India Standoff and the Myth of a New Cold War”, The Diplomat, June 13, 2020.
China and its Defense Industry. A 72-page report outlines how China is leveraging its industrial base to increase its defense capabilities. Read Open Arms: Evaluating Global Exposure to China’s Defense-Industrial Base, C4ADS, June 2020.
4th SFAB Trains for Afghanistan. The 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade is heading out soon for some advisor duty – but first they are going to train up at Fort Polk. The unit has been in constant contact with the 3rd SFAB in Afghanistan – the unit that they will replace. Training at JRTC has been drastically altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. See “Combat training centers start back up as SFAB heads to Fort Polk before unit’s first deployment”, Defense News, June 10, 2020.
AQIM Leader Dead. The head of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abdelmalek Droukdel, was killed by French special operations forces in northern Mali on June 3, 2020. A combination of human and technical intelligence gathered by U.S. and French forces led to the helicopter-borne ground assault. Read “How AQIM leader Abdelmalek Droukdel was killed in Mali”, The Africa Report, June 8, 2020. See also “The Death of Droukdel: Implications for AQIM and the Sahel”, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague, June 9, 2020. And again, “Insurgencies: New details on the elimination of AQIM’s leader”, The North Africa Journal, June 11, 2020.
“This wasn’t just a win for France and the US or even the nations of the Sahel. It was a win for every nation that opposes terrorism and violence. The cooperation that led to the elimination of this high-level al-Qa’ida leader shows the value of our partnerships and the return on investment these mutually beneficial relationships bring to U.S. and international security.”Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, Special Operations Command Africa commandeer, June 8, 2020
PMCs in Libya. Crispin Burke provides a background essay on the conflict in Libya and the role that mercenaries are playing in support of both opposing factions. Read “What You Need to Know About Private Military Contractors Backing Libya’s Rebels”, Small Wars Journal, June 10, 2020.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Armor Maneuver Journal. The Spring 2020 issue of Armor magazine is now posted online. There are some interesting articles on SFAB recruiting, cyberspace, next-generation vehicles, and more. (PDF, 77 pages)
Gates’ New Book. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has a new book out entitled Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World, June 2020. Gates takes a look at the performance of past American presidents in the post-Cold War world. He offers ‘luke-warm’ praise for Trump – saying that he hasn’t started any new wars. His previous book – Duty – was a good read.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Movie – My Spy. An amusing family comedy about a Special Forces soldier turned spy who is having difficulties with his career. After a mission screwup in Ukraine he gets assigned a new mission and told not to mess it up. And then along comes the cute little girl with the widowed mother. You can read more in “My Spy: Film Review”, Variety, June 14, 2020.
Video – Kill Chain. Christian Brose, author of The Kill Chain: Defending America in the Future of High-Tech Warfare, is interviewed about his new book. Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), June 12, 2020, 30 minutes. (video begins at 31 min mark).
Video – 352 SOSS Exercise. USAF Special Tactics operators of the 352d Special Operations Wing conducted an exercise in the UK. Watch a 30 sec video.
Photo: Recon Marines detach from insertion/extraction rigging on a U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawk on Kurayn Island, Saudi Arabia. The routine sustainment training enhances the Navy-U.S. Marine Corps team’s ability to employ crisis response forces for power projection over key maritime terrain. Photo by Cpl. Gary Jayne III, June 2020.