Special Operations News Update – Friday, June 26, 2020

MC-130J Commando II

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

SOF News

Civil Affairs Tab. In the recent months the U.S. Army has created the “Jungle Tab” and the “Arctic Tab”. Is there a “Civil Affairs Tab” in the future? Read “Yes, SOF Civil Affairs Need a Tab”, The Civil Affairs Association, June 22, 2020.

Ex-Green Beret Seeking Bail. A U.S. prosecutor is trying to keep a former Special Forces soldier locked up while Japan completes the process of an extradition request. Mike Taylor and his son have been held without bail in Massachusetts after helping to smuggle Carlos Ghosn out of Japan. Read “U.S. fights bail bid by men accused of helping former Nissan boss escape”, WHTC.com, June 22, 2020.

Ranger on the Movie Set. Craig “Chili” Palmer, a former U.S. Army Ranger, has been an advisor on several action movie sets. Read more in “From the 75th Ranger Regiment to Hollywood: How This Retired Operator Became a Military Technical Advisor”, by Jariko Denman, Coffee or Die Magazine, June 22, 2020.

Congress and SOF. The various versions of the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill with address some topics with U.S. special operations forces. It will ask for USSOCOM to assess how many forces will be shifted from historical efforts (CT and COIN) to operations focused on great power competition. In addition, it is asking for reports on progress made related to command climate and ethics. See “Congress Wants to Know SOCOM’s Plan to Counter New Threats, Reform Command Climate“, Air Force Magazine, by Alyk Russell Kenlan, June 23, 2020.

USSOCOM Contract for Drones. A huge series of contracts have been awarded to various firms for Mid-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems ISR services. (DoD, Jun 25, 2020).

McRaven at NPS. Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven recently spoke to students of the Naval Postgraduate School (virtually) on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. He shared his lessons in leadership and emphasized the role of crtical thinking in the military. Read “Lessons in Leadership from Admiral Bill McRaven”, DVIDS – NPS, June 23, 2020.

Guide to Success for CA Operator. Tim Wolf, A Civil Affairs officer, provides a few key points of advice to assist the next generation of CA operators in their career. Read “Too Easy: A Practical Guide to Success for the Neophyte Civil Affairs Operator”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, June 24, 2020.

LTC (Ret) Suchke and Ranger Hall of Fame. Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert K. Suchke has been selected as a 2020 inductee into the Ranger Hall of Fame. (University of North Georgia News, Jun 22, 2020).

Savage Craft Ale Works. Active duty SF soldiers are behind a project to establish a new brewery once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. The location is in West Columbia, South Carolina. See “West Columbia Brewery on tap for fall debut”, Columbia Business Report, June 23, 2020.

Embassy Assignment in Your Future? Some Tips. A Civil Affairs officer has provided a guide to the embassy environment. Read “How to Win Friends in an Embassy”, by Christina Plumley, Eunomia Journal, , The Civil Affairs Association, June 23, 2020.

SOF Officer Assignments. MG Sean Swindell will soon be the assistant deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7 for the U.S.Army. BG Anthony Hale, currently with the J-2 USSOCOM is going to be the CG and Cmdt of the Army’s Intelligence School at Fort Huachuca. MG Darrel Guthrie, the CG of USACAPOC, is going to be the CG for the 88th Readiness Division. BG Jeffrey Coogin, currently deputy CG at USACAPOC, will soon be the USACAPOC CG.

SOF History

The Fascinating History of Larry Thorne. A native of Finland, Thorne would fight in the Finnish, German, and American armies. Read more in “This Green Beret spent his life fighting communists in three different armies”, We are the Mighty, June 22, 2020.

Inspiring Green Berets. Caroline Suber writes about five Special Forces soldiers that have accomplished some amazing feats or are noted for their heroic actions. Read “All Green Berets are inspiring. Here are 5 of the best”, We are the Mighty, June 18, 2020.

Petition – Keep Museum Open. Several readers have asked how to sign the online petition to keep the Special Warfare Museum open. Link is below:

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COVID-19, Protests, and the Military

The riots and protest has subsided . . . so the news turns once again to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cases of the coronavirus are surging in some states – due to a uptick in the spread of COVID-19 or increased testing or both.

Press Conference on Carrier Investigation. The Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations held a joint press conference on the results of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Command Investigation. The Captain of the aircraft carrier was fired after he asked for help with an outbreak of the coronavirus on his ship. DoD Transcript, June 19, 2020.

Cyber Training and the Wuhan Virus. While much of the defense establishment has seen its activities significantly slowed down due to the pandemic the Army’s cyber school has been doing business as usual. This is due to prior investments in online tools and virtual training environments. (Defense News, Jun 25, 2020).

National Guard Activated for Monument Protection. Around 400 troops of the District of Columbia National Guard have been activated to guard monuments that might be destroyed by protesters and rioters. (Military Times, Jun 24, 2020).

National Security

Recommendations for US Assistance to Fragile States. By 2030, half the world’s poor will be concentrated in fragile states. Ensuring that US assistance to these countries is employed properly has always been problematic. Power elites, corrupt officials, and others will maximize their own interests at the expense of others – reducing the effectiveness of the developmental assistance. Sarah Rose, a Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development, provides recommendations that build upon recent efforts to frame a new U.S. approach to fragile states. Read her article entitled “Elite Incentives and Power Dynamics in Fragile States”, PRISM, Vol. 8, No. 4, National Defense University Press, June 2020.

Stability Operations and the End State. Colonel (Ret) George F. Oliver, PhD writes about how successful wars generally conclude as a result of some kind of stabilization operation. Read more in “Keep Your Eye on the Prize: The Importance of Stability Operations”, Military Review, Army University Press, May-June 2020.

Terrorism Reports. The U.S. Department of State has published its annual Country Reports on Terrorism.

Proposed National PTSI Month. Two members of the Florida delegation to the House of Representatives – Rep Brian Mast and Rep Michael Waltz – are backing a proposal to make June known as ‘National Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) Awareness month. A National PTSI Awareness Day would be on June 27th. (Florida Daily, Jun 17, 2020).

FBNC Garrison Cdr Relieved. Colonel Phillip Sounia has been relieved of his position as the Fort Bragg, North Carolina garrison commander. (Task & Purpose, Jun 23, 2020).

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Great Power Competition

Pros and Cons of GPC Status. Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London, explores the costs and risks of being a great power nation. While being a powerful nation expands ones influence and security it also involves a nation in taking on obligations for the security of weaker powers. Read “Who Wants to Be a Great Power?”, PRISM, Vol. 8, No. 4, National Defense University Press, June 11, 2020.

CRS Report on U.S. – China Competition. The South China Sea has emerged as an arena of competition between the United States and the Peoples’ Republic of China. There has been a lot of island-building and base construction activities by China as well a maritime activities that threaten freedom of navigation. This 111-page report by the Congressional Research Service examines the Trump Administration’s strategy for competing with China. See “U.S.-China Strategic Competition in South and East China Seas: Background and Issues for Congress”, CRS, June 23, 2020.


China’s Political Warfare. The People’s Republic of China is engaged in a complex and unrelenting political warfare campaign against the U.S. and some of its allies and partner nations. This article by Professor Kerry Gershaneck will explain PRC political warfare and its political warfare capabilities. Read “To Win Without Fighting: Defining China’s Political Warfare”, Marine Corps University, 2020.

Security and the Maritime Silk Road. Chinese private security companies are offering a range of armed and unarmed vessel protection services. Read more in “Who Guards the Maritime Silk Road“, by Veerle Nouwens, War on the Rocks, June 24, 2020.

Current China-India Tensions. A recent border dispute between these two nations resulted in at least 20 deaths. Read “China’s Latest Tussle With India Could Lead to War”, The National Interest, June 20. 2020.

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NATO and Europe

Canadian Armed Forces Advising in Ukraine. In 2015 Canada sent 200 advisors to Ukraine. This was the beginning of a long-term effort to help Ukraine remain a sovereign, secure, and stable nation. Read more in “Mentor and advise: The professional development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine”, Canadian Army, May 28, 2020.

Latvia and Russian Cyber Attacks. Malicious cyber operations are conducted by Russia against Latvian interests on a continuous basis. How to categorize these attacks and respond to them is an undefined area. There is an argument to adopt new rules that reflect the changing landscape of cyberwarfare. Read “Cyberwarfare in Latvia: A Call for New Cyberwarfare Terminology”, by Krista Viksnins, Baltic Bulletin, Foreign Policy Research Institute, June 23, 2020.

Troops in Europe – Less in Germany, More in Poland. President Trump has stated that he has decided to station more troops in Poland to help counter the threat from Russia. In addition, Germany will see a decrease in the number of troops based there. (Military Times, Jun 24, 2020).

Middle East

U.S. Soldier Dies in Jordan. The Department of Defense announced the death of Specialist Nick Bravo-Regules, 20, from Largo, Florida. He died on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 11th ADA Brigade, Fort Bliss, Texas.

Uniting the Syrian Kurds. One factor that would increase stability and security in northeast Syria would be for the two main Kurdish political parties to come to an agreement on the administration of that predominantly Kurdish area of Syria. The U.S. is currently holding talks to realize that goal. See “Can US Help Achieve Unity for Syrian Kurds?”, by Sirwan Kajjo, Voice of America, June 24, 2020.

Stabilizing Kurdish Syria. Lt. Comdr. Joshua Portzer (U.S. Navy) describes the volatile situation in northeast Syria and points the way forward to establishing peace in that part of the country. Read “The People’s Protection Units’ Branding Problem”, Military Review, May-June 2020.

Iraqi SF Arrest Ldrs of Kataib Hezbollah. The headquarters of an Iranian-backed terror group was raided south of Baghdad. Three key leaders were arrested. The group has been accused of firing rockets at bases hosting U.S. troops. All total, there were about 20 people detained. (Reuters, Jun 25, 2020).

Upcoming Events

Friday, June 26, 2020 – Webinar on Afghanistan.
The Middle East Institute will hold a Zoom session entitled “The Broader Implications of U.S. Disengagement from Afghanistan”. The hour plus event starts at 10:00 am. Speakers include Javid Ahmad, Ronald Neumann, J. Alexander Thier, Elizabeth Threlkeld, and Marvin Weinbaum.

Guest Writers for SOF News

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Podcast – Does Building Partner Military Capacity Work? This episode of the Irregular Warfare Podcast tackles the topic of capacity building. Dr. Stephen Biddle and Mr. Matt Cancian discuss the question. June 19, 2020, Modern War Institute at West Point, 41 minutes.

Video – US Army Special Forces Recruiting Commercial. Learn about the US Army Special Forces and see if you have what it takes to be part of the team. Posted on DVIDS by USASOC, June 22, 2020, one minute.

Podcast – Is the US ready for the rising tide of mercenaries? War is getting sneakier. And mercenaries could be changing war in ways that the US might not be prepared for. Things That Go Boom, The World, June 23, 2020, 26 minutes.

Video – Interview about SOF and Industry. Leonardo DRS Chief Operating Officer John Baylouny is interviewed about how industry can help special operations forces achieve specialized missions with high-tech tools of the trade. Breaking Defense, June 24, 2020, 10 minutes.

Podcast – Is Great-Power Competition a Strategy? Ali Wyne, a nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute and nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, is featured in this podcast about great-power competition. Modern War Institute at West Point, June 24, 2020, 53 minutes.

Video – Milley Address to Naval War College. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley delivered a keynote address to the Naval War College Class of 2020 Graduates during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. You can watch the 13-minute long video.


Photo: A MC-130J Commando II of the 17th Special Operations Squadron flies in Australia. Photo by Captain Jessica Tait, July 19, 2017.

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