Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. SOF officer assignments, GB fights extradition, SOCOM’s overwatch plane, SOF mountaineering course, KSK, CTS, irregular warfare, podcasts, videos, webinars, Somalia update, COVID-19 and the military, and SOF history.
Army Casualty. PFC Alexander Blake Klass, age 20, died as a result of a non-combat related incident on July 4, 2020 at Camp Novo Selo, Kosovo. He was a member of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon National Guard. (DoD News Release, Jul 6, 2020).
New USASOAC Commander. Colonel Philip Ryan has replaced Brigadier General Allan Pepin as the commander for the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. Ryan has served as a “Night Stalker” for more than 20 years. His most recent assignment was as the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment commander. (Fayetteville Observer, July 4, 2020).
Maj Gen Tony Bauernfeind Promotion. Selected for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general, Bauernfeind will be assigned as the vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, Pentagon, Washington, D.C. He is currently serving as chief of staff at USSOCOM at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
Promotion Withdrawn. Army Major General Sean Swindell had been formally nominated for LTG on February 6, 2020 but his nomination was withdrawn on July 2, 2020.
Green Beret Families Want Justice and Apology. The parents of three U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers killed in Jordan in 2016 are calling for the extradition of their son’s killer. They are also seeking an apology from Jordan’s government. (Army Times, Jul 2, 2020).
Navy SEALs Testing New Mini-Sub. Hawaii will be the location of a series of tests off a Virginia-class submarine for a couple of 22-foot SEAL Delivery Vehicle Mark 11s. (Task & Purpose, Jul 6, 2020).
Green Beret Fights Imprisonment and Extradition. Former Special Forces soldier Mike Taylor is in jail awaiting the results of an extradition request by Japan. Taylor was involved in the escape of Carlos Ghosn from Tokyo. “Carlos Ghosn’s Accused Escape Plotters Tap Lobbyists Over Extradition”, Bloomberg, July 6, 2020.
Congress Questioning SOCOM’s Overwatch Plane Program. The United States Special Operations Command wants an uncomplicated and affordable aircraft that can offer airstrike backup and ISR capability in remote areas where SOF operate. Congress is questioning why the U.S. Air Force can’t offer that capability. (Air Force Magazine, July 1, 2020).
Why Women Belong in SOF. One former special operator says that operating environments are evolving and SOF should evolve as well. He believes that physical standards do not need to be the same for men and women in SOF. “Why women absolutely belong in the US military’s special operations forces”, Business Insider, July 6, 2020.
USAF’s Arsenal Plane. In January 2020 a MC-130 SOF transport dropped two pallets of air-to-ground munitions of of its cargo ramp. The proof-of-concept demonstration could provide some additional capability to the USAF. “Do ‘Arsenal Planes’ Have a Future?”, The Diplomat, July 3, 2020.
10th SFGA Advanced Mountaineering Course. Learn about a seven-week course that trains SOF how to survive and move through mountainous terrain during military operations. “Green Berets tackle mountainous terrain”, Fort Carson Mountaineer, July 4, 2020.
$10 Million to Navy SEAL Foundation. The largest grant in the 20-year long history of a non-profit organization that serves SEALs and the Naval Special Warfare community has been received. (CISION PRWeb, Jun 30, 2020).
From Ranger to Country Music Star. A former soldier who fought in the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 is now an acclaimed star in Nashville. “This Ranger fought in Mogadishu before becoming a country music star”, We are the Mighty, July 5, 2020.
KSK Under the Microscope. The elite special operations unit of Germany is being scrutinized because some of its members are associated with far-right extremists groups. This unit had come under close observation before because of its activities in Afghanistan. The KSK formed the nucleus of Task Force – 47 based at Camp Marmal in Northern Afghanistan. It was a bit more aggressive than the German ‘national caveats’ allowed.
CTS Stepping Up. Iraq’s US-trained CTS have taken on a more prominent role in operations in recent weeks under the new government. Read more in “Counter-Terrorism forces take greater role in Iraq”, Al-Monitor, July 3, 2020. In other news, Lieutenant General Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, formerly of the CTS, has been selected to be chief of the National Security Agency.
A SAS Workout. One physical fitness coach uses techniques of the Special Air Service to keep people fit. See “Strength Secrets of the SAS”, Men’s Health, July 7, 2020.
New Boat for SA’s SF. A new 20-meter monohull workboat will soon be delivered to the South African National Defense force (SANDF). “New Workboat Delivered to South Africa’s Special Forces”, MarineLink, June 29, 2020.
Rebirth of ARSOF and the Korean War. At the conclusion of World War II the various special operations units were disbanded – eliminating any organization associated with unconventional warfare. The Korean War revitalized the special operations capability of the U.S. military. See “The Korean War and the Rebirth of ARSOF: Seventy Years Later”, USASOC History Office, Army.mil, June 24, 2020.
SOE and Explosive Coal. The British spymasters of World War II developed an explosive charge that could wreck the boilers of a factory or a ship. “When WWII Spies Created Explosive Coal to Sabotage the Third Reich”, Popular Mechanics, July 3, 2020.
OSS in Tibet. During World War II two members of the Office of Strategic Services went on a mission through India into Tibet to make contact with the Dalai Lama. This mission helped set the stage for the CIA’s involvement with a Tibetan insurgency force in the 1950s. (Coffee or Die Magazine, Jul 6, 2020).
NZ Espionage Story. It seems that the New Zealand SIS did a little side work for other intelligence agencies during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They photographed code books, stole communications, and planted bugs. “NZ broke into embassies for CIA and MI6”, RNZ, July 1, 2020.
A Little History on Coffee and Tea. Although not SOF news, this recent article by the Department of Defense provides some history about the role that coffee and tea has in the U.S. military. See “Brits School U.S. Troops in Tea-Making, But They Prefer Coffee”, DoD News, July 6, 2020.
Wuhan Virus and the Military
The COVID-19 news in the U.S. is not trending on the good side. The U.S. now ranks with Brazil, Sweden, and Peru as having one of the world’s most rapid virus growth rates. California, Arizona, Texas and Florida are seeing large increases in coronavirus cases; and the military communities in those states are seeing a corresponding increase in cases as well. The Pentagon says the number of coronavirus cases in the military have nearly doubled in the past month. The Pentagon is back in business but following the health guidelines for the pandemic.
“So we are seeing great behaviors. We have a well-educated and informed workforce. They know that they need to protect themselves and their family. You can see it in the hallways here in the Pentagon. They are observing those best practices and good behaviors. Hand hygiene and hand sanitizers, maintaining social distances, and wearing cloth face coverings when they can’t maintain social distance.”Transcript, “Senior Defense Officials Update Reporters on COVID-19 Responses“, DOD, July 1, 2020.
U.S. Coast Guard and COVID-19. The usual activities at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. has been significantly altered to account for COVID-19. (Military Times, Jul 6, 2020).
COVID-19 and Afghanistan. The nations of the Resolute Support Mission are provides large quantities of personal protective medical equipment to help the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The virus is sweeping through the ANDSF and undermining their ability to fight the Taliban insurgents. Several provinces are reported infecting rates of 60 to 90 percent among military personnel. “NATO Steps in Amid Reports of COVID-19 Hitting Afghan Forces”, Voice of America, July 4, 2020.
Disinformation, Science, and COVID-19. There is a lot of speculation, misinformation, and partisan posturing circulating in the media about the pandemic. And then . . . there is some science. Read “Reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2”, Science Magazine, June, 26, 2020.
Strategy in a Changing World. A detailed and complex essay on counterinsurgency, competition, strategy, and design. Robert C. Jones is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel, Senior Strategist at U.S. Special Operations Command, and currently deployed to Afghanistan and serving as the Deputy J5 for CJSOTF-A. “Strategy is a Journey: Thoughts on Strategy and Stability in an Evolving World”, Small Wars Journal, June 30, 2020.
China’s Wolf Warriors. The Chinese diplomatic corps is now more energetic and aggressive. It has been very vocal of late and busy pushing controversial Chinese narratives. This new generation of Chinese diplomats are called ‘Wolf Warriors’. Read a 10-page backgrounder (PDF) by Dean Cheng published by The Heritage Foundation, July 6, 2020, entitled “Challenging China’s Wolf Warrior Diplomats”.
Latvia and Military Preparedness. Artis Pabriks, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, provides commentary on how his country is preparing for possible future aggression by Russia. “How Latvia Accomplishes Comprehensive Defence”, RUSI, June 25, 2020.
DOD Identifies Army Casualty. SPC Vincent Sebastian Ibarria, age 21, died in a vehicle rollover accident on Friday, July 3, 2020 in Farah, Afghanistan. He was a member of the 10th Mountain Division. (DOD Release, Jul 4, 2020).
Afghan Air Force Update. The AAF has made some major gains in its ability to plan and conduct operations. This is especially true of its A-29 Super Tucano aircraft. However, it still has some significant maintenance issues. See “DOD: Afghan Air Force Airstrike Ops Improving, Struggles in Maintenance”, Air Force Magazine, July 2, 2020.
Russia and USA: Sharing History. Kathy Gannon, a journalist very familiar with Afghanistan, says that even as the U.S. and Russia vie for influence in Afghanistan they are aligned in their opposition to the presence of the Islamic State in that country. “US, Russia share a complex and bloody history in Afghanistan”, Military Times, July 3, 2020.
Somalia and Hybrid Security Solutions. This article suggests that a more effective military contribution to security in Somalia could be increased cooperation with non-state security forces to create hybrid security solutions. “Rethinking Capacity Building in Somalia”, Wavell Room, June 23, 2020.
Egypt’s North Sinai Campaign. A decade-old conflict in the North Sinai has resulted in a stalemate. It appears that the Egyptian military forces are using a strategy of containment rather than eradication of the insurgency. “The Egyptian Military’s Terrorism Containment Campaign in North Sinai”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 30, 2020.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Book – French Foreign Legion – 1831 to Present. Walker Mills, a Marine Corps infantry officer, provides a review of a new book about military history and the French Foreign Legion. Mills describes At the Edge of the World as “. . . an engaging and rich history of the French Foreign Legion. (Modern War Institute at West Point, Jul 7, 2020).
Spec Ops Novel. Former U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell is an author of military thrillers. His newest novel entitled One True Patriot is now available for preorder before its September 1st release. The hero, Eric Steele, is a special operations wizard with a past. Read an excerpt from the book. (Military.com, Jul 6, 2020).
Report – Irregular Warfare. David Ucko and Thomas Marks have penned a 73-page monograph that presents an analytical framework to assess and respond to irregular threats. Crafting Strategy for Irregular Warfare: A Framework for Analysis and Action, National Defense University Press, July 2, 2020.
CTC Sentinel. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has now put its June 2020 issue online. Articles about COVID-19 and counterterrorism, coronavirus threat to the Northern Syria detention camps holding IS members, pro-Islamic State media and coronavirus, and more.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Webinar – Indo Pacific Terrorism, Special Operations, and the Coronavirus. The Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies feature Dr. Zachary Abuza from the National War College, Colonel (Ret) Dave Maxwell (SF), and Commander Alexander Bein of SOCPAC. June 24, 2020, 1 hour.
Podcast – Irregular Warfare Oversight in DC. Mark Mitchell (retired SF Col) and Pete Villano (former staff member of House Armed Services Committee) are featured in this discussion on how the Department of Defense and Congress interact to produce irregular warfare policies. Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, July 3, 2020, 41 minutes.
Podcast – PSYOP’s Role in Special Operations and Information Warfare. The Commanding General of 1st Special Forces Command, Major General John Brennan, chats about psychological operations. Presented by 8th PSYOP Group, July 6, 2020, 30 minutes.
Video – USACAPOC CoC Ceremony. The U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command conducted a virtual change of command ceremony from MG Darrell Guthrie to BG Jeffrey Coggin on July 6, 2020 (USACAPOC, DVIDS, 14 mins).
Video – 1st SF Cmd Change of Responsibility Ceremony. Command Sergeant Major Ted Munter has replaced CSM Tomas Sandoval as the senior enlisted advisor of the U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) during a change of responsibility ceremony at Fort Bragg, NC on July 1, 2020.
Photo: Air Force Special Tactics Squadron, practice High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jumps and Double Bag Static Line (DBSL) training June 22, 2020 at the Madras Municipal Airport, Ore. This training helps Special Tactics teams maintain readiness and global access skills needed to enter any complex or contested environment. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Emily Moon, 142nd Wing Public Affairs, June 22, 2020.