Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
1st SFGA CoC. Colonel Ryan Ehrler took command of the 1st Special Forces Group on July 9, 2020. He replaced Colonel Owen Ray. Ehrler previously had served as the deputy commanding officer for the group. “1st SFG(A) welcomes new commander”, by Anthony Bryant, Army.mil, July 9, 2020.
Female AFSOC Candidates Reclassify. Two women who were attempting to enter the USAF combat controller and pararescue career fields have recently reclassified after not meeting the rigorous battlefield airman standards. They had completed the 8-week long Special Warfare Preparatory Course (SWPC) but were not selected to continue in the training pipeline. “Two Female Airmen Reclassify After Attempting to Complete Special Ops Training”, Military.com, July 7, 2020.
SF Soldier Dies by Suicide. Master Sergeant Andrew Marckesano served with the 82nd Airborne Division, Ranger Regiment, and Special Forces – with multiple tours in combat zones. He was a Silver Star recipient who had just started a job at the Pentagon. “Army’s ‘Captain America’ dies by suicide after nearly a dozen combat tours”, Fox News, July 10, 2020.
SOCOM’s Armed Overwatch Program. An effort is being launched to find an airframe that will provide close air support and precision strike capabilities for SOF units on the ground. “Meet the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Armed Overwatch Program”, by Caleb Larson, The National Interest, July 9, 2020.
Support to SOF – 7 Rules. There are a lot of skill sets required to support special operations operators. And not all support folks are suited for SOF units. Here are some guidelines. “7 Important Rules for the Troops Who Support Special Operators”, We Are The Mighty, July 13, 2020.
Exercise Commando Crucible. A comprehensive two-week long exercise was held to provide an opportunity for Special Tactics teams to plan and execute missions. Over 40 aircraft were involved. “Special Tactics airmen integrate combat capabilities during Commando Crucible”, 24th SOW PA DVIDS, July 9, 2020.
137th SOW Gets Goldfein Visit. The Air Force Chief of Staff visited the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base (WRANGB) in Oklahoma City on June 8, 2020. Read about his visit and the 137th. (DVIDS, June 8, 2020).
AFSOC Activates First Munitions Squadron. Hurlburt Field has a new squadron in the 1st Special Operations Wing. (DVIDS, July 8, 2020).
Bailed Denied for Green Beret. A U.S. judge has refused to grant immediate bail to Mike Taylor – a former Special Forces soldier. the Massachusetts native has been accused of helping smuggle former Nissan Motor Co. chairman Carlos Ghosn out of Japan. Taylor is fighting extradition to Japan. (Fox News, Jul 9, 2020).
AFSOC Platforms Get New RFCM Countermeasures. The Air Force Special Operations Command will be upgrading some of their aircraft. “The AC-130J and MC-130J to Receive New Radio Frequency Countermeasure Systems”, The Aviationist, July 10, 2020.
Estonian SOF Gets Jackal’s for Africa Deployment. The UK Ministry of Defence will provide Estonian Special Forces Jackal armored vehicles for use in the Sahel region of Africa while taking part in Task Force Takuba. (UK Defence Journal, Jul 9, 2020).
EU SOF Units Deploying to Mali. French, Estonian, Czech, and Swedish special operations forces will be the initial SOF elements of Task Force Takuba. The TF will operate in Mali against Jihadist groups. (MSN.news, Jul 12, 2020).
Israel Establishes SOF Air Wing. The Israel Air Force has established a special operations air wing that groups the elite air units under one organization. The 7th Special Operations Wing will include a rescue squadron, special tactics squadron, and a tactical air ops unit. In the future an intelligence section and training center will be part of the wing’s structure. (Defense Update, Jul 12, 2020).
Frogmen and the Battle of Saipan. During the island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific during World War II members of the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) were equipped with nothing more than a dive mask, a pair of canvas shoes, a knife, and a satchel of explosives strapped to their backs. “The Battle of Saipan: How Frogmen Provided Safe Passage for Amphibious Landings”, Coffee or Die, July 7, 2020.
Some History of the 160th SOAR. Learn all about the early beginnings of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. “This Is The Army’s Super Secret Special Operations Aviation Unit”, Coffee or Die Magazine, July 12, 2020.
Coronvirus Pandemic and the Military
COVID-19 and the SOF Team Room. The ‘team room’ has drastically changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. SOF has had to find new and innovative ways to train in preparation for deployment. Teleworking and training via virtual means have increased in frequency. SSG Kevin Cude, a Civil Affairs NCO in the 91st CA Battalion, writes about ways to continue training and communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Virtual Team Room”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, July 10, 2020.
SOCCENT’s New Outdoor Fitness Facility – Adapting to COVID-19. The U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) has opened an outdoor human performance facility at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The fitness facility provides a safe and socially distant workout in the new coronavirus era. “New special operations outdoor training facility allows safe workouts”, Army.mil, July 7, 2020.
Navy Halts Physical Fitness Tests for 2020. The Navy is cutting testing for physical fitness for the remainder of the year due to concerns about the increased spread of COVID-19. This also includes the Body Composition Assessment. Organized or group physical training will also remain suspended except for recruit training or unit mission training requirements. “No more physical fitness assessments for 2020, Navy says”, Navy Times, July 9, 2020.
COVID-19 and Pandemics: A Security Threat. Col (Ret) Robert Hamilton, Ph.D., a professor at the U.S. Army War College, writes on how national security and interests will be threatened by future pandemics. COVID-19 and Pandemics: The Greatest National Security Threat of 2020 and Beyond, Foreign Policy Research Institute, July 9, 2020.
Roles and Responsibilities on a CA Team. Captain Ignacio Suarez, a Civil Affairs officer, takes a look at how being knowledgeable about different personalities can help increase the efficiency of a Civil Affairs team and increase the probability of mission success. “Leveraging Team Personalities”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, July 9, 2020.
Adm Stavridis on Future Combat. The former Navy 4-star comments on the new ABC’s of combat: autonomy, biotech, cyber, and special operations. “Six Ways the U.S. Isn’t Ready for Wars of the Future”, Bloomberg, July 10, 2020.
Trump’s Words to SOUTHCOM. On July 10, 2020 President Trump addressed the service members of Southern Command in Doral, Florida. “Remarks by President Trump on SOUTHCOM Enhanced Counternarcotics Operations”, The White House, July 10, 2020.
Army or Marine Sniper – Who is Better? A review of the use of snipers in the Marine Corps and Army and the training schools where they learn their skills. “US Army Sniper vs. US Marine Scout Sniper – Who’s the Sharpest Shooter”, Coffee or Die, July 7, 2020.
America’s Role in Syria Ineffective? The United Nations has cut off humanitarian aid to eastern Syria – an area inhabited by Kurds, Christians, and others who have spent the last several years fighting ISIS. Aid is being used as a weapon by both the Damascus and Ankara regimes. “Has the US sidelined its Syrian partners, allowing aid and water cutoff?”, The Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2020.
Great Power Competition, SOF, Etc
SOF and GPC. Major Tim Ball, an SF officer, has penned a 17-page paper on Great Power Competition and SOF. In GPC SOF is “needed more than ever.” Still the One: Great Power Competition and Special Operations Forces, Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), July 10, 2020.
The Chinese Threat. Christopher Wray, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was a recent guest of the Hudson Institute where he delivered some remarks on the “. . . greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality . . .” In his remarks he says the threat to our economic and national security comes from the counterintelligence and economic espionage threat from China. (FBI.gov News, Jul 7, 2020). See the bottom of this article for the video event.
Latvia Seeks More US Troops. The Baltic country is seeking to have more U.S. personnel on the ground. Surely Moscow can’t be happy about this development! “Latvia Wants US Troops, And Is Ready to Pay for Them”, Breaking Defense, July 9, 2020.
Afghanistan: A Lost Cause. A Green Beret, Robert Gast, says that after 19 years, $2 trillion, 20,000+ wounded, and almost 2,000 killed it is time to end the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. “Lost Cause: A Special Forces Soldier’s Case for Leaving Afghanistan”, The Federalist, July 13, 2020.
Russian Support to Taliban. Several Afghan members of parliament have expressed their contention that the insurgents are receiving aid and money from several nations – including Russia. “Afghan Lawmakers: Russian Support to Taliban no Secret”, Voice of America, July 3, 2020.
K2, Veterans, and Dangerous Toxins. From 2001 to 2005 the United States used an airbase in southern Uzbekistan (Karshi-Khanabad Airfield or K2) as a staging base for the invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent operations in Afghanistan. In the fall of 2001 Special Forces teams from the 5th Special Forces Group (supported by AFSOC elements and the occasional CIA agent with bags of money) infiltrated from K2 into Afghanistan.
During the next few years Special Forces battalions operated out of K2 and supported their teams deployed in northern Afghanistan. Many K2 veterans continue to suffer serious health issues related to their deployment to K2. The Veterans Affairs Department has been slow to respond to this veterans health crisis. A bipartisan group of members of the U.S. Congress has begun to take action. “Congress releases declassified Pentagon files showing deployed US troops were exposed to dangerous toxins”, CNN.com, July 9, 2020.
The Stronghold Freedom Foundation (SFF) is urging people to contact their Congressional Representatives to include H.R. 5957 in the NDAA. The K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act of 2020 would require the DoD to conduct an epidemiological study, create a registry for all veterans exposed, and urge the VA Secretary to use the study to determine presumptive conditions so that healthcare can be immediately provided and covered. Read more here in H.R. 5957 Fact Sheet.
USAF Pilot Safe After Crash in Afghanistan. A U.S. Air Force pilot flying an Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucano safely ejected before the aircraft crashed during a training flight. (Air Force Magazine, July 9, 2020).
Taliban Goals: Peace or Total Victory? The intra-Afghan peace negotiations are off to a slow start but the U.S. – Taliban withdrawal talks are moving along nicely with the U.S. likely to have just 4,000 troops in country by the November elections in the U.S. But do the Taliban want peace and power-sharing? Some do; but many want to topple the Afghan government and install a Taliban regime. “Within the Taliban, clashing views of Afghanistan’s future”, The Washington Post, July 12, 2020.
July 23, 2020 – SO/LIC July Webinar. The National Defense Industrial Association will host an event with the theme “AISUM Challenges in Support of Deploying Artificial Intelligence for SOF”. A conversation about “Artificial Intelligence Small Unit Maneuver”.
July 16, 2020 – Virtual Town Hall – Rep Dan Crenshaw. Former U.S. Navy SEAL is hosted by the SEAL Family Foundation for a one-hour long conversation. He will share his unique perspective about transitioning from service member to Congressman, reflections on being a Navy SEAL, and what our country asks of the families that support our troops.
POSTPONED: The SonTay Raiders Association Reunion scheduled for October 2020 has been postponed until further notice. The decision is due the restrictions and health risks of the coronaviruse pandemic. The 50th anniversary of the raid by Special Forces soldiers into North Vietnam to rescue American prisoners of war took place in November 1970.
Cancelled. The Special Operations Association will not hold its SOAR XLIV reunion this year. It will take place in 2021.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Paper – Rethinking US Counterterrorism Strategy. Douglas London, a Non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute and a 34-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Clandestine Service, has penned a 20-page paper (PDF) on CT. He argues that America is long overdue to update its counterterrorism strategy. (MEI, July 2020).
Texas National Security Review. The spring 2020 issue of TNSR is now online with several interesting articles on national security.
Army War College KSIL. The United States Army War College has published its “Key Strategic Issues List” for Academic Years 20121-2022. The KSIL presents over 200 key strategic issues to guide research and analysis efforts. See page 17 and 25 for SOF related issues. (49 pages, PDF, July 2020).
Civil Affairs Reading List 2020. Here is a list of selected readings for the Civil Affairs professional. This reading list was compiled by the editorial board of the Eunomia Journal and the leadership of the Civil Affairs Association.
Air Observer. The biannual journal of the 137th Special Operations Wing is now posted online. 21 pages, DVIDS, July 2020.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Video – FBI Director on Chinese Intellectual Theft and Influence. Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation takes part in a panel discussion on China. China’s Attempt to Influence U.S. Institutions: A Conversation with FBI Director Christopher Wray, The Hudson Institute, July 7, 2020, one hour.
Video – Rethinking U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy. The Middle East Institute conducted a Zoom Webinar that discussed a recent paper about US counterterrorrism by Douglas London. Three panelists are featured – Douglas London – a 34-year veteran of the CIA, Chris Costa – Executive Director of the International Spy Museum and former special operations professional, and Karen Greenberg – Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law. July 6, 2020, 1 1/2 hour.
Video – Green Beret: An Interview with Lt. Colonel (Ret. SF) Dave Clukey. Mental toughness, team planning, and preparation are all topics in this interview. Learn about his life as a Green Beret, combat tours in Afghanistan, being a Combat Diver, the THOR program, family life and Special Forces, repeated deployments, and more.
Webcast – Special Operations Command’s Tech Priorities. AeroVironment and C4ISRNET presents a webcast featuring Ms. Lisa Sanders – the Director of Science and Technology at USSOCOM. Topics include the latest industry trends, USSOCOM’s ambitious agenda, the Hyper Enabled Operator, drones, ISR, and more. (40 mins, Jul 8, 2020).
Podcast – DIA Connections, War Movies, Hollywood, and Dale Dye. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) interviews Dale Dye – a Vietnam Veteran who has consulted and advised movie producers on changing the way Hollywood makes war movies. (DVIDS, July 10, 2020, 32 minutes).
Podcast – Bob Charest Interview. A Team House audio episode features former Special Forces soldier Bob Charest. Bob served in Vietnam with Project Sigma, with Det A in Berlin, and a few other places as well. Team House, July 10, 2020, 2 hours.
Film Trailer – OIF: The Fight for Baghdad. Watch the official trailer of this soon to be released film by the Army University Press. The film will feature the Coalition Forces’ fight for the Iraqi capital. (June 23, 2020, 1 min)
Video – The Significance of Psychological Operations. A short clip about how PYSOP is an integral part of military history encompassing planned communication strategies to influence attitudes and behaviors. (USASOC, Jul 2, 2020, 2 mins).
Photo: U.S. Marines with Force Reconnaissance Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, complete an open circuit dive during a Diver Propulsion Device certification course at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, June 23, 2020. The course certified the Marines in the use of the DPD, which increases their proficiency in covertly meeting mission objectives. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jackson Dukes)