Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Nominee for ASD SO/LIC Questioned by Congress. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict position has been vacant since early 2019. Louis Bremer, a former Navy SEAL, is the nominee for ASD SO/LIC. He is undergoing some intense questioning by the Senate Armed Services Committee. “SOLIC Nominee Faces Questions On Khashoggi Killing, Social Media Posts”, Breaking Defense, August 6, 2020.
New Gear on MH-47. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is sporting some new modifications on its aircraft. (The Warzone, Aug 9, 2020).
SF Colonel Faces Court-Marital. Colonel Kevin Russell, a Special Forces officer, is facing five counts of violating Article 120 of the UCMJ. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) released a statement confirming that Russell is accused of sexual assault and abusive sexual contact. The court-martial will begin on August 25, 2020 at FBNC. “Army Special Forces Colonel Faces Court-Martial on Sexual Assault Charges”, Military.com, August 4, 2020.
Tab or Scroll? Two candidates running for political office have claimed to be “Rangers”. They are getting called on that claim because they are ‘only’ Ranger School graduates and were not members of a Ranger battalion. Is this a misrepresentation of their service? “Ranger School graduates running for office are claiming to be Rangers. Is it right?”, Connecting Vets, August 4, 2020. (Editor disclaimer: tabbed, no scroll).
BG (Ret) Frank Toney Passes Away. A U.S. Army Special Forces officer with extensive service in SF units has passed away at age 70. He was the first commander of 1st Battalion, 3rd SFG(A) after its re-activation in 1990. He led 1/3 during Operation Desert Storm. He would go on to command at the group, TSOC, and SF command level. While 10th SFG(A) commander from 1992 to 1994 he served as the JTF commander of Operation Support Hope in Uganda. Toney was a “Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment”.
Navy SEAL Museum in Hot Water. A non-profit organization may no longer have ties with NSW. Rear Admiral Collin Green, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, has condemned a video that shows a K-9 dog attack a person wearing a Colin Kaepernick 49ers football jersey. The admiral has suspended the relationship for the time being. The video was of a K-9 MWD demonstration that was part of an event run by the Navy SEAL Museum. (AP News, Aug 4, 2020).
SEAL Fundraiser Cancelled. The biennial Palm Beach Navy SEAL Evening of Tribute has been cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and a leaked video. The fundraiser, scheduled for 2021, raises money for the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Fort Pierce-based Navy SEAL Museum. “Palm Beach bash to raise money for Navy SEALs not taking place”, Palm Beach Post, August 8, 2020.
10 Marines Punished in Case of the Death of Green Beret in Iraq. Administration punishments were given to ten Marines that were in Iraq supporting a MARSOC unit. The punishments were administered following an investigation into the death of Lockheed Martin contractor Rick Rodriquez – a 20-year Army veteran. Three MARSOC operators are facing courts-martial for involuntary manslaughter in the case. “10 Marines Punished Following Investigation into Death of Former Green Beret in Iraq”, Military.com, August 7, 2020.
125th STS and Closed Circuit Diving. The 125th Special Tactics Squadron is training up on some new underwater diving techniques. “125th STS Dives Into New Underwater Capability”, DVIDS, August 7, 2020.
SF Officer Attacked by Press. Mercedes Schlapp, a senior advisor of strategic communications for Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., recently attacked a currently serving SF officer in an article she wrote for Real Clear Politics. She accused the Colonel Fernando Lujan – of being a “ferocious opponent of the president” and pointed out his service on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. She failed to note that he would continue to serve on the NSC under the Trump administration followed by his working on the Afghan peace envoy team for the last two years. The editor of Real Clear Politics has issued an apology.
3rd SFGA and QAnon. A Twitter post by the 3rd Special Forces Group caused a ruckus on social media a few days back. The photo was of a pair of Army SF dudes conducting night operations. The Twitter tweet was soon deluged with comments from QAnon conspiracy theory followers who saw it as a call to action. The public affairs officer for 3rd SFG(A) says there is no hidden message. On another note, there are now questions as to why the Special Forces Qualification Course is referred to as the “Q” course. But that’s another story. “Conspiracy theorists are convinced there’s a secret message hidden in this Army photo”, Task & Purpose, August 8, 2020.
Ex-Green Berets Sentenced to 20 Years for Venezuela Caper. Two former Special Forces soldiers who served with the 10th Special Forces Group are now jailed for 20 years. They were part of a plot to overthrow the Venezuela government.
Helicopter RFP for Australia’s SOF. A request for proposals has been issued for a fleet of light helicopters to be used by Australia’s special forces. The choppers would need to be optimized for dense urban environments and transportable on a Boeing C-17. The helicopters should be capable of ISR and armed escort missions. In addition, it would be capable of insert and extract of SF teams, hostage recovery, and tactical observation. “Canberra issues special forces helicopter RFP”, FlightGlobal, August 5, 2020.
Quads for Dutch SF. Tactical 4×4 vehicles are on the way for Dutch special forces. The vehicles will have a diesel engine and automatic gearbox. They can be transported by helicopter. (Israel Defense, Aug 9, 2020).
Rogue SAS Unit in Afghanistan. Andrew Roberts provides an interesting and controversial take on accusations of murder by the Special Air Service. “With its hands tied, the SAS loses”, The Times, August 9, 2020.
RAF Regiment and Female Officers. The first female officers have successfully completed the 25-week course required to become members of the RAF Regiment. “First RAF Regiment Female Officers Graduate”, RAF, August 8, 2020.
Australian SF – Grim Findings in Investigation. Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said in a recent interview that some bad news about Australian special forces activities in Afghanistan is in a yet to be released report. “Linda Reynolds: Grim findings to come in war crimes investigation”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), August 9, 2020.
Australian SF – A Cultural Shift? For the first time the Australian special forces will be led by an officer who has not been a member of the Special Air Services (SAS) Regiment. Major General Paul Kenny will become the next Special Operations Commander for Australia (SOCAUST). “Change of Command for Australia’s special forces ahead of explosive war crimes report”, ABC Net News, August 7, 2020.
The Story of Four Female Spies. Four women are profiled in this article about their clock and dagger activities during World War I and II. Mata Hari, Virginia Hall, Christine Granville, and Nancy Wake. “Do You Know These 4 Spies?”, We Are the Mighty, August 9, 2020.
History of Col Aaron Bank. The life and times of Aaron Bank is detailed in a post by the 10th Special Forces Group on its Facebook page. Bank served as the commander of Jedburgh Team PACKARD in the south of France, on the aborted IRON CROSS mission to kill Hitler, and in Indochina on Mercy Team RAVEN. In 1952 he commanded the first Special Forces unit – the 10th SFG at FBNC. Bank is referred to by some historians as the “Father of the Green Berets”. (10th SFGA, Aug 6, 2020, FB).
‘Special Operator’ – Origins of the Term. The use of the word ‘operator’ in the military refers to troops serving in special operations forces or SOF. Some associate the term with ‘tier 1’ units; while others use it to describe any individual who went through a special operations selection and training course and serves in a SOF unit. “The intriguing origins of the term ‘special operator'”, Business Insider, August 6, 2020.
Wuhan Virus and the Military
U.S. and COVID-19. The United States has passed the 5 million mark in confirmed coronavirus infections. The U.S. leads the world with a quarter of all global infections. The coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S; especially in the south and west where many U.S. military installations are located.
The DoD continues to play an active role in efforts to contain the pandemic. It has just awarded a $104 million contract for the procurement of syringes that will support the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination campaign. (DoD News Release, Aug 5, 2020). The Army will require coronavirus tests and self-quarantine before overseas travel by service members and their families beginning August 21, 2020. (Stars and Stripes, Aug 7, 2020).
Meanwhile, New Zealand has gone 100 days without a COVID-19 community transmission. NZ took an early and aggressive approach to the virus that contributed to its success against the pandemic.
Marines of Sunk AAV. The human remains were found on board the amphibious Assault Vehicle using a remotely-operated underwater video system. The bodies were recovered on August 7, 2020. The vehicle rapidly sank with 15 Marines and one sailor on board. Eight died in the mishap on July 30, 2020. The vehicle was found in 385 feet of water about 1.5 klics off the coast of an island.
U.S. Army’s NGSW. Lt. Col. Jason Bohannon is interviewed about the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) program. This is an attempt to select a new rifle and automatic rifle as well as advanced ammunition for the Army. (Overt Defense, Jul 30, 2020).
Ideal Combat Load for Infantrymen? It is not uncommon for foot soldiers to be carrying a combat load of more than 100 pounds. But how much combat effectiveness is lost with the extra weight? “This is how much weight you should actually carry in combat (according to science)”, We Are The Mighty, August 6, 2020.
SFABs and Regionalization. To prepare for the big conflict the U.S. needs to reorient and harmonize its security force assistance efforts. “Aligning Security Force Assistance for the Next Large-Scale Conflict”, The CIPHER Brief, August 4, 2020..
Great Power Competition
Chinese Deception. The role of deception in military operations has long been valued by Chinese military leaders and strategists. However, few studies on Chinese military power touch on this topic. “Deception is Key to Chinese Military Strategies”, The Diplomat, August 8, 2020.
China, Islands, and Power Projection. Some islands in the South China Sea are being set up as air bases for the Chinese air power. These island outposts will extend the range of tactical air power for China. “China is Counting on Island Outposts to Project Power, But U.S. Troops Could Capture Them”, Forbes.com, August 9, 2020.
DoS Report on Russia’s Propaganda. The U.S. Department of State released at report entitled Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem. The Global Engagement Center special report, dated August 2020, is 77 pages long and available online in PDF format.
Chinese Accounts Banned by YouTube. A large number of Chinese YouTube accounts have been banned because of their content considered to be propaganda. From April to June 2020 over 2,596 accounts were taken down. “YouTube bans thousands of Chinese accounts to combat ‘coordinated influence operations'”, Tech Crunch, August 5, 2020.
Election Influence by Foreign Powers. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) director issued a statement on the threat to the upcoming U.S. elections posed by Russia, China, and other nations. “Election Threat Update for the American Public”, NCSC Newsroom, August 7, 2020.
U.S. Cyber Command and NSA – Preparing for the Election. Preserving the security of the election from cyber attack and influence operations by Russia and other nations is a primary concern for several U.S. governmental agencies. “For 2020 Election, Threat is Bigger than Russia”, Defense News, August 8, 2020.
Troops in Syria – Protecting Oil? Part of the rationale for keeping U.S. troops on the ground in Syria appears to be to protect oil for the Kurds . . . and a newly-formed U.S. oil company. That is at least one interpretation of events happening in Syria. “U.S. Troops Really Are in Syria to Protect the Oil – for the Kurds”, Foreign Policy, August 5, 2020.
Keeping the Kurds Oil Safe? The Trump administration has approved a deal for an American firm to develop and modernize oil field in northeast Syria under the control of the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The deal could be worth billions of dollars for the Kurds in Syria. A prominent figure in the deal is James Reese – a former Delta Force Army officer. “Former Army Delta Force officer, US ambassador sign secretive contract to develop Syrian oil fields”, CNN Politics, August 5, 2020.
Releasing Prisoners. The Afghan government will be releasing the last Taliban prisoners – bringing the total released to over 5,000. This clears the way for the start of Afghan government and Taliban peace talks.
Afghanistan: Ties with Pakistan and India. A recent paper analyzes the bilateral relationships that Afghanistan has with two of the larger countries in the region. In brief, the relationship can be described as having a ‘See-Saw’ effect. Improving relations with one country will usually generate a corresponding decline in relations with the other. “A See-Saw Relationship: An Overview of Afghanistan’s Ties with India and Pakistan”, E-International Relations, August 6, 2020. (Content was originally written for college degree purposes; not considered ‘expert opinion’. But still, an informative read).
U.S. Troop Levels to Drop by November. Just in time for the presidential election force levels in Afghanistan will drop to less than 5,000. The U.S. dropped to 8,600 personnel in mid-July. Any subsequent drop in numbers was to be contingent on the Taliban meeting the terms of the U.S. – Taliban agreement signed in February. Apparently the Taliban are living up to their obligations. (The Hill, Aug 9, 2020).
SFABs in Africa. The use of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade in Africa demonstrates how a multifunctional advisor team can enable the Department of Defense deliver a unique capability to partner forces. The SFABs can lay the foundation for a long-term sustainable partnership. David Carl, a Foreign Area Officer in the U.S. Army, explains in “Security Startups: Rethinking Security Sector Reform in the Sahel”, The Defense Post, August 4, 2020.
TF Takuba and Sahel. The special task force set up by France and comprised of special operations units from Europe is now operational. “Can the Takuba Force Turn Around the Sahel Conflict?”, VOA, August 8, 2020.
August 12-15, 2020. Destin, Florida – CANCELLED
Special Forces Association International Convention
August 29, 2020. Virtual Fundraiser
Deep Dive 2020
Combat Diver Foundation
September 10-11, 2020. Orlando, Florida
2020 Blackbeard Golf Tournament
SSG Matthew Pucino Memorial Foundation
September 20, 2020. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Frogman Swim
Navy SEAL Foundation
October 5-8, 2020. Web-based event.
2020 Civil Affairs Symposium
Civil Affairs Association
Books, Pubs, and Reports
North Korea. The Army University Press has a selection of books and publications about politics, economy, and military topics on the Korean peninsular.
USAJFKSWCS Reading List. The “Commandant’s Professional Reading List” is now available online.
Book Review – Special Forces Berlin. The Cold War work of Special Forces is sometimes forgotten. Author James Stejskal provides a history of SF in Berlin during the Cold War. Read a review of his book in Military Review, August 7, 2020.
Videos, Podcasts, and Movies
Podcast – The Turmoil of Identity Crisis: Special Forces Organizational Culture. MG John Brennan, BG Steve Marks, and COl Ed Croot – commander, deputy commander, and chief of staff for the 1st Special Forces Command are featured in this podcast. They are discussing a recent study by Croot on the identity crisis that is facing the Special Forces community. The War Room, United States Army War College, August 4, 2020, 35 minutes.
Podcast – The Other Foreign Fighters. The conversations about ‘foreign fighters’ usually are about radicalized foreigners who join ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But there are also foreign fighters – to include Americans – who joined up with the forces (SDF and Peshmerga) that were fighting against ISIS. Featuring Joseph Young and Jason Fritz. MWI Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, August 5, 2020, 32 minutes.
Video – CIA Propaganda Officer Joe Goldberg on Disinfo Ops, Narrative Building, and More. A former CIA officer who specialized in disinformation and propaganda operations is interviewed. The Team House, August 7, 2020, 2 hours.
Video – Systemic Operational Design Fundamentals. The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) has published a 25-minute long video about advanced military design theory, education, and practice. Recorded in October 2019 at the Israeli Defense Force General Staff College; published by JSOU on August 7, 2020.
Podcast – A Delta Force Original: Mike Vining. One of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces Delta unit is interviewed about his career that started in Vietnam and ended in the late 1990s. Shaping Opinion, August 10, 2020, 1 hour.
Movie Trailer – A Call to Spy. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) began to enlist women as spies during World War II. Their mission was to conduct sabotage and build a resistance in Europe. IFC Films, August 2, 2020, 3 minutes.
Photo: An Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies near Fort Hood, Texas. Photo by Specialist Robert Donovic, August 2, 2020.