Special Operations News Update – Tuesday, March 24, 2020

352nd SOW in Romania

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

SOF News

U.S. Woman ‘Rescued’ in Secret Op. During his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Sunday, March 22, 2020 President Trump said that a secret operation was conducted to rescue an American woman held in terrible circumstances who was the victim of a violent crime. No more details were provided. Apparently the rescue was more of an assisted movement. Read “American Woman Rescued in Secretive Military Op, Trump Says”, Military.com, March 22, 2020.

NSW Sailors Positive for COVID-19. SEAL training at BUD/S has been suspended due to the high risk of respiratory conditions during training. At least four NSW members have tested positive for the Wuhan virus. (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Mar 20, 2020).

Brower Heads COVID-19 Endeavor. The Governor of Tennessee has appointed former 5th SFGA commander Scott Brower to head up a COVID-19 Unified Command. (WKRN.com, Mar 23, 2020).

ST Airman Dies During Training. A student in the Air Force Combat Dive Course at the Naval Support Activity Center in Panama City, Florida died during a water training event. (Military.com, Mar 20, 2020). A1C Keigan Baker was in training as a Special Tactics combat controller apprentice. (Air Force Magazine, Mar 20, 2020).

HSC-85 on the Chopping Block. The Navy plans to shut down its Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 85. The crews of HSC-85 are the Navy’s only helicopter squadron dedicated to providing special operations forces support. (The Warzone, Mar 23, 2020).

Congressional Support Needed for SOF. Lt. Gen Thomas Trask, USAF (ret) is a former Vice Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. He has penned an article citing the need for congressional support of U.S. special operations forces. Read “Cool Gear Like This Only Goes So Far. U.S. Special Forces Need Help”, The National Interest, March 22, 2020.

SOFIC Cancelled. The annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference held in Tampa, Florida has been cancelled due to the Wuhan virus. (National Defense Magazine, Mar 20, 2020).

More Cancelled SOF Events. The Special Operations Warrior Foundation has cancelled two of its April events; DESERT ONE Documentary Screening and ‘Heroes Unite” 40th Anniversary.

International SOF

Australia – Murder Charges Likely. A recently aired video showing a Special Air Service Regiment member killing an apparently unarmed Afghan will likely lead to murder charges. Read “Defence braces for SAS murder charges”, The Saturday Paper, March 21, 2020.

Wpns of Russian SOF. Warren Gray describes the various weapons that Russian special operations forces have for their use. Read “Weapons of the Russian Special Forces”, Gunpowder Magazine, March 22, 2020.

SOF and Great Power Competition

Political Warfare. Ari Cicurel, a senior policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, argues that the U.S. needs to incorporate ‘political warfare’ into its strategic thinking. Read “Endless Wars and Political Warfare”, The Hill, March 20, 2020.

NDS and ARSOF Strategy. The 2018 National Defense Strategy calls for the U.S. military to maintain its competitive advantage against its adversaries. The reality of ‘great power competition’ is that we are in conflict right now. The United States Army Special Operations Command has refined its mission and vision for the future. Read Army Special Operations Forces Strategy, USASOC, 2019, PDF, 8 pages.

National Security

Returning U.S. Troops Placed in Quarantine. Apparently once you complete your tour in a combat zone or on a long overseas deployment you get to spend two weeks living in tents. Do we have an SOF units going through this less than pleasurable experience? Perhaps at Fort Bragg? Read “Returning troops denied water, bathrooms under quarantine”, AP, March 20, 2020.

ISIS Losing Ground to Taliban. The Afghan Taliban have been successful in their attacks against the Islamic State – Khorasan Province in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. Read more in “US Admits Taliban Offensive is Whittling IS’s Grip on Afghanistan”, Voice of America, March 20, 2020.

Pompeo Scolds Afghanistan. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is setting the stage for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He visited Kabul on Monday, March 23, 2020 and met with President Ghani and former CEO Abdullah both separately and together. Pompeo said the U.S. is pulling support – the initial punishment is the cutting of assistance by $1 billion in 2020 and a further $1 billion in 2021. In addition the U.S. is going to initiate a review of all programs and projects to identify additional reductions. Read a statement from the State Department issued on March 23, 2020 entitled On the Political Impasse in Afghanistan.

Intel Leadership Changes. Career intelligence official Lora Shiao will head up the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) until a Senate-confirmed director is in place. There are concerns that the IC is getting politicized with career officials who are not parroting the White House ‘party line’ getting the boot and being replaced with more pliable officials. Not sure this is entirely true . . . but then again . . . hard telling not knowing. See “Intelligence leadership shuffled again as broader reforms continue”, CBS News, March 23, 2020. See also “Grenell taps new acting director of National Counterterrorism Center”, The Hill, March 23, 2020.

Remotely Controlled Explosive Boats. The Houthi Movement of Yemen has refined the art of the use of small boats to blow up larger boats and ships. These remotely controlled boats are usually controlled by someone in another boat that holds further from the target. See “Explosive Boat Threat to Tankers Off Yemen”, by H.I. Sutton, Naval News, March 22, 2020.

NATO Counterterrorism Training Program. Members of Penn State contributed to a forthcoming Counterterrorism training program that will be utilized by NATO. See “Penn State experts contribute to NATO counterterrorism training curriculum”, Penn State News, March 23, 2020.

UK, Somalia, and ‘Frontier Soldiering’. Ric Cole, a UK military officer, provides his views on how the UK should assist the Somalia security forces in the fight against al Shabaab. Read “The Rebirth of ‘Frontier Soldiering’?”, Wavell Room, August 15, 2019.

U.S. on Fewer Bases in Iraq. Some press reports say that the U.S. is closing down some of the smaller bases in Iraq due to the rocket attacks by Shia militias. The Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says the base closures are because of the coronavirus threat and that we are winning the fight against ISIS. Read “CJTF-OIR Statement on repositioning of forces”, CJTF-OIR, March 20, 2020.

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Drones and the Cyber Threat. A new report is out that examines the relationship between drones and cyber security. Read “How to Analyze the Cyber Threat from Drones”, RAND, March 2020, 94 pages.

Terrorist Attack Cycle. Writers with the U.S. Army Antiterrorism Division have penned at short article entitled “Complacency Kills: Understanding the Evolving Terrorist Attack Cycle”, Military Police, Spring 2020, PDF, pages 13-17. https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/52587

Videos, Podcasts, and Movies

Podcast – The History of BELSOF. Two Belgian SOF Operators tell the story behind their Special Forces Group and Special Operations Regiment, diving deep into their roots in World War II. Learn how Belgium’s elite soldiers earned their berets and became the units they are today. Global SOF Foundation, March 20, 2020, 23 minutes.

75th Ranger Regiment: Task Force Training. A 4-minute long video accompanied with some intense music depicts training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. (Video by Sgt. Jaerett Engeseth, Mar 19, 2020).

U.S. Army Paratroopers Operate the “Instant Eye”. The 173rd Airborne is now using the Instant Eye quad-copter (drone) for reconnaissance. The small drone was first issued to SOF and now is fielded to Army conventional units. (U.S. Army, Mar 18, 2020, 1 min)

The Canadian Ranger. In Canada’s North, Canadian Rangers teach NATO troops how to survive in the extreme cold weather. Canada’s NANOOK-NUNALIVUT 2019 took place in northern Canada in March 2019. (NATO, Mar 3, 2020, 1 min)


Photo: U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operators, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, prepare to conduct a simulated medevac mission near Constanta, Romania, using the 352 SOW’s CV-22B Osprey. The training event was part of a larger special operations air-land integrations (SOALI) exercise with Romanian and Polish SOF. The exercise marked the start of the SOALI training between ROU and the U.S. for this upcoming year, although it’s one of many routine engagements where the ROU SOF has trained alongside U.S. SOF. (Courtesy photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena, 352nd SOW PA, March 2, 2020)

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