Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
The extremely small staff at SOF News (one editor and a group of occasional writers) took a long 4-month break from publishing. We are now back! There will be some subtle changes in content and format. We intend to pick up where we left off. The next few weeks we will cover some of the more important stories that transpired over the past several months but the main focus will be on current events, news, analysis, and commentary.
SF Officer Now Acting SECDEF. Retired Colonel Chris Miller was selected by President Trump to replace DOD Secretary Mark Espin. Miller is known as an ‘intellectual’ Green Beret who worked in counterterrorism and special operations positions in the D.C. beltway after military retirement. You can read his official biography to learn more about the Acting SECDEF. On November 13, 2020 he issued an “Initial Message to the Department” in which, among other things, he stated:
“Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”
Upgrade for ASD SO/LIC. One of the first actions taken by Acting Secretary of Defense Miller was to have the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict report directly to him. Read more about ASD SO/LIC.
DoD Pulling Support from CIA? There is a (slight?) likelihood that DoD support may be diminished for Central Intelligence Agency counterterrorism operations abroad. This DoD support includes logistical, transportation, and special operations support. Read more in “Pentagon plans to cut most of its support to CIA’s counterterrorism missions”, ABC News, December 10, 2020. One SF officer, Doug Livermore, is not that concerned about this move. Read his perspective on the topic in “Passing the paramilitary torch from the CIA to Special Operations Command”, Military Times, September 10, 2019.
AFSOC Airman is “Communicator of the Year”. U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Brett Majesky earned the Special Operations Forces Communicator of the Year Award for his performance in 2020 by providing significant contributions to the special operations forces mission. (DVIDS, Nov 25, 2020).
SFA Membership Drive. The Special Forces Association is in the middle of a 90-day effort to increase its membership. Each of the 89 SFA Chapters spread across the nation (and world) are reaching out to current, inactive, and SF Alumni to invite them to participate in chapter events and activities. Currently the active SFA membership is over 10,000.
U.S. SF ‘Hard Target Defeat’ Companies. Read an interesting article about 1st Special Forces Command’s new (or revised?) DA units. The move is possibly a shift in mission that will prepare for higher-end fights with Russia and China. “The Army is Training Specialized Companies of Green Berets to Crack Hard Targets”, by Joseph Trevithick, The WarZone, December 2, 2020.
More SOF News. A member of the Special Forces Regiment, CWO4 (Ret) Harry D. Rider, Jr., has passed away. A 7th SFG(A) soldier died suddenly after an illness. A woman who graduated from Ranger School, Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, talks about earning respect. The 512th Rescue Squadron of the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base will be getting some upgraded helicopters. Read an account of an F-16 pilot coming to the rescue of a special operations team 400 miles behind enemy lines in Iraq in 2003. A recent article about MoH recipient and SF soldier Roy Benavidez provides details on his mission in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Things That Keep SOF PAOs Busy
More SOF News – But in a Bad Way. The last few months have seen some tragic events take place in the special operations community. Many of these events have put the SOF community in an extremely bad light and have no doubt kept the SOF public affairs officers busy into the evening.
GB Shoots Up a Bowling Ally While on Leave. A 7th SFG(A) NCO has been arrested in connection with the death of three people in a shooting in a bowling ally and bar in in Illinois on December 27, 2020.
Former Group Cdr Arrested. A former 1st SFG(A) group commander was arrested on charges of domestic violence on December 27, 2020 after a two-hour long standoff with police officers. COL Owen Ray was armed with a rifle and pistol when the police arrived at the family residence. Ray currently is the Army’s I Corps chief of staff.
Derogatory Comments. The battalion commander overseeing Ranger School’s Mountain Phase in Georgia has been relieved over ‘derogatory comments’.
The Military and the Elections. General (Ret) Tony Thomas, former commander of JSOC and USSOCOM, called out LTG (Ret) Mike Flynn over his inappropriate call for the military to overturn the presidential election.
ND by 10th SFA(G) GB. The first female Green Beret had the misfortune of having her first negligent discharge with a weapon. Apparently it happened in her off post dwelling on December 12, 2020 and the handgun round entered her neighbor’s dwelling – no injuries fortunately. She faces a civilian misdemeanor charge for the incident. So . . . if a ND happens in the office or team room it would be called a Desk Pop; but what is it called if in your private home?
SF MSG Found Dead on FBNC. MSG William Lavigne was found dead along with one other person on a Fort Bragg training area on December 2, 2020. He was assigned to USASOC. CID is investigating. Read a press release by USASOC for more info. A death certificate filed for the soldier indicates he was a victim of a homicide – having died of multiple gunshot wounds. In March 2018 LaVigne shot to death SFC Mark Leshikar – a fellow Green Beret. The slaying was ruled as “justifiable homicide”. LaVigne was due to appear in court in January 2021 on a ‘hit and run’ charge.
Murder Trials to Begin in Death of GB. In June 2017 Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was found dead of strangulation in Bamako, Mali. A Navy SEAL and Marine Raider will soon go to trial. (Army Times, Jan 4, 2021).
Former Green Beret to be Extradited. An ex-Special Forces soldier, Mike Taylor, is facing the prospect of jail in Japan for his alleged role in the escape of Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon. See “Pompeo extradites former Green Beret Mike Taylor to Japan”, Connecting Vets, October 29, 2020. Another article provides even more details – “Give the Rambo Who Got Ghosn out of Japan a Medal”, Asia Times, December 30, 2020.
New NATO SOF Cdr. Lt. Gen. Mark Schwartz, a Special Forces officer, has been selected to be the next NATO SOF commander. He is a former 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), and Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) Commander. Currently he is the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority based out of the U.S. Embassy in Israel. His experience with SOCEUR will certainly aid in his transition to his new command.
Russia’s SOBR Teams. Like many European elite police units, the basis for the ‘Special Squad, Rapid Reaction’ (SOBR) teams was laid in the 1970s following the attacks on the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. The elite unit specializes in hostage negotiations and rescue and deals with the majority of terrorism incidents in Russia. Read more in “Russia’s Secret Special Forces Unit Isn’t So Secret Anymore”, by Charlie Gao, National Interest, December 4, 2020.
C-SOCC Now Fully Operational. Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands declared their Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC) headquarters as fully operational in early December 2020. (NATO, Dec 7, 2020).
New SOF Base in Baltics. A new special operations site that will allow elite U.S. and NATO troops to expand operations in the Baltic region is up and running in the Latvian capital of Riga. See “US Special Operations Site Activated in the Heart of the Baltics”, Stars and Stripes, December 4, 2020.
Operation Ivory Coast – 50 Years. On the night of November 20-21, 1970 (50 years ago) a group of Green Berets supported by aviation crews conducted a raid on a POW camp in North Vietnam. There were no POWs in the camp but the raid prompted the centralization of the POWs and morale improved for the prisoners.
MG (Ret) Victor Hugo – RIP. The Office of Strategic Services Society has put together a tribute to Major General Victor J. Hugo, Jr. who was recently laid to rest on November 13, 2020 in Arlington National Cemetery. He was a key player in the special operations community for decades.
History of 11th Special Forces Group. Robert Seals is a historian in the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) History Office. He is requesting assistance with his historical research into the 11th Special Forces Group. Seals is writing a historical article for Veritas Magazine of the 11th and would like to hear from any of it’s former soldiers. He is looking for historical facts, interesting stories, and some good pictures. His email is robert.seals @ socom.mil.
SOF Teams at Breaking Point. Increased in-garrison workload with things like inspections, meetings, requirements, taskers, and training have helped to put SOF teams to the breaking point. Read “How to build more resilient and innovative US special operations teams“, by Lt Col Kaveri Crum and Emma Moore, Task & Purpose, December 16, 2020.
SOF and Ethics. Three writers collaborate on an article that advocates the reimagining of ethical decision-making as a foundational aspect of leadership and leader development in the context of the future SOF environment. “Ethics in Special Operations and the Joint Special Operations Forces Senior Enlisted Academy”, Small Wars Journal, December 25, 2020.
SOF, CT, and the Tyranny of Distance. David Kilcullen advocates for a persistent forward presence of special operations forces. “Enhancing Special Operations for Sustained Counterterrorism Operations”, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), December 15, 2020.
CA NCO on Perspectives of Success. A Civil Affairs NCO (and former CA team leader) believes that accurate reporting on the operational environment will assist the command in making the right decisions. Read “Unsolicited Advice from a Former Team Sergeant”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, December 14, 2020.
SOF, Marines, EABO. Gordon Richmond, a Special Forces officer assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group, wrote an article that argues SOF and the Marine Corps should collaborate on Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). “The Marines and America’s Special Operators: More Collaboration Required”, War on the Rocks, December 29, 2020.
AI in the Grey Zone. Artificial intelligence developed to hunt terrorists can help track Russian and Chinese targets as well – especially in the “grey zone” environment. Read “AI in the Grey Zone: Afghan Lessons For Great Power Conflict”, Breaking Defense, December 7, 2020.
Bombmaker Charged. The Department of Justice has charged a Libyan citizen in the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The air disaster killed 259 people in the air and 11 on the ground. Abu Agela Masud Kheir Al-Marimi is not now in U.S. custody, however he is apparently in confinement in Libya. A U.S. Army Special Forces officer from the 10th Special Forces Group, CAPT. Joseph P. Curry, was on the flight. “DOJ charges bombmaker in Pan Am explosion”, Concord Monitor, December 21, 2020.
5th SFAB Rotations. The Army has announced the winter rotation to the INDOPACOM region for elements of the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade. (Army, Dec 17, 2020).
Great Power Competition
China, SOF, and GPC. Kaley Scholl provides an interesting and informative essay on US SOF and competition with China. Read “The Use of US Special Operations Forces in Great Power Competition: Imposing Costs on Chinese Gray Zone Operations”, Small Wars Journal, December 7, 2020.
IW and GPC. The Defense Department’s Irregular Warfare Annex to the National Defense Strategy has generated a wealth of articles about IW and the role it plays in great power competition. Kevin Bilms, the IW team chief in the Office of ASD SO/LIC, provides his views on the topic in “Better understanding irregular warfare in competition”, Military Times, January 1, 2020.
Russian Cyber Attack. In December 2020 it was revealed by U.S. government and private cyber security organizations that Russian penetration of computer networks had taken place for several months. This attack by the Russians was seen as sophisticated and damaging. Cyber security experts say that the targeting of government and private sector information technology (IT) networks was accomplished through software provided by SolarWinds – a firm that makes IT management products for business and government customers. Read more in SolarWinds Attack – No Easy Fix, Congressional Research Service (CRS), December 18, 2020, pdf, 3 pages. The widespread Russian cyber infiltration across U.S. government networks are a sign of how great power competition will play out in the 21st century. (Lawfare Blog, Dec 18, 2020). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Russia was “pretty clearly” the responsible party for the infiltration of nuclear laboratories and various agencies of the Pentagon.
The leadership of the 83rd Civil Affairs Battalion and the 16th Military Police Brigade will be conducting a Zoom event on January 14, 2021 where they will discuss CA and MP partnerships in Large Scale Combat Operations (LSCO).
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Military Review. The November – December 2020 issue of Military Review is now posted online. Some interesting articles but not much SOF news.
Parameters. The Winter 2020 issue of Parameters by the US Army War college is now online. Some interesting articles on gender, lessons of Afghanistan, STABOPS in WWII, and more.
Joint Force Quarterly. The 4th Quarter issue of JFQ published by the National Defense University Press is now available. Numerous articles (not much SOF news though).
CTC Sentinel. The Nov / Dec 2020 issue of CTC Sentinel by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point is now online. Topics include the evolving Taliban threat, biosecurity, and the Islamic State in Africa.
Perspectives on Terrorism. The latest issue is available on line. Almost 20 different articles about terrorism, terrorists, and counterterrorism. This issue is focused on ‘Restraint in Terrorist Groups and Radical Milieus’, PDF, 273 pages.
CRS Report on SOF. The Congressional Research Service published a 12-page report entitled U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress, CRS, December 3, 2020, PDF.
Book Review: Across an Angry Sea: The SAS in the Falklands War, Small Wars Journal, November 28, 2020. Read the review by Matthew Hughes.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
OSS Society Videos. Watch five interesting video events by the Office of Strategic Services Society that explore the history and impact of the OSS and the future of SOF.
Podcast: “Breaking the Boom-Bust Cycle of Irregular Warfare“, Modern War Institute at West Point, Dec 18, 2020, 46 mins. Features David Maxwell (SF Col, Ret) and Deak Roh (DASD for SOCT).
Podcast: Digital Civil Reconnaissance. Dr. Carrick Longley and Stephen Hunnewell of IST Research discuss Digital Civil Reconnaissance and how it supports Civil Affairs missions. (Dec 14, 2020, 45 mins)
Podcast: The U.S. Withdraws from Somalia. Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss President Trump’s decision to order the withdrawal of a small American force from Somalia. 63 minutes, December 16, 2020.
Campaign Video. We don’t do politics here at SOF News but every once in a while an interesting video surfaces that is hard to ignore. Former Navy SEAL and U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw has provided some entertainment that relates to the Senate race in Georgia in Georgia Reloaded, YouTube, December 13, 2020.
Photo: A CV-22B Osprey of the 352nd Special Operations Wing based at RAF Mildenhall prepares for a tilt-rotor air-to-air refueling during operations over Sweden on November 13, 2020. Photo by Department of Defense.