Special Operations News Update – Monday, January 11, 2021

Boarding Aircraft

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

SOF News

SF Officer Looks Back on His Career. Tyler Mac, a Special Forces officer, shares his past with us – the good and the bad times. Read “The Things I Carried: A Special Forces Officer Reflects”, The Havoc Journal, January 8, 2021.

SOCPAC Element Trains in Maldives. U.S. Special Operations Forces deployed to U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) completed a three-week military-to-military event with the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) in early January 2021. (SOCPAC, DVIDS, Jan 8, 2021).

5 Facts about SF. The history, missions, and organization of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces is highlighted in this article entitled “5 Facts About the U.S. Special Forces”, U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Jan 2021.

Green Beret Completes Thai Ranger School. A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier graduated from the 72-day long Royal Thai Ranger School in late December 2020. The SF soldier was the first U.S. servicemember to attend in more than 40 years. The school consists of different phases: mountain, forest, swamp, maritime, and urban combat. (DVIDS, 1st SFG, Jan 5, 2021).

“Project Galahad”. The 75th Ranger Regiment has run an experimental military design cell that investigated novel solutions to tomorrow’s warfighting problems. (Coffee or Die Magazine, Jan 6, 2021).

Bolduc on the Scars of War. MG (Ret) Don Bolduc, a retired Green Beret officer, comments on the need to treat those within the special operations force with Post-traumatic Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). He cites the recent case of a former 1st Special Forces Group commander who now faces charges of domestic violence as one where the chain of command is guilty of malfeasance by general officers. Read “Colonel Owen Ray’s Case Reminds Us That No One is Immune to Trauma”, SOFREP, January 10, 2021.

SF Culture and Business Startup Ventures. The Special Forces community has a formal and rigorous selection process to assess individuals into SF units. The assessment process continues throughout the Special Forces career through a variety of ways. E.M. Burlingame – a former 1st SFG(A) and now 20th SFG(A) enlisted man – is a Silicon Valley techpreneur and investment banker with an emphasis on very early-stage technology companies. He argues that the founders of a business startup should develop a formal and rigorous selection process for employees and to codify the culture of the organization in the early days of its existence. Read “Imperfections, Special Forces, and Entrepreneurship”, Havoc Journal, January 8, 2021.

Deactivation of 6th Rgr Bn – 75 Years. In December 1945 the 6th Ranger Battalion held its deactivation ceremony in Kyoto, Japan. Their Acting Battalion Commander, Major Arthur ‘Bull’ Simons, took the final report from his senior enlisted leader during the last formation. The 6th Ranger Battalion took part in several combat actions during World War II. “75th Anniversary of the deactivation of the 6th Ranger Battalion”, USASOC History Office, January 6, 2021.

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“SOF Trinities”. Col (Ret) Dave Maxwell, a Special Forces officer, explains the current focus of special operations forces on counterterrorism (CT) operations as well as irregular warfare (IW), unconventional warfare (UW), and political warfare (PW). He states that advanced CT and other high end SOF capabilities combined with this SOF trinity is where SOF must invest in organization, manning, equipping, training, and education. According to Maxwell, the second SOF trinity is the comparative advantage of SOF: governance, influence, and support to indigenous forces and populations. Read “The Two Special Operations Trinities”, Small Wars Journal, January 6, 2021.

Defeating IS Drones. Three former members of the Asymmetric Warfare Group (ASW) provide an informative essay on the initiatives that ASW instituted that helped advance the Army’s fielding of counter-small drone capabilities. They also express their concern about the closure of ASW and wonder what organization is going to pick up the ASW mission. “How the Army Out-Innovated the Islamic State’s Drones”, War on the Rocks, December 21, 2020.

DoD Support to CIA. Abraham Wagner, a national security practitioner and commentator, provides his perspective on the possibility of the Department of Defense cutting back on support to the Central Intelligence Agency’s counterterrorism missions. Read his thoughts in “Pentagon must continue military support to CIA’s counterterrorism operations”, The Washington Times, January 6, 2021.

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National Security

Terrorism Outlook for 2021. On a global level, several developments could increase terrorism in certain parts of the world. The US is reducing military forces in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Africa. With this reduction of US forces al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and their respective affiliates could expand their influence and territory. Colin Clarke, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, explains in “Trends in Terrorism: What’s on the Horizon in 2021?”, FPRS, January 5, 2021.

Testing of New Reserve Parachute. A new parachute is being tested by the Army. The T-11R Single Pin Troop is being tested by the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate (ABNSOTD) that will eliminate the potential for premature reserve activations. (Army.mil, Jan 7, 2021).

Social Media and Disinformation. The use of disinformation on social media in the United States is becoming increasingly troublesome and documented. However, the same strategy is used by state and non-state actors around the world to advance false narratives. Read more in “How Disinformation Evolved in 2020”, Tech Stream, Brookings Institute, January 4, 2021.

IO and TAA Missions. Major Scott Fisher, a professor at New Jersey City University and Army Reserve IO officer, identifies some doctrinal gaps for information operations activities when conducting a train, advise, and assist (TAA) mission. Read “What is the role of information operations in supporting training missions? Or, when is a tweet more than just a tweet?”, Small Wars Journal, January 6, 2021.

Great Power Competition GPC

“Strategic Competition?”

Should “GPC” become “SC”? Kevin Bilms is a Department of Defense civilian serving as the Irregular Warfare team chief in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations & Low-Intensity Conflict (ASD SO/LIC). He argues that “. . . allowing ‘great power competition’ with Russia and China to dominate the discourse was too narrowly focused and shortsighted, focusing excessively on high-end capabilities while denying the United States the framework for competing with and leading through its influence and other tools short of armed conflict.” He suggests that “strategic competition” may sound similar to the term “political warfare” of the Cold War years. Read more in “Avoid ‘Great-Power Competition’ in Future Security Strategies”, The National Interest, January 6, 2021.

Russian Cyber Attacks – How to Respond. An Op-Ed argues that the U.S. must punish Russia for its bad behavior. The recent hack into sensitive U.S. government networks compromised sensitive information from government agencies with considerable national security roles. See “Time to go on offense against Russian cyberattacks”, American Enterprise Institute, December 21, 2020.

CA – Preventing Conflict and Promoting Stability. Assad Raza, an Army Civil Affairs officer, sees an opportunity for the Civil Affairs community to take a lead role in establishing coordination and communication structures at the operational levels to advance conflict prevention and stabilization in fragile states. Read his article entitled “Civil Affairs: A Collaboration Tool for the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability“, Eunomia Journal, January 8, 2021.

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Podcasts, Videos, Books, and Movies

Video – 10th Special Forces Group Highlight Video. A short clip depicting all areas of readiness of the 10th SFG(A). DVIDS, 2 mins, Dec 4, 2020.

Book Review: Eagle Down. Carl Forsling reviews a book by Jessica Donati that highlights the difficulties of Special Forces teams fighting in remote areas of Afghanistan with constraining rules of engagement and limited support. Read the review of Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War. (Coffee or Die Magazine, Jan 8, 2021).

Upcoming Events

Jan – Feb 2021. Writing Contest. The Civil Affairs Association and Eunomia Journal are conducting a “Team Room Writing Contest”. They are seeking articles that address a diverse range of topics. More details here.

January 12, 2021. Video livestream – US Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales on counterterrorism policy, past and future, American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Details on Video.

January 13, 2021. Webinar – The Growth of Russian Influence in Africa. Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). Register here.


Photo: Troops boarding an aircraft. Photo by Tech Sgt Erik Gudmundson, U.S. Air Force, 2019

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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.