Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Robin Sage, Acting SECDEF remarks, MARSOC and success, Navy SEAL pleads guilty, AFSOC pilot training, SOF at the Capitol building, national security topics, great power competition, publications, podcasts, and videos.
“Robin Sage” – the Final Test. Stavros Atlamazouglou details the field training exercise held in central North Carolina where aspiring Green Berets test their mettle and skills. (Business Insider, Jan 12, 2021).
The GB Comes Out in Acting SECDEF Comments. Defense journalists are in a big tither about recent comments by Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller. Seems a frank and open discussion is something that they are not used to hearing from prior SECDEFs. Miller, a retired Special Forces officer, doesn’t hold back. During a recent ‘press gaggle’ he provided some comments to the press. Some of his statements include DoD going too far in its focus on INDO-PACOM and China, praising Russia’s use of irregular warfare, coming out of the mindset of the Cold War, the perverse emphasis on high tech, very expensive weapons systems, the F-35, and more. Read the transcript here. (DoD, Jan 14, 2021).
Long Tab Brewing is Recognized. Dave Holland, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, established his brewery in January 2020. It was absolutely the wrong time to open up a business that required people to gather and mingle together socially. But Dave adapted and Long Tab Brewing is still in business. He found support with the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. “The Spirit of the American Entrepreneur”, Small Business Administration, December 28, 2020.
Upcoming ASD SO/LIC Changes. A top Pentagon official who was leading the fight against the Islamic State up until late last year will be coming back to the Pentagon. Christopher Maier served as the Pentagon’s Defeat ISIS Task Force director from March 2017 to November 2020. Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller had accepted Maier’s resignation after the department disbanded his office – citing the success of the U.S.-led effort to defeat the terrorist group. Many observers say Maier was forced out once Miller replaced Esper as SECDEF. Maier is projected to serve as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict – and may eventually be nominated to be ASD SO/LIC. (Politico, Jan 18, 2021).
SEALs and Army Helicopters. An interesting article about the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden and how the SEALs got into and out of Pakistan. “A Detailed Look at the Helicopters Used by Navy SEALs”, Hotcars, January 18, 2021.
Netherlands SOF Getting New Training Centres. By the mid-2020s the Dutch special forces will have two new facilities to train in. (Shepard Media, Jan 18, 2021).
USAF SERE School Adjusts Training – Attrition Rate Lowers. The elite survival school used to be a demanding course where half of the students would wash out. Some adjustments to the training style and culture has brought the attrition rate to a very low level. (Military.com, Jan 17, 2021).
Green Beret Business Listings. A new website is listing firms and businesses owned and operated by former Special Forces soldiers.
Navy SEAL Pleads Guilty in Death of Green Beret. A Navy SEAL pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy charges related in the death of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in June 2017 in Bamako, Mali. He faces a maximum punishment of 22 years in prison, reduction to E-1, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, a fine, and a dishonorable discharge. A Marine Raider is scheduled for trial in early February facing felony murder charges as well. Read more in “Navy SEAL pleads guilty in 2017 strangulation death of Green Beret”, Army Times, January 14, 2021.
A Brief on Navy SEAL Training. Read about the training that Navy SEALs undergo to be assigned to a SEAL team. “All US special operators train for combat diving, but Navy SEALs take it to another level”, Business Insider, January 17, 2021.
Improvements in AFSOC Pilot Training. A new program entitled “Pilot Training Next” has been implemented to improve pilot training. The program includes virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and data analytics in its instruction. “AFSOCs historic first PTN team takes flight”, 492d Special Operations Wing, January 11, 2021.
7th SFG Soldier Dies. On January 14, 2021 Warrant Officer John Wirka died from a non-combat related incident. He deployed multiple times in support of USSSOUTHCOM, USNORTHCOM, and to Afghanistan. (NFI).
POL Keeps AFSOC Aloft. Read up on the activities of POL Airmen of the 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron and how they keep AFSOC’s planes flying. “Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants: Fueling the Force”, DVIDS, January 12, 2021.
SOF and the Capitol Building
PSYOP Officer at Capitol Demonstration. An active duty PSYOP officer is getting some attention from 1st Special Forces Command due to her participating in the recent Trump rally in Washington, D.C. The officer has stated she acted within military regulations and that no one in her group broke the law. Initial press reports say that she resigned her commission with the Army prior to the DC protests. She was due to leave the Army next month due to a career ending letter of reprimand. “Army investigating officer who led group to Washington rally”, AP, January 11, 2021.
SF, Computers, and Pelosi. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney has asserted that members of U.S. Army Special Forces were in the Capitol building (mixed in with antifa) and took Nancy Pelosi’s laptop with the purpose of exposing wrongdoing by members of Congress. McInerney was a former Fox News guest analyst. Public Affairs officials with United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) have denied the involvement of Army special operations forces in the Capitol building event. (USA Today, Jan 13, 2021). On another note, the FBI is investigating whether a woman stole a laptop from Pelosi’s office to sell it to the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service. She has been arrested and is now in jail. (Politico, Jan 17, 2021).
A Navy SEAL, a Video, and the FBI. Adam Newbold, a former Navy SEAL, has been interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his activities in the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. He posted a video on Facebook about the event. See “Retired Navy SEAL bragged about ‘breaching the Capitol,’ video shows”, New York Post, January 13, 2021.
MARSOC – “Enabling Strategic Success”. Paul Bailey, a U.S. Marine officer with experience in both conventional and SOF operations, argues that MARSOC has an opportunity to understand and shape violent, fragmented, and political competition and conflict. He says that MARSOC should recognize some current deficiencies that will allow it to win in long-term strategic competition and conflict. “Enabling Strategic Success: How MARSOC Can Help Overcome ‘Simple-Minded’ Militarism”, Small Wars Journal, January 11, 2021.
An Information Revolution. Frank Sobchak, a retired Special Forces officer, says that today’s information revolution has created massive social, political, and economic turmoil. The impact of social media has further complicated the political morass in the United States. Read Frank’s thoughts in “The Revolution Behind the Attempted Revolution”, Small Wars Journal, January 11, 2021.
Bold Reform Needed for Civil Affairs. Adam Steinwachs, a Captain serving in Civil Affairs, argues that the future of CA hinges on reformation that ensures the regiment is in the position to lead within the human domain. Read his article in “The Future of Civil Affairs”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, January 16, 2021.
UW Capability Needed in Ukraine. Scandal and sinking morale of the Ukrainian military coupled with a stalemate in the eastern portion of the country between government forces and proxy forces supported by Russia dictates a change of course needed by the Ukrainian government. Ukraine has one of the largest militaries in Europe but a small economy to support it. It can no longer afford such a big military force; but there is a solution. Sean McLaughlin suggests that a robust territorial defense force with the mission to conduct unconventional warfare would save money, allow the Ukrainian military to down-size, and still ensure that an invasion and occupation of additional Ukrainian territory by Russia would be too cost-prohibited for Putin to consider. Read more in “Unconventional Warfare in Ukraine”, Small Wars Journal, January 17, 2021.
National Security, Etc.
Keeping Roger Carstens On Board. An opinion piece by Jason Rezaian argues that the Biden administration should keep Roger Carstens on board as the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. Carstens is a retired Special Forces officer. “Biden shouldn’t replace this Trump administration official”, The Washington Post, January 12, 2021.
Role of CA Bn S2. A short essay argues that the Intelligence Officer of a Reserve Component Civil Affairs Battalion does not follow a traditional model of intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) posited by military intelligence doctrine. “Overcoming Limitations: The Role of the S2 in a CA Battalion”, Eunomia Journal, Civil Affairs Association, January 14, 2020.
DoD SIGINT Collection. The Department of Defense has posted DoD Manual S-5240.01-A which describes the conduct of DoD intelligence activities in the realm of signals intelligence information and data collection. (DoD, Jan 2021, PDF, 44 pages).
MK-13 Sniper Rifle. Marine Scout Snipers, Marine Recon, and MARSOC operators are using the MK-13 as a primary weapons system to hit targets beyond 1,000 meters. Read “What Makes the Marine Corps’ MK-13 Sniper Rifle So Deadly?”, The National Interest, January 5, 2021.
Great Power Competition (and IW?)
Finland’s Defensive Posture. The Defense Minister for Finland provides a summary of how his nation is prepared to meet its defense needs in the face of an aggressive neighbor. Finland is a member of the European Union, is a partner to NATO, and actively cooperates with its Nordic neighbors. Read “Finland’s defense minister: We’re preparing to thwart any potential military threat”, Defense News, January 11, 2021.
China Expands its Naval Presence. The People’s Liberation Army has expanded a navy base on the South China Sea – giving it more clout in a strategic waterway. the Yulin Naval Base on the island of Hainan is undergoing extensive expansion and will be the base of the south sea fleet. “Expansion of Naval Base Seen Giving China More Power in Disputed Asian Sea”, Voice of America, January 15, 2021.
GPC and the Arctic Region. Rapidly melting sea ice and increasingly navigable Arctic waters are creating new opportunities and challenges for several countries – to include Russia and the United States. This has prompted a new look at US strategy for the region. “New U.S. Arctic strategy focuses on ‘day-to-day competition’ with Russia and China”, The Barents Observer, January 8, 2021.
Video – Conversation with Dr. Victor Davis Hanson. A nationally syndicated columnist and author of 24 books discusses strategic historical lessons in an era of Great Power Competition. Joint Special Operations University, Think JSOU, January 11, 2021, 1 hour.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
CTC Sentinel. The January 2021 issue is now online – published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Articles on Afghanistan, terrorism and counterterrorism challenges for the Biden administration, countering weapons of mass destruction, and Islamic State terror plots and the US in Germany.
Paper on Kleptocracy. A 52-page report by Nate Sibley and Ben Judah provides 70 policy recommendations for countering global kleptocracy. Countering Global Kleptocracy: A New US Strategy for Fighting Authoritarian Corruption, Hudson Institute, January 2021.
Book – Pilgrim Days. Alastair MacKenzie served in some of the world’s most elite special forces. In the 1970s he was a member of the British Parachute Regiment, and then later, as a member of the Special Air Service. Read an extract from his new book published by Osprey Publishing.
Book – Russians Among Us. Read a review of a book about sleeper cells, ghost stories, and the hunt for Putin’s spies by Gordon Corera. “What if spies are not after secrets, but influence?” is a question the book asks and answers. It provides an informative history of the Russian Illegals Program and other intelligence and covert action programs – providing insight into Russia’s hybrid warfare against the west. (The Strategy Bridge, Jan 18, 2021).
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Video – The Rescue of Slate 46. One of the most famous missions of Operation Desert Storm was the Combat Search and Rescue (SAR) preformed by the 20th Special Operations Squadron on January 21, 1991 to recover two pilots who had been shot down by an Iraqi SAM in the first hours of the morning of the fourth day of the war. “SOF Stories” by Global SOF Foundation, January 14, 2021, 1 hour.
Movie – Ashley’s War. The story of women serving on Coalition Support Teams (CSTs) that supported special operations forces elements in Afghanistan is coming to the big screen. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s book is the basis for the movie. The author is interviewed on why she wrote the book and about the upcoming movie. (Military Times, Jan 12, 2021).
Video – SOF Horsemanship. Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group participated in a Special Operations Force Horsemanship Course at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California. The purpose of the advanced horsemanship course is to teach SOF personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load pack animals, and maintain animals for military applications in remote and dangerous environments. U.S. Marine Corps video by Lance Cpl. Colton Brownlee, Twenty Nine Palms, DVIDS, posted January 10, 2021, 2 mins.
Video – Hurlburt Field 2020 Year in Review. The 1st Special Operations Wing looks back at key events that took place in 2020. December 29, 2020.
Video – 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021. The International Crisis Group presents their view of the ten conflicts that will be in the headlines over the next year. (ICG, 30 Dec 2020, 5 mins).
Podcast – Competing for Influence: Operations in the Information Environment. Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds and Dr. Thomas Rid discuss how the campaign for influence is waged below the threshold of armed conflict. They discuss the rules of this domain, the risks and opportunities, and the best methods for achieving dominance. Reynolds is the US Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for information and Rid is a professor of strategic studies at John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Presented by the Irregular Warfare Podcast, January 16, 2021, 41 minutes.
Photo: SOF snipers at ISTC Basic Sniper Course Hohenfels, Germany. 8 Dec 2017. SOCEUR.