Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Outgoing Acting SECDEF, tab or scroll, SEAL gets prison in GB slaying, SOCOM’s Mk17, some MACV-SOG and PSYOP history, Desert Storm (30 years ago), GPC, upcoming events, podcasts, books, and videos.
Former Acting SECDEF Miller and Blunt Talk. Former Green Beret Chris Miller was only on the job for a few months but he managed to provide some excitement for the press corps with his ability to speak the truth as he saw it. Read more in “Future Secretaries of Defense Should Take a Cue From Chris Miller”, by Steve Balestrieri, SOFREP, January 20, 2021.
Chris Miller’s Shadow. A journalist spent a week embedded with Acting Secretary of Defense Miller during one of his last weeks at the Pentagon. An interesting read of the last days of Miller’s brief stint as SECDEF. (Vanity Fair, Jan 22, 2021).
Navy SEAL Sentenced to Prison. The SEAL who choked a Green Beret to death has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and will spend the next ten years in prison. He also was reduced in rank to E-1, lost pay and allowances, and will be dishonorably discharged. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Tony DeDolph had strangled to death Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Special Forces soldier assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group. They were part of an intelligence operation in Mali supporting CT efforts against an al Qaeda local affiliate. Read more in “Navy SEAL Who Choked Green Beret to Death Sentenced to 10 Years”, Daily Beast, January 23, 2021.
“Scroll or Tab?” Apparently if you are a graduate of the Army’s Ranger School but never served with the 75th Ranger Regiment you cannot refer to yourself as an Army Ranger. Or at least the folks at Salon magazine would have us believe. (Salon, Jan 23, 2021). Senator Tom Cotton is taking some (undeserved?) heat for saying he served as “a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan” in some of his campaign literature. (Editor’s Note: I just became aware of this ‘scroll or tab’ discussion several months back. I always thought I was an “Army Ranger” based on graduating from the course as a proud member of the “Desert Legion” – class 8-83. Guess I am only “Ranger Qualified” instead).
Navy SEALs Training in Washington State Parks? The Navy would like to conduct special operations training in 28 Washington State parks. The Sierra Club of Washington is opposed to the proposal. Many people commenting on the SEALs training in state parks feel that it would be a ‘creepy’ situation. The proposal is under review by the state parks commission. See “Coming soon to a Washington state park near you: Navy SEAL training exercises?”, Tri-City Herald, January 22, 2021.
Upgrade for SF Dive School. The U.S. Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School is getting some work done on some of its facilities. A new maintenance facility for the repair of SOF hard-hulled and soft-hulled watercraft will be built. See “NAVFAC Southeast awards contract for SOF facility at NAS Key West”, DVIDS, January 21, 2021.
Marine Recon and AF Special Operators Train in Pacific. A select group of Airmen from the 320th Special Tactics Unit recently trained with Marines from the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion at the Jungle Warfare Center on Okinawa. Read “How the Air Force is making Marine recon better“, Air Force Times, January 22, 2021.
SOF, Resilience, and Neurophysiological Stress. An article in Physician’s Weekly explores the relationship between resilience and neurophysiological stress in special operations forces combat service members. (Jan 14, 2021).
SOCOM’s Mk 17. Peter Suciu reviews the performance of a weapon used by U.S. special operations forces over the past several years. “Mk17: The U.S. Special Forces Special Assault Rifle”, 19fortyfive.com, January 20, 2021.
SOCOM and Recruiting Tech Talent. The U.S. Special Operations Command has partnered with Coding It Forward to bring student interns to work on technical programs and to bring new talent into the force. Read “How SOCOM tapped college students to work on new tech”, FedScoop, January 22, 2021.
MACV-SOG Established. On Jan 24, 1964, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group was established in South Vietnam to conduct special operations throughout Southeast Asia. The special operations task force was commanded by a U.S. Army Special Forces colonel. Many Central Intelligence Agency programs were transferred to SOG. SOG members came principally from Special Forces but also included Navy SEALs, USAF, Marine Force Recon, and CIA personnel. Missions included SR, DA, sabotage, PR, PSYOP, counter-intelligence, and bomb damage assessments (BDAs). SOG had three geographical commands – CCN, CCC, and CCS – Command and Control North, Central, and South.
A Little PSYOP History. On January 23, 1918 the Psychologic Subsection of the War Department was created. It came under MI-2, Military Intelligence Branch, Executive Division, War Department General Staff. Another organization was the Propaganda Section under G-2, General Headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces in France. Over 50 million leaflets were delivered in modified artillery shells and leaflet bombs dropped from airplanes on enemy units on the Western Front. Psychological operations has been used by the U.S. to influence the enemy and destroy their will to fight for over 100 years. Read more about the early history of PSYOP in “100 years of subterfuge: the history of Army psychological operations”, Army.mil, June 28, 2018.
History – Desert Storm
Thirty Years Ago. The 30-year anniversary of Operation Desert Storm has arrived. Over the next month SOF News will provide links to stories of interest about Desert Storm – some SOF related and others about the overall conflict.
Air Campaign. In January 1991 the United States and other Coalition forces commenced an air campaign designed to destroy the Iraqi Air Force, its air defense network, command and control network, and other strategic targets. Almost 3,000 aircraft took part in the air campaign. Once the strategic targets were hit and air superiority was acquired the air attack on tactical units on the ground near the Saudi – Kuwaiti border began.
SOF and the Air Campaign. SOF air units took part in the air campaign – both rotary and fixed wing aircraft providing vital support. Special Forces units provided Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) support from various air bases in Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. In addition, an element of the 10th Special Forces Group attached to Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) provided CSAR support from bases in Turkey (Incirlik, Batman, and Diyarbakir).
The 30-Year War. Steven Leonard, a former senior military strategist and author / writer, reflects on his service in Iraq spanning a few decades. “Chasing Shadows in the Desert: The Legacy of the Other Thirty Year’s War“, Clearance Jobs, January 19, 2021.
Report on SPEAR Security Teams. After the deadly attack on a U.S. consulate and Central Intelligence Agency facility in Benghazi, Libya, the Department of State put together a program to increase security at some locations around the world. The program was named “Special Program for Embassy Augmentation and Response” or SPEAR. Learn more in an article by Lee Ferran entitled “Post-Benghazi SPEAR Security Teams on Track: Report”, Code and Dagger, January 22, 2021.
New SECDEF. Former General Lloyd Austin has moved into his office at the Pentagon as the Secretary of Defense. He has issued a “Day One Message to the Force” (Jan 22, 2021, 1 page, PDF).
“The way I see it, my job as Secretary of Defense is to make you more effective at doing yours. That means ensuring you have the tools, technology, weapons, and training to deter and defeat our enemies. It means establishing sound policy and strategy and assigning you clear missions. It means putting a premium on cooperation with our allies and partners. And it means living up to our core values, the same ones our fellow citizens expect of us.”
National Guard Troops in D.C. – “You’re Out; You’re In”. Once Congress started their work again after the Inauguration Ceremony (and the threat of civil disturbance was diminished) the National Guard troops protecting the Capitol Building found their status as ‘heroes’ got downgraded. 5,000 of them could no longer get warm during work breaks, use the rest rooms, or access the Wi-Fi in the visitors center. They got sent off to an unheated vehicle garage with one rest room (two stalls). That change in status lasted less than 24 hours before sanity prevailed and they got invited back in from the cold for their rest breaks during their 12-hour shifts outside. Read “National Guard members forced to sleep in parking garage following Biden inauguration”, Task & Purpose, January 21, 2021.
Great Power Competition
Atlantic Resolve – Some Reform Needed. An ongoing series of nine-month training events to reassure NATO allies and deter future Russian aggression needs another look. This training event may not be the best type of rotational deployment to strengthen the US – European partnership in opposing Russian designs on eastern Europe. “Rethinking Atlantic Resolve: An Alternative Model for Deterrence in Europe”, by Stephen Greenway, Modern War Institute at West Point, January 21, 2021.
GPC in Central Asia. Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, believes that the U.S. should continue developing economic, educational, security, and diplomatic ties in the heart of Eurasia. See “Kazakhstan Lies at the Center of the New Great Power Competition”, The National Interest, January 22, 2021.
We No Longer Own the Night. The advanced technology that the US began fielding during the later stages of the Vietnam War and steadily improved over the following decades provided the US military with a very distinct advantage when fighting at night. In addition, this technology was used during two decades of counterinsurgency operations against foes that had limited ability to use advanced technology. However, a doctrinal change is needed. The US military has to “. . . transition to a conflict with a peer or near-peer adversary equipped with a night-fighting capability equal to our own”. Read “We Don’t Own the Night Anymore”, by Jon Tishman and Dan Schoen, Modern War Institute, January 22, 2021.
Africa’s Christians at Risk. Jihadi violence is taking its toll on Christians living in many of the countries in Africa. ISIS, al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Sharia, and other Islamist groups are strengthening their numbers, increasing their territory, and targeting Christian communities in North, East, and West Africa. Read “Let’s End Violence Against African Christians in 2021”, by Lela Gilbert, Real Clear Religion, January 15, 2021.
Chad’s Army. The Chadian army is essential to counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel region of Africa. However, it is also a source of instability for the country. Chad needs to build a more representative and professional army that diminishes ethnic tensions. See “New Challenges for Chad’s Army”, International Crisis Group, January 2021.
January 28, 2021. Virtual.
“Oh So Social” Conversation Series
Conversation Between Sec. Jim Mattis and Dr. Mike Vickers
Feb 10-11, 2021. Tampa Bay, Florida
2021 SOF Imperatives Forum
Global SOF Foundation
March 16-17, 2021. Tampa Bay, Florida
2021 Global SOF Symposium
Global SOF Foundation
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Book – China and Political Warfare. The People’s Republic of China has always waged kinetic and non-kinetic means to expand its zones of control and influence at home and abroad. The Chinese Communist Party is extremely adroit in the use of political warfare (PW). A new book (2020) entitled Political Warfare: Strategies for Combating China’s Plan to ‘Win without Fighting’, by Kerry Gershaneck is offered online free from the Marine Corps University Press. It is available in PDF (217 pages). Read a review of the book by Cleo Paskal – “The world doesn’t realise it’s already at war with China“, Sunday Guardian, January 23, 2021.
Book Excerpt – A Trip to Dover. Jessica Donati is the author of Eagle Down: the Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War. Read a short excerpt of her book where a visit to Dover to meet a fallen warrior is described. (Editor’s note: The editor had the sad occasion to be at Dover with a family that was awaiting the arrival of their fallen Green Beret. Truly a heartbreaking time.) See “The hidden cost of America’s forever war: Young love lost”, Air Force Times, January 21, 2021.
GAO Pub – “Close Air Support”. The United States Government Accountability office has published a 76-page report entitled “Close Air Support: Actions Needed to Enhance Friend Force Tracking Capabilities and Fully Evaluate Training”, January 2021. A “Ctrl-F” search of the PDF yielded 50 occurrences of “special operations”.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Video – Interview with Brad Taylor. A bestselling book author and former Special Forces officer is interviewed. He discusses the clandestine world of special operations, cyber operations, deep fake videos, and geopolitical intrigue. ABC 4 News, January 21, 2021, 5 minutes.
Video – Green Berets Train and Assess Screaming Eagles. Members of the 5th Special Forces Group spent two weeks training up soldiers in urban combat techniques from the 101st Airborne Division. 5th SFGA, filmed by Legion Media in August 2020, posted January 2021 on DVIDS, 2 mins.
Video – Deep End Fitness – Pool Training Like SOF Divers. “If you’re not lifting weights at the bottom of a pool, do you even lift bro?” In this 7-min long video a U.S. Masters Swimming National Champion goes through some pool exercises used in special operations diver training. “Watch This Elite Swimmer Try a Special Forces-Inspired Workout Underwater”, Men’s Health, January 23, 2021.
Video – Ecologies of Conflict by JSOU. Dr. Orit Gal presents a one-hour lecture on design thinking and security affairs and warfare settings. “Social Acupuncture: Disrupting the Ecologies of Conflict”, Joint Special Operations University, one-hour. (Editor’s Note: This is some fairly high-level academic stuff – I may have to watch it a few times to get the message). Filmed in February 2019 and posted by JSOU on January 22, 2021.
Podcast – CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb – Green Beret and Ranger Legend. The experiences of Rick Lamb (from Operation Eagle Claw to GWOT) and his thoughts of special operations forces are explored in this 2-hour long podcast. Global SOF Foundation, Episode 10, Jan 2021.
Podcast – Command Team Corner: Engaged Leadership. Brig. Gen. Steve Marks, the Deputy Commanding General of 1st Special Forces Command, presents his thoughts on engaged leadership. The Indigenous Approach Podcast, January 22, 2021, 13 minutes.
Photo: A U.S. Special Operations Soldier, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, conducts a live fire training exercise at the Panzer Range Complex, Boeblingen, Germany, January 13 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Yvonne Najera).