Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include: Silver Star awarded, ex-Green Beret to be extradited, scroll or tab, ‘MARSOC 3’, 1st Navy SEAL dies, SEALs and their boats, SOCOM’s MRAD, TF Takuba, LTG Wendt retirement, SOF history, IW and Iran, coup in Myanmar, NATO staying in Afghanistan, upcoming events, books, pubs, podcasts, and more.
Silver Star Awarded. Fallen Green Beret James Moriarty was posthumously awarded the Silver Star on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 (his birthday), for his gallantry in which his actions were directly responsible for the survival of another Green Beret. His family accepted the reward. On November 4, 2016 three Special Forces NCOs of the 5th SFG were killed in Jordan.
Scroll or Tab? The discussion about the term “Ranger” is still ongoing in the media. The controversary was sparked by a Salon article that criticized Senator Tom Cotton for saying that he was a U.S. Army Ranger in his campaign literature. Other media outlets (Newsweek, etc.) piled on with the same message. Cotton was not assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment but he is a Ranger School graduate. Some observers say that the Newsweek and Salon articles appear to be political attacks to discredit a conservative Senator. It was noted by some media watchers that Newsweek edited a 2015 story about female Army Rangers to conform to the information presented about Tom Cotton. One retired officer to weigh in on the topic is BG James Nixon (Ret) – a former commander of 75th Ranger Regiment. (Hugh Hewitt Show, transcript and audio, Jan 25, 2021). Col (Ret) Leland Liebe (former J2 for SOCSOUTH and Ranger School graduate) also provides his thoughts. And then there is the U.S. Army Ranger Association that has provided their stance on the subject in “Who Is a Ranger?“
Impending Extradition of Former Green Beret to Japan. U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son will soon be handed over to Japan after the U.S. State Department approved their extradition. It is alleged that they were involved in the escape of Carlos Ghosn from Japan. Ghosn is a former Nissan and Renault chief executive who is now in Lebanon. Critics say that Ghosn would not receive a fair trial in Japan and that the case against him was weak. U.S. prosecutors say the Taylors helped Ghosn flee Japan on December 29, 2019 – hidden in a box on a private jet to Turkey. He then took a flight from Turkey to Lebanon. The lawyers representing the Taylors have argued that there is no law in Japan for helping someone “bail jump” and that they would face the prospect of relentless interrogations and torture in Japan. Mike Taylor served with the 10th and 11th Special Forces Group. He served with the 10th SFG in Lebanon. After his service with Special Forces he spent a career in the security industry and was a commentator on Middle East affairs for many years on various news media outlets. See “U.S. judge allows extradition of two men accused of aiding Ghosn escape”, Reuters, January 28, 2021.
Training to be one of the Air Force Elite. Logan Nye describes the training events Air Force combat controllers undergo to become qualified. After basic training they attend a two-week screening course. Those selected go on to the Combat Control Operator Course, Airborne School, Basic Survival School, Combat Control School, Special Tactics Advanced Skills Training, Military Free Fall Parachutist School, Combat Divers School, and Underwater Egress Training. Read a description of each course in “Here’s what training is like for the Air Force’s elite“, We Are The Mighty, January 29, 2021.
‘MARSOC 3’ to Face Trial. Two Marine Raiders and a Navy corpsman from the 3rd Marine Raider Battalion are facing trial on charges that include involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. The charges stem from an incident on New Year’s Day 2019 and the death of a former Green Beret on a contract assignment in Iraq. The trials are scheduled for March and April 2021. (The Daily News, Jan 25, 2021).
1st Navy SEAL Passes Away. A man that some recognize as ‘the first Navy SEAL‘ has died. Harry Beal died at the age of 90. He entered the Navy in 1948 and became part of the underwater demolition team in 1955. According to many newspaper accounts he was the first person to volunteer for the U.S. Navy SEALs.
Navy Patrol Boats and SEALs. An informative article about some of the legacy small boats that SEALs have used in the past for training and operations. (Naval News, Jan 30, 2021).
SOCOM’s MRAD. The US Special Operations Command will be acquiring the Multi-Role Adaptive Rifle (MRAD) for several of its subordinate components. Manufactured by Barrett it is chambered in three calibers. Deliveries should be ongoing – beginning in early 2021. See “New sniper rifle for the Army , Marines, and SOCOM”, Army Times, January 29, 2021.
919 SOCES Fire Dawgs. The 919th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron’s fire fighters trains for wartime deployments. Many of the members of the reserve unit are employees of civilian fire and emergency medical services departments – so their skills are very up to date. See “919 SOW Firefighters on the flightline”, 919th SOW, January 29, 2021.
IG Project Announcement for USSOCOM. The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has announced that it will begin an evaluation to determine the extent to which USCENTCOM and USSOCOM have developed and implemented programs in accordance with DoD Law of War requirements to reduce potential law of war violations when conducting operations. (DoDIG, Jan 25, 2021).
LMG-M Virtual Industry Day. SOFWERX will be hosting a Lightweight Machine Gun – Medium Industry Day to foster the development of the new machine gun sought by US Special Operations Command. (The Firearm Blog, Jan 29, 2021).
SEAL Training Area Approved. A number of state parks in Washington state have been approved for Navy SEAL training by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. The approval came in a 4-3 vote. There were some opponents to the training concept. One concerned citizen said that the proposal didn’t fit the state parks’ core values of preservation, public enjoyment, excellence, transparency and kindness. See “Navy gets approval for state park training”, Peninsula Daily News.
20th SFG Evaluation Event. Competitors competed for a number of prizes in an event the provided some physical fitness competition. The event participants took part in push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, a run, and a march at the Haw Ridge Trailhead, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The event was open for people ages 18 through 35. In addition to offering a chance to compete some of the participants were ‘looked over’ for possible recruitment into the 20th Special Forces Group. (Oak Ridger, Jan 29, 2021).
Task Force Takuba. A special operations task force formed up by France consisting of units from 7 European nations will become fully operational in 2021. Task Force Takuba has a three year mandate that will enable more tactical wins against terrorist groups in the Sahel region of Africa. But will it make a difference? Read “Counter-terrorism in the Sahel: Can Task Force Takuba be a Game Changer for France”, Global Risk Insights, January 30, 2021.
India’s SF Origins. The first Indian-attributed SF unit was the Meghdoot Force – with its Raising Day on July 1, 1966. However it was actually established in 1965 and is credited with initiating the utilization of unconventional warfare by India’s state forces. Read about the early beginnings of this force and its actions in combat in “Meghdoot Force: The Birth of the Para SF”, by Siddhant Hira, The Defence Archive, January 31, 2021.
LTG Wendt Retirement. Lieutenant General Eric Wendt is retiring. His last assignment was as commander of the NATO Special Operations Forces (NSHQ). A change of command ceremony was held at NSHQ on January 29, 2021. He is returning to the United States to retire after 34 years of active duty commissioned service, including 30 years in the US Army Special Forces. A separate virtual assumption of command ceremony will take place after Wendt’s successor is approved by NATO and is confirmed by the US Senate. (NATO, Jan 29, 2021).
Peer Ranking – SAS Australia. A reality TV show in Australia puts a group of 17 Australian celebrities through various mental and physical challenges – simulating SAS selection. One of the aspects of the show is peer ranking. This article delves into the aspects of peer ranking and its usefulness in the military at large. Read more in “SAS Australia – Does being ranked against your peers work?”, The Cove, January 28, 2021.
US SOF in the Maldives. SOF operators deployed to the Maldives for three weeks to train with the Maldives National Defense Force. (Editor’s note: some trips are better than others.) Read “US Special Operators Flex Their Diplomatic Muscle in Maldives“, Sandboxx, January 27, 2021.
Confederate Rangers and Captured Generals. An audacious rebel raid into Union territory during the Civil War netted two distinguished Union general officers. “Looking Back 1865: How Cumberlanders Saw McNeill’s Rangers Raid”, Cumberland Times-News, January 25, 2021.
British Resistance Networks – WWII. A video provides some history about the Auxiliary Units that would resist a German occupation of Britain. The 46-minute long film tells the story about Churchill’s secret resistance army. There were over 5,000 auxiliary units established in the early 1940s. The video is titled “Welcome to Hitler’s Britain“. An introduction to the video is provided by Alan Malcher, a military historian and defence journalist (Jan 26, 2021).
1st Ranger Battalion. On January 31, 1974 the first battalion-sized Ranger unit since World War II was activated. 1st Ranger Battalion 75th Infantry was formed to be an elite, light, and very proficient infantry unit.
6th Ranger Battalion. On January 30, 1945 a combined force of 6th Ranger Battalion, Alamo Scouts, and Philippine guerrillas rescued over 500 prisoners of war at the Cabanatuan POW camp in the Philippines. Read a detailed account in “Rescue at Cabanatuan”, Veritas, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2018.
“Ballad of the Green Beret”. 55 years ago (Jan 30, 1966) Barry Sadler performed this song on television on The Ed Sullivan Show. SSG Sadler served with 7th Special Forces Group as an SF medic. It was the number 1 song for several weeks in 1966.
Tet Offensive. In late January 1968 the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong launched a country-wide offensive that caught U.S. and South Vietnamese troops by surprise. U.S. special operations personnel were active participants in this months-long battle and several lost their lives. Several Special Forces camps were besieged and a few were overrun.
Dissecting Operation Eagle Claw. The attempt to rescue 52 hostages held captive in the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran in 1980 was aborted as a result of mechanical failures with the helicopters. Edward Chang digs into the circumstances of the helicopter failures and says “What if?”. Read more in “How the Iran Hostage Rescue Was Supposed to Go Down If It Hadn’t Ended Early in Disaster”, The Drive War Zone, January 28, 2021.
Podcast – Analysis in Combat: The Story of Desert Storm. In 1991 22 CNA analysts and field representatives deployed to the Persian Gulf to provide support to the military. They served on Navy ships, Marine Corp forward bases, and Joint command centers. They tell their stories in Episode 78 a CNA who deployed with the Navy discusses his role in the conflict. Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), January 13, 2021, 35 mins.
Coup in Myanmar? There are some initial reports of a military coup in Myanmar. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained under house arrest. Communications in some parts of the country have been interrupted. The Burmese military has apparently arrested other civilian officials. Some television and radio stations have not been broadcasting their usual programs. See “Military stages coup in Myanmar, Suu Kyi detained“, APNews.com, January 31, 2021. See also “Myanmar military says it is taking control of the country“, APNews.com, January 31, 2021.
Iran and Going Irregular. A U.S. Army Special Forces officer argues that US policy toward Iran should be recalibrated. The last four years the US has had an aggressive approach with Iran – pressuring it via economic, overt military action, and rhetoric. The intent for this policy was to modify Iranian behavior in the region – but it has failed. Alex Deep believes that an irregular warfare campaign would be a more effective means to change Iran’s behavior. Read “A Super-Max Failure and the Case for Going Irregular: Recalibrating US Policy Toward Iran”, Modern War Institute at West Point, January 29, 2021.
NATO Staying in Afghanistan. The U.S., under President Trump’s administration, committed to a full withdrawal of troops and contractors in May 2021 in accordance with its withdrawal agreement with the Taliban. President Biden’s administration may alter that but for the time being the withdrawal is still on. The international community is not quite in step with the US. International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond May 2021. Senior European military officials state that the conditions of the U.S.-Taliban agreement have not been met. Currently there are 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan with other nations providing 7,500 military personnel. A meeting of NATO defense ministers in February 2021 will likely see some decisions being made. See “Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond May deadline – NATO sources”, Reuters, January 31, 2021.
New U.S. Bases in Saudi Arabia? There is the possibility that the U.S. military will establish some new bases in the western portion of Saudi Arabia. The Yanbu seaport and air bases at Tabuk and Taif along the Red Sea are under consideration. The region has seen increasing attacks by mine and drone boats by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The new bases would assist in creating a logistics network that would avoid maritime chokepoints (like the Strait of Hormuz). See “US exploring new bases in Saudi Arabia amid Iran tensions“, by Jon Gambrell, Military Times, January 27, 2021.
Drone Malfunction in Niger. An armed unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with Hellfire missiles made an emergency landing in Niger on January 23, 2021. The MQ-1C Gray Eagle ended up in an abandoned field near the city of Agadez. (The Washington Times, Jan 25, 2021).
Modernizing the Army. For 20 years the U.S. Army has been occupied with counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the advent of great power competition and the information age the Army needs to take a hard look at its processes and doctrine. There are some fundamental changes that need to take place to modernize the Army. In an informative essay Lt. Gen. (Ret) Eric Wesley and Col (Ret) Robert Simpson argue for a self-examination on the part of the Army to develop and implement needed solutions for multi-domain operations. “It’s Time to Move the Army Ladder”, War on the Rocks, January 26, 2021.
Army Uniform and Grooming Changes. The combat patch has a new name and new criteria, there is a new dress uniform, and updated guidelines for the Army’s Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform. (Military.com, 27 Jan 2021). The Army has also updated its grooming and hairstyle policies that will go into effect in February 2021. The new policy will promote “. . . diversity and inclusion and improves the health of the force.” There is no minimum hair length for female Soldiers, ponytails and highlights are authorized, and male Soldiers can now wear clear nail polish (not kidding).
March 16-17, 2021. Tampa Bay, Florida
2021 Global SOF Symposium
Global SOF Foundation
March 25, 2021. Online Event
Conversation with Author Ericka Robuck – The Invisible Woman
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Military Review. The January – February 2021 issue is now online. Some of the topics include China’s maritime militia and fishing fleets, dense urban environments in MDO, sensors in the 2035 battlespace, tactical level open-source intelligence, cultural globalization on soldiering, visual learning tools for soldiers, leadership and military writing, and more. PDF, 140 pages.
Report – Chinse Media in Australia. There are persistent efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to engage with and influence Chinese language media in Australia. Activities such as disinformation, surveillance, and influence activities are occurring daily. Read a 96-page report entitled The Influence Environment: A survey of Chinese-language media in Australia, International Cyber Policy Centre of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Policy Brief Report No. 42/2020, December 2020, PDF.
Sentinel. Chapter 78 of the Special Forces Association (Southern California) has posted its latest issue (Feb 2021). Some interesting reading for the SF crowd. John Stryker Meyer provides a perfect example of the Special Forces brotherhood in his profile of Studies and Observations Group (SOG) legend Khanh “Cowboy” Doan and his service with SF during the Vietnam conflict. There is also a book review of Phoenix Rising authored by Col Keith Nightingale (Ret). Kenn Miller reviews The Exile of Sergeant Nen – the story of a Vietnamese ARVN paratrooper who eventually finds his way to America.
Tip of the Spear. USSOCOMs monthly periodical (Dec 2020). is available online. Some news from SOF events and happenings from around the world. (PDF, 40, DVIDS).
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – SOF and GPC. Tim Ball, a Special Forces officer and fellow in FPRI’s National Security Program, presents his views on national security priorities and the role that special operations forces will likely play in great power competition. Chain Reaction, January 26, 2021, 25 minutes.
Video – Psychological Operations – Narrative. Col. Jeremy Mushtare, Dr. Ajit Maan, and LTC (Ret) Brian Steed discuss the concept of narrative and its impact on influence. The Indigenous Approach, 1st Special Forces Command, January 29, 2021, 1 hour.
Movie Trailer – Boss Level. A retired special forces officer is trapped in a never ending time loop on the day of his death. This action / Sci-fi film looks to be entertaining (based on the trailer) and comes out in March 2021.
( YouTube, Dec 14, 2020, 2 mins)
Podcast – COIN, Colombia, and Institution Building. Two guests argue that effective US interagency coordination, bipartisan congressional support, and a focus on building institutions and stabilizing the security situation were key to success in Colombia’s counterinsurgency efforts against the insurgency. Kevin Whitaker (former US ambassador to Colombia) and Caryn Hollis (DoD official) talk for 42 mins on this topic in “Institution Building as a Counterinsurgency Tool: The Case of Colombia”, Modern War Institute at West Point, January 29, 2021.
Photo: Marines attending the Special Operations Forces Fundamentals course, Marine Raider Training Center, fine-tune their map reading and land navigation skills at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 11, 2020. SOF Fundamentals is designed to equip high-performing Marines with additional skills and concepts required to be effective in special operations and provide combat support expertise in intelligence, fire support, communications, explosive ordinance disposal and canine operations as part of a Marine Special Operations Team. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ethan Green)