Special Operations News Update – Tuesday February 16, 2021

Airborne Operation Frida Drop Zone

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Extremist symbols, USS Grayback, Polish members of SOE, MH-6 upgrade, SAS, Spetsnaz, Belgian SF, irregular warfare, and more.

SOF News

Extremist Symbols and SF. The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School has taken steps to ensure its soldiers are aware of extremist symbols. One of the school house courses had to change its log because it had been adopted by an anti-government militia group. Almost all SF teams come up with an informal design for t-shirts, hats, and coffee mugs – some with use of patriotic symbols. Extremist groups are also using a wide variety of patriotic symbology as well. Read “Special operations training center warns soldiers of symbols co-opted by extremists”, Army Times, February 10, 2021.

MH-6 Little Bird Upgrade. The U.S. Special Operations Command is looking for a contractor for procurement of a replacement Light Weight Plank Systems (LWPS) for use on the A/MH-6m helicopters. The plank systems provide mounting points for the weapons and ammunition cans. (Defense Blog, Feb 15, 2021).

Alaska Family Seeks Answer in Shooting on SEAL Base. The family of a man who was fatally shot by at a Navy training base in Alaska by a Naval Special Warfare guard is looking for more information on his death. The shooting took place in June 2020 at the Naval Special Warfare Detachment Kodiak. (Navy Times, Feb 16, 2021).

SSG Robert Miller – GB and MoH Recipient. A recent DoD article highlights the career and sacrifice of Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Green Beret who lost his life during an intense 2008 firefight in Afghanistan. He is a recipient of the Medal of Honor. (DoD, Feb 15, 2021).

Retirement of the Mk VIs? One of the Navy’s smaller combat vessels could see a short service life. The twelve riverine and littoral craft could be moth-balled in the coming years. Read more here. (The WarZone, Feb 15, 2021).

“Make Your Bed” – Children’s Edition. Retired Admiral (and SEAL) William McRaven continues to be in the news. He has another book out for younger audiences entitled Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World”. The former USSOCOM commander is enjoying his ‘second’ career as a book author. (USA Today, Feb 15, 2021).

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International SOF

The SAS Reputation. Read an essay on the exploration of the persona of the Special Air Service – Britain’s primary special forces organization. The reputation of the SAS has been built on its past deeds . . . but also on a vast quantity of books, movies, and TV programs. But one thing that stands out is the thing that makes the regiment the best – training. See “The Badass Series: Part One – SAS”, Forces.net, December 31, 2020.

Russia’s Spetsnaz. Russia’s highly-trained special purpose force has been conducting operations around the world for the past 70 years. The five Russian special task forces of Spetsnaz “. . . are at the heart of the new Russian way of war that emphasises speed, surprise and deception over massive conventional force . . .” Read “The Badass Series: Part Two – Russia’s Spetsnaz”, Forces.net, February 12, 2021.

Belgian SF and Female Soldiers. A 10-page essay details how the Belgian Special Forces Group has developed a new gendermixed capability that includes female soldiers in the operational detachment for the first time. By Nina Wilen – Expanding the Reach of the Special Forces with a Gender-Mixed Deep Development Capability (DDC): Identifying Challenges and Lessons Learned, Security Policy Briefs, Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations, February 16, 2021.

Turkish SOF Raid – Gone Bad? An attempt to rescue 13 intelligence and police personnel held by the PKK ended in failure. Read more in an article by The Arab Weekly, February 15, 2021.

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SOF History

SOE – Polish Section. Read up on the Polish section of the Special Operations Executive. Its members parachuted into Poland in World War II after training in the United Kingdom. Read “Audley End House, the secret agent ‘finishing school'”, Saffron Walden Reporter, February 15, 2021.

USS Grayback. This U.S. Navy submarine carried strategic missiles but also had the capability to deliver naval special operations personnel to the coast of North Vietnam. Halfway through its Navy career the sub was modified to carry troops and swimmer delivery vehicles (SDVs). Read “The Oddly Shaped USS Grayback Was a Cold War Submarine Like No Other”, The Drive, February 10, 2021.

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Return of the Irish Guerrilla. Roberg Gilbey, in a three part series, provides the rationale for a reforming of the Irish Reserve Defense Forces to include an Irregular Reserve Force as part of an Irish Resistance Operating Concept (ROC). This would follow the steps that other countries (for example Sweden and Estonia) are taking to deter and defend against an aggressive foreign force. The ROC has been introduced in recent years by Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) and many European countries. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3 of “Return of the Irish Guerrilla”, Irish Defence Forces Officer’s Club, Jan – Feb 2021.

IW and Conventional Warfare Capabilities. Charles Barham, a retired Army 06 and USCENTCOM analyst, believes that the DoD must strike a balance between resourcing conventional and irregular warfare capabilities. He worries that the US government is at risk of under-resourcing DoD’s capability to effectively engage in competition short of armed conflict. He writes “IW represents the best set of capabilities DoD and the USG can employ to win in the competitive space as part of great power competition”. Read his essay – “Resourcing Irregular and Conventional Warfare Capabilities”, Real Clear Defense, February 10, 2021.

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National Security

NATO Summit. Defense ministers are gathering for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Defense Ministerial this week. On the agenda will be a host of issues – Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others. Read “NATO Defense Ministers to Discuss Future of Alliance During Ministerial”, US DoD, February 15, 2021.

CT Failure in the Sahel. Frank Andrews tells us why the US’s counterterrorism strategy in the Sahel keeps failing. Despite arms, equipment, and training to countries in the region the jihadists continue to grow influence and strength. (Mail & Guardian, Feb 16, 2021).

Gray Zone Aggression. Elisabeth Braw, a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has penned an eleven page document that discusses the nature of gray-zone aggression and offers policy proposals on how to deter it. Read The Defender’s Dilemma: Defining, identifying, and deterring gray-zone aggression, AEI, February 8, 2021.

Great Power Competition GPC

Great Power Competition

Russians in Karabakh. The 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the fall of 2020 has ended – and Russia has positioned itself within the disputed territories as a ‘peacekeeping’ force. Some observers note that the Russian troops are likely the foundation of a Russian protectorate in this region of the world. Read “Russian ‘Peacekeeping’ in Karabakh: Old Model, New Features, Mission Creep”, by Vladimir Socor, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, January 21, 2021.

The Annexation of Belarus? Moscow’s current efforts to turn Belarus into a platform for Russia’s armed forces are accompanied by moves to accelerate economic integration that could amount to a soft annexation. See “Is Russia slowly annexing Belarus in plain sight?”, Atlantic Council, February 10, 2021.

Building Partner Capacity is GPC. Phil Reynolds, a scholar at the Center for Futures Studies at the University of Hawaii and book author, argues that there is a very real deterrent in strengthening small partners quickly and effectively. He maintains that BPC funds should be used for their intended purpose and not for the purchase of expensive military equipment. Read his essay in “Building Partner Capacity is Great Power Competition: The Future of 333 Funds”, Small Wars Journal, February 6, 2021.

Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

ADP 3-05 Audiobook – Army Special Operations. The Army is making it easy to stay abreast of doctrine. Now you can listen to audio and learn doctrine. The SOF professional may be interested in ADP 3-05, Army Special Operations (July 2019). This publication provides a broad understanding of Army special operations and how to achieve unified action by appropriately integrating Army conventional and special operations forces. You can listen online or download the audio file or read the print version. Army Pubs.

SOF News Monthly Journal – January 2021. Catch up on the new, analysis, and commentary about special operations forces from the January 2021 time period. (PDF, 62 pages).

Book – Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Many Western and non-Western states have shied away from deploying large numbers of their own troops to conflict areas. Instead, they are engaged in ‘remote warfare’ – supporting the frontline fighting of local and regional actors against non-state armed forces through the provision of intelligence, training, equipment, and airpower. A new book published in 2021 by E-International Relations has fourteen chapters by various authors on this topic of ‘remote warfare’. It is free and available for reading online or download in PDF form, 267 pages.

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Podcast – 1st SFC(A) and SFAC. Maj. Gen. John Brennan, commander of the 1st Special Forces Command, Brig. Gen. Scott Jackson and commander of the Security Force Assistance Command discuss the unique but complimentary roles of 1st SFC(A) and the SFAC. The Indigenous Approach, February 11, 2021, 42 minutes.

Podcast – IW and the Pacific. What role does irregular warfare play in Australian national security strategy? What are the challenges in transitioning from the conflicts of the past two decades to one of great power competition? Listen in for some answers in “Pacific Gambit: The Role of Irregular Warfare in Australia’s Great Strategic Shift”, Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, February 12, 2021, 48 mins.

Video – Innovation Design in Contemporary Defence. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Van der Veer (Netherlands Army) and Colonel Imre Porkolab (Hungarian SOF) take part in a panel event from a 2019 conference about designing in security contexts. Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), February 5, 2021, 46 minutes.

Video – US NSW Train in Mediterranean Sea. Naval special operations forces from the Greek Underwater Demolition Team (DYK), Cypriot Underwater Demolition Team (UDT), and U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) joined forces to conduct a maritime exercise in Souda Bay, Greece, January 11-29. The tri-lateral Special Operations Forces (SOF) exercise, which was designed to better enable global operations, included Over the Beach (OTB), Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), and Small Boat Interdiction (SBI). Video by Special Operations Command Europe, 29 Jan 2021, 1 minute.


Photo: Soldiers conduct an airborne operation from an Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft at Frida drop zone in Pordenone, Italy, February 1, 2021. Photo by Paolo Bovo, U.S. Army.

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