Special Operations News Update – Thursday, February 18, 2021

Mini C-17

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Project 6633, SOF selection, MACV-SOG, Russia adventurism, podcasts, books, and videos.

SOF News

Roger Donlon – MoH Recipient. Green Beret Roger Donlon was in South Vietnam in 1964 when he took part in a fierce firefight that would later lead to receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C. Read more in “Why Roger Donlon was the first Medal of Honor recipient in Vietnam”, We Are the Mighty, February 16, 2021.

MWI, 10th SFG(A), and Project 6633. The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in cooperation with the Modern War Institute and Project 6633, have announced an essay contest to generate new ideas and expand the community of interest for special operations in the polar regions. The essays must address how American special operations forces compete with near-peer adversaries in the polar regions. Learn more in “Call for Submissions: Polar SOF Essay Contest”, Modern War Institute at West Point, February 17, 2021.

AFSOC Cyber Squadron Initiative. Air Force Special Operations Command hosted a Mission Defense Team Conference in early February that focused on identifying the organic cyber capabilities needed to protect missions against threat in, through, and from cyberspace. “AFSOC Cyber Squadron Initiative: Arming for the 21st century battle”, by 1st Lt. Melissa Crisotomo, 919th SOW, February 17, 2021.

AFSOC and Agile Combat Employment. An experiment is underway to see if AF Special Operations Command can successfully generate small, deployable teams of multi-capable Airmen to better align with the Air Force’s agile combat employment model. (Air Force Magazine, Feb 17, 2021).

Green Beret Seeks Halt to Extradition. The lawyers for Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret who served with 10th and 11th Special Forces Group, have sent a letter to the new Secretary of State (Anthony Blinken) asking that extradition to Japan be halted or postponed. The former Special Forces NCO is alleged to have assisted in the escape from Japan of Carlos Ghosen – a high-level executive in the auto industry – who was under indictment in Japan and on ‘house arrest’. Taylor’s lawyers contend that their client should not be prosecuted as there is no law against assisting in a ‘bail jump’ and that the Japanese prison conditions are inhuman. (Reuters, Feb 17, 2021).

AFSOC C-145 Skytruck AC’s in Kenya. In 2009 US Air Force Special Operations Command acquired 18 C-145A Skytruck / Combat Coyotes. These SOF aircraft are used around the world for infiltration, exfiltration, resupply, and other missions. In 2015 AFSOC announced it was retiring eleven of the C-145A aircraft. Since then the (retired) planes have found (or are promised) their way to Kenya, Estonia, Nepal, and Costa Rica. Read more in “Kenya receives first C-145 transport aircraft”, Defence Web, February 11, 2021.

SOF and Cynicism. Anna Simons, a Professor Emerita of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, is a frequent commentator on the special operations community. Her latest article is entitled “Cynicism”, Small Wars Journal, February 16, 2021.

FBNC – Bryant Hall Dedication. A building with a lot of U.S. Army special warfare history attached to it has been rededicated. Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class William Bryant was serving with the 5th Special Forces Group when he was killed in South Vietnam in 1969. He was posthumously awarded the MoH in 1971. In 1973 the six-story building on Ardennes Street on Fort Bragg, North Carolina was named in his honor. (Fayetteville Observer, Feb 17, 2021).

Prepping for SOF Selection? Steve Balestrieri, a former Green Beret, writes on the need to push out of your comfort zone so that you can find out what your absolute limits are. This is an important part of preparing for SOF selection. (SOFREP, Feb 16, 2021). Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL, provides some advice on getting into physical shape for a SOF career. (Military.com, Feb 2021).

AFSOC Cdr on Armed Overwatch Plane. USSOCOM hopes to be procuring some additional planes in fiscal year 22. The commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. James Slife, provided a recent update. Read “Special ops still bullish on new armed overwatch plane”, Defense News, February 16, 2021. See also “New Plane Key to Special Ops Vision for Africa, General Says”, Defense One, February 16, 2021.

USSOCOM – A Model for IO Structure? An article draws an analogy between historical SOF and contemporary information forces and suggests that the history and evolution of SOF could serve as a possible model and provide cautionary lessons for the future development of information forces. Read “The Evolution of Special Operations as a Model for Information Forces”, Joint Force Quarterly, 1st Quarter 2021, PDF, 6 pages.

Rep Murphy in Key U.S. House SOF Position. U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy has been selected to serve as the vice chair of the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. She previously worked as a national security specialist at the Department of Defense, where she served for a period in the office that oversees ASD Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SOLIC).

USASFC Chats about IW, Cyber, and ‘Naked Man’ Concept. Maj. Gen. John Brennan addressed an AFCEA function and talked about a number of topics. Read more in “Special Forces Command Seeks Key Data Aggregation, Cyber Tools”, Signal 75, February 17, 2021.

AFSOC Officer Assignments. Brig. Gen. Steven G. Edwards will be assigned as chief of staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.  Edwards is currently serving as director, strategic plans, programs and requirements, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida. Brig. Gen. (select) Justin R. Hoffman will be assigned as director, strategic plans, programs, and requirements, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida. Hoffman is currently serving as director, legislative affairs, U.S. Special Operations Command, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 

SOF History Banner

SOF History

MACV-SOG. During the Vietnam War, the US created a highly classified unit that still influences modern special operations. (Business Insider, Feb 9, 2021).

Interview – John Stryker Meyer. A former Special Forces NCO who served a total of 19 months during the Vietnam War in the top secret Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) is interviewed about his experiences. (The Falmouth Enterprise, Feb 12, 2021).

Ukrainian Resistance Through History. A document published by the U.S. Army in 1957 provides some interesting reading. Originally classified SECRET, the document has been released in a sanitized version. Read Resistance Factors and Special Forces Areas Ukraine – posted in the ‘Reading Room’ of the Central Intelligence Agency. PDF, 219 pages.

Maj. Gen. Bargewell. With the Vietnam War heating up, Eldon Bargewell enlisted in the Army in 1967, volunteered for Special Forces training, and then deployed to Southeast Asia. He then volunteered for MACV-SOG. He received his commission in 1972 and later would serve with the newly established Delta Force. Eventually he would retire in 2006. Read the story of his life and career in “Major General Eldon Bargewell, a Special Operations Legend”, SANDBOXX, February 8, 2021.

Desert Storm – 30 Years Ago

The Gulf War’s Afterlife. Samuel Helfont, an assistant professor of strategy and policy in the Naval War College’s Program at the Naval Postgraduate School, examines the aftermath of the Gulf War. In this article he portrays an alternative narrative to the “clean, decisive conflict” of the 1990-1990 conflict with Iraq. He places an emphasis on the political and humanitarian situation that unfolded in the years after the Gulf War. “The Gulf War’s Afterlife: Dilemmas, Missed Opportunities, and the Post-Cold War Order Undone”, Texas National Security Review, Vol 4, Iss 2, Spring 2021.

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Wuhan Virus and the Military

Vaccinations and the Military. Almost one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to U.S. military personnel. However, there seems to be some reluctance by some troops to get stabbed in the shoulder. See “About a third of troops have turned down the COVID-19 vaccine”, Military Times, February 17, 2021.

Coronavirus and the VA. More than 10,000 Veterans Affairs patients have died from complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic in less than 11 months. More than 60% of those deaths have been since November 1, 2020. At least 485,000 Americans have died from problems related to the virus. (Military Times, Feb 17, 2021).

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National Security

CA Essays – Marine Corps Gazette. Several articles relating to Civil Affairs were recently published as part of a writing contest about irregular warfare in the Marine Corps Gazette. You can download the articles (PDF) from the Eunomia Journal website of the Civil Affairs Association. (Feb 10, 2021).

Houthis and FTO Designation. In the waning days of the Trump administration the Houthis (or Ansarallah) were designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). In one of many actions taken by the Biden administration to reverse Trump policies, the State Department has revoked the FTO designation of Ansarallah. (Department of State, Feb 12, 2021).

Jihadi Infighting. Tore Hamming details the fighting between jihadi organizations that have hampered their overall objective and assisted counterterrorism efforts. Read “The Failure of Jihadi Conflict Resolution”, War on the Rocks, February 15, 2021.

Big Army in Europe and Africa. “After three decades of fighting irregular and low-intensity conflicts, the Army is refocusing its efforts to win a great-power war in Europe by fielding new units, conducting large-scale exercises, and revising its command structure.” But more needs to be done. See “U.S. Army Europe and Africa Headquarters: Reforming for Future Success”, by John Bonin and Justin Magula, War on the Rocks, February 16, 2021.

Baltic Sea Defense. Deterring and defending against Russian aggression in the Baltic Sea region prior to open hostilities is a political problem that requires a coordinated regional approach by Poland, Germany, and Denmark in conjunction with their NATO and EU allies. These three ‘southern shore’ nations should prioritize Baltic maritime security, regional mobility, and unconventional warfare capabilities. Read more in “Baltics Left of Bang: The Southern Shore”, Strategic Forum 308, National Defense University Press, January 29, 2021. (PDF, 20 pages).

Great Power Competition GPC

Great Power Competition

Russia in CAR. Violence is intensifying in the Central African Republic at the same time that Russia is expanding its military and diplomatic involvement in the conflict. Read “Russia’s Strategy in the Central African Republic”, by Samuel Ramani, RUSI Commentary, February 12, 2021.

Russia and Cyber. Marius Kristiansen and Njaal Hoem, two Norwegian Army officers, explain how Russia has implemented cyber as an integral part of its strategic framework, and demonstrated its effectiveness in the attainment of political objectives. They argue that NATO needs to reassert itself in the cyber domain. Read “Russian Cyber Strategy”, Small Wars Journal, February 14, 2021.

The Russo-Georgian War: Russian Influence”. Four PSYOP NCOs and an editor provide the history of Russian influence efforts and activities during the Russian-Georgian conflict. Posted on Small Wars Journal, Feb 14, 2021.

Rethinking China Strategy. The Pentagon is trying to balance the threats from China, Russia, Iran, and terrorism. This is happening in a time of leaner Pentagon budgets. The five-side building is in the middle of a “global posture review” which should determine how to prioritize resources. Read more in “Pentagon rethinking how to array forces to focus on China”, Military Times, February 16, 2021.

Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Book Excerpt: The Daughters of Kobani. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, book author and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, has a new book out about an all-female militia faced off against Islamic State fighters in the town of Kobani, Syria. It is the story of the women of the Kurdish militia that, with the support of U.S. special operations forces, helped to play a central role in the neutralization of the Islamic State in Syria. Read an excerpt of the book in an article posted in Army Times, February 16, 2021.

The Force”. A book published in 2019 by author David Saul is the topic of this book review. The Force: The Legendary Special Ops Unit and WWII’s Impossible Mission. Review is published in Studies in Intelligence, Vol 64, No. 3, June 2020, posted on CIA website. The reviewer, J.R. Seeger, is a retired CIA paramilitary officer and frequent reviewer of books.

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Video – 350th CA Cmd CoC. The 350th Civil Affairs Command (CACOM) took place on December 13, 2021. Watch the ceremony in this 17 minute clip. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Pugh takes over from Brig. Gen. Mark Black.
DVIDS, Feb 13, 2021.

Video – Mattis and Vickers on Leadership and Strategy. The OSS Society presents a discussion with former Secretary James Mattis and the Honorable Mike Vickers (former SF and CIA). January 28, 2021, 1.5 hours.

Podcast – Spies and Satire with Alex Finley. A former CIA officer Alex Finley is interviewed about her published books, the art of spying, the value of intelligence reports, and more. Presented by The Smell of Victory Podcast of Divergent Options, May 2019, 47 minutes.


Photo: Most modern day paratroopers have probably jumped the C-17 cargo plane. But there are not many who have seen the inside of a mini-C-17. Photo courtesy of the the United States Air Force.

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