Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include 1st SF Cmd’s Information Warfare Center, USAF SERE training, US SOF and drones, origins of the Gulf War, CA and RAA opns, Canadian SOF and GPC, Barrett M82, ISIS, info opns, pubs, videos, and podcasts.
1st SF Cmd and it’s Information Warfare Center. Colonel Ed Croot, the chief of staff at 1st Special Forces Command, provided a virtual presentation to a recent AFCEA TechNet event. His presentation provided information about the command’s Information Warfare Center. “Special Forces to build ‘influence artillery’ for online campaigns”, C4ISRNET, February 18, 2021.
USAF SERE Training. The United States Air Force is looking to push more students through the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape instructors course as the focus of the U.S. military turns to great power competition. “Cracking the Code”, Air Force Magazine, February 19, 2021.
Atlantic Diving Supply – In the News Once Again. A business that was ranked as the 24th largest federal contractor in fiscal year 2019 with more than $ 3 billion in sales seems to be able to get Pentagon contracts under the small business contracting system. Atlantic Diving Supply (ADS) was a small outfit that started out as a dive shop near Virginia Beach. ADS has strong ties to the special operations community and works with other firms tied to other members of the special operations community – many from the Navy’s elite Special Warfare Development Group. Read more in “How a ‘Small Business’ Kingpin Wins Billions in Defense Contracts”, Project on Government Oversight, February 18, 2021.
Role Player for SOF Exercise Enjoys His Time. An Air Force Airman recently had the opportunity to take part in a special operations force exercise. Read more in “Best Job I Every Had”, by Airman 1st Class Marcus Storer, 27th Special Operations Wing, February 17, 2021.
Jobs for SF Vets. There are some jobs that are tailor-fitted for Special Forces veterans. “Civilian Jobs After Leaving the Special Forces Club”, Clearance Jobs, February 19, 2021.
7th SFG(A) Soldier Pled Not Guilty to Murder Charges. Sgt. 1st Class Duke Webb, a member of the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin AFB, FL, pled not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. His appearance was via video from the Winnebago County, Illinois, jail for his arraignment. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 30, 2021. Three people were killed and three wounded in a shooting at an Illinois bowling alley and bar. (NWF Daily News, Feb 19, 2021)
US SOF, Drones, and Project Hornet. US special operations forces have been operating drones of many sizes for a variety of missions. The drone fleet may get a little bit bigger in the near future. Project Hornet is “an advanced, hand-launched unmanned aerial system (USA) that can be used by forward-deployed personnel to interdict and disrupt adversary electronic capabilities in contested environments.” Find out more in “Pentagon Gives a Glimpse of Special Forces’ Secret Hand-Launched Jammer Drone”, by David Hambling, Forbes, February 18, 2021.
Origins of the Gulf War? James Wharton provides a British perspective on the events that took place 30 years ago that brought about conflict with Iraq. Read “What Caused the Gulf War?”, Forces.net, January 15, 2021.
Reliving the Parachute Jump into Normandy on D-Day. Mitch Utterbak, a retired Special Forces officer, spent one summer attending a ‘civilian’ jump school in Frederick, Oklahoma. The World War II Airborne Demonstration Team’s jump school is a nonprofit living history organization. They run a nine-day jump school that replicates one conducted during World War II – right down to the C-47 Skytrain – Boogie Baby. Read Mitch’s account in “Jumping Into the Past With the World War II Airborne Demo Team”, Air & Space Magazine, December 2020.
Story of Ola Mize – MoH Recipient and SF Officer. One of the legends of the Special Forces community is Colonel Ola L. Mize – a Medal of Honor recipient who died at the age of 82 in 2014. Read an account of his life in “The Story of Sergeant Ola. L. Mize, U.S. Army, Korea, Medal of Honor”, Special Operations Association, February 20, 2021.
CA Identity. Wyatt Huges, a Civil Affairs officer, argues for the development of a Civil Affairs creed that will help establish a clear identity for the CA community. Read “Developing the Civil Affairs Identity”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, February 19, 2021.
Leadership and Organizational Culture. An essay that examines the role of different types of people within an organization. The “moral multipliers” (20%), “organizational insurgents” (10%), and “influenceable intermediate (70%) all contribute to an organizations culture (and effectiveness). Leadership should isolate the organizational insurgents by investing their time with the moral multipliers. Read “How to Wage a Counterinsurgency Against Organizational Culture”, by Benjamin Ordiway (CA officer), From the Green Notebook, February 20, 2021.
CA and Remote Advise and Assist Opns. The US military footprint worldwide is being reduced at the same time that the political will to assume risk on US military operations has decreased. However, one method to continue to conduct operations is through Remote Advise and Assist (RAA) methodology. While the effectiveness of RAA is less than that of a personal presence it still carries some benefits. Read more on how a Civil Affairs Team can still achieve its objectives with a host-nation counterpart from afar in “Partnered MDMP: Achieving Shared Objectives Through Remote Advise and Assist Operations”, Eunomia Journal, The Civil Affairs Association, February 21, 2021.
Great Power Competition
Canadian SOF and GPC. For the last two decades Canadian special operations forces have been focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. During this period SOF has been considered the ‘force of choice’. The emergence of great power competition (GPC) is changing SOF’s role. Some national security observers associate GPC with open conflict with Russia, China, and others – and the associated investment in big ticket items such as ships, aircraft, and tanks. However, SOF may have an even more significant role in GPC than it had in CT / COIN campaigns. A recent paper provides the details. Read “Special Operations Forces in Great Power Competition“, by Colonel Kevin Stringer and H. Christian Breede, Insights, Volume 1, Issue 2, Kingston Consortium on International Security, February 2021. For more on this topic listen to an episode of The Politics of Special Forces.
China – and Why You Should Protect Your DNA. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) is warning Americans that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been legally and illegally collecting massive amounts of data about the DNA of American citizens. Read a five-page article (PDF) about China’s history of DNA exploitation and the implications for privacy and U.S. national security. (NCSC Factsheet, Feb 2021).
China’s New Enemy? The uptick in China’s assertiveness on the global scene has caught the attention of jihadist movements like al-Qaeda, ISIS, and others. This could mean trouble down the road for Chinese interests around the world. The jihadist realm as well as other non-jihadist groups are now viewing Chinese economic and military activity as intertwined and part of an expansionist grand strategy. Read more in “Jihadist Perceptions of a Rising Superpower”, by Lucas Webber, Small Wars Journal, February 21, 2021.
Russia – Still Busy In Ukraine’s East. Russian and proxy forces are continuing their operations along the frontlines in the Donbas region of Ukraine. The primary tactics appear to be the use of snipers. See “Russia Calibrating Low-Intensity War in Ukraine’s East”, by Vladmir Socor, Real Clear Defense, February 19, 2021.
A Russian Strategy Needed by Europe. Russia’s aggressive policies towards its neighbors has solidified the European states toward a common goal of containment. Although there are a mix of European leaders – some seeking engagement while others want to continue containment – there is a more broad convergence of views within the European Union on Russia. However, Europe needs to refine its strategy to contain Putin’s malign influence. “The Russia strategy Europe needs”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, February 22, 2021.
Story of the Barrett M82. A weapon designed for long-range shooting has been adopted by numerous nations as a sniper weapon. It has become one of the greatest large-caliber military sniper rifles in history. One of the first customers was the CIA who bought some of the rifles to equip the Mujahideen guerrillas who were fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. “The US sniper rifle that started a revolution”, Asia Times, February 22, 2021.
ISIS – Down But Not Out. The alliance between the US and the Syrian Democratic Forces crippled ISIS in one of the rare success stories in the Middle East. Now that partnership is more crucial than ever. Read “ISIS is Down but Not Dead Yet”, The Daily Beast, February 22, 2021.
NATO Increases Commitment in Iraq. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has decided to substantially increase its troop levels in Iraq. The mission is mostly institutional capacity building. The current level of personnel is 500 – it will be increased to around 4,000. The U.S. has no immediate plans to increase its level of troops. The U.S. had recently down-sized its mission to 2,500 personnel.
Russia, China, and Estonia – Influence Activities. The Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service (Valisluureamet) has published its annual report entitled International Security and Estonia 2021. The 82-page PDF highlights the security issues of Estonia – with great attention paid to its big neighbor – Russia. The report also pays some notice to the activities of China as well. Prevalent through the paper is the use of ‘influence activities’ by both Russia and China.
GRU and PSYOP. A recent report examines the use of psychological warfare by Russia’s GRU. The report (111 pages, PDF) centers on reports translated from Russia that detail how psychological and information operations were conducted at the tail-end of the Cold War. Read Aquarium Leaks. Inside the GRU’s Psychological Warfare Program, Free Russia Foundation, December 7, 2020.
Iranian IO Targets US. In the past few years Iran has become increasingly sophisticated and active in online communities targeting the American public. “How to Understand Iranian Information Operations”, Lawfare Blog, February 19, 2021.
Summary. The Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia continues to fester. Regional forces are attempting to take control of the region from the federal government. Al Qaeda is expanding its networks in West Africa and is growing in Mali. The French president (Macron) is cautioning against reducing the Sahel anti-insurgent force.
Somalia. This east African nation has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991. It has suffered decades of civil war and lawlessness. The rise of al-Shabaab, a militant group, has exasperated the security and political situation in Somalia. Currently the country is attempting to arrive at a political solution that would enable elections to be held – however, many security observers believe the country is slipping into chaos and open conflict. Read more in “Amid clashes in Mogadishu, Analysts Warn Somalia Could Slip Back into Civil War”, Voice of American, February 19, 2021.
Another article details how a Somali ‘special forces’ unit trained by Turkey may be a disrupting force. See “Turkish-trained special forces take Somalia back to days of civil war”, The Arab Weekly, February 20, 2021.
Failed Mercenary Opn in Libya. In June of 2019 a group of commandos for hire arrived in Libya to begin an operation that would assist in the toppling of the United Nations recognized Libyan government. The plan included specialized equipment, drones, inflatable speedboats, NVGs, and comms jamming equipment. The military operation depended on the arrival of three AH-1F Cobra helicopters and other military weapons. The plan fell apart and the mercenaries departed shortly after their arrival. Now an investigation is taking place to gather facts. (Washington Post, Feb 19, 2021).
Books, Pubs, and Reports
CTC Sentinel. The February 2021 issue has been posted by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Articles about al-Qa’ida’s next (possible) emir, the Boogaloo movement, a case study of the November 2020 Vienna terrorist attack, and terrorist groups in and around Pakistan.
UN Special Forces Manual. The United Nations Peacekeeping Missions Military Unit Manual on Special Forces is a guide and reference for UN commanders and staff deployed in peacekeeping operations. There have been instances where UN Special Forces have deployed to peacekeeping operations around the world – including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Sudan, and Mali. This manual is an attempt to enhance the preparation, operational readiness, and efficiency of UN Special Forces. United Nations, January 2015, PDF, 85 pages.
“Carrying the Gun” Newsletter. There are a lot of newsletters that arrive in the inbox of the SOF News Editor. These provide some of the information that is aggregated into our newsletters and posts. One of the more interesting ones is “Carrying the Gun”. Give it a try.
Book – The Hitler Progeny. Book author (and former Green Beret) Steve Dimodica has a new book out. The Hitler Progeny is set in the current day. “Europe is at a political crossroads and the German people are about to go to the polls. There is growing dissent within the EU, due mostly to the immigration problem and the Schengen program. Some assassinations take place and the blame initially points to a Middle Eastern nation. Yet there are rumors of the involvement of a domestic neo-Nazi organization led by a suspected descendant of Adolf Hitler. An American intelligence agent goes into deep cover to determine if the claims are true. Available at Amazon.com.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – The Background and Framework of the Special Operations Forces. The Kingston Consortium on International Security has a ten part limited series entitled The Politics of Special Forces. Listen to episode 1. (25 mins).
Podcast – Jessica Donati and SF in Afghanistan. Donati, a foreign affairs reporter for the Wall Street Journal, joins podcast host Alistair Taylor to discuss her new book Eagle Down. “The role of US special forces in the war in Afghanistan”, Middle East Focus Podcast, Middle East Institute, February 19, 2021.
Video – Resistance Operating Concept. Mr. Kerry V. Roberts, JSOU Outreach Faculty, interviews Dr. Otto Fiala, Retired U.S.Army Colonel, Civil Affairs Team Leader during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and lead author of the Resistance Operating Concept (ROC). In this 35 minute video Fiala explains how Special Operations Command Europe, along with other European nations, developed the doctrine that would help to deter and defend the Baltic, Nordic, and other nations from possible future Russian aggression. Joint Special Operations University, November 2, 2020.
Video – Emerald Warrior 21.1 – Water Operations. Watch a 2-minute long video of members of the 24th Special Operations Wing conduct water operations with U.S. Navy aircrew members assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Nine, in a MH-60 Seahawk helicopter during Emerald Warrior 2.1 at Hurlburt Field, Florida on Feb. 18, 2021.
Photo: U.S. Air Force Special Tactics operators assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing conduct hoist operations with U.S. Navy aircrew members assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Nine in an MH-60 Seahawk during Emerald Warrior 21.1 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Feb. 18, 2021. Water operations training is part of exercise Emerald Warrior which focuses on U.S partner nation relationships while emphasizing joint force interoperability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Edward Coddington).