Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include ASD SO/LIC, SOF ethics, SOF history, podcasts, books, and more.
ASD SO/LIC – Demotion in its Future? Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller had elevated the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC) status within the Defense Department. Most SOF observers commented favorably on this acting by Miller – a former Green Beret. Now it appears that the Biden administration and Secretary of Defense Austin are going to reverse Millers’ decision. The defense secretary is considering lowering the special operations job back into the Pentagon’s policy shop, effectively demoting the position. Read more in “Austin eyes rolling back Trump-era policy on special operations”, Politico, February 24, 2021.
Extremism in AFSOC? General Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, says that there have been cases of extremism in the AF spec ops community. (Military.com, Feb 26, 2021.)
From Cambodian Refugee to Col in SF. Varman Chhoeung doesn’t remember much of his home country or his time in a Thai refugee camp. But he knows that his new adopted country has been good for his family. Read “From refugee to decorated Army officer, Col. Varman Chhoeung now leads the Presidio”, Monterey County Weekly, February 27, 2021.
3rd SFG Remembers Their Fallen. The 3rd Special Forces Group has been conducting a monthly “Remembrance PT” in honor of their fallen warriors. (Fayetteville Observer, Feb 28, 2021)
Navy SEAL Museum. The history of the naval special warfare is captured in Florida. Read “Birthplace of Navy SEALs showcases legacy in Fort Pierce”, CBS 12 News, February 25, 2021.
UAV’s for AFSOC? The US Air Force Special Operations Command is open to considering unmanned air vehicles for its Armed Overwatch program – but there are concerns about manning requirements. (FlightGlobal, Feb 26, 2021).
Army’s RRC. A small unit of the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment has been working in the shadows for the past several decades. Small reconnaissance teams – often as singletons or in pairs – have worked all around the world on secret missions. Read more in “A rare glimpse inside the secretive Regimental Reconnaissance Company”, Connecting Vets, February 23, 2021.
(Editorial note: An earlier version of this post about the RCC – and our emailed newsletter – indicated that this was a United Kingdom special operations unit. We were incorrect. Apologies for the confusion).
SOF GMVs Heading to Barstow. A Marine maintenance depot will be repairing Special Operations Command Ground Mobility Vehicles soon. (DVIDS, Feb 25, 2021).
Ethics Field Guide for SOF. A new book entitled A Special Operations Forces Ethics Field Guide breaks down common ethical dilemmas into 13 categories. The guide is designed to help SOF professionals make split-second decisions, build moral reflexes, and to think about the pitfalls of particular types of action. “BYU Professors Create Ethics Field Guide to Help US Special Forces”, KSL TV, February 23, 2021.
SOF Officer Assignments and Announcements
Maj. Gen. Miguel A. Correa, senior director for Gulf affairs, Middle Eastern Affairs Directorate, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President, Washington, D.C., to deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Brig. Gen. Guillaume N. Beaurpere, commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Inherent Resolve, Kuwait, to deputy commanding general (operations), U.S. Army Space and Missile Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
Brig. Gen. Matthew W. Davidson has been appointed to the grade of major general. Davidson is currently serving as the deputy commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force – Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
Rear Adm. (lower half) Keith B. Davids for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Davids is currently serving as commander, Special Operations Command South, U.S. Southern Command, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida.
Brig. Gen. Steven M. Marks, Deputy commanding general, 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to director, joint and integration, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.
Capt. Ronald A. Foy for appointment to the rank of rear admiral (lower half). Foy is currently serving as deputy commander, Naval Special Warfare Group, Dam Neck, Virginia.
Brig. Gen. Isaac J. Peltier, deputy commanding general (support), 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado, to commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Inherent Resolve, Kuwait.
Brig. Gen. Allan Pepin, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to commanding general, Military District of Washington; and commander, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, Washington, D.C.
Royal Marines Increasing Misson Set. The Marines of the UK are getting an overhaul and are easing into being a ‘Future Commando Force’. “Royal Marines take on sabotage raids and spying to help ease pressure on SAS and SBS”, The Scottish Sun, March 1, 2021.
Mountain Rats of India. The 9th Parachute Battalion (Special Forces) came into existance in 1966. Its original premier specialty is mountain warfare. Learn more in “9 Para (SF): The Mountain Rats”, The Defence Archive, February 27, 2021.
New Wpns for Russian SOF. The Russian arms industry has some new small arms on display that may be used for Russian SOF. Read more in “New Russian small arms displayed at IDEX 2021 exhibition”, Israel Defense, February 28, 2021.
Lt. Gen. (Ret) Leroy Manor – RIP. An Air Force retired general officer with years of special operations experience has passed away at age 100. He played a key role in the Son Tay Raid – a POW rescue attempt in 1970 during the Vietnam War. (NWF Daily News, Feb 26, 2021).
Norwegian Commandos in WWII. Nine commandos trained by the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) had the objective to destroy the Norsk Hydro’s Vemork hydroelectric power plant. “How a daring raid by Norwegian commandos kept the Nazis from building a nuclear bomb”, Yahoo! News, February 28, 2021.
Rangers and Grenada in 1983. A history of the weapons found on the island nation during the invasion of Grenada. “The Guns of Grenada: Operation Urgent Fury“, American Rifleman, February 27, 2021.
Spirit 03 Memorabilia Restored. A memorial piece to honor the crew of a downed AC-130H Spectr gunship, Spirit 03, shot down during the Persian Gulf War has been recovered and restored to a fitting location. “A piece of Hurlburt history recovered”, DVIDS, February 25, 2021.
Mike Durant and Desert Storm. A young pilot in the 160th SOAR got a front-view seat to history being made from a helicopter. “Desert Storm 30th Anniversary: Mike Durant”, DVIDS, February 26, 2021.
80s Van for an 80s A-Team. A popular TV series featuring a unique collection of renegade Green Berets had a set of mean wheels. Read “The A-Team and Their Van”, Art of Gears, February 28, 2021.
Retooling Spec Ops for China. Representative Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is now the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations. He is a Marine vet (combat in Iraq) and has some views on the special operations community that deserve a look (and evaluation). You can learn more about his thoughts on intelligence and SOF in this interview. “Intel Panel Chair: Retool Spec Ops for China Conflict”, Spytalk.co, February 23, 2021. Be sure to check out the comments below the article by Dave Maxwell (retired SF officer). As Dave says in the comments – “I think the chairman needs a thorough briefing on the roles and missions of SOF.”
Physical Fitness and Gender-Based Testing. Capt. Kristen Griest, one of the first two women to graduate from Ranger School, argues against gender-based physical fitness testing. She believes that the Army should hold men and women in combat arms to equal standards in physical fitness testing. “With Equal Opportunity Comes Equal Responsibility: Lowering Fitness Standards to Accommodate Women Will Hurt the Army – And Women”, Modern War Institute at West Point, February 25, 2021.
Paramilitary Opns – CIA or USSOCOM? Ian McConnell, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command – Central (SOCCENT) examines the discussion of where paramilitary operations (PMO) should reside – at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or within United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Read “Who Should Lead Paramilitary Operations? – Picking the Right Fight?”, Small Wars Journal, February 22, 2021.
Commandos – The Future Means Adaptation. As great power competition rises to the fore – and counterterrorism operations recede into the background – U.S. special forces will have to adapt. Jacob Parakilas provides his perspective in “Commandos Confront a World After the Forever War”, The Diplomat, February 25, 2021.
SOF Ethics. Dan Pace, an active duty Special Forces officer, writes about the special operations community and its ethics problem. “A House Divided: A Look at SOF Values”, Small Wars Journal, February 25, 2021.
CA and the National Guard. Jonathan Denton, a Civil Affairs officer, argues that the National Guard does not have sufficient Civil Affairs officers and NCOs. He feels it is time to re-examine how we manage our Civil Affairs forces across all echelons of the Army. “Growth of Civil Affairs in the National Guard and Beyond”, Eunomia Journal, Civil Affairs Association, February 24, 2021.
5th SFAB – Pacific Deployments. Elements of the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade have deployed to Thailand, India, and Indonesia. There are future deployments for SFAB teams as well that are planned. Read “5th SFAB: More missions, fixed Indo-Pacific presense ahead”, Army.mil, February 25, 2021.
DoD Stand-Down Training Material for Extremism. The Department of Defense released training materials for the one-day stand-down. (DoD, Feb 26, 2021)
Israel to CENTCOM. The move of Israel to fall under CENTCOM (instead of EUCOM) has some opportunities and challenges. “Israel Gets Ready for the Big Move – to U.S. CENTCOM”, The National Interest, February 28, 2021.
Paper – Influencing Adversary States. A number of authors have collaborated on a recent RAND paper (144 pages, PDF) entitled Influencing Adversary States: Quelling Perfect Storms. The report describes an approach that focuses on how to influence an adversary’s reasoning in ways that the decisionmaker regards as favorable. RAND, 2021.
US Bombing Militants in Syria. President Biden directed airstrikes against a structure held by Iran-backed militias who are believed to be responsible for rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq. The action by the President is seen as a ‘message’ to Iran and its proxy forces and designed to prevent further escalation. (DoD, Feb 25, 2021) The attack was conducted by two F-15E Strike Eagles. (DoD, Feb 26, 2021)
Destroying the ISIS Chem Wpns Opn. The capture of a valuable ISIS weapon-maker in 2016 helped bring down the Islamic States chemical weapons operation. (Politico, February 27, 2021.)
Report on the Killing of Khashoggi. The Biden administration declassified an intelligence report blaming Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the operation to capture or kill journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. He was lured to the Saudi embassy in Turkey, killed, cut up into pieces, and disposed of. (DoS, Feb 26, 2021)
Building Peace in Yemen. The civil war in this Middle Eastern country has, as of 2021, killed more than 250,000 people and created one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. A new report (2021) by RAND Corporation traces the origins of the conflict, diagnose its costs, and identifies the underlying drivers of the local conflict. The paper offers recommendations for ending the cycle of violence, failed peace talks, and broken promises. RAND, 2021, PDF, 58 pages.
How We Left Somalia. Moving out 700 military personnel including special operations forces and their equipment was conducted during Operation Octave Quartz. This was in response to President Trumps decision to withdraw from that conflict involved a logistical effort in a short time frame. Learn more about the Air Force role in “How Airmen and Aircraft Helped Move U.S. Forces Out of Somalia”, Air Force Magazine, February 25, 2021.
Russia’s Mercenairies in Libya. Russia continues to solidify their presence on the African continent. Read “Russia’s Wagner mercenaries calls the shots in fight for control of Libya”, The Sunday Times, February 27, 2021.
Jihadist Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. The US is in the midst of a drawdown in a part of the world that is occurring while many jihadist groups are surging. Read “Jihadist Groups in Sub-Saharan Africa: Assessing the Threat”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 26, 2021.
Troubles in Mozambique. Emily Estelle has penned a 37-page report (PDF) on how the global Salafi-Jihadi movement is spreading in Africa – especially in Mozambique. Combating the Islamic State’s spread in Africa: Assessment and recommendations for Mozambique, American Enterprise Institute, February 24, 2021.
HOA and Security Cooperation. An exerpt from a recent book is providing information about security cooperation in the Horn of Africa. Read “Security Cooperation as Remote Warfare: The US in the Horn of Africa”, E-International Relations, February 26, 2021.
Podcasts, Videos, Books, and Movies
Video – “Compound Security”. Dr. Isaiah “Ike” Wilson explores the concept of compound security threats. The sources of conflict, underlying threats, overarching dynamics, and more are examined. Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), February 26, 2021, 17 minutes.
Chris Pratt Stars in New SEAL Film. The slacker who played the lazy office worker in Parks and Recreation is putting that reputation to rest in a new movie adventure. Read about his new film – The Terminal List. (Coffie or Die, Feb 26, 2021).
Video – SF General Retires. Major General Van Roosen, a long-time Special Forces officer retired from the Army. His retirement ceremony was held at Conmy Hall, Fort Myer, Virginia. (DVIDS, Feb 26, 2021, 25 mins).
Book Review – Eagle Down. James King, a US Army Intelligence officer, reviews a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Donati about US Army Special Forces teams deployed to Afghanistan in the 2015 timeframe. Her book examines the successes, failures, and losses of the men in SF who have been fighting in Afghanistan. Read “Review – Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War“, Small Wars Journal, February 23, 2021.
Podcast – Hiding in Plain Sight. From the day she started working at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 1985 until the day she was arrested for conspiracy to commit espionage in 2001, Ana Montes was a spy working on behalf of Cuban Intelligence. On this episode of DIA Connections, we examine the nefarious activities of this highly decorated intelligence analyst who became one of the most damaging spies ever caught engaging in espionage against the United States. Conversations with a counterintelligence investigator, a spy psychiatrist and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, help to unravel the challenges and pitfalls in catching the woman known as the “Queen of Cuba”. Defense Intelligence Agency, February 26, 2021, 40 minutes.
Video – SF Combat Diver Interview. Lino Miani, the founder of the Combat Diver Foundation, is interviewed on The Teamhouse. Lino was a Special Forces Combat Diver who spent a bit of time in SF working overseas in a variety of locations. Discussions revolve around SF, the Combat Diver Foundation, and more. February 26, 2021, 2 1/2 hours.
Photo: Members of AFSOC special warfare unit observe an Apache helicopter duing a call for fire mission.