Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include jetpacks for SOF, EOD tech training, UK SOF, Russia’s Unit 29155 (GRU), Operation Foxley, IW, advising foreign air forces, border crisis, MDO, GPC, the Arctic region, and upcoming SOF events.
Green Beret Foundation – Job Openings. The GBF has two current job openings for a Veterans Service Officer. One is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and the other at Fort Carson, Colorado. Both are full-time positions. Remote work is encouraged during COVID. Contact ops @ greenberetfoundation.org at the Green Beret Foundation for more information. Read the job description (PDF, 4 pages) for the position at Fort Carson, Colorado and the other for Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Closing date for submittal of cover letter and resume is NLT 30 April 2021.
USSOCOM – Letter to Force. The United States Special Operations Command published a letter to members of SOCOM about the President’s decision to end the nations’ military presence in Afghanistan. (published on USSOCOM’s Facebook account on April19, 2021).
Mark Green – SOF Doctor and Congressman. In 2003, Representative Mark Green was a doctor with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. He served with SOAR during late 2003 when Operation Red Dawn took place capturing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Following Hussein’s capture Green interrogated the dictator for six hours. Read more in “This badass congressman was the Special Forces doctor who interrogated Saddam Hussein”, We Are the Mighty, April 19, 2021.
SOCCENT Twitter Hacked. On April 24, 2021 the Twitter account for U.S. Special Operations Command tweeted “In the past 12 hours someone hacked our unit’s official account and tweeted a misleading message. We apologize for any confusion or insensitive content.”
Navy SEAL Legend Passes at Age 83. A former Navy SEAL known for his gallantry during the Vietnam War has passed on. He was known as “. . . SEAL Team Two’s gold standard as far as how to be a warrior in those early days of SEAL teams”. “Navy SEAL Community Loses Another Legend: Bob ‘The Eagle’ Gallagher”, SANDBOXX, April 22, 2021.
New SOF Parachute Wanted by Army. The US Army Special Operations Command is looking to field a new free fall parachute that will allow for increased capabilities. “The Army wants a new special operations parachute for higher jumps”, SANDBOXX, April 22, 2021.
SOF and Jetpacks – Coming Soon. It won’t be long before jetpacks are used in the special operations world. The advances in this field are bringing the use of jetpacks by special operations forces closer and closer as time goes on. “Jetpacks give Special Forces assets the edge”, Asia Times, April 20, 2021.
EOD Techs and SOF. Explosive Ordnance Disposal soldiers are many times attached to Special Forces teams in combat zones. To better prepare these EOD technicians the 71st Ordnance Group has designed a new and highly specialized SOF Support Training (SST) program. Read more: “Inside the Army’s new training program for special operations bomb techs”, Task Purpose, April 21, 2021.
UK SOF. Stavros Atlamazoglou writes on how the British have revamped their special operations units. “For decades, US special-operations units copied the British, but now the tables are turning”, Business Insider, April 20, 2021.
Russia’s Unit 29155. The military intelligence agency for Russia – GRU – has a specialized and small unit that has been engaged in ‘dirty tricks’ on the European continent. Read more in “Unit 29155, the Russian spies specializing in sabotage and assassinations”, France 24, April 20, 2021. See also “Coup Plots, Poison, Hacking, Sabotage: What is the GRU’s Unit 29155?”, Radio Liberty, April 24, 2021.
US SOF and Georgia. The Deputy Head of the U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) recently visited the country of Georgia where he met with the Chief of Georgian Defense Forces. On the table for discussion were cooperation issues between SOCEUR and MoD, JCENTs, and development of the Georgian Combat Training Center. “U.S. Special Operations Command Europe Deputy Head Visits Tbilisi”, Civil.ge, April 23, 2021.
Former SOF PC’s Going to Philippine Navy. A number of Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships originally designed to support special operations forces insertion and extraction and other related duties will be transferred to the Philippine Navy. The PCs were determined to be too large for covert missions and were delegated to other duties. The ships currently have four diesel engines, four screws, and are capable of up to 35 knots. They have a range of 2,000 to 2,500 nautical miles and an endurance of ten days. They are currently armed with remotely-operated 25 mm guns and some have Griffin missiles for surface threats. “Philippines Looks to Bolster Fleet with Retired Patrol Coastal Boats”, Seapower Magazine, April 21, 2021.
Philippine’s 710th SOW in Exercise with U.S. A United States AC-130J Ghostrider gunship visited the Philippines to conduct close air support training for a bilateral team of U.S. and Filipino JTACS during Exercise Balikatan. Members of the Philippine 710th Special Operations Wing took part in the live-fire training event. “AC-130J Ghostrider flies close-air support at Exercise Balikatan”, Air Force Times, April 25, 2021.
Philippine SF Strikes NPA. On April 16, 2021 members of the Special Forces of the Philippine Army attacked a New People’s Army (NPA) training camp in Bukidnon. A female combatant was killed and weapons were seized. “Special Forces Storm NPA Training Camp”, Manila Times, April 21, 2021.
French SOF Dog Recognized for Gallantry. A dog from the French special forces was credited with saving lives by cornering insurgents during an anti-terrorist operation in Mali in April 2019. Unfortunately, “Leuk la Chance”, was killed in a subsequent operation in May 2019. “French special forces dog awarded top UK gallantry medal”, France24, April 23, 2021.
Operation Foxley – Killing Hitler. During World War II the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) developed a plan to assassinate Hitler in Germany to bring the war to an early end. The plan involved parachuting a skilled sniper into an area near Berghof – his mountain chalet in southern Germany. “Operation Foxley was the 1944 Special Operations plan to kill Hitler”, We Are the Mighty, March 25, 2021.
Pets of MACV-SOG. There are a lot of interesting stories of Special Forces soldiers who worked for Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Operations Group that kept pets during their tour of duty. Tigers, snakes, monkeys, and dogs were not uncommon. The History of MACV-SOG has established a page for photos of the MACV-SOG pets. If you have one send it in!
COVID-19 and the Military
COVID-19 Update. It appears that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has once again been approved for emergency use after finding few new cases of rare blood clots. The pandemic in India has reached a crisis situation with a significant increase in cases and deaths overwhelming the medical community. India has now surpassed Brazil in number of COVID-19 cases – second only to the United States.
COVID-19 and the Military. In the race to 100% vaccination the Navy is pulling ahead – with 35% of the fleet fully vaccinated. One side benefit of the pandemic is that the US military is better prepared for future biological warfare. As of April 23, 2021 the DoD has delivered 3,345,300 total doses and administered 2,668,620 total doses. Only 24 military personnel have died from COVID-19 as of late April.
IW – Not Just for SOF. Michael P. Noonan worries that the US security establishment and political leadership will associate ‘great power competition’ solely with major theater war or conventional operations. Noonan believes that the last 20 years of conflict have proven that both state and nonstate actors will continue to challenge the US below the threshold of war – employing irregular warfare (IW), political warfare, and other relevant activities. Many view the domain of IW as one for special operations forces. He argues that making IW the exclusive domain of SOF will “limit and suboptimize” our responses to these types of competitions and threats. In his article Noonan goes on to explore the competition continuum and the joint force as well as the future of IW under the Biden administration. “Not Just for SOF Anymore: Envisioning irregular warfare as a joint force priority”, Modern War Institute at West Point, April 21, 2021.
Advising Foreign Air Forces. Tobias Switzer, a U.S. Air Force combat aviation advisor, argues that the next time the U.S. decides to build military aviation capabilities for a culturally remote country in the middle of an insurgency it should keep its goals modest and humble. “Into Thin Air: Aviation Security Force Assistance in Iraq and Afghanistan”, War on the Rocks, April 23, 2021.
A Lawyer in a Combat Zone. A member of the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps explains his role working in Afghanistan with a SOF unit. He learned a few things about post traumatic stress for members of a staff not engaged in combat. “No Legal Objection”, Per Se, by E.M. Liddick, War on the Rocks, April 21, 2021.
Border Crisis. The Biden administration continues to struggle with the influx of people coming across the southern border. Preliminary data for April 2021 shows that border crossings are near a 20-year high. Many of these illegal border crossers are unaccompanied minors – children and teenagers – who now will not be expelled, but resettled into homes provided by the Department of Human Services. There are a variety of reasons why illegal aliens cross into the U.S. – fleeing violent crime, the effects of natural disasters, and poor socioeconomic conditions. In addition, the prospect of asylum in the United States supported by a vast welfare system providing homes, education, and medical care is a hard prospect to ignore. The Biden administrations recent ‘loosening’ of border restrictions have certainly caused the increased amount of border crossers in recent months. Read more in Central American Migration: Root Causes and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF11151, April 22, 2021.
Peter Margulies provides a detailed examination of the set of U.S. laws and regulations that are a ‘pull’ factor for illegal border crossers. These laws and rules make it hard for the United States to remove illegal aliens from U.S. soil in a timely and efficient manner. See “Biden’s Border Problem, and How to Fix It”, Lawfare Blog, April 19, 2021.
Indonesian Sub Sunk. The United States participated in search efforts for a lost Indonesian Navy sub that had gone missing. The attack submarine with 53 personnel on board was declared sunk after parts and debris was found from the sub. The submarine had descended on a dive and ended up below the crush depth – it broke into three parts. A U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon had participated in search efforts. (USNI News, Apr 25, 2021).
Multi-Domain Operations (MDO). The Congressional Research officer has published an In Focus document entitled Defense Primer: Army Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), CRS-IF11409, PDF, 3 pages, April 22, 2021. In addition, the U.S. Army has published a Stand-To! article entitled Army Multi-Domain Transformation (Apr 23, 2021).
Great Power Competition
GPC and Deterring Gray Zone Aggression. A recent report explores the acts of aggression that remain below the threshold of outright warfare and find eight common characteristics of this aggression. Three case studies are detailed – China’s aggression against the Senkaku Islands, Russia’s activities against the Baltic States, and North Korea aggression towards South Korea. What Deters and Why: Applying a Framework to Assess Deterrence of Gray Zone Aggression, RAND Corporation, April 2021, PDF, 140 pages.
China and the Arctic. China is intent on becoming a “polar great power” and seeks to become one of the several states that exerts influence in the northern region. A recent report provides more – Northern Expedition: China’s Arctic Activities and Ambitions, Brookings Institute, April 2021, PDF, 72 pages.
Russia and the Arctic. The north region of the globe is becoming a more prominent feature of geopolitics. The impact of climate change in the Arctic has many nations eyeing the opportunities now presenting itself – access to oil and gas reserves, rich mineral deposits, and newly opened shipping lanes. Russia has been increasing its military presence and capability in the area. “Arctic Region Features Prominently in Russia’s Military Strategy”, IntelBrief, The Soufan Center, April 21, 2021.
Europe, NATO, and of course . . . Russia
Ukraine. Apparently things are de-escalating along the Russia-Ukraine border. It seems that Russia has announced the withdrawal of troops from the border area. There are conflicting reports about whether and how many have actually made the move. Russia announced that many of the tanks and armored vehicles will remain on the border in vehicle parks. This spring the Russian military had massed tanks, missiles, artillery, and armored vehicles near the border – the largest buildup since the start of the Ukraine war seven years ago.
Turkey and the Armenian Genocide. President Biden is the first U.S. leader to formally recognize the mass killing of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I and some time after as a ‘genocide’. Estimates indicate that as many as 1.5 million Armenians died and over two million were deported during this period as a result of the actions of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Turks began an effort to expel Armenians from Eastern Anatolia and sent them to the Syrian desert and other locations. Many of these Armenians were Christians. “Statement by President Joe Biden on Armenian Remembrance Day”, The White House, April 24, 2021.
Iraq – US Staying Put? Apparently there no plans to pull out 2,500 U.S. troops currently in Iraq. It is likely that the NATO role in Iraq will increase and outpace the U.S. role there.
Russia in Syria. The intervention into the Syrian Civil War by Russia rescued a regime that was having difficulty in defeating insurgents. Russia’s introduction of weapons, air support, and specialists aided the Syrian counterinsurgency. This article by Connor Hirsch details the strategic and tactical approaches to counterinsurgency by Russia and Syria. “The Authoritarian’s War: Assessing Russian Intervention in the Syrian Civil War”, Small Wars Journal, April 23, 2021.
African Christians Under Attack. The African continent is struggling with poverty, political corruption, and terrorism. At the same time it is contending with the coronavirus pandemic. The Christians of Africa are experiencing high levels of violence – facing persecution and discrimination because of their faith. Islamic terrorists displaced from Syria and Iraq have found their way to Africa, re-establishing themselves in enclaves or joining forces with local insurgencies. Lela Gilbert, author or co-author of over 60 books and co-editor of the Hudson Institute publication Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, provides more on the problems Christians face in Africa in “African Christians at Risk as Persecution Intensifies”, SOFREP, April 24, 2021.
China – and Bases in Africa. China is busy establishing a network of military and naval bases across Africa. It already has a big base in Djibouti – right outside the gates of the U.S. base at Camp Lemonnier. It appears China is now looking to acquire military bases along the Atlantic coast of Africa – allowing it to project power (and influence) into the Atlantic Ocean and the western hemisphere. “China Eyes More Bases in Africa, US Military Official Says”, Voice of America, April 22, 2021. In another article news comes to us that China will be soon extending operations at its Djibouti naval base to accommodate aircraft carriers.
AFRICOM Commander Stresses Importance of Africa. In recent testimony to Congress General Stephen Townsend provided reasons why the U.S. must stay engaged on the continent. “Commander Says Africa is too Important for Americans to Ignore”, U.S. Dept of Defense, April 21, 2021.
Somalia. After the President Trump mandate to pull out US troops from Somalia some of the 700 military personnel based there moved to other locations – to include Kenya and Djibouti. Now, many of these troops are commuting to work by air to train, advise, and assist in Somalia. There is still a limited footprint of less than 100 troops in Somalia on a permanent basis. U.S. Africa Command chief General Stephen Townsend told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 22, 2021 in testimony that the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Somalia has hindered intelligence gathering making U.S. counterterrorism operations more difficult.
The IS Threat to Mozambique. An insurgency is being waged that is affiliated with the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province. The group has been conducting attacks since 2017 and is attempting to establish rule by a hardline version of Islamic law in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. Mozambique is a Christian-majority country but about 18% of its citizens are Muslim living mostly in the north. A recent article explores the origins of militant activity in Mozambique, the escalation of the insurgency, and factors hospitable to insurgency. The U.S. recently sent a team of Green Berets to Mozambique to help the government contain the insurgents. Read more in “The Evolution and Escalation of the Islamic State Threat to Mozambique”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, April 2021.
Ethiopia – a Proxy War? The Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia has implications for regional stability as well as for the economic interests of the ‘great powers’. Ann FitzGerald and Hugh Segal explain in “Ethiopia: A New Proxy Battlespace?”, RUSI Commentary, April 21, 2021.
April 25, 2021. Anzac Day. A public holiday in Australia and New Zealand marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.
April 28, 2021. Online Event.
“Oh So Social: Conversation Series”
Discussion of Special Duties Pilot
April 30, 2021. Web Event
Russian Hybrid Warfare in Europe: Lessons for the US
American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
May 4-7, 2021. Alabama to Florida
5th Annual Rucking for Raiders Memorial March
Rucking for Raiders
May 5-6, 2021. Virtual Forum
The Future of SOF in Strategic Competition: A Look at the Indo-Pacific and Beyond
Joint Special Operations University (JSOU)
May 14, 2021. Charlotte, North Carolina
Patriot Classic Tactical
Green Beret Foundation
May 17, 2021. Tampa, Florida
7th Global SOF Anniversary Reception
Global SOF Foundation
May 17-21, 2021. Virtual
Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) 2021
National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA)
May 26, 2021. Ijamsville, Maryland
4th Annual Golf Tournament
Three Rangers Foundation
September 20-25, 2021. Clarksville, Tennessee
5th Special Forces Group 60th Reunion
SOF News welcomes the submission of articles for publication. If it is related to special operations, current conflicts, national security, or defense then we are interested.
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Perspectives on Terrorism. The April 2021 issue has several articles on terrorism topics and a few book reviews as well. Topics include homegrown religious terrorism, “lone wolfs”, how groups justify terrorism, literature about women in terrorism, U.S. extremism on Telegram, terrorism databases, and more. Read online or download the PDF (341 pages).
Tip of the Spear. The February 2021 issue of USSOCOM’s monthly publication has been posted online on DVIDS. The PDF document of 40 pages has a variety of articles about U.S. special operations forces from around the world.
Book Review – Irregular Soldiers and Rebellious States: Small Scale U.S. Interventions Abroad. David Maxwell, a retired SF officer, reviews a book by Michael Noonan. The book’s author provides a detailed view of unconventional warfare (UW) and foreign internal defense (FID). The book presents insight into how the US conventional and special operations forces can be effectively employed in irregular warfare. The book was published in March 2021 with 206 pages. (Small Wars Journal, April 22, 2021).
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – General Scott Miller – Great Leaders Never Stop Learning. The current commander of Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is interviewed about his past assignments, physical fitness, leadership, and life-long learning. From the Green Notebook, April 24, 2021, 36 minutes.
Photo: Marine Raiders dismount from helicopter and maneuver toward their objective in support of a vehicle interdiction exercise. The exercise emphasizes operational integration with a Marine Air Ground Task Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cody Rowe, posted on LinkedIn April 22, 2021)