Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. SOF’s armed overwatch program, CA teams and RAA, Palantir contract, JADC2, MARSOC’s backpack SIGINT system, ST airman remembered, The Fat Ladies Arms, NK’s commandos, joining UK’s SAS, OSS influence on SF, ST Idaho – missing in Laos, Russians in Africa, upcoming SOF events, books, videos, and podcasts.
Armed Overwatch Program. The United States Special Operations Command has awarded a $19 million contract to five companies for prototype demonstrations of a low-cost aircraft to fly surveillance and strike missions in austere locations. The five aircraft selected are the Bronco II, MC-208 Guardian, AT-6E Wolverine, AT-802U Sky Warden, and the MC-145B Wily Coyote. It is expected that USSOCOM will buy 75 of the aircraft to fly CAS, precision strike, and SOF ISR in austere and permissive environments. “SOCOM Selects 5 Armed Overwatch Prototypes”, Air Force Magazine, May 17, 2021. See also “SOCOM’s Armed Overwatch Demonstration Could Cultivate Interest in an Air Tractor-Based Sky Warden”, Forbes.com, May 25, 2021.
CA Teams and Remote, Advise, and Assist Engagements. Read up on techniques used by Civil Affairs teams to conduct engagements and validation exercises with foreign partner military forces remotely. “Training During COVID-19: Incorporating R/A/A and Telecommunication Engagements”, Eunomia Journal, Civil Affairs Association, May 24, 2021.
Astronaut and Navy SEAL Retires. Chris Cassidy is retiring after 28 years of service to his country. He spent 11 years in the SEALs with deployments to Afghanistan as well as time in other countries. The last two decades he has been with NASA. “Maine astronaut retires after 28 years of public service”, Associated Press, May 28, 2021.
Congressional Gold Medal for WWII Rangers? U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is leading a bipartisan effort to award the U.S. Army Ranger Veterans of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal. (Joni Ernst press release, May 28, 2021).
What it Means to be a Ranger. Keith Nightingale has described the actions of Ralph Puckett – an Army officer who was recently received the Medal of Honor for his actions in battle during the Korean War. Posted in Small Wars Journal, May 22, 2021.
Palantir and Their $111 Million Contract. Palantir will be continuing its work on the Mission Command System / Common Operational Picture program for USSOCOM. The Palantir technology gives SOF commanders and staff situational awareness at a global scale, brings AI to the battlefield, and improves the ability to respond to near-peer threats. “Palantir Technologies Gets $111 Contract From U.S. Special Ops Command”, Market Watch, May 28, 2021.
Widow of Fallen Green Beret Gets Mortgage Payoff. The wife of Matt McClintock, a Special Forces NCO of the 19th SFG(A) who died in Afghanistan, now owns their family home with no mortgage thanks to a national organization. “Tacoma war widow grateful for mortgage payoff. We’re grateful to her and her husband”, The News Tribune, May 29, 2021.
Drug Testing for Navy SEALs Resume. Urinalysis screening will once again become commonplace with the reduction of the COVID-19 threat. This current testing phase is the biggest in over five years. (CBS News, May 25, 2021).
MARSOC 3 Trials Delayed. The trials of two Marine Raiders and a Navy corpsman are being delayed once again. They are charged for the alleged involvement in the death of a retired Green Beret who was in Iraq working as defense contractor. (The Daily News, May 27, 2021).
Former GB to Withdraw Guilty Plea. A former Special Forces officer, Peter Debbins, is attempting to change his guilty plea deal of committing espionage for the Russians. “Convicted spy for Russia moves to withdraw guilty plea”, Associated Press, May 29, 2021.
SOCOM and JADC2. The DOD is attempting to connect a myriad of platforms that range from new technology to older systems. The new joint war-fighting concept known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control will help to set common data standards and implement application programming interfaces to get the new and old systems to chat with each other. “SOCOM data official: Build interoperability into new systems for joint war fighting”, C4ISRNET, May 26, 2021.
CA Trains at Cape Cod. Members of the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade and the 412th Civil Affairs Battalion took part in Operation Viking in May 2021 at Joint Base Cape Cod in Massachusetts. “Civil Affairs Conducts Realistic JTF Training at JBCC”, DVIDS, May 27, 2021.
Recon Marine Charged. A Marine with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Pendleton, CA has been charged with dumping thousands of rounds of ammunition into a California ravine. (Marine Times, May 26, 2021).
Marine Raiders and Their Backpack SIGINT System. A sophisticated system worn as a backpack provide MARSOC operators the ability to spot and track enemy forces and provide situational awareness. “Check Out This Backpack-Mounted Signals Intelligence System Worn by a Marine Special Operator”, The WarZone, May 27, 2021.
Former 10th SFG(A) Soldiers Visit Carson. A reunion was held in early May at Fort Carson, Colorado for former members of the 10th Special Forces Group who served in Germany during the Cold War. The ‘Cold War Warriors’ took a tour of the facilities at 10th SFG(A), met with current group members, learned about the current missions of the group, and shared some stories and knowledge about the time that they served. “Former 10th SFA(A) Soldiers Return to Reunite and Reflect”, DVIDS, May 14, 2021.
SOF Fallen Remembered
NOK Notification. In October 2017 a Special Forces team was ambushed in Niger. Four members of the 3rd Special Forces Group died. Michelle Black, the widow of Bryan Black – a Special Forces soldier, describes the day when she learned of the tragic event. “How I learned my Green Beret husband was killed in the Niger ambush“, Task & Purpose, May 31, 2021.
Special Tactics Airman Remembered. The 24th Special Operations Wing hosted a building dedication ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida honoring the legacy of Senior Airman Mark Forester. “Special Tactics combat controller remembered with building dedication”, DVIDS, May 27, 2021.
Retired Navy SEAL on Memorial Day. Mike Hayes comments on the meaning of Memorial Day and says to find your own way to honor the fallen. (USA Today, May 30, 2021).
Video – Fallen, Never Forgotten, We Speak Their Names. The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum remembers the fallen of their community. May 28, 2021.
NSW Officer in Maine for Memorial Day. Rear Adm. Hugh Howard was the Grand Marshal for the Memorial Day parades in the Boothbay region of Maine. (Boothbay Register, May 25, 2021).
Video – 1st Special Forces Group Memorial Day Ceremony. DVIDS, May 27, 2021, 19 minutes.
Aussie SAS and a Good Time at The Fat Ladies Arms. Apparently Australian members of the Special Air Service had a place on their base at Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan where they could sample a beer or two. This revelation seems to have created quite a stir in the Australian defence establishment. (Editor’s note: I wonder what they would have thought of the Taliban Tavern on BAF, sometimes referred to the TT in Coalition Village). (ABC News, May 27, 2021).
Israel’s Secret Units. An Israeli unit that operates in the shadows has been gathering intelligence and conducting counter-terrorist operations. Read more about the Musta’ribeen. “Killing with impunity: Israel’s undercover units in Palestine”, Aljazeera, May 30, 2021.
Report on UK’s SOF. A recent paper provides an assessment of the likely future demands on UK special forces to assess how they can be optimized for the future operating environment. Sharpening the Dagger: Optimising Special Forces for Future Conflict, RUSI, Whitehall Report, May 27, 2021, PDF, 56 pages.
Belgium SOF in Africa. A recent article provides details on the security force assistance mission in Niger by Belgium special operations forces. “The Localization Strategy: Local logic and energy in Belgium’s advising mission to Niger”, Small Wars Journal, May 29, 2021.
UK’s Ranger Regiment. The decision to create a new SOF unit was based on the need to develop persistent SOF capabilities in other countries – with a focus on Africa. “Why the UK is investing in a new ranger regiment”, Defense News, May 25, 2021.
Somali Commandos Get Training in Turkey. The Gorgor Commandos, a military organization in Somalia backed by Turkey, has been receiving training in Turkey. “Dozens of Somali Commandos Complete Military Training in Turkey”, Solmali Guardian, May 29, 2021.
Joining UK’s SAS. Being selected for training in one of the world’s special operations units is a challenge. This is especially true for the UK’s Special Air Service. “Here’s How Tough You Need to be to Join Britain’s Elite Special Air Service”, Yahoo!Life, May 29, 2021.
OSS Influence on SF. Jelle Hooiveld, an author on books about Dutch Jedburgh teams, writes about the Office of Strategic Services personnel who would find themselves in the US Army Special Forces in the 1950s. He provides historical information about Oliver Jackson Sands – a member of the OSS and the CIA who had a close relationship with Army Special Forces. “OSS Influence on Early US Special Forces: The Forgotten Ones”, Small Wars Journal, May 17, 2021.
29th Ranger Battalion. A Ranger battalion took part in combat operations during World War II. It was formed in December 1942 in England as a volunteer detachment from the 29th Infantry Division. It participated in a number of raids but was soon disbanded. “The Story of the Short-Lived 29th Ranger Battalion”, by Steve Balestrieri, SOFREP, May 27, 2021.
WW II E & E Reports. The National Archives Catalog has a compilation of escape and evasion reports from 1942 to 1945 from the European theater of operations. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/305270
S.O.G. Prairie Fire – Trailer. A new war game has been created that depicts the activity of the men who served in Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG). The game had advisors who participated in the operations of MACV-SOG. Watch a trailer of the game on YouTube, May 6, 2021, 5 minutes.
Bright Light Mission into Laos. Read the harrowing account of a small team of Green Berets sent ‘across the fence’ to recover the body of a Montagnard soldier who died on an earlier MACV-SOG mission. “Across the Fence: Bright Light Rescue Mission With James Shorten”, History of MACV-SOG, May 12, 2021.
ST Idaho – Missing SF Team in Laos. In May 1968 two Americans and four South Vietnamese indigenous troops were tasked with a covert operation in Laos. Once they inserted they radioed in their “Team Okay” . . . but were never heard from again. “ST Idaho: The Special Forces Team That Vanished in the Jungle”, SANDBOXX, May 27, 2021.
COVID-19 and the Military
COVID in the U.S. More than half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated and daily (23,000 reported) infections are at the lowest in almost a year. Many people are hesitant to get the shot and millions will not try to get vaccinated. There are a lot of reasons people are opting out. One of the many factors fueling vaccine hesitancy is the spread of misinformation and disinformation. See “How Truth Decay is Fueling Vaccine Hesitancy”, The RAND Blog, May 14, 2021. A former counter-terrorism expert explains that it is difficult to combat vaccine misinformation (AP, May 30, 2021).
COVID Around the World. The origin of the coronavirus is still in question. Some experts believe that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (China) accidently leaked the virus to the public. Others believe that it jumped from an animal to a person – probably at a food market in Wuhan, China. The topic is getting more attention now as some scientists who discounted the lab-leak theory are now more open to the possibility. Some observers believe that the early dismissals of the lab-leak theory had more to do with ‘group think’ and political viewpoints than an examination of scientific facts. President Biden has directed U.S. intelligence agencies to look into the matter.
COVID and the US Military. A senior Army leader describes the Army’s response to the COVID pandemic in “US Army Readiness, From COVID-19 to the Crises of Tomorrow”, Modern War Institute at West Point, May 28, 2021.
Realities of Small Wars. Max Manwaring provides his perspective on the wars of the future, the challenge and tasks of these small wars, and how the United States should develop a coherent approach to these wars. “The Strategic Realities of Twenty-First Century “Small Wars” – An Opinion Essay”, Small Wars Journal, May 22, 2021.
Coast Guard – Is it SOF Like? Jason Smith believes that the unique skills and authorities that the U.S. Coast Guard has makes it similar to the special operations forces – instead of being just a smaller version of the U.S. Navy. (Editor’s Note: Hmmmm.) “Future Coast Guard: Think Special Operators, Not a Less Capable Navy”, Real Clear Defense, May 27, 2021.
Capitol Security Mission Complete. The almost 1,000 National Guardsmen who have been providing security in Washington, D.C. are now on their way home. The troops were providing security to federal buildings in the wake of the events on January 6th. “Ending Mission on Capitol Hill, Guard Personnel Prepare to Go Home”, DOD News, May 24, 2021.
DoD Defense Budget. The President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Budget has been released. Read a DoD press release on this topic. DoD News, May 28, 2021. See also a press briefing by the DoD on this topic (DoD Transcript, May 28, 2021). The proposed budget will provide for an expansion of the Cyber Mission Force. “Biden budget to seek boost to the military’s cyber force”, Politico, May 26, 2021.
An IO Strategy for Africa. The United State’s influence in Africa has been waning the last decade or more. Russia is busy in Africa – but the real competition is from China. That country’s Belt and Road Initiative along with its information operations activities has been responsible for increased influence and presence on the continent. Two specialists in information operations with US special operations forces share their thoughts on the topic and provide some recommendations for US IO strategy. “In Africa, Great Power Competition Requires a Great Strategy for Information Operations”, Modern War Institute at West Point, May 25, 2021.
Deepfake Maps. Researchers apply artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to make maps less realistic and help shape a narrative. Image manipulation tools will make it harder to accept aerial and other images at face value. “Deepfake maps could really mess with your sense of the world”, ARS Technica, May 30, 2021.
COVID Vaccines, Russian Companies, and Disinformation. A network of Russian marketing companies that sells dubious nutritional supplements and pushes malware is behind a disinformation campaign to discredit Western COVID-19 vaccines. “Meet the Murky Russian Network Behind an Anti-Pfizer Disinformation Drive in Europe”, Radio Free Europe, May 27, 2021.
The Jihadist Digital Underground. Miron Lakomy, a professor at the University of Silesia (Poland) conducts research on digital jihad, information warfare, and military conflicts. He details how violent extremist organizations can use the dark web to get easy access to illegal guns, explosives, ammunition, and ‘manuals’ to use in terrorist attacks. “Exploring the digital jihadist underground on the Onion Router (TOR)”, Small Wars Journal, May 30, 2021.
Great Power Competition
The United States in the Arctic. David Auerswald, a professor of security studies at the U.S. National War College, believes that the U.S. needs to begin formulating an updated national strategy for the Arctic. He sees the region as an increasingly area of competition with China and Russia and that the Arctic is important to U.S. national security. The U.S. should prioritize deterring attacks from the Arctic on U.S. or allied territory, prevent the Russians or Chinese from achieving future regional hegemony, and defend against coercion from either nation. “A U.S. Security Strategy for the Arctic”, War on the Rocks, May 27, 2021.
NK’s Commandos. One of the most significant elements of North Korea’s asymmetric capabilities is its large special operations – possibly as large as 200,000. Eli Fuhrman provides some details. “North Korea’s Commandoes: Kim Jong Un’s 200,000 Special Forces Are Fierce”, 19FortyFive, May 30, 2021.
US SOF in Taiwan? Christopher Maier, the nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, says that US special operations forces could help Taiwan defend against a potential invasion from Red China. (Military.com, May 27, 2021). See also “US special forces to train Taiwan soldiers after annual war-games”, Taiwan News, May 31, 2021.
Belarus and Air Hjacking. Last week a fighter jet from Belarus was launched to ‘assist’ a Ryanair flight traveling from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania to land in Minsk, Belarus due to a declared ‘bomb threat’ by the air traffic controllers in Belarus. The passenger jet landed . . . and there was no bomb on board. Just two officers of the Belarusian secret police and a dissident who was sought by the Belarus government. The dissident was arrested and detained. Now the Europeans are in a bit of a quandary on how to react to this situation. Cameron Miles details the specifics of the event and provides an analysis of what should be done by the international community. “Belarus and the Hijacking of Ryanair Flight FR4978: A Preliminary International Law Analysis”, Lawfare Blog, May 24, 2021.
Report – Arab Uprisings. The Soufan Center has published a 50-page report (PDF) about Arab revolutionary uprisings and response from 2010 to 2020. The Decade of Defiance & Resistance, May 2021.
Syria, Oil, and the Wagner Group. Companies linked to the Russian Wagner Group are snapping up oil and gas leases – with an eye to pumping influence, not oil. “Putin’s Shadow Warriors Stake Claim to Syria’s Oil”, Foreign Policy, May 17, 2021. And . . . on a completely unrelated topic see “US oil company’s Syria operations canned by Biden administration”, Middle East Eye, May 27, 2021.
2nd SFAB and Africa. The 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina will be getting used to deploying to Africa. The advisor brigade expects to maintain persistent partnerships with some nations as well as conduct intermittent deployments across the continent. SFAB advisor teams are expected to deploy to Africa for six months and then return to the states for retraining and refitting for a 12 month period before their next deployment. “Long-term partnerships with at least six African countries expected, SFAB colonel says”, Army Times, May 19, 2021.
Mozambique – PMCs Assisting. Private military companies are aiding the security forces of Mozambique in the fight against Islamist-linked insurgents in the northern region of the country. “Army and police subcontract to regain upper hand in Cabo Delgado conflict”, Africa Intelligence, May 26, 2021. (subscription needed).
Radicalization in Africa. Iran and its proxies are spreading its brand of Islamic fundamentalist ideology through the Middle East and other parts of the world. This is true of its reach into Africa. One method of doing this is to use a ‘soft power’ approach – winning the hearts and minds over to their ideology and way of thinking. “Hezbollah and Iran’s Radicalization Efforts in Africa”, European Eye on Radicalization, May 17, 2021.
Russians in C.A.R. Unarmed instructors are being sent to the Central African Republic by Russia to train the country’s army – at least that is what Russian officials are saying. Some international observers believe that the instructors are actually Wagner Group mercenaries and that they are doing more than ‘instructing’. “Russian diplomat says hundreds of soldiers heading to C.A.R. are instructors”, Radio Free Europe, may 29, 2021. Apparently some of these ‘instructors’ are getting in harm’s way – see “Three Russian Paramilitaries Killed in Central African Republic”, Radio Free Europe, May 30, 2021.
Coup in Mali. The latest military coup in Mali is an attempt to topple the Malian transitional government. This is the second coup in a year and it threatens the ongoing fight against a range of jihadist groups operating in the Sahel region of Africa. (Soufan Center, May 21, 2021). Also in Mali, Germany is continuing to provide unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to the United Nations mission in Mali. See “Another German Heron for Mali”, Defence Web Africa, May 27, 2021.
June 5, 2021. Epping, NH
4th Annual Sig Sauer and Special Forces Shoot
Sig Sauer Academy and Green Beret Foundation
June 16, 2021. Virtual Event
2021 SOF Imperatives Forum
Global SOF Foundation
June 23, 2021. Virtual Event
SOF Stories Live! – MARSOC Part 2
Global SOF Foundation
Books, Pubs, and Reports
CTC Sentinel. The June 2021 issue of the CTC Sentinel by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point is now available online. Articles on far-right extremism in the German military and police, terrorism in Africa, neo-fascist accelerationism, and Iran’s currency laundromats in the Emirates.
Book – Jewish Commandos of WW II. German-Jewish commandos fought in Britain’s most secretive special-forces unit. A new book tells their story. “Book excerpt: ‘X Troop: The Secret Commands of World War II”, Air Force Times, May 25, 2021.
Podcast – Irregular Warfare in the Next World War. Retired Admiral James Stavridis and former Marine Elliot Ackerman have co-authored a novel entitled 2034: A Novel of the Next World War. The book explores the theme of escalation to a large-scale conflict that begins in the South China Sea. In this podcast episode, Stavridis and Ackerman explain several key contributions that SOF would make in the type of conflict their novel imagines. Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, May 24, 2012, 44 minutes.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Podcast – Mark Rosengard and Task Force Dagger. Retired Special Forces officer Mark Rosengard talks about his career in the Army and then about the infiltration of Special Forces teams into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is an extremely interesting and informative session with the always colorful Mark Rosengard. Just listening to his Boston accent is an entertaining experience! SOFREP Radio, May 29, 2021, 1 hour.
Podcast – Russia Through the Spymaster’s Prism. Russian intelligence efforts against the United States and the West have continued despite the end of the Cold War and perhaps has increased. Jack Devine, a retired career CIA official, talks about Russia aggression and how the West should respond. The Lawfare Podcast, may 19, 2021, 50 minutes.
Video – SOCOM’s Dive Screening Test. A fitness trainer attempts to pass the diving test to screen personnel for attendance to one of the special operations dive schools. “Watch a Navy Veteran Take the Special Forces SOCOM Diving Test”, Mens Health, May 24, 2021.
Video – 10th SFG(A) Trains with JLTVs. In a driver’s advanced mobility course members of the 10th Special Forces trained up on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. DVIDS, April 22, 2021, 3 mins.
Video – Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021. This video depicts some of the training activities that took place during a recent special operations training exercise in Romania. DVIDS, May 24, 2021, 4 mins.
Photo: A U.S. Army Special Forces Sniper rides in a Greek Navy Bell UH-1 Iroquois (Huey) helicopter during a course of fire at floating targets during the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre (NMIOTC) Sniper Course. Snipers prep their gear on the flight line in Souda Bay Greece, April 21, 2021. The course was designed to improve the accuracy of snipers engaging stable or moving targets from land, air, and naval vessels. This capability increases reliability and effectiveness from any domain to support NATO missions. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrik Orcutt)
SOF News is not a ‘money making’ enterprise; but we do have administrative, operating, and publishing expenses. Individuals and businesses provide the funds to defray these expenses. Their contributions are deeply appreciated. Learn how you can support SOF News.