Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Topics include RSM Cdr, women and AFSOC, SF in the Arctic, Marine Raider trial, critical race theory, armed overwatch program, UK’s E Squadron, SOF history, OTH CT operations, border crisis, and more.
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Women and AFSOCs Ground Combat Assignments. In 2013 the Department of Defense began the process of opening up ground combat assignments in the military to women. These jobs included the Air Force’s special tactics officers, combat rescue officers, special reconnaissance airmen, combat controllers, TACP airmen, and pararescuemen. Of the over 5,600 special warfare billets only four are filled by women. Colonel Allison Black, the vice commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, explains that it will be a slow process to recruit and train women for these special warfare billets. “For women, battlefield airmen jobs remain a distant target five years after integration”, Air Force Times, June 7, 2021.
SF and the Arctic Region. Colonel Kevin Stringer provides a look at how US Army Special Forces can better compete with near-peer adversaries in the polar regions by concentrating on regular engagement with indigenous peoples and focusing on special reconnaissance. “Competing in the Arctic Through Indigenous Group Engagement and Special Reconnaissance Activities”, Modern War Institute at West Point, June 8, 2021. Zachary Lavengood believes that US special operations forces must establish a permanent detachment in Alaska to answer near-peer adversaries’ modernization and deployments. (Modern War Institute at West Point, Jun 10, 2021). In other news, the Department of Defense has announced the establishment of the Arctic Regional Center.
Green Beret and Son Plead Guilty in Japan. A former Special Forces NCO and his son pleaded guilty in Tokyo on Monday, June 14th to charges that they illegally helped former Nissan Motor Co Ltd Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee Japan hidden in a box aboard a private jet in December 2019. They could face up to three years in prison. They assisted Ghosn in his escape from Japan to Lebanon, his childhood home. The escape involved putting Ghosn in a large box used for transporting music equipment and flying him out on a privately contracted jet. Mike Taylor served with the 10th and 11th Special Forces Group that involved a tour in Lebanon. He was the founder of a firm that provided security services around the world. “American duo plead guilty to helping former Nissan chief Ghosn flee Japan”, Reuters, June 14, 2021.
Marine Raider Trial. Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez is in the midst of a murder trial for an event that took place in Mali four years ago. U.S. Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar was killed in an incident that involved strangulation and an attempt to film a sexual assault that would be used to blackmail him. “Murder trial of Marine Raider in death of Army Green Beret begins Monday”, Marine Times, June 7, 2021. Prosecutors have accused the Marine Raider of participating in a scheme to take compromising photos and videos of the Green Beret with a Malian man. The judge has issued a warning about the use of embarrassing sex terms during the trial. When Melgar fought back he was put subdued by the group (two Navy SEALs and two Marine Raiders) and put into a strangulation hold which resulted in his death.
Rep. Mike Waltz on “Critical Race Theory”. Republican Representative Mike Waltz, a Green Beret with two deployments to Afghanistan, is demanding that West Point stop teaching cadets critical race theory – calling the teachings “divisive”, “destructive”, and “unacceptable” for the future leaders of the U.S. military. (Fox News, Jun 9, 2021).
Tracking US SOF with Phones and Fitness Devices. The use of phones and popular fitness applications like Strava are now jeopardizing operational and personal security for operators in the special operations community. “Phones and fitness devices that make it easier to track US troops are a new headache for special operators overseas”, Business Insider, June 7, 2021.
MC-130J – Launching Cruise Missiles? A recent exercise tested the procedures for using the MC-130J Commando II special operations aerial refueler and transport plane for the ‘pallet launch’ of AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs). Read more in “MC-130J Commando II Simulated Launching a Pallet of Cruise Missiles During a Mock Strike Mission”, The WarZone, June 7, 2021.
Expert Mountain Climber Taught GBs How to Climb. A man famous for being the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest and help launch the outdoor equipment company REI had more humble beginnings. This included a stint in the Army teaching Green Berets how to climb and operate in the mountains at the Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command at Camp Hale in Colorado. “How the 1st American to Summit Everest Trained Special Forces and Grew REI”, Coffee or Die, June 10, 2021.
General Miller – An Afghan Hand. General Scott Miller, former JSOC commander, has spent the last two years in Afghanistan as the commander of the Resolute Support Mission. He has been in Afghanistan with special operations for many tours. He now is in charge of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal from that country. “He spent years at war in Afghanistan. Now he commands the U.S. withdrawal”, The Washington Post, June 7, 2021.
Afghan Officer Writes about General Miller. Col. Abdul Rahman, an officer of the Afghan National Army, is a student at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. He provides details of a meeting with General Scott Miller that changed his life and career. “The personal impact of an American general on an Afghan officer”, Military Times, June 11, 2021.
CV-22 Osprey Simulator Project in Japan. A groundbreaking ceremony took place at Yokota Air Base, Japan, for a 9,000 square foot structure that will support a full-motion flight simulator for the CV-22 Osprey. (DVIDS, Jun 14, 2021).
MC-208 Guardian – Armed Overwatch. One of only 5 competitors for the United States Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) Armed Overwatch program is the MC-208 Guardian. The air platform, with capabilities built on the Cessna Caravan, provides a multi-mission capability including aerial surveillance, close air support, casualty and medical evacuations, air mobility, and precision strike. The Afghan Air Force has been using the C-208 for armed intelligence, transport, and casualty evacuation. Read more in “MC-208 Guardian Down Selected for Phase 3 of USSOCOM Armed Overwatch Program”, Cision PR Newswire, June 7, 2021.
UK’s E Squadron. A secret unit known as ‘E Squadron’ is part of the 22 Special Air Service. This secret units mission is to work with MI6 – the Secret Intelligence Service. The members of this unit operate in small isolated teams and is referred to as “The Increment”. Read more in “The Real 007s Inside the Increment”, The Sun, June 7, 2021.
SAS War Crimes – Allegations Denied by Aussie Veteran. One of Australia’s most decorated Afghanistan veterans is denying alleged war crimes in a defamation trial against an Australian media company. Ben Roberts-Smith says he was unfairly portrayed in newspaper stories and is seeking damages. The former Special Air Service Regiment trooper, who received the Victoria Cross, left the army in 2013. “Australian Afghan War Veteran Denies Allegations of War Crimes”, Voice of America, June 7, 2021. See also “Ben Roberts-Smith is a war hero. Can he be a killer too?”, Financial Review, June 11, 2021. The jury has been selected, consisting of four enlisted and four commissioned officers.
Elite Units of Ancient Greece. Some of the greatest elite military units of all time are found in Greek history. These include the Macedonian Hetairoi, Sacred Band of Thebes, the Sciritae, and others. “The Most Elite Special Forces of Ancient Greece”, Greek Reporter, June 10, 2021.
Germany Elite Police Unit Disbanded. A special police unit will be disbanded after investigators found right-wing extremist messages shared by some of its members in group chats. Frankfurt’s Special Task Force (SEK) will be rebooted and reorganized. In 2020 the 2nd Company of the Bundeswehr’s Special Forces Command (KSK) was disbanded because of extremist activities. “Germany: Frankfurt police unit to be disbanded over far-right chats”, Deutsche Welle, June 12, 2021.
D-Day Was Just the Start. On June 6, 1944 about 156,000 troops and a lot of equipment landed on the beaches of Normandy. The “Battle of Normandy” soon followed. Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were holding key terrain such as bridges to prevent their destruction by the Germans. “The Days After D-Day: What Happened Next”, Forces.net, June 6, 2021.
Battle of Dong Xoai. In 1965 a Special Forces A-Camp was attacked by North Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong guerrillas. A Special Forces soldier would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during that battle. “The Battle of Dong Xoai Camp and the Astonishing Bravery of its Defenders”, SOFREP, June 11, 2021.
MACV-SOG. Activated in 1964, the Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group conducted secret cross-border operations in Laos, North Vietnam, and Cambodia. Over the course of eight years this group of special operators conducted reconnaissance, direct action, and other types of missions. Learn more about Spike Teams, Recon Teams, Hatchet Forces, and Bright Light missions. “MACV-SOG: The Covert Special Operations Unit You’ve Never Heard Of”, SANDBOXX, June 9, 2021.
COVID-19 and the Military
COVID in the US. Deaths in the United States from COVID-19 have dropped by 90 percent since their peak in January 2021. However, hundreds of people are still dying each day in the U.S and the death total from COVID will soon reach 600,000. Some of those who have ‘recovered’ from COVID are now experiencing some long-term effects such as chronic fatigue and brain fog. See “Contending with Long Covid”, Harvard Magazine, June 10, 2021.
COVID Around the World. As the coronavirus crisis in the United States eases attention is turning to other parts of the world where the COVID vaccines are in short supply. The US is planning on purchasing and distributing 500 million vaccine doses to countries that are experiencing vaccine shortages.
COVID and the US Military. Life in the military is slowly returning to normal. Physical fitness activities are becoming less constrained by the virus. For instance, the 10th Special Forces Group reopened its combatives dojo by hosting a combatives seminar by Royce Gracie. The DoD had provided soldiers to 35 vaccine centers run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency – but now manning is reduced to just five centers.
Tripwires: Overrated? A tool of American strategy since 1945 is to forward deploy US military forces at a location where an aggressor’s actions would prompt a broader reaction and intervention. However this logic is questionable – at least according to Dan Reiter and Paul Poast. They argue that, instead, the US should deploy a sufficient amount of forces to shift the balance of power in the future conflict area. Reiter and Poast are professors of political science and authors of books about conflict and other topics. “The Truth about Tripwires: Why Small Force Deployments Do Not Deter Aggression”, Texas National Security Review, Summer 2021.
Racial Diversity and the Military. Col. Dwayne Wagner, U.S. Army, Ret., is an assistant professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He provides his perspective, as a retired black Army officer, of past and present race relations in the Army. “We Have Come a Long Ways . . . We Have a Ways to Go”, Military Review, June 2021.
Biden’s War Powers Letter to Congress. President Biden has sent a letter to Congress providing information about the deployments of U.S. Armed Forces personnel into countries where there is the possibility of hostilities. His letter summarizes deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Arabian Peninsula Region, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, East Africa Region, Lake Chad Basin and Sahel Region, Cuba, and the Philippines. (The White House, June 8, 2021).
OTH CT Operations. The Pentagon is developing plans to conduct operations in Afghanistan against terrorists from outside of Afghanistan. “DoD Readies Counterterror Plan for Post Afghanistan Withdrawal”, Breaking Defense, June 8, 2021.
Cyber Warfare. Cyber Warfare will be a key part of any large scale future conflict. Logistics could grind to a halt. In 2017 the U.S. Transportation Command’s computerized logistical systems were mostly unclassified and on the internet. That could be a problem. “Hacked Drones and Busted Logistics are the Cyber Future of Warfare”, The Belfer Center, Harvard University, June 4, 2021.
Border Crisis. Vice President Harris visited Central America last week and one of the topics was the surge of illegal migrants crossing the US border. She seems to think that climate change is the reason for the recent surge in the early months of 2021. Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei says the Biden administration is at fault for the border crisis. Federal law enforcement personnel have stopped over 180,000 people who tried to enter the country illegally in May. This is the highest number in more than two decades.
Instability in Peru. There are concerns that a Maoist insurgent group, the Sendero Luminoso, could experience a resurgence. Activity is picking up in the district of Vizcatan – a Sendero stronghold. The country’s economy has been devastated by the pandemic, the illicit economy is growing, and narco-terrorist groups are getting more active. “Spreading Instability in Peru and Growing Concerns of Sendero Revival”, The Soufan Center, June 8, 2021.
Report – Terrorism in Southeast Asia. Over the last two decades, terrorists in SE Asia have been shifting tactics, using more women to conduct attacks, and participating in conflicts from Afghanistan to Syria. A new report analyzes contemporary terrorism and counterterrorism issues in Southeast Asia. Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Southeast Asia: Emerging Trends and Dynamics, The Soufan Center, June 2021, PDF, 38 pages.
Great Power Competition
Russia and “Gray Zone Conflict”. Barnett S. Koven defines gray zone conflict, explains the crisis in Donbas and Crimea, and how to deter future Russian gray zone activities. Koven is a researcher and training director at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. “Responding to Gray Zone Conflict: Countering Russia in the Donbas and Beyond”, Small Wars Journal, June 7, 2021.
Arctic Security. Joshua Tallis, a maritime and polar analyst at the Center for Naval Analyses, writes about the Arctic region’s rules and institutions that help maintain low tensions and relative prosperity. “The Phantom of Arctic Misgovernance”, War on the Rocks, June 11, 2021.
Russia in the Mediterranean. Over the past decade Russia has reinforced its posture in and around the Mediterranean. With the establishment of permanent bases in Syria, Libya, and Sudan Russia is creating new challenges for NATO and the European Union. Marc Pierini provides details in “Russia’s Posture in the Mediterranean: Implications for NATO and Europe”, Carnegie Europe, June 8, 2021.
NATO – A European Defense Alliance? Justin Logan, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, argues “. . . that the United States invests too much in European security, while its European allies invest too little. Turning NATO into a European defense alliance for the purpose of European defense would serve the interests of both Europe and the United States.” Read more in “Make European Defense European”, War on the Rocks, June 10, 2021.
Report – China’s Quest for Global Primacy. A new report provides an analysis of Chinese international and defense strategies to outcompete the United States. The Chinese seek to establish the country’s primacy in the Asia-Pacific region and leadership of the international order. RAND Corporation, PDF, 253 pages.
Video – Testimony on China. The United States Senate Committee on Armed Services heard testimony from four expert witnesses about the U.S. strategic competition with China on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Testifying were Mr. Matt Pottinger, Dr. Evan Medeiros, and others. 2 hours.
China and the Panama Canal. Over 6% of the global trade flows through the Panama Canal with 66% of the cargo beginning or ending its journey at a U.S. port. However, the Chinese have expanded their influence in the area and its footprint in critical Canal infrastructure has grown. Read more in “Key Decision Point Coming for the Panama Canal”, by Daniel F. Runde, Center for Strategic & International Studies, May 21, 2021.
DoD Casualties. Spc. Joshua Robinson, age 22, died on June 10, 2021, at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, as a result of a non-combat related incident. He was a member of the 156th Infantry Regiment, Louisiana Army National Guard. On June 8, 2012, First Sgt. Casey Hart died at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland after suffering a medical emergency on May 9th while stationed at the Al-Tanf – a small garrison in Syria where Special Operations Forces have been training a proxy force known as Maghaweir Thowra.
3rd SFAB Sends Advisory Teams to CENTCOM AOR. The 1st Battalion of the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade is sending twenty advisory teams to ten different countries in the Central Command’s area of responsibility. Each 12-man SFAB team is led by a Captain and its NCOs are specialists in different military occupational specialties. “3rd SFAB Battalion cases colors for unique assignment”, Army.mil, June 10, 2021.
It is possible that Turkish troops will remain in Afghanistan to assist in the security of the international airport in Kabul. Turkey will be looking for political, financial, and logistical support before committing to that task. The Taliban are on the offensive. A number of district centers have been captured by the insurgents over the past few months. The Central Intelligence Agency is looking at the possibility of using bases in Pakistan to strike terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Certainly the CIA has to be aware that Pakistan is the Taliban’s biggest supporter. (Things that make you go “hmmm”).
A new intelligence report published by the United Nations Security Council finds that the Taliban and al Qaeda remain closely aligned and are unlikely to break their relationship. NATO is looking at the possibility of training Afghan special operations forces at a location outside of Afghanistan – perhaps Europe. A lot of attention is focused on the plight of thousands of Afghan interpreters who assisted the US military. Although the DoD and State Department say they are ‘working the issue’ there is not a whole lot of movement of Afghan interpreters coming to the US.
As the Germans depart Camp Marmal in northern Afghanistan they have to contend with an abundance of beer and wine. That Afghans have told the Germans to take the beer home. (Editor’s Note: Between 2002 and 2017 I spent a good part of ten different years in Afghanistan as a soldier and later as a contractor. In 2014 I was based at Camp Marmal for several months – that was my best year!).
France Scaling Back in West Africa. French forces fighting militants in West Africa are reducing operations after having operated in five different countries over the past eight years. The French will continue to field Task Force Tukuba along with special operations forces from several other European nations. France currently has about 5,100 troops in the Sahel region. About 55 French soldiers have died in the region. There are some Africans in the Sahel who look at France’s involvement as a colonial throwback. “France to scale down West Africa military operations”, BBC News, June 11, 2021. French forces recently killed an al Qaeda leader during an operation in the Sahel region. (Reuters, Jun 11, 2021).
2nd SFAB Teams Complete Advisory Tours in Africa. The 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade had deployed advisory teams to the the countries of Tunisia, Djibouti, and Somalia to conduct small unit training. The teams have completed their six-month tours and are now back in the United States. “2nd SFAB leaders discuss recent Africa mission, plans to extend advisory footprint”, Army News Service, June 10, 2021.
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
July 11, 2021. Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts
11th Annual Blackbeard’s Motorcycle Ride
Matthew Pucino Memorial Foundation
July 13-16, 2021
Fort Bragg VA Disability Claims and Benefits Seminar
Green Beret Foundation
July 16, 2021. Newport, Kentucky
Riverboating for Berets
Green Beret Foundation
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.
Pubs, Reports, Podcasts, and Videos
Armor. The Spring 2021 issue of the mounted maneuver journal has been posted. Topics include combat arms gender integration, the British 1918 campaign in Palestine, PowerPoint and training, USMC tank support, 1st SFAB advisor successes in Colombia, electromagnetic spectrum, cavalry in the Civil War, and the Russian Army and maneuver defense. PDF, 92 pages.
Report – Cyber Supply Chain Risk Management: Implications for the SOF Future Operating Environment. JSOU Report 21-3, June 2021, Joint Special Operations University, PDF, 114 pages.
Podcast – Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill and Megyn Kelly. Former Navy SEAL, book author, and ‘personality’ O’Neill is interviewed by Kelly about killing bin Laden, SEAL training, and other topics. The Megyn Kelly Show, May 31, 2021, 2 hours.
Podcast – The CIA’s Woke Twitter Rebrand. In 2014 the Central Intelligence Agency went public with its Twitter and Instagram accounts. Since then the intelligence agency has been doing some rebranding. Learn more from Edward Ongweso in this 49 minute long podcast where he talks about spies and tweets. Vice, June 9, 2021, 49 minutes.
Video – Darby Queen. Ranger students are required to successfully navigate the obstacle course during Ranger School. Watch a 17 minute video posted by the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade on their Facebook account about the one-mile course consisting of 24 obstacles over uneven terrain.
Video – Memorial Day Ceremony 2021. The Navy SEAL Museum put together a nice video about their observance of May 31, 2021. One hour. https://www.navysealmuseum.org/memorialday
Video – 24th Special Operations Wing Change of Command Ceremony. U.S. Air Force Col. Jason Daniels took command during a ceremony on June 4, 2021 at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 24th SOW provides Special Tactics forces for rapid global employment to enable airpower success. DVIDS, June 4, 2021, 4 minutes.
Photo: Green Berets with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) move through the jungle terrain during the 4th Marine Regiment Jungle Warfare Exercise at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, Okinawa, Japan on May 23, 2021. The exercise included forward reconnaissance, terrain analysis, practice using a variety of communication platforms, small unit tactics, and patient extraction procedures. Courtesy photo 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne).