Special Operations News Update – Monday, June 21, 2021

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Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Afghanistan heading south, ASD SO/LIC, oversight of SOF, celebrating Father’s Day, Danish SOF, Ukrainian SOF, USAF SR Airmen, diversity in SOF, international SOF, SFABs in Indo-Pacific, and more.

SOF News

Oversight of SOF. David Barno and Nora Bensahel argue that civilian oversight of special operations forces is best done by the Secretary of the Army. “Fixing Oversight of Special Operations Forces”, War on the Rocks, June 15, 2021.

SOF, Generals, and Technology. Special operators will need to be cyber-capable or risk being irrelevant. U.S. Special Operations Command Chief Information Officer Dr. Lisa Costa said that even high-ranking officers in SOF need to be ‘upskilling and reskilling’ to remain relevant. “Even generals must learn new skills in tech-dominated special operations future”, Marine Corps Times, June 17, 2021.

USAF SOWTs are now Special Reconnaissance Airmen. The Air Force has revamped its old Special Operations Weather Teams into the new Special Reconnaissance career field. The 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina is now training the SR airmen in land navigation, communications, small-unit tactics, use of drones, intelligence gathering, and other critical tasks. “Air Force Special Operations Job Transformation Takes Big Step Forward”, Military.com, June 17, 2021.

Combat Diver Competition. An event that pitted combat dive teams from the 3rd and 7th Special Forces Groups against each other has concluded. The events included an Army Physical Fitness Test, academic exam, maritime stress tests, long surface swim, ruck march, and an open and closed-circuit dive. “This Year’s Best Combat Diver Competition Was the Toughest Yet”, SOFREP, June 15, 2021.

Elite US Commandos Seeking Diversity. The Army’s Green Berets and Navy’s SEALs are conducting a greater effort to recruit a more diverse force. The US special operations forces tend to be less diverse than the military as a whole. “US military’s elite commando forces look to expand diversity”, Associated Press, June 15, 2021.

USSOCOM Diversity Chief Reinstated. A US Special Operations Command official leading the commands’ diversity and inclusion programs has been reinstated following an investigation into his social media posts. Richard Torres-Estrada posted a meme in June 2020 that compared then President Trump to Adolf Hitler. “SOCOM’s controversial head of diversity and inclusion is back in his job”, Air Force Times, June 17, 2021.

ARSOF Diversity. A webpage posted by the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Office of the Command Historian explains how Army Special Operations Forces have long included members of diverse backgrounds throughout its long history. Out of Many, One.

Combat Controller on Life and War. Dan Schilling, an Air Force combat controller turned book author, is interviewed about his past (Mogadishu and other battles) and his current endeavors as a writer. At age 60 he still hikes up mountains. “Peace in the Clouds: How One of the World’s Deadliest Warriors Found His Zen”, Coffee of Die, June 20, 2021.

A CST Remembers Afghanistan. Jackie Munn was a member of a Cultural Support Team that worked with Special Forces in Afghanistan. She shares a short story about one mission. “Spilt Milk, Giggling Girls, and No Use Crying”, The War Horse, May 9, 2018.

Father – Son Parachute Jump. The command sergeant major of the 3rd Special Forces Group’s support battalion parachuted from a C-27 Spartan tactical transport on Fort Bragg last week. His son from the 82nd Airborne Division joined him. “Soldier Dad and Son Celebrate Father’s Day with Airborne Jump”, Military.com, June 20, 2021.

919th SOW – A Family Affair. Retired Master Sgt. Kenneth McDowell served with Air Force Special Operations Command for most of his career. His daughter is now assigned to AFSOC. “Daughter follows father’s footsteps to the 919th SOW”, 919thSOW, June 20, 2021.

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International SOF

Danish SOF. The missions of a special operations unit of Denmark includes unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counterterrorism. During the Cold War Denmark decided to create a special unit with the mission of long-range reconnaissance. During the years that followed the Cold War the unit was transformed into a SOF unit. “Danish Special Forces | The Jaeger Corps AKA the Huntsmen Corps”, by Steve Balestrieri, SOFREP, June 20, 2021.

Ukrainian Special Forces. The newest branch of Ukraine’s Armed Forces – the Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (UASOF) – is continuing their development. However, the UASOF still has some obstacles that will prevent it from attaining a superior state of combat readiness. The 2,000 person unit requires advanced training and very technical equipment, but financing is a big problem. “Growing Pains in the Ukrainian Special Forces”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, by Yuri Lapaiev, June 16, 2021.

Italian Navy Selects Special Diving Operations Craft. The SDO-SuRS will have the ability to support submarine rescue and special forces units. (Defense World, Jun 15, 2021).

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SOF History

10th Special Forces Group Activation. On June 19, 1952 the 10th SFG was activated on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The group grew to 1,700 personnel within a year. In September 1953, 782 members deployed to Germany, 99 to Korea, and the remainder stayed at FBNC. The Fort Bragg element was re-designated the 77th SFG.

Task Force Viking in Northern Iraq (2003). The 10th Special Forces Group and a small team of CIA paramilitary officers opened up a second front in northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion. The Green Berets and intelligence officers linked up with the Peshmerga in Kurdistan. Read more in “How special-ops units used ‘old-school commando stuff’ behind enemy lines to keep Saddam’s forces distracted”, Business Insider, June 15, 2021.

“Father of Naval Special Warfare”. Phil H. Bucklew served as a Navy frogman during World War II. He would retire from the Navy in 1969. “The Father of Naval Special Warfare Almost Changed the History of the Vietnam War”, Military.com, June 2021.

Vietnam HALO Combat Jumps. In the late 1950s members of the 10th Special Forces Group created the Trojan Parachute Club which led the way to developing the techniques of night, combat equipment parachute jumps from high altitudes. These techniques would later be used by small teams of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) to infiltrate behind enemy lines utilizing high altitude low opening techniques. “The Trojan Parachute Club Were the Army’s First Combat HALO Jumpers”, Coffee or Die Magazine, June 17, 2021.

SF and CN Missions on Mexican Border. In the 1990s there were not a lot of wars being fought. The Cold War was over and the Global War on Terror had yet to begin. Some Special Forces units got involved in counternarcotic missions along the southern border. “How Green Berets ran counter-narcotics ops on the Mexican border”, Audacy.com, May 3, 2021.

Weapons of the OSS. The Office of Strategic Services was a joint intelligence and special operations agency established during World War II. It was a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Special Forces. The secret organization developed some intriguing weapons. “The Strangest Covert Weapons American Spies Carried in WWII”, SANDBOXX, June 15, 2021.

First Muslim Green Beret. When Changiz Lahidji joined the Iranian special forces Reza Pahlavi was still the Shah of Iran. But he soon left the Iranian military and moved to California. In 1978 he joined the U.S. Army and by 1979 was a fully qualified Special Forces NCO. He would soon be back in Iran – this time in support of Operation Eagle Claw. The mission went badly and he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat. “The first Muslim Green Beret was also in Iran’s Special Forces”, We Are the Mighty, June 17, 2021.

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National Security and Commentary

USMC and SOF. DoD’s strategic guidance (with a focus on the Indo-Pacific) and China’s rising global status and ambitions has triggered the service components to relook at their structure and doctrine. This is true of the United States Marine Corps – which has an opportunity to optimize USMC – SOF teaming through increased integration, interdependence, interoperability, and deconfliction (I3D). “Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces Teaming for Great Power Competition”, by Major Michael Masters, Small Wars Journal, June 17, 2021.

US SOF in Estonia. The United States Special Operations Forces have increased their presence in Eastern Europe. Senior US SOF officers are serving at Estonia Defense Forces headquarters. “US Special Forces operating in Estonia at higher level than ever before”, ERR News, June 18, 2021.

Advisory Teams in the Pacific. Small teams of US Army soldiers have been deploying across the Indo-Pacific on missions similar to those done by Special Forces. The twelve-man advisory teams of the Security Force Assistance Brigades are deploying to numerous countries on long-term deployments. (Editorial Note: A number of misrepresentations are made in this article . . . someone with an SF background will be quick to note them) “Rank-and-file soldiers begin Special Forces-style security missions across Indo-Pacific”, Stars and Stripes, June 17, 2021.

Ice Breakers Needed. Currently the US is lacking in ice breakers that can provide for the needs of the US in the Arctic region. The US has two ice breakers – one currently undergoing maintenance and another that has surpassed its service life. Russia has 40 ice breakers. The US needs to expand its fleet of ice breakers – and quickly. “U.S. Needs Icebreakers to Keep Up With China and Russia in the Arctic”, The Heritage Foundation, June 18, 2021.

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Things Are Heading South in Afghanistan. As the withdrawal of U.S. and international forces from Afghanistan continues reports of significant Taliban victories in rural areas of Afghanistan are in the news. Over 30 district centers have fallen to the Taliban since May 1, 2021. The Taliban have made some progress in taking key areas in Kunduz and Faryab provinces. More than 20 Afghan commandos were killed while deployed to recapture a district seized by the Taliban in Faryab province. The commandos have been the offensive punch for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces – however they have been recently suffering big losses attempting to stem the Taliban offensive. The insurgent gains are likely a combination of the Taliban offensive as well as government security forces consolidating their forces into more defensible positions.

NATO has asked Qatar to host training for Afghan commandos. The Minister of Defense and Minister of Interior have been replaced by President Ghani. The CENTCOM commander says that the US won’t use airstrikes to support Afghan forces after the withdrawal. The US Embassy in Kabul is in a ‘lockdown’ due to an outbreak of COVID. In an interview with the Associated Press former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the international community failed in their 20-year attempt to end extremism and bring stability to Afghanistan. Lacking in the article is any acknowledgement of his role in the Afghan disaster while serving as the Afghan president for 13 years. NATO had scheduled a flag lowering ceremony in Kabul for Friday, June 18th to mark the departure of the US and NATO forces from Afghanistan. The event was cancelled just hours before the scheduled time due to confusion over what the ceremony would signify. Some thorny issues remain to be solved to include the safety of thousands of Afghan interpreters who aided the U.S. and NATO forces and the contractor support that keep the Afghan Air Force aircraft in the air.

Sending SOF Back to Somalia? Security conditions in Somalia have deteriorated since the Trump administration pulled 700 U.S. service members from that country in January 2021. Now it appears that AFRICOM is looking at re-introducing troops into Somalia to train indigenous forces. “Proposal Calls for Sending Special Operations Forces Back to Somalia, Report Says”, Military.com, June 16, 2021.

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Upcoming Events

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

Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Book Review – North Korea in a Nutshell: A Contemporary Overview. David Maxwell, former SF officer and commentator on all things North Korea, provides a review of a new book on that is of value to the policy maker, strategist, military planner, and to the public. “An Area Study: North Korea in a Nutshell”, Small Wars Journal, June 19, 2021.

New Army Training Field Manual. The Army has updated FM 7-0 Training. The manual describes how the Army trains its people to compete, fight, and win. There are chapters on training management, prioritizing training, planning and preparation, execution, and evaluation and assessment. There are eleven appendices on training guidance, task crosswalk, individual training, meetings, exercises, live-fire, lane training, AARs, and more. PDF, 116 pages.

Al Qaeda Background Brief. The Congressional Research Service has posted an update to Al Qaeda: Background, Current Status, and U.S. Policy. This ‘In Focus’ brief, published on June 14, 2021, is a PDF and is two pages long.

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Podcast – The US and Influence Operations. Michael K. Nagata and Dr. Anthony Cordesman discuss the drastic of loss of global influence by the United States. Being able to project influence is an important component of strategic power and the U.S. has fallen behind in this competition. “American Decline: Losing the Campaign for Influence”, The Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, June 18, 2021, 42 minutes.

Video – Iraq’s CT Unit. Watch a video of Iraqi counter-terror teams fighting ISIS – both in training and on actual missions. The CT forces are the countries premier military unites. PBS News Hour, June 17, 2021, 11 minutes.


Photo: Marine Corps Cpl. Francesco Prestia of the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion participates in a water navigation course during Exercise Caribbean Coastal Warrior at Savaneta Kamp, Aruba, June 10, 2021. The exercise is designed to increase global interoperability and expand knowledge and proficiency while operating in littoral and coastal regions. Photo by Lance Cpl. Jennifer Reyes.

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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.