Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. SOF linguist sentenced, Shadow 71 recognized, AI and SOF, Frogman swim and run, new SOF aircraft, Eddie Gallagher, Norway’s SOF departs Afghanistan, Swedish Defence University’s CSOR, SOF history, ‘woke’ military, border crisis, upcoming SOF events, books, pubs, podcasts, and more.
SOTF Iraq Linguist Sentenced. A female linguist for the U.S. Special Operations Task Force in Iraq was sentenced to 23 years in prison for providing intelligence information to Hezbollah. She turned over names of informants as well as other classified information. (Aljazeera, Jun 24, 2021).
“Shadow 71” Recognized with Awards. An AC-130 Ghostrider gunship aircrew was awarded for their actions during a mission in Afghanistan in September 2019. The crew provided two hours of continuous close air support fire saving the lives of 88 American and Afghan Special Forces members. Their support from the air suppressed the fire from the enemy which allowed the joint U.S. – Afghan SOF element to evacuate wounded and save lives. (Business Insider, Jun 24, 2021). See also an article on this topic in Air Force Times.
New SOCKOR Cdr. Special Operations Command Korea conducted a change of command ceremony where U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Martin took command. He formerly was the Air Force Special Operations Command director of operations. “SOCKOR Welcomes New Commander”, DVIDS, June 24, 2021.
711th SOS and BPACS. The Combat Aviation Advisors of the 711th Special Operations Squadron met with members from partner nations to discuss aviation capabilities as part of a Building Partner Aviation Capacity Seminar. Students for Burkina Faso, Malawi, and Jordan attended the two-week long course that was conducted at Duke Field, Florida. The course is hosted by the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School. “CAAs demonstrate aviation capabilities to international partners”, 919th Special Operations Wing, June 24, 2021.
AI, SOCOM, and MIT. An online course developed in collaboration with the United States Special Operations Command and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provided a learning event about artificial intelligence applications and implications. The six-week course was designed for special operations personnel. “A Unique Collaboration with US Special Operations Command”, MIT News, June 22, 2021.
SOCOM and an ‘Omni-Domain Perspective”. US Special Operations Command’s chief data officer, Thomas Kenney, says that information is coming from all directions – and this requires the command to develop algorithmic and analytical processes to turn that data into usable information. “SOCOM Preparing for Omni-Domain Battle”, National Defense, June 24, 2021.
Frogman Swim and Run. The 10th Annual Aaron Vaughn Memorial Frogman Swim and Run was held on Saturday, June 26, 2021. The event was held in honor of Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Aaron Carson Vaughn. He was one of 30 Americans to die when a helicopter was shot down in the Tangi River Valley of Afghanistan (Wardak province) in 2011. (TCPalm, Jun 26, 2021).
Testing of New SOF Aircraft. Five different aircraft are being considered by USSOCOM to become the armed overwatch platform for U.S. special operations forces. The testing began in late June 2021. “Eglin AFB hosts testing of possible new Special Operations aircraft”, NWF Daily News, June 25, 2021.
SOF, RAGs, FAGs, and NAGs. Steve Balestrieri, a retired SF WO, provides a humorous explanation for some of the acronyms found in the ‘special operations vocabulary’. “Beyond POGS: You Could be a Special Operations R.A.G., F.A.G., or N.A.G.”, SOFREP, June 27, 2021.
Eddie Gallagher – Not Going Away. Stephen Losey interviewed retired SEAL Eddie Gallagher. Apparently the Navy SEAL who was accused of war crimes in Iraq is still seeking the limelight – he has a new book coming out and has continued with media appearances. Gallagher has called some of his former teammates beta males, cowards, and entitled millennials. “Eddie Gallagher Vs. the World: After War Crimes Trial, Notorious SEAL Is Out to Settle Scores”, Military.com, June 26, 2021.
Norway’s SOF Leaving Afghanistan. For years the Norwegian special forces have trained and worked with the Afghan Crisis Response Unit. NORSOF was one of the most important contributions to the ISAF / RSM effort over the past two decades. In addition, Norway also led the international effort in Faryab province from 2005 to 2012. “The last members of Norwegian special forces are leaving Afghanistan”, Norway Today, June 28, 2021.
Centre of Special Operations Research. The Swedish Defence University has established an educational center (CSOR) that will conduct research and educational activities on special operations forces. “New Centre for Research on Specialised Units”, Swedish Defence University, June 23, 2021.
Operation Pocket Change. In the decade after the Vietnam War ended (1975 – 1985) there were persistent rumors coming from Southeast Asia that American service members were still being held in prisoner of war camps. Many of these rumors placed the POWs in a remote camp in Laos. Operation Pocket Change was a planned attempt by Delta Force to rescue some 50 POWs in the early 1980s. The planned rescue attempt was leaked to The Washington Post and then an article appeared in Parade magazine. Read more in “Op Pocket Change: The Delta Force operation to rescue U.S. POWs allegedly left behind after the Vietnam War”, Audacy.com, June 21, 2021.
Operation Red Wings. Sixteen years ago 11 Navy SEALs and 8 Army Night Stalkers died during a mission and recovery effort for four Navy SEALs conducting a reconnaissance operation in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
1999 – USAF Pilots Rescued in Serbia. In the spring of 1999 NATO began an air campaign against Serbian forces. During the bombing a U.S. F-117 and F-16 were shot done. Both pilots were rescued due in a large part to a team of US special operators and CSAR elements. (Business Insider, Jun 21, 2021).
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COVID-19 and the Military
The COVID-19 crisis in the United States has been slowly easing, but in other parts of the world countries are experiencing severe problems. Latin America is one of those troubled areas with schools shutdown and economies suffering. Australia is one country that is battling a new pandemic phase with several cities having to be under lockdown. The last US federal mass vaccination site where troops provided support has now closed. More than 5,000 service members supported almost 50 sites across the country helped provide millions of COVID-19 vaccines.
Best and Worst of COIN. Mike Nelson, a Special Forces officer, provides a good summary of US counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. “It Was the Best of COIN, It Was the Worst of COIN: A Tale of Two Surges”, Modern War Institute at West Point, June 24, 2021.
SOF, CT, and GPC. Jack Watling comments on how special operations forces will need to optimize for great power competition – and provides some recommendations for policy makers and senior DoD officials. “Old Habits Die Hard: Special Operations Forces, Twenty Years of Counterterrorism, and the New Era of Great Power Competition”, Modern War Institute, June 21, 2021.
A ‘Woke’ Military? Many members of the military services have worried that the current emphasis on diversity and race issues are a distraction from the main objective of fielding a military that can fight and win wars. But at the same time, there are some members of the military that think we have a long way to go before we have a truly diverse military that is inclusive of all members of US society. Some members of Congress (and the press) recently subjected the SECDEF and General Milley to some heavy criticism on this topic. One example being cited is the content of a course taught at West Point called “The Politics of Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality”. Critical Race Theory is taught as part of this controversial course. The course was established in 1999 by a Major Isaiah Wilson – who is now the president of the Joint Special Operations University. A recent article by Fred Kaplan provides some background information on the course, read “What Critics of the “Woke” Army Don’t Understand”, SLATE, June 28, 2021.
Border Crisis. The Biden administration is forcing out the Border Patrol chief, Rodney Scott. He was a supporter of hard-line immigration policies. Vice President Kamala Harris was appointed as the Biden administration’s lead for the crisis along the U.S.-Mexican border months ago. She has put off visiting the border despite the ongoing surge of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States. More than 180,000 encounters took place with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection during May 2021 – the most since March 2000. Many of the border crossers are from Venezuela. The VP finally paid the border a visit. “Harris heads to border after facing criticism for absence”, Associated Press, June 25, 2021.
U.S. Bases in Central Asia? There are a couple of sound reasons why the United States should consider basing military forces in one or more of the Central Asian countries. One is to provide the capability of rapidly responding to terrorist threats from Afghanistan or within the greater region. Another would be to counter the moves of Russia and China in the area – an aspect of great power competition. But Jeffrey Mankoff and Cyrus Newlin argue that Central Asia’s internal conditions and the broader regional environment are not conducive to a U.S. military presence. “Don’t Base U.S. Forces in Central Asia”, War on the Rocks, June 23, 2021.
Great Power Competition and SOF
ROC, SOF, and the Russians. Col. Kevin Stringer, a strategist with SOCEUR, says that the more U.S. SOF and the U.S. Army understands the complexities of resistance and unconventional warfare the better it will be able to support threatened allies and partners against aggressive neighbors. He examines the details of the Europeans resistance operating concept and how it fits into the security plans of the Nordic and Baltic states – to include the important aspects of command and organization in resistance underground operations. “Survival in the Russian Occupied Zone”, Military Review, July – August 2021.
Russian Mercenaries in C.A.R. The United Nations has accused the Russians of deploying mercenaries to the Central African Republic. The Russian paramilitary forces have been accused of human rights abuses. Moscow maintains that they are unarmed military instructors. “UN Envoy Accuses Russian Mercenaries of Human Rights Abuses in C.A.R.”, Radio Free Europe. June 23, 2021.
China’s Security Firms in Africa. Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, writes on the deployment of security firms in Africa by China. These firms are protecting the Chinese ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ segment that is being established in Africa. The Chinese investment in Africa needs protecting and the use of private security companies has expanded. This poses some problems for some African nations. “Chinese Security Firms Spread Along the African Belt and Road”, Africa Center, June 15, 2021.
U.S. Airstrikes in ME. Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq and Syria were struck by U.S. aircraft on Sunday, June 27th. The sites included coordination centers, UAV facilities, and storage sites for MANPADs, missiles, and other advanced weapons. The attacks were in response to drone attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq. “US airstrikes target Iran-backed militias in Syria, Iraq”, Associated Press, June 28, 2021. The Department of Defense issued a statement on the airstrikes on June 27, 2021.
Casualty in Qatar. An Air Force officer died on Saturday, June 26th, in a noncombat related incident. Lt. Col. James Willis was a member of a heavy construction unit deployed to Qatar. “Air Force Red Horse Squadron Commander Dies in Noncombat Incident in Qatar”, Air Force Times, June 27, 2021.
“Poor Man’s Cocaine” in ME. A little known drug is experiencing an explosive growth in consumption in several countries of the Middle East. According to a recent report the Assad regime (Syria) has been responsible for much of the production. “Narcos: Syria edition – and what the US can do about it”, by Ian Larson, Atlantic Council, June 14, 2021.
The situation in Afghanistan seems to be getting worse each week since the international forces made the announcement that the Resolute Support Mission is coming to an end. The Taliban continue to take district centers across the country. President Ghani paid a visit to the U.S. to clarify future U.S. support towards his country – meeting with President Biden and defense officials. The widespread call for assistance to former Afghan interpreters may have finally prompted the Biden administration to offer some help. It appears that the U.S. may evacuate some Afghan interpreters before the military withdrawal is complete.
Afghan SOF. The Afghan special security forces (ASSF) have been moving from one crisis to another in an attempt to roll back advances on the battlefield by the Taliban. The ASSF are generally successful in these counterattacks. A typical SOF operation is described in “On the Front Line: A Night With Afghan Commandos”, The New York Times, June 25, 2021 (subscription). Or read the article on Yahoo! News.
Some ASSF Missions Go Badly. The overused Afghan special operations forces do find themselves in desperate fights from time to time. Last week a group of 50 elite Afghan special operations forces recaptured Dawlat Abad, a district center in northern Afghanistan’s Faryab province. However, the expected reinforcements that were to arrive after the attack never showed up. A Taliban counterattack defeated the commando force killing at least 21 of the commandos.
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, Pubs, and Reports
Report – SOF and Defeating ISIS. A recent research study examines how Army Special Operations Forces performed their core competencies to dismantle and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. These capabilities will also have wide reaching application across the spectrum of potential conflicts in the 21st century. The ‘Strategy of Lightness’ employed during Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) utilized Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations to provide support to Foreign Internal Defense, Support to Governance, and Information Operations activities. This 38 page research study by Andrew Alcocer, a U.S. Army Civil Affairs officer, is entitled The Role of Special Operations Forces in Defeating the Islamic State and Its Implications for the Future, John Hopkins University, May 2021, PDF.
Special Operations Outlook. The 2021-2022 edition is now online. Features include MARSOC, USSOCOM AT&L, Emerald Warrior, and International SOF. 76 pages.
Military Review. The July – August 2021 issue has been posted online. There are several interesting articles on leader self-development, the PLA’s rocket force, base politics and long-range precision fires (think Japan), winning the deep fight, home station training and combat readiness, diversity in the Army, toxic followership, legalities of protecting human rights, mobility and protecting northern America, and more. PDF, 148 pages.
Report – Sexual Assault in the US Army. A recent RAND Corporation study on sexual harassment and sexual assault provides information on various risk factors that help identify groups and types of soldiers at risk. Several characteristics are associated with the different levels of risk – for instance Army women in environments with higher proportions of combat arms have a higher adjusted risk. Organizational Characteristics Associated with Risk of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the U.S. Army, RAND, June 2021, PDF, 108 pages.
Report – Immigrant Veterans. Senator Tammy Duckworth, a veteran serving in Congress, has prepared a 20 page report citing the dilemma of immigrant veterans who served in the U.S. military but who are not able to acquire U.S. citizenship. PDF, June 2021, 20 pages, posted on Military Times website.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Video – SOUTHCOM and AFRICOM Update. The Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) recently held its Future of SOF forum on May 5-6, 2021. One of the presentations was an update on the Southern Command and Africa Command areas of responsibility. JSOU, posted June 16, 2021, 54 minutes.
Video – Green Beret Testimonial. A Special Forces soldier describes what it takes to become a Green Beret. (one minute, June 24, 2021). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALOimX9gr-8
Video – Becoming a Ranger CBRN Specialist. Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Specialists demonstrate and talk about what it is like to serve with the 7th Ranger Regiment. Produced by the 75th Ranger Regiment, June 14, 2021, 4 minutes.
Photo: U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Todd Gorton, of the 2nd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, Mississippi Army National Guard, wraps up his parachute after jumping from C-130 Hercules at Camp Shelby, during Exercise Southern Strike 2021 on April 28, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard photos by Spc. Christopher Shannon II)