Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Our next Ukraine War Update will be on Monday, March 28, 2022.
Special Forces Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) secure a landing zone during combined aviation load training with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019
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Ukraine War News
We will be back on Monday with our usual coverage of the Ukraine War. For now, here are some highlights from the past 24 hours. The Russians have ‘completed the current phase’ of their ‘special military operation’. They will now concentrate their activities in eastern Ukraine in the regions along the Russian border. Russian forces are on the defensive in the Kyiv region. The Ukrainians have counterattacked in southern Ukraine; with some reports saying that they may be able to take back Kherson. President Biden was in Poland on Friday visiting Polish officials, NATO leaders, and U.S. troops.
The Ukraine War and SOF
Ukraine’s SOF. The achievements of the Ukrainian special operations forces may never be fully disclosed. However, what is known so far is that they have been a significant factor in the defense of the country. Their behind the lines operations, reminiscent of the British Special Air Service and Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) of World War II, have been wrecking havoc on the Russians. SOF adherents and students will be studying the exploits of the Ukraine SOF for years to come. “Ukraine – Redefining the role of modern special forces in a ground war”, Digital Journal, March 24, 2022.
Where Are Russian’s Little Green Men? The 2014 invasion by Russia of Crimea and eastern portions of Ukraine was a quick success. In part, this was because of its use of cyber, information operations, airborne units, and Spetsnaz (the so-called Little Green Men). The invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is remarkedly different and the presence of Spetsnaz and other elite units do not seem to have the same effect as it had several years ago. In fact, Russian SOF has been taking a beating in the war thus far. Dan Goure explores this in detail in “What Happened to Putin’s Little Green Men?”, Real Clear Defense, March 22, 2022.
Putin’s Spetnaz. Russian SOF have been deployed to Ukraine to conduct a number of different operations. According to some sources one of their primary missions was the capture and / or execution of Ukrainian President Zelensky. Learn more about this unit in an article by The Sun, March 23, 2022. (Warning: heavy use of glossy pics and sensationalized wording!).
Chechen SF Heading Home? Military units of Chechen soldiers have suffered huge losses in a major blow to Vladimir Putin’s war. According to the Security Service of Ukraine ‘several hundred’ of the Chechen soldiers were killed. “Putin humiliated as hardmen Chechen special forces go home after losing hundreds of men”, Express, March 21, 2022.
Israeli Ex-SOF Helping Ukraine. Veterans of Israeli special forces units are helping Ukrainians train up for the fight against the Russian army. The team is working at a location in western Ukraine and includes former members of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. “Israeli Intelligence, Ex-Special Forces Helping Ukraine”, Israel Radar, March 25, 2022.
US SOF and Training Ukraine SOF. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 the United States and other nations stepped up to provide military equipment and training to the Ukrainian military. A good chunk of this training was geared towards the Ukrainian special operations forces. The U.S. Army Special Forces and other SOF units have spent considerable time working with their Ukrainian counterparts over the past several years. Read more in “The US Army’s Green Berets quietly helped tilt the battlefield a little bit more toward Ukraine”, Fox News, March 24, 2022.
US SOF News
USASOC Sniper Competition. Twenty-one teams from across the military, US law enforcement, and allied armies competed in the US Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition. The four-day event concluded on Friday, March 25. The competitors took part in 23 shooting events with long-range rifles, carbines, and pistols. The first place team was from the Army Special Operations Command, second place team was from the French Marines, and the third place went to a team from the Army National Guard’s 20th Special Forces Group. Read more in “Fort Bragg Team Wins Army Special Operations Sniper Contest, French Marines Second”, Coffee or Die Magazine, March 25, 2022.
That Time the Wagner Group Got Roughed Up in Syria. One of Russia’s mercenary groups fighting in Ukraine is getting a lot of press. But the tactical expertise of this group of ‘private fighters’ could be overrated. In 2018 US SOF and the Wagner Group faced off against each other in what came to be known as the Battle of Khasham. A large force of over 500 Russians and Syrians attacked a small US outpost in eastern Syria. A four hour fight took place between US special operations forces (with a lot of airpower) and a combined force of over 500 Russians and Syrians. The battle resulted in one Syrian fighter wounded on the US side and over 300 dead for the opposition. Read more in “That time US forces tore hundreds of Russian Wagner Group mercenaries to pieces in Syria”, Coffee or Die Magazine, March 25, 2022.
Mint 400. Green Berets once again took their tactical trucks to an annual race held in the foothills of Las Vegas. Competing against other off-road vehicles is fun for the SF team but also exposes them to different ways of navigating over harsh terrain. See “Army Special Forces took part in the legendary Mint 400 off-road race”, We Are the Mighty, March 21, 2022. Read more about the SF group’s participation in the 2020 Mint 400.
SEALs and COVID Vaccinations. The Supreme Court granted an emergency request from the Defense Department to restore its authority over the deployment of unvaccinated Navy SEALs and other special warfare service members. The is a pending legal challenge to the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. “Supreme Court restores Pentagon’s authority over deployment of unvaccinated SEALs”, The Hill, March 25, 2022.
Medal of Honor – Charles Hoskings. A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier was on his third deployment to Vietnam when he was killed in action while saving his fellow Green Berets. Hoskings started his career with the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. His first tour with SF in Vietnam was in 1961 as a military advisor. During his third tour in Vietnam, this time with the 5th Special Forces Group in 1967, he was an advisor for a Civilian Irregular Defense Group Reaction Battalions. Read more about MSgt. Hoskings in a news report by DoD News, March 21, 2022.
Building Named after General William Darby. A new building, the rapid deployment facility at Fort Drum – home of the 10th Mountain Division, has been named after a legendary WWII general. William Darby was the officer who led the first Army Rangers during World War II and later was the 10th Mountain Division’s assistant commander during the campaign in Italy. The 1st , 3rd, and 4th Ranger Battalions of World War II were known as “Darby’s Rangers”. “Fort Drum deployment facility named for famed World War II officer”, Informnny.com, March 23, 2022.
New IO Unit for USAF. The U.S. Air Force has established a new hybrid wing-level organization known as ‘Detachment 1’. It will operate out of the 67th Cyberspace Wing at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas. The Information Warfare Training and Research Initiative Detachment will connect with airman worldwide working in the information warfare field. See “US Air Force establishes new information warfare detachment”, Defense News, March 25, 2022.
Bombs to Bits. There is a lot of discussion on how America can achieve superiority in the cyber, information, and space realms. Today’s armed forces should take an approach used by the air-to-ground operations community in doctrine, organization, and training. “From Bombs to Bits: Air-to-Ground Operations as a Model for the Tactical Information Environment”, War on the Rocks, March 25, 2022.
Books, Podcasts, and Videos
Book Review – Alert the Force. The role of special operations forces in this new era of ‘strategic competition’ is being revisited. A book published in 1969 provides some historical insight and observations for modern-day unconventional warfare, information operations, and strategic competition practitioners. Read more in a review of Alert the Force: Counterinsurgency, Unconventional Warfare, and Psychological Operations of the United States Air Force in Special Air Warfare, Air & Space Power Journal, March 21, 2022.
CA Papers. The latest volume of “Civil Affairs Issue Papers” is now available. This is a joint effort between the Civil Affairs Association and the Association of the U.S. Army. The series is a report from the 2021 Civil Affairs Symposium and has five authored papers on topics such as great power competition, innovation, and civil-military operations and relations. See “Papers Highlight Civil Affairs Global Role”, Association of the United States Army, March 23, 2022.
Podcast – COIN and Cultural Intelligence? Andrew Milburn and Kyle Atwell explore the topic of cultural intelligence in counterinsurgency. They pose some questions and provide some answers along with their guests – Sir Simon Mayall and Dr. Christian Tripodi. “COIN and Culture: How Important is Cultural Intelligence in Counterinsurgency?”, Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, March 25, 2022, 48 minutes.
Video – SORB Mountain Team Video. Members of a mountain team of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct training in austere, high-elevation environments. Mountain movement is one of many capabilities in which members of Special Forces operational detachments specialize. DVIDS, March, 25, 2022, one minute.
Video – Special Operations Winter Mountain Course 22. The 10th Special Forces Group hosted a field training exercise as the final event for the Special Operations Winter Mountain Operator Course (SOWMOC) in Gunnison, Colorado during March 2022. DVIDS, March 24, 2022, one minute.