Special Operations News Update – Oct 31, 2022

Diver Propulsion Device

Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.

Photo: Sailors operating a diver propulsion device during high-altitude dive training in California, Sept. 5, 2022. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Alex Per.

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SOF News

RUT in U.S. Cities. U.S. special operations unit need training time in an urban environment so that they can execute highly specialized missions in cities around the world. These ‘realistic urban training’ events do generate a certain level of excitement among citizens not expecting helicopters dropping out of the sky in the middle of the night and landing in downtown sections of large cities. Read more in “When ‘The Boys’ are Back in Town: A Special Ops Vet Explains Why Elite Units Train in US Cities”, Coffee or Die Magazine, October 22, 2022.

10th SFG(A) Train Up SFAB. The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) provided some training in advisory tasks to members of the 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade. SFABs are specialized units with the core mission to conduct training, advising, assisting, enabling, and accompanying allied and partner nations. “10th Group Enhance SFAB’s Advisory Roles”, DVIDS, October 14, 2022.

Jetpacks and SOF. The use of one-man flying machines or jetpacks continue to be in the development phase with very little actual use (at least that is publicly known) in special operations missions. But there could be some ‘sightings’ in the future. “Startup Finding Special Ops Customers for Jetpack”, National Defense, October 21, 2022.

Electric Bikes and SOF. Light electric motorbikes could very well be produced and fielded to special operations forces in the future. The quiet bikes have limited range thus far but are useful for getting quickly into an area to conduct operations without making a lot of noise. Ukrainian snipers have been using the electric motorbikes to quietly get into firing position and then quickly depart the area. “US Special Operations tests American-made electric motorbikes for military use”, Electrek, October 27, 2022.

SOF, ALTESS, and Acquisition Process. An application developed by PEO EIS ALTESS is assisting USSOCOM’s Program Manager Special Programs solve information-sharing problems. PEO SOF Warrior program offices have become more efficient and effective at executing their daily workload. “ALTESS-developed application helps Special Ops view entire acquisition process”, DVIDS, October 26, 2022.


SOF and Worldwide Operations DSI

Defense Strategies Institute presents SOF & Worldwide Operations, December 7-8, 2022, Tampa, Florida. The 11th Annual SOF & Worldwide Symposium will convene senior level leaders and decision makers from across the Special Operations Community, regional combatant commands, Department of State, intelligence community, academia, and industry.


AFSOC, MQ-9, and Emerald Flag. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) used the Emerald Flag exercise held on Eglin Air Force Base to practice employment of the MQ-9 Reaper drone. The exercise provided AFSOC’s remotely piloted aircraft in a forward deployed mode. “MQ-9s demonstrate new capabilities in Emerald Flag”, Air Force, October 26, 2022.

193rd SOW Has New Cdr. The 193rd Special Operations Wing has a new commander and new command chief. Col. Edward Fink, Jr takes command and Chief Master Sgt. Robert Smith assumed responsibilities as 193rd SOW command chief. “193rd Special Operations Wing welcomes new commander, command chief”, DVIDS, October 28, 2022.

SOF’s Mk 18 Carbine. The short-barreled variant of the M4 carbine, the Mk 18 is a favorite weapon of special operations forces for close quarters combat. Learn about the history of the Mk 18, why it is used by SOF, and which SOF units have used the weapon. “What is the Mk 18? Special Operations Forces Carbine Explained”, Grey Dynamics, October 29, 2022.

USSOCOM Seeks Mobile Workstations. The U.S. Special Operations Command is interested in working with vendors to design, build, and test mobile workstations for the transportation of military personnel and equipment to mission areas. “USSOCOM Seeks Mobile Workstation Concepts”, ExecutiveGov, October 28, 2022.

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International SOF

Afghan SOF in Ukraine. About 5,000 former Afghan special operations forces fled to Iran last year to avoid reprisals by the Taliban after they took over Afghanistan in August 2021. Some of the Afghan SOF soldiers have been recruited by Russia to fight in Ukraine. These are well-trained fighters who benefited from training provided by U.S. SOF. The former Afghan SOF have some skills that are marketable – and are knowledgeable of western TTPs. There are reports that some are already in Ukraine on the front lines. Apparently they are recruited by the Wagner Group through the Russian embassy in Iran. The danger of Afghan SOF using their skills on behalf of the adversaries to the United States were thoroughly detailed in the House Republican Interim Report of August 2022 on Afghanistan (PDF, 115 pages). “Ex-Afghan Commandos Fighting for Russia in Ukraine”, by Howard Altman, The WarZone, October 26, 2022.

Women to be Drafted into IDF’s Unit 669. For the first time, women will be drafted into the elite Unit 669 of the Israel Air Force. The brigade conducts search and rescue operations and is considered to be one of the four special forces units of the Israel Defense Force. Cadets who enter the training for Unit 669 will undergo an intense 18-20 months of training in air, land, and sea operations. The entrance requirements for women are stringent. For instance, women candidates for Unit 669 must weigh at least 172 pounds and be at least 5’5″ tall. Some elite IDF units remain closed to women; including the Sayerat Matkal, Shayetet 13, IAF’s Shaldag Special Forces unit, IDF’s commando brigade, and the Navy’s Submarine unit. “IDF begins drafting women to elite combat units in historic first”, The Jerusalem Post, October 30, 2022.

‘Rogue Heroes’ of SAS. Author Gavin Mortimer provides a detailed history of Britain’s daring commandos and their role in taking down Hitler’s empire during the Second World War. “The real ‘Rogue Heroes’ of the early SAS”, History Extra, October 26, 2022.

An Interesting Rescue Mission by NZ SOF. In 1997 a small element of New Zealand special operations personnel assisted in the rescue of five prisoners of war and helped defuse volatile situation. “Spears, machetes and guns in daring POW rescue”, Stuff.co.nz, October 30, 2022.

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SOF History

2nd Ranger Infantry Company in Korean War. The only all-Black special operations combat unit in U.S. Army history served with distinction in the early 1950s in Korea. In the early days of the Korean War (1950) Ranger companies were formed up to conduct attacks deep behind enemy lines. Many of the members of this company were veterans of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion – the first black paratrooper unit. “The only all-Black special operations Army unit kicked serious butt in Korea”, We Are the Mighty, October 24, 2022.

Intelligence Support Activity (ISA). Samuel Longstreth offers a comprehensive look (perhaps too much?) of the “The Activity” – a component of the U.S. Army that acts as a dedicated intelligence organization for United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM. “The Activity” has had many names over the years to include Gray Fox, Army of Northern Virginia, Office of Military Support, and others. Read about it in “ISA: Soldier Spies of the Intelligence Support Activity”, Grey Dynamics, October 30, 2022.

MOAB Supporting SF in Afghanistan (2017). A GBU-43/B MOAB was used in April 2017 in Afghanistan to support a Special Forces team engaged in combat. An Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130 dropped it out of the rear of its aircraft and it floated down to the target are suspended from a parachute. Weighing over 22 thousand pounds, it has a blast radius of one mile. The SF team was confronted with an ISIS bunker and cave complex in the Achin district of Nangarhar province and needed some help in neutralizing the ISIS fighters thought to number over 100. Read more in “MOAB: What is the Mother of All Bomb?”, by Brent Eastwood, 1945, October 27, 2022.

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Commentary

SOF, Ethics, and Professionalization. C. Anthony Pfaff addresses the perceived ethical crisis of special operations forces, stating that professionalization as an institution is needed. Past assessments of ethical issues have been attributed to SOF’s focus on mission accomplishment and a high operations tempo. However, Pfaff says there is a more comprehensive solution. “Professionalizing Special Operations Forces”, Parameters, US Army War College, Autumn 2022.

SOF and Integrated Defense. Scott Harr, an Army Special Forces officer, provides his perspective on special operations forces role in an integrated defense as described in the DoD’s National Defense Strategy. He cites the move from concentrating on the global war on terrorism to the focus on great power competition as the need to utilize ‘density’ not ‘dispersion’ in the deployment and employment of special operations forces. “Density Not Dispersion: Evolving SOF for Integrated Defense”, War Room, U.S. Army War College, October 27, 2022.

PSYOP and Propaganda Ethics. Dr. Emma L. Briant, a political communication scholar who researches contemporary propaganda and information warfare, says it’s time for a public debate about clandestine PSYOP. “Pentagon PSYOP Scandal Demands an Urgent Debate on Propaganda Ethics”, Tech Policy Press, October 27, 2022.

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National Security

Former SECDEF Ash Carter Dies. A past Secretary of Defense who opened up combat roles for women and advanced the cause of transgenders has passed away. Ash Carter suffered a heart attack according to a statement from his family. He spent years with the Defense Department as well as serving in the academic world as well. “Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter Dies at 68”, DOD News, October 25, 2022.

CRS Fact Sheet on Military Readiness. The Congressional Research Service has provided Congress with a two-page fact sheet the lays out the definition of ‘military readiness’ and the role of the SECDEF, CJCS, and defense establishment in reporting on military readiness to Congress. It also provides a chart on the Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRRS) ratings and definitions (C-1 through C-5, etc.). Military Readiness: DOD Assessment and Reporting Requirements, CRS, October 26, 2022, PDF, 2 pages.

Russians and the Arctic. John Grady, a reporter on national defense and national security, examines how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has affected the Arctic region. “Russian Aggression in Ukraine Boosts Arctic Security Concerns”, USNI News, October 26, 2022.

Arctic Security and the Polar Fleet. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has provided an Op-Ed that warns us of repeated tests of American resolve by the Russians and Chinese in the Arctic region. The two nations are cooperating on the high seas to challenge the U.S. presence in the region. “To deter Arctic aggression, build the polar fleet we need”, Defense News, October 26, 2022.

Learn More about Russia. CNA’s Russia Studies Program provides critical analyses to the national security establishment and government agencies on the Russian way of war and its military capabilities. The program supports U.S. leaders with studies, conferences, panel discussions, and more. Read more about the Russia Studies Program.

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Africa

Nick Turse on USAFRICOM (and SOF). A journalist who never misses an opportunity to put the U.S. military in a bad light is once again providing us some interesting details of U.S. operations on the continent of Africa. “What’s the US military doing in Africa?: What the U.S. Africa Command doesn’t want you to know”, Salon.com, October 25, 2022.

DoS Statement on ISIS in Africa. The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Africa Focus Group held a meeting on October 26, 2022 in Niamey, Niger to discuss efforts to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria movements in Africa. The group shared assessments on the ISIS threat and ways to coordinate and collaborate on effective methods to combat violent extremism. Read “Joint Statement of the Co-Chairs of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Africa Focus Group”, U.S. Department of State, October 27, 2022.

Russian Flags Waving Across Africa. Russian propaganda has a wide reach. However, there is more to the story of what is boosting pro-Russian sentiment. Across West Africa, in countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, Africans are displaying Russian flags. Many observers of this pro-Russian sentiment laid the source at the Russian use of social media but much of it is based on direct experiences with Western nations. “Why are people in West Africa waving Russian flags?”, The Washington Post, October 28, 2022.

Mali and a Little Russian Influence. The long-running Islamist insurgency in Mali is still going strong. The crisis has not improved even with the partnering of Mali’s regime with the Russian Wagner Group. Mali has experienced two military coups since 2020. France has withdrawn its forces; having deployed up to 5,000 at a time and leading the European special operations Task Force Takuba. In addition, the activities of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the G5 Sahel have been curtailed. Russia is quickly filling the void. “Mali’s Deepening Extremist Crisis: Stability in the Sahel Falters as Russian Influence Increases”, Counter Extremism Project, October 26, 2022.

Upcoming Events

WebinarBy, With and Through Partner Special Forces in the Middle East. The Middle East Institute will host a panel discussion about how U.S. Special Forces, working along side partner special operations forces, was able to destroy the caliphate and severely degrade the capabilities of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. The speakers on the panel are Katie Crombe, Michael K. Nagata, and Joseph Votel. The event takes place on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.
https://www.mei.edu/events/and-through-partner-special-forces-middle-east

November 8-9, 2022. Fort Bragg, NC
Modern Warfare Week
Global SOF Foundation

November 17, 2022
JSOU Webinar – Degrade and Destroy (War against ISIS)
Joint Special Operations University

November 17-18, 2022
33rd Annual NDIA SO/LIC Symposium
NDIA

December 7-8, 2022
SOF & Worldwide Operations
Defense Strategies Institute (DSI)


Guest Writers for SOF News

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.


Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Book – SOG -A Photo History of the Secret Wars, by John L. Plaster, Casemate Publishers, May 2022. Plaster served with MACV-SOG in Vietnam. This latest edition contains over 700 photos of the secret operations behind enemy lines in Cambodia and Laos. The separate sections of the book are entitled “The Secret War Begins”, “The Ho Chi Minh Trail”, “SOG’s Air Arm”, “Recon Weapons, Missions, and Tactics”, “Recon Operations”, “SOG’s Hatchet Forces”, “Other Fronts in the Secret Wars”, and “Glossary”. Available on Amazon.com.

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Jack Ryan – Season 3. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan returns for a third season on Amazon Prime Video. Season three has our hero going rogue in an attempt to stop a group of Russians from using a nuclear warhead to start World War 3 and restore Russia to the days of the USSR. (Editor’s note: I watched the first two seasons. As someone with 40 years in SF and several years contracting it is easy to pick apart the details . . . as in . . . “That would never happen”, etc. Sometimes you have to suspend reality and push the “I believe button”. I did find the first two seasons very entertaining). Watch the trailer on YouTube, October 27, 2022, 3 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3lQ53e2j6Q

PodcastSpecial Forces History with Mitch Utterback. Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mitch Utterback provides a history of the 10th Special Forces Group, “The Originals”. The Pinelander podcast presented by Blacksmith Publishing, October 28, 2022, one hour.
https://open.spotify.com/episode/5gGLROwfZgDponAR7d11cJ


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