Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo: Army paratroopers descent to the Malemute Drop Zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Photo by Alejandro Pena, USAF, November 4, 2022.
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Failing BUD/S – What’s Next? Over several past decades tens of thousands of Navy sailors have entered Navy special operations training. More than two out of three Sailors who enter the NSW pipeline will be disqualified. The reasons vary from a medical issue, the inability to meet the mental or physical standards, or a “drop on request” by the Sailor. So what’s next for these Sailors? The Phoenix Division, a part of the the NSWC, is responsible for preparing and assisting these Sailors to find a new rating in the Navy for a successful transition to a new career. Read more in “Naval Special Warfare Strengthens Program for Former Candidates”, Navy.mil, November 16, 2022.
SOF Selection and Older Men. There are many potential candidates that ponder attending the Special Forces Selection and Assessment (SFAS) course. Some as old as 40 years. While it certainly is possible for an older candidate to pass; there are some realities to take into account. The pace of training, lack of sleep, and lack of recovery time are designed to put a maximum amount of stress on candidates. Someone enter the training pipeline at age 38, starting with SFAS; won’t leave the training pipeline until age 40. Realistically, his days on an SF team are limited. So . . . . “Can Older Candidates Make it Through Special Operations Selection?”, SANDBOXX, November 16, 2022.
Navy SEAL Sentence Set Aside. An appeals court has ordered that Navy SEAL Tony DeDolph will get a new sentencing hearing. “Navy SEAL convicted for death of Green Beret Logan Melgar has 10-year sentence set aside”, Task & Purpose, November 17, 2022.
3rd ASOS and SWMS Conduct Arctic Training. Airmen from the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron participated in an Arctic Familiarization field exercise in Alaska. They were assisted by Special Warfare Mission Support (SWMS) personnel. “3rd ASOPS Conducts First-ever Arctic Familiarization Field Exercise”, Pacom.mil, November 18, 2022.
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.
Military Dive Vests Under Scrutiny. A new programmable dive vest is being tested by the Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). The action is prompted by the death of a Green Beret who drowned during a one mile swim at Fort Campbell, Kentucky while preparing for combat dive school in fall 2021. The new dive vests will automatically inflate using CO2 cartridges when a diver sinks below a set depth. “Drowning death spotlights problem with older military dive vests”, Air Force Times, November 14, 2022.
Navy SEALs and Ethics. Scandals have plagued the Navy SEALs over the past few decades and this problem continues to occupy the time of the Naval Special Warfare leadership. “The Ethics of the Navy SEALs”, The Ruck, November 17, 2022.
AFSOC Cdr Has a New Job. Lt. Gen. James Slife, currently the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, will soon be joining the Air Staff as the Air Force’s next deputy chief of staff for operations. (Air and Space Forces, Nov 16, 2022.
Military Diving – A Complex Mission. Divers of the various military units have a tough job – operating in one of the most demanding operational environments on earth. Avon Protection is a firm that is providing dive equipment to military divers so that they can extend their mission envelope – operating deeper and for longer periods of time. “Going deep into the world of military diving“, Naval Technology, November 14, 2022.
Exploitation of Afghan Commandos. Daniel Elkins, a special operations veteran and founder of the Special Operations Association of America, writes about the need to resume the evacuation of our Afghan allies from Afghanistan. Afghan Commandos were the last to stop fighting in the final days of August 2021. These brave soldiers have fled to Iran where they have no job, no place to live, and no legal status. Iran and Russia are recruiting these desperate Afghans to fight in Ukraine for Russia. Read more in “Afghan Commandos are being exploited by Russia, Iran”, Washington Times, November 14, 2022.
French SOF and Burkina Faso. There have been protests against the French military presence in the West Africa nation and the possibility of a French withdrawal is looming. France’s Sabre unit has played a key role in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. “France Not Ruling Out Pulling Special Forces From Burkina”, Barron’s, November 20, 2022.
CIA’s Zero Units, Afghanistan Withdrawal, and Kabul NEO. Many of the personnel in the counter terrorism pursuit units established by the Central Intelligence Agency within the framework of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) benefited from an arrangement between the CIA and the Taliban. The personnel were allowed to transit through Taliban-held territory in the final days of August 2021. They would provide security for the Kabul NEO at the airport and then board flights to ‘lily pads’ in the Middle East for final relocation to the United States. The evacuation of the CIA’s Afghan proxies is a riveting story about the non-combatant evacuation operation of August 2021. “Ground Zero”, by Fahim Abed, The Intercept, November 20, 2022.
USSF and Mauritanian SOF Complete JCET. Members of the Mauritanian Special Forces recently completed training during a Joint Combined Exchange Training event. “Closing Ceremony of the JCET Training”, U.S. Embassy in Mauritania, November 2022.
SOF Care Coalition. The United States Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program was established in 2005. It assists SOF service members who are wounded, ill, or service injured to transition to a life outside of uniform. Read the success story of a Green Beret who made a successful military to civilian transition with the help of the Care Coalition. “Fellowship helps veteran transition to civilian work”, Florida International University (FIU News), November 9, 2022.
13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment. One of the oldest and prestigious reconnaissance units of the French military has a history that goes back to 1676. The 13e RDP operates as an airborne reconnaissance unit and is part of the French Army Special Forces Brigade. The regiment has seen a lot of action in Africa but also has a role on the European continent. “13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment”, Grey Dynamics, November 13, 2022.
Operation Ivory Coast. On November 21, 1970, 56 Special Forces soldiers were inserted by helicopter at the Son Tay prisoner-of-war camp located just 23 miles west of Hanoi, North Vietnam. They were to rescue over 60 U.S. prisoners thought to be at the POW camp. Unfortunately, they had been moved prior to the Son Tay raid taking place. It did result in raising the morale of the POWs.
Delta Force Established. On November 19, 1977, over four decades ago, the country’s premier counter-terrorism unit was formed up. Wikipedia.
Ukrainian Commandos Strike Into Russia. According to one news report Ukrainian SOF infiltrated a northern Russian airbase and damaged three Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopters with rigged explosives. The Veretye air base is located more than 500 kilometers from Ukraine. “Ukrainian commandos infiltrated deep inside Russia to destroy Russian attack aircraft”, We Are the Mighty, November 14, 2022.
If HIMARS Can’t Reach You, a Partisan Will. The withdrawal of Russian military forces (probably about 25,000) from the large city on the west bank of the Dnieper River in mid-November was likely due, in part, to the activities or ‘partisans’ who were in touch with Ukrainian intelligence and special operations personnel. Read more in “Stealthy Kherson resistance fighters undermined Russian occupying forces”, The Washington Post, November 18, 2022. (subscription).
Russian Helicopter Losses. Many of the best Russian Ka-53 attack helicopter crews were lost in the beginning stages of the Ukraine-Russian war. The chopper was specifically designed to support Russian special operations forces at night. The crews were shot down while conducted deep hunter-killer strikes behind Ukrainian lines. The Russian tactics have changed, with a lot less deep penetrations strikes taking place; but the losses continue. “How the Ukrainians Wrecked the Russians Best Helicopter Regiments”, Forbes.com, November 11, 2022.
Engaging with Russia After Ukraine. Pavel K. Baev outlines the trajectory of the forthcoming defeat of Russia in Ukraine will present challenges and risks. The successful Ukrainian offense in Kharkiv and the capture of Kherson underscores how badly the Russians are doing on the battlefield. There is the possibility that Putin is removed from power; and if this happens, the West needs to be prepared for it and have a plan for going forward. While deterrence will be an important aspect of the ‘new relationship’ with the ‘new leadership’; a multi-layered meaningful engagement will be necessary as well. “Time for the West to think about how to engage with defeated Russia”, Brookings Institute, November 15, 2022.
National Security and Commentary
SOF, ASD SO/LIC, and GPC. U.S. special operations forces are getting lost in the transition to great power competition (or are we calling it strategic competition now?). ASD SO/LIC Christopher Maier says that the defense establishment equates SOF to counter-terrorism; however, SOF has its roots in GPC back ‘in the day’ – prior to 9/11. “Special Operators Lack Seat at the Table in Post-Counterterror Pentagon, SOF Leaders Say”, Defense One, November 18, 2022.
Deactivation of CAA Squadron. In October 2022 the 6th Special Operations Squadron (6SOS) was inactivated. Its highly trained and experienced personnel either retired or moved on to other assignments. These Combat Aviation Advisors had technical, cultural, and language skills that enabled them to work in foreign countries and advise, assist, and train pilots in the operation of their aircraft. That capability has now gone away. Forrest L. Marion argues that the U.S. Air Force needs to reverse course with its combat aviation advisors and restore a language and culture-based capability. “Air Force ‘Diversity’ of Languages: A Strategic Concern”, The Roanoke Star, November 16, 2022.
SOF, Global Threats, and an ‘Inflection Point’. U.S. special operations forces will need to adapt to the current threat environment – moving away (a bit) from the counterterrorism mission. The strategic threats of Russia and China are now center stage. USSOCOM is rebalancing its resources for great power competition. “Special Operations Forces at ‘Inflection Point’ as Global Threats Evolve”, by Josh Luckenbaugh, National Defense Magazine, November 18, 2022.
Rep. Waltz and a “Woke Military”. The Heritage Foundation is establishing a think-tank panel to combat wokeness in the military and examine ways to turn around its recruiting crisis. Representative Mike Waltz (R-FL), a U.S. Army Green Beret in the National Guard, will chair the panel. (Breitbart, Nov 18, 2022).
Germany Ending UN Africa Mission. It is expected that one more European nation will be reducing its peacekeeping role in Africa. The Germans will be ending their involvement in the MINUSMA mission. It has participated in the missions since 2013, with a presence of up to 1,400 personnel. The Mali authorities have been restricting the military activities of Germany while cozying up to Russia and the Wagner Group. “Germany to Pull Troops From Mali by End 2023”, The Defense Post, November 17, 2022.
Sahel Region Terrorism. The Accra Initiative of seven West African countries is met for two days in the Ghanaian capital this past week to discuss ways of preventing the spread of terrorism in the Sahel region and beyond. The Islamist militants have been spreading their activities from Niger to Burkina Faso and Mali to West Africa’s coastal states. The program promotes intelligence sharing, cross border operations, and training of intelligence and security personnel. “West African Countries Meet Over Spillover of Terrorism From Sahel Region”, by Kent Mensah, Voice of America, November 17, 2022.
New Strategy Needed for Somalia. Mohamed Haji Ingiriis, a visiting professor at the African Leadership Centre, King’s College London, provides a pessimistic overview of the security situation in Somalia. “Al-Shabaab in Somalia has resisted military force: now is the time for a new strategy”, The Conversation, November 20, 2022.
COIN in Africa – Still Needed. Natasha Louis argues that terrorism is on the increase in African and the U.S. needs to continue its engagement in counterinsurgency efforts to stop it. Reducing COIN operations significantly weakens the ability of the U.S. to have influence in unstable regions around the world; especially Africa. Unfortunately, the U.S. may not learn from its past mistakes in earlier conflicts. “America Can’t Turn Away from Counterinsurgency in Africa”, National Interest, November 19, 2022.
December 7-8, 2022
SOF & Worldwide Operations
Defense Strategies Institute (DSI)
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Podcasts, Videos, Books, and Movies
Podcast – Matt Bracken – Freedomista. The former Navy SEAL discusses current events and viable options for the current generation of warriors. The Pinelander Podcast, November 18, 2022, one hour.
TV Series Review – Rogue Heroes. A new series to be premiering on Epix features a cast that replicates on screen the origin of Britain’s elite Special Air Service (SAS). The series is an adaptation of the book SAS: Rogue Heroes. The unit was created in 1941 during World War II in the deserts of North Africa. “Shot in Morocco, Rogue Heroes offers thrilling war adventure in the desert”, The Arab Weekly, November 17, 2022.
Retrograde. The release of the movie documentary Retrograde has sparked numerous positive reviews. When it comes to your area it is worth watching. The documentary was filmed during the final 9 months of the war in Afghanistan – and follows a Special Forces detachment of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Fort Carson Green Berets featured in new documentary”, KOAA.com, November 19, 2022.
Information Warfare Reading List. The Navy’s Information Dominance Reading List has been published. DODReads, November 2, 2022.