Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo: Two CV-22 Ospreys, tiltrotor aircraft, assigned to the 14th Weapons Squadron, Hurlburt Field Air Force Base, Florida, take off for a U.S. Air Force Weapons School Integration (WSINT) exercise at Nellis AFB, Nevada, Nov. 21, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by William R. Lewis)
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Guns of the HH-60G Pave Hawk. A new way of mounting door guns onto combat search and rescue helicopters is currently being tested by the Air Force. Dual-mounted M240 machine guns on each side of the choppers will provide an increased firing capacity for the rescue aircrews. “Check Out the New Twin M240 Door Guns for HH-60 Rescue Helicopters”, by Emma Helfrich, The WarZone, November 23, 2022.
SF Language Skills Overrated? Frank Sobchak, a retired Special Forces officer and Adjunct Professor at Tufts University and the Joint Special Operations University, has conducted some research into the need for Special Forces language skills during advisory missions. His findings are interesting . . . language skills may be more mission-enhancing than mission-essential. “How Much Do Language Skills Matter for Security Force Assistance? Not As Much As We Think”, Modern War Institute at West Point, November 30, 2022.
Marine Raiders. Mac Caltrider provides a little history and current news about the Marine Corps special operations unit. “Marine Raiders: The Corps’ Only Special Operations Unit”, Coffee of Die Magazine, November 22, 2022.
SEALs Increase Medical Protocols. In February 2022, a Navy SEAL recruit died after his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) class had completed Hell Week. The incident got a lot of press and a couple of Navy investigations. In response to the tragedy, the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command is taking additional precautions to prevent similar events in the future. “Navy Expands Medical Protocols in Order to Improve Safety During BUD/S”, Coronado Times, November 28, 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.
USASOC and Brain Health. Two main components make up ‘brain health’ – a clinical/research component and an integrated network of support that exists outside of the clinical setting. The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) has established the Human Performance and Wellness (HPW) program. This is a comprehensive and integrated team of experts and providers in the fields of sports medicine, strength and conditioning, performance nutrition, clinical social workers, and others specialties. The programs purpose is to ensure USASOC soldiers are ready for the mission and are able to overcome adversity. “USASOC: Brings a “Team Approach” to Brain Health in Army Special Operations”, Special Operations Outlook, 2022.
ARSOF CA and GPC. The shift from COIN and CT to Great Power Competition (or strategic competition) includes all of the organizations in the military services – including Civil Affairs. SGM Chris Grez argues that ARSOF needs to change its force structure to meet today’s challenges. “Modernizing Army Special Operations Civil Affairs for Strategic Competion”, Eunomia Journal, December 4, 2022.
Gunships and the ‘Green Beam’. The U.S. Air Force’s AC-130 gunship brings tremendous firepower and situational awareness to the battlefield. One example of the situational awareness capabilities is the use of two AC-130J Ghostrider crews using a little-known sensor on the aircraft to control the situation during the Kabul NEO and keep enemy forces away from U.S. forces. The ‘giant green laser pointer’ was used to point things out to friendly forces as well as to deter adversaries by letting them know the were in the gunships sights. “Caught in ‘the green beam’: How US Air Force gunship crews let a target know they have it in their sights”, Business Insider, December 2, 2022.
Afghan Commando – Escapes Taliban, Now in U.S. Detention. An Afghan soldier spent months in hiding in Afghanistan after August 2021 – fearing for his life as the Taliban hunted down and killed former Afghan special operations personnel. He managed to fly to Brazil where he hooked up with a ‘caravan’ that would take him to the U.S. southern border. Once getting onto U.S. soil he requested asylum and was promptly put into detention. Now he faces a prison sentence. (The Texas Tribune, Nov 30, 2022).
UK’s Love Affair SAS. Max Hastings looks at how “The UK is Way Too Besotted With Its SAS”, The Washington Post, December 4, 2022.
Turkey Receives SOF Vehicles. Turkish Armed Forces will be receiving twelve PARS IV 6×6 special operations vehicles from vehicle manufacturer FNSS. (Defense Post, Nov 29, 2022).
MACV-SOG. Members of the U.S. Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, CIA, and other elite units took on the dangerous top secret missions of the Vietnam War. The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group was established in 1964. It conducted actions deep behind enemy lines in Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam. “MACV-SOG: The Vietnam-Era Special Operators You’ve Probably Never Heard Of”, War History Online, November 28, 2022.
Long Range Desert Group. Founded in June 1940, the Long Range Desert Group was made up of soldiers from across the Commonwealth. They trained in communications, demolitions, and desert warfare. Each of the members of the LRDG had a specific job specialty – such as signalman, medic, or navigator. They used specially-configured vehicles suitable for traveling on desert roads. Read more in “The Long Range Desert Group was the ‘Finest of All Units’ to serve in North Africa”, War History Online, December 2, 2022.
Irregular Warfare Campaigning. Kevin Stringer and Madison Urban have collaborated on an essay about the ability of the United States to conduct an effective irregular warfare campaign – and how it is hampered by political realities and DoD cultural norms. “Irregular Warfare Campaigning and the Irregular Warfare Center”, Irregular Warfare Center, December 1, 2022.
They discuss three barriers to the success of an IW campaign
- a quick-win culture that incentivizes short-term fixes
- the lack of adequate irregular warfare education throughout the interagency community
- promotion and leadership selection processes that undervalue language, cultural, and regional expertise for irregular warfare application
IC, Trauma, and Mental Wellness. Working in the intelligence community often means living with direct or indirect trauma. For a long time the intelligence community was not addressing the issue; but now it is taking steps to ensuring their workforce have avenues to address the state of their mental health. “Don’t Tell Your Non-Work Friends About the Decapitations”, Politico Magazine, November 30, 2022.
IW and SC. Sean McFate writes that any actual conflict with near-peer adversaries is likely to be in the shadows. “Irregular Warfare will win ‘strategic competition'”, The Hill, December 4, 2022.
Maps and District Control in Afghanistan. For years the United States and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) looked through rose-colored glasses when gazing upon the maps they produced that tried to depict district control in Afghanistan. Establishing who had control of a district in Afghanistan was not a science; as it was an insurgent type conflict where control of territory did not necessary mean control of the people. Typically, if Afghan government forces occupied the district center then the map reflected Afghan government control of the district. This was done despite the fact that the Taliban probably had control of all the territory beyond the maximum effective range of the Afghan government forces sheltered within the district center. Read more in “The Tyranny of Color-Coded Maps: What We Get Wrong About Measuring Control During Armed Conflict”, Modern War Institute at West Point, November 28, 2022.
Report on Operation Barkhane. The French led mission in northwest Africa has been shutting down – the French President announced that the operation had come to an end on November 9, 2022. The military effort was meant to stabilize the Sahel region of Africa. A new report reviews the motivations for the initial operation, its activities, and its eventual conclusion. The End of Operation Barkhane, by Dr. David Doukhan, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), November 2022, PDF, 7 pages.
U.S. Influence Operations – More Work Needed. Paul Cobaugh argues that the United States has failed at influence for decades. He argues that influence is critical to our national security. The U.S. is at least two generations behind in both offensive and defensive influence. “On the battlefield of influence, the US is unarmed”, Truth About Threats, November 30, 2022.
Turkey Airstrikes Diminish Fight Against ISIS. The threat of another Turkish military offensive in northeast Syria against Syrian Kurds is distracting the Kurd forces from fighting the Islamic State. One consequence of fewer anti-ISIS patrols by the Kurds is that the U.S. has reduced its patrolling activities. “Turkish Airstrikes Have Slowed the Fight Against ISIS, Officials Say”, Defense One, November 29, 2022.
Great Power Competition
Maritime COIN in the Pacific. Countering China’s gray-zone tactics starts with a simple but challenging premise. The Maritime Counterinsurgency Project of the U.S. Naval Institute advances strategic, operational, tactical, and force structure recommendations on how to thwart China’s illegal efforts.
Report – China’s Military and Security. The U.S. Department of Defense has published a report entitled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, November 2022. This 196-page PDF is a report to Congress; an annual requirement mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000. Read or download the report here.
Report – China’s Navy. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has published a report entitled China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities – Background and Issues for Congress. China’s naval modernization effort has been underway for more than 25 years. Its modern and capable naval force is a large presence in the near-seas region . . . and it is projecting its naval power into the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe. It surpasses the number of battle force ships of the United States and is the largest navy in the world. Read or download the report here. CRS, December 1, 2022, PDF, 67 pages.
December 6, 2022
Afghan SOF and the SIV Program
Special Operations Association of America (SOAA)
December 7-8, 2022
SOF & Worldwide Operations
Defense Strategies Institute (DSI)
Books, Pubs, and Reports
New Blog on National Security. Paul Cobaugh has started a new blog entitled Truth About Threats. During his long career with USSOCOM he has focused on influence in modern statecraft and conflict. He is a Vice President at Narrative Strategies, as U.S. think tank.
Sentinel. The December 2022 issue of the Sentinel is now posted online. This quality online magazine is produced monthly by Chapter 78 of the Special Forces Association. This issue has stories on MACV-SOG, Laos, Green Berets in Central America, and more.