Special Operations News Update – December 12, 2022

Airman HALO Parachute Jump

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

Photo: An airman jumps out of an Air Force HC-130J during an exercise over Palau. Photo by Air force Airman 1st Class Courtney Sebastianelli, 7 Nov 2022.

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SOF News

SOTF-A Cdr Interview on Afghanistan Departure. The last Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (SOTF-A) commander is interviewed on the U.S. withdrawal in 2021. LTC Matthew Chaney talks about the U.S. military withdrawal and the final days before the Taliban takeover Afghanistan. As the commander of 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, he deployed to take over the SOTF-A in the final year of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. “A Green Beret Commander on the War in Afghanistan, “Retrograde” and Those Still Left Behind”, InsideHook, December 9, 2022.

New Sky Warden Schoolhouse. The Air Force has selected Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma, to host its formal training unit for the AT-802U Sky Warden. The aircraft won the USSOCOM Armed Overwatch contract. (Air and Space Forces, Dec 9, 2022).

Life After Failure at BUD/S. The high attrition rate of the Navy SEAL’s selection course puts hundreds of candidates into low-skilled jobs. Sailors with college degrees are relegated to menial positions in the Navy after ‘ringing the bell’. “Recruited for Navy SEALs, Many Sailors Wind Up Scraping Paint”, The New York Times, December 9, 2022. (subscription)

AFSOC CoC. Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind has assumed command of Air Force Special Operations Command as of December 9, 2022. He relieved Lt. Gen. Jim Slife who will now serve as the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, at the Pentagon. Bauernrfeind is a MC130E pilot and former commander of the 1st Special Operations Group and the 27th Special Operations Wing. He will command approximately 22,000 personnel around the world. “Bauernfeind new leader of Air Commandos”, AFSOC, December 9, 2022.

MARSOC and the Future. There are some changes in mission for the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command or MARSOC. The elite Marines are now moving to competitive engagement with potential “near-peer” adversaries (Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea). “Marine Corps’ Elite MARSOC Operators Have Been Getting Ready for the Future”, SANDBOXX, December 6, 2022.

GB to be Top Army NCO. The current CSM for the US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) will be the Army’s top enlisted soldier in August 2023. CSM Michael Weimer has spent nearly his whole career in the special operations world. “Green Beret to Fill Army’s Top Enlisted Spot Next Year”, Coffee or Die Magazine, December 9, 2022.

Conversation with Shawn Ryan. A former Navy SEAL and contractor with the CIA has a discussion about his training course for basic and advanced shooting techniques. “Inside the Mind of a CIA Contractor: A Conversation with Shawn Ryan”, Soldier of Fortune Magazine, December 7, 2022.

SOF and the Arctic. ARSOF is the force of choice in the ARCTIC and it should liaise with the Arctic Security Studies and other like organizations. Three members of the 10th Special Forces Group tell us why in “Quiet, Cold, and Vital: ARSOF in the Arctic”, War Room, U.S. Army War College, December 8, 2022.

2023 Frogman Swim. The annual event that benefits Navy SEALs and Gold Star families has raised over $6 million since first being held in 2010. The swim will take place on January 15, 2023 in Tampa Bay. “Tampa Bay 2023 Frogman Swim looks to raise $1 million for Navy SEALs and Gold Star families”, Fox News, December 11, 2022.

Retired Navy SEAL Chris Beck. Changing things up again! Apparently a Navy SEAL who came out as a transgender years ago is having some regrets. He/she says the transition ‘destroyed my life’ and is now announcing a detransition. (New York Post, Dec 11, 2022).

World’s Best Sniper Rifles. Steve Balestrieri, a former Special Forces soldier, picks out the best sniper rifles. He mentions the McMillan TAC-50, M24SWS, M40A6, Barrett .50 Caliber, Barrett Mark 22 MRAD, and others. “World’s Best Sniper Rifles”, 1945, December 5, 2022.

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International SOF

NATO SOF and Performance Psychology. Some academics have collaborated on a paper that explores the specific and and unique challenges encountered when researching and consulting with Special Operations Forces (SOF) within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. The authors highlight key differences between SOF and CF and then look at the specific requirements for developing performance psychology in the SOF context. They then offer some suggestions for more accurate and impactful research and practice. “Sharpening the Tip of the Spear: Tailoring performance psychology for Special Operations Forces”, Frontiers in Psychology, December 9, 2022.

Somali’s Danab Brigade. The Danab force has been trained up by U.S. Special Forces personnel for a number of years. Under the Trump administration the U.S. trainers were removed from long-term stays in Somalia and were forced to make short trips into the country to do training activities. The Biden administration has reversed that order and U.S. troops are now there on longer and more effective tours. “US troops are back in Somalia and scrambling to help it special forces”, Stars and Stripes, December 10, 2022.

Top UK Female Spies. British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officers reveal why women often make the best spies for our times. Women began to be regularly recruited as intelligence officers in the late 1970s. Now, much of the top leadership in the SIS are women. The current adversaries of the West – China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea – are repressive in nature and there are few women in positions of power in their respective spy agencies. So women spies of the West have the potential to be overlooked by our adversaries. “The secret lives of MI6’s top female spies”, Financial Times, December 8, 2022.

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SOF History

Navy SEALs History. Steve Balestrieri provides a glimpse of history about the U.S. Navy SEALs. He covers the timeline from World War II to the present day. “The U.S. Navy SEALs Seem Unstoppable For a Reason”,1945, December 9, 2022.

Operation Franklin. A group of former Royal Marines are recreating one of the most daring raids of World War Two. Ten marines set out in kayaks to paddle up the Gironde river in France to attack Nazi ships near Bordeaux in 1942. Only two survived the mission – however, the mission was judged a success. “Cockleshell Heroes: Marines aim to recreate Bordeaux mission”, BBC News, December 3, 2022.

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National Security

U.S. Kills ISIS Militants in Syria. U.S. helicopters and SOF carried out a raid that killed two Islamic State militants in eastern Syria. It is said that the operation was conducted in concert with Kurdish forces. There are about 900 U.S. forces in Syria supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against IS. “US helicopter raid kills 2 Islamic State militants in Syria”, The Washington Post, December 11, 2022. (subscription)

Changes for NMEC. The Strategic Competition era has arrived at the National Media Exploitation Center. It is downsizing and will now focus primarily on China and other near-peer adversaries. Like everything else in DoD, CT and COIN is fading as a mission – regarded as no longer a primary national security concern. The NMEC was established in 2001 to work the receipt, analysis, and sharing of documents and other information gathered by the U.S. military and intelligence community it the fight against terrorism. “US military’s National Media Exploitation Center to refocus on China”, Defense News, December 7, 2022.

War Powers Report. President Biden has sent the administration’s report that informs Congress on the deployments of United States Armed Forces equipped for combat. (The White House, Dec 8, 2022).

Black Hawk Replacement. The Army plans to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with the Bell V-280 tiltrotor. The V-280 will be phased into service as its primary transport and assault aircraft. Deliveries are several years away. The V-280 is smaller than the MV-22 Osprey. “Meet the V-280 Valor, the Replacement for the Army Black Hawk”, Coffee or Die, December 5, 2022.

SOF and China. US Special Operations Command is reorienting to take on China. It is now focusing on working with partners in the Pacific to support the US military’s goals. USSOCOM is aiming to create “multiple dilemmas” for China. (Business Insider, Dec 8, 2022).

CIA’s Rescue of Allies. During the August 2021 non-combatant evacuation operation thousands of Afghans converged on Kabul airport seeking to board an evacuation flight out of the country. The United States and other nations flew over 120,000 people out; most of them Afghan citizens. Many worked with the U.S. or other nations during the long Afghan conflict and would likely be targeted for revenge upon the Taliban takeover of the nation. One organization went above and beyond to take care of its Afghan allies. The CIA arranged for the movement of its Afghan paramilitary allies from various parts of Afghanistan to the Kabul airport. While there, the commandos secured the airport perimeter for the U.S. military. They and their families were flown out on the last of the evacuation flights to a number of different countries. Many found their way to the United States. However, not all of the agencies allies made it out – so for some veterans of the CIA, the evacuation continues. “CIA Comrades Honor Mike Spann by Rescuing Afghan Allies”, Real Clear Politics, December 10, 2022.

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Books about Special Forces Training

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Videos and Podcasts

Video – Air Force TACP – Embedding, Assessing, Evolving. The TACPs are a weapon system that brings tactical and strategic advantages to Lead Wing commanders. DVIDS, November 28, 2022, 2 mins.

Video – Understanding Resistance – Irregular Warfare. Some national security SME’s discuss IW during this panel discussion. Pritzker Military Museum & Library, December 3, 2022, one hour.

Video – Robin Sage: Inside the Final Test of Special Forces Training. Follow the 14 soldiers of ODA 9114 as they undergo a tough two-week long unconventional warfare exercise that is considered a culminating event for the long Special Forces training. They will be tasked with planning their UW mission, infiltrating Pineland, link up with local resistance, equip and train their fighters, and then employ the resistance force. Coffee or Die Magazine, December 4, 2022, YouTube, 17 minutes.

Podcast -SFAS Standards. In 1948 the Combat Exclusion Policy was enacted as part of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act which excluded women from combat positions. This policy was repealed in 2013. In 2020, the first woman joined U.S. Army Special Forces. But some in the SOF community have complained that commanders have lowered the standards for Green Berets to allow women in their ranks. Retired Army Special Forces Lt. Col. Dr. David Walton researched this topic and found that the selection process is as hard as it has ever been. Military Matters Podcast, Stars & Stripes, December 8, 2022, one hour.

Podcast – MACV-SOG with John Stryker Meyer. A legend of the SF community who served in the Vietnam War chats with Paul & Mike about what it takes to confront and defeat communism. The Pinelander, December 9, 2022, one hour.

Podcast – Navy SEALs Training Modified. After a recruit died earlier this year (2022), the Navy has modified their grueling BUD/S training course. National Public Radio, December 8, 2022, 4 minutes.

Podcast Channels

Pineland Underground. U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center and School

The Pinelander. Blacksmith Publishing

The Indigenous Approach. 1st Special Forces Command

Irregular Warfare Podcast. Modern War Institute at West Point

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