Special Operations News Update – February 6, 2023

Hungarian SOF

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

Photo / Image: A Hungarian Special Operations Forces operator conducts training during an infiltration and exfiltration exercise on the Danube River during Black Swan, May 6, 2021. Black Swan 21 is an annual Hungarian-led multinational special operations forces exercise, demonstrating peer-to-peer deterrence and the resiliency of alliances and partnerships in Europe. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Therese Prats)

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SOF News

Gen. (Ret.) Clarke Has a New Job. General Dynamics announced that its board of directors has elected Richard Clarke to be a director of the corporation. He retired from the military in August 2022 after serving as the commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). (Cision PR Newswire, Feb 3, 2023).

Tovo on SF. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ken Tovo presented his view on the past and current state of U.S. Army Special Forces at a meeting of retired military officers, defense contractors, and state officials in North Carolina. Dan Barkin was in attendance and he provides us with a synopsis of what the former commander of United States Army Special Operations Forces (USASOC) had to say. “Military spends years fostering relationships to resolve conflicts”, Business North Carolina, January 30, 2023.

Amphib MC-130J – Not Getting Wet Soon. The initial test flight of an amphibious MC-130J special operations transport aircraft is being postponed. “C-130 Seaplane Program Put on Back Burner”, by Howard Altman, The War Zone, February 2, 2023.

House Hearing on SOF. ISO Hearing: The Role of Special Operations in Great Power Competition. The Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations will meet in open session to receive testimony from Seth Jones, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Charles Cleveland, and Dr. David Ucko. February 8, 2023. Watch on YouTube.

Former JSOC Intel Officer and TS Docs. A retired intelligence officer who worked for JSOC, USSOCOM, and other DoD intelligence organizations had Top Secret/SCI and SECRET documents in his home. The documents were on a computer hard drive, thumb drive, and paper. He goes to trial in February. The likihood of jail time is high; for Biden and Trump, not so much. “Retired Air Force Intel Boss Caught With Hundreds of Top Secret Docs at Home”, Daily Beast, January 30, 2023.

Rep. Crenshaw – Not HS Committee Chair. A former Navy SEAL and now Representative from Texas (R-TX) will not be heading up the Homeland Security committee of the House of Representatives. Dan Crenshaw was lobbying for the position but it went to a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Speculation is that Crenshaw lost out because Speaker Kevin McCarthy had to make side deals with the House Freedom Caucus to win the speakership. “Crenshaw speculates secret McCarthy side deal was reason for Homeland chair defeat”, The Washington Examiner, February 3, 2023.

Kevin Merrill for BG. Air Force Col. Kevin J. Merrill has been nominated for appointment to the grade of brigadier general. Merrill is currently serving as the mobilization assistant to the director of operations, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

SOFREP’s Ship Getting Back on Course. Apparently the news media outlet known as SOFREP had some difficulties over the past year and there has been a shakeup within the organization. Brandon Webb, the current CEO, explains in “Righting the Ship at SOFREP”, February 5, 2023. (Editor’s note: SOF News and SOFREP are two distinct animals with no association between each organization).

‘MARSOC 3’ – Not Guilty. Four years after a retired Green Beret was killed in Iraq following an altercation, two Marine Raiders were acquitted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. The two were convicted of violation of a lawful general order, for drinking alcohol while deployed in Iraq. The Green Beret, Rick Rodriguez, had served more than 20 years in the Army with multiple combat deployments. He was working in Irbil, Iraq as a contractor at the time of the incident. “2 Marines found not guilty of homicide in Green Beret veteran’s death”, Marine Corps Times, February 2, 2023.

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International SOF

NORSOCOM. Oscar Rosengren does a deep dive into the background, evolution, units, tactics, weapons, and vehicles of Norway’s SOF. “NORSOCOM: Norway’s Special Operatons Command”, Grey Dynamics, February 5, 2023.

ASD SO/LIC Visits Norway. Chris Maier, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict – ASD SO/LIC – visited Norway to sign a Bilateral Joint Special Operations Study which will detail means of closer cooperation between the special operations forces of both countries. (DoD Press Release, Feb 3, 2023).

Ukraine’s Brotherhood Battalion. A small group of fighters, a volunteer group of Ukrainian special forces, are fighting the war deep in Russia. They are, according to this news report, destroying key military infrastructurre and downing Russian aircraft. “Group of Ukrainian special forces active in Russia”, Yahoo!, February 5, 2023.

Navy SEALs Training Croatia’s ZSS. In 2022, a platoon of Navy SEALs were in Croatia training the country’s maritime special operations unit – the ZSS. Most of the training took place in the Adriatic Sea. “How US Navy SEALs train new special-operations units to make the seas into ‘our playground'”, Business Insider, January 30, 2023.

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SOF History

Evolution of the SFODA. Troy J. Sacquety of the USASOC History Office writes about the structural transitions of the Special Forces ODA. This basic unit is currently staffed with 12 soldiers; but it wasn’t always that way. The number of personnel has ranged from twelve to fifteen, depending upon era and contempoary doctrine and force structure requirements. “The Evolution of the Special Forces (SF) Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA)”, Veritas, January 2023.

SF Heroism in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Viet Cong (VC) launched the ‘Tet Offensive’ at the end of January 1968. This country-wide offensive was an attempt to break the will of the South Vietnamese military and incite a popular uprising against the government of South Vietnam. Four Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group demonstrated exceptional valor during a five-week period in early 1968. Read more in “Indomitable Valor: Special Forces Heroism during Tet Offensive”, by Christopher Howard, USASOC History Office, January 31, 2023.

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Is SOF Too Risk Adversed? Spencer Reed, a career special operator, thinks so. He cites several ‘must haves’ for the conduct of special operations missions that commanders, staff, . . . and operators need to conduct missions. And that limits the U.S. SOF community, especially in times of large scale conflict. Read about the ‘Seven Deadly Norms of Risk Avoidance’. “Recalibrating Special Operations Risk Tolerance for the Future Fight”, War on the Rocks, January 31, 2023.

RW = GW + P . . . and Bernard Fall. One of the prominent and early experts on the conflict in South Vietnam was a former resistance fighter with the French Resistance in World War II and a scholar whose knowledge of Vietnam was sought by the Special Warfare community as well as well-known news commentators of the 1960s. Bernard Fall and his writings on revolutionary warfare is featured in this essay by Nathaniel L. Moir. And for those not clicking the link; Revolutionary Warfare = Guerrilla Warfare and Politics. Read more in “The Overlooked Irregular Warfare Expert the Pentagon Should Study Today”, Modern War Institute at West Point, January 31, 2023.

“A dead Special Forces sergeant is not spontaneously replaced by his own social environment. A dead revolutionary usually is.”

Bernard Fall, Street Without Joy

Nonstate Armed Actors in 2023. Vanda Felbab-Brown examines the overall landscape of militants and organized crime around the world. With ever-increasing attention paid to ‘great power competition’ there is less emphasis on nonstate threats. She believes that hybrid threats will grow as the United States keeps its attention on Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. “Nonstate armed actors in 2023: Persistence amid geopolitical shuffles”, Brookings Institute, January 27, 2023.

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National Security

‘Feet Wet’ and ‘Splash’. The North American Aerospace Defense Command tweeted out the news that the U.S. detected a high altitude surveillance balloon over the United States. NORAD tracked the balloon as it crossed the country from west to east. It was traveling well above commerical air traffic and posed no military or physical threat to people on the ground. The decision to not shoot it down before it had traveled across the country had some folks up in arms – a little political theater going on perhaps. The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed the balloon going through U.S. airspace was an off-course civilian airship intended for scientific research. Some commentators are speculating that the balloon excursion could be a ‘dry run‘ for testing the feasibility of a nuclear EMP attack. The end result is as soon as it cleared the U.S. land mass (‘feet wet’) it was shot down by an F-22 Raptor inside of U.S. territorial waters using one AIM-9X Sidewider missile. The balloon fell approximately six miles off the coast in about 47 feet of water from a height of about 60,000 feet. Boats and divers are in the area attempting to recover the debris.

Air Bases in the North. The possible entry of Finland and Sweden into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will change the balance of airpower over Scandinavia and the ‘high north’. NATO can project its power closer to Russia while Russia has to contend with NATO air bases close to its borders. An important aspect of this airpower equation will be how to use and defend airbases in the four Nordic countries. “A Flexible and Resilient Nordic Air Base Concept”, Strategem, January 30, 2023.

Norway Buys More Tanks. The Russians have put Europe on edge and many countries are increasing their defense budgets and purchasing additional armament. Norway is buying some Leopard 2 tanks; a tank that Sweden and Finland also have in their inventory. Norway has 36 older Leopards . . . that may soon find their way to Ukraine. “Norway buys 54 Leopards for protection of the north”, by Atle Staalesen, The Barents Observer, February 3, 2023.

Ramping Up in the Philippines. U.S. service members will be doing a lot more training and exercises alongside their Philippine allies as the defense alliance between the U.S. and that country continue to grow. In a recent agreement the two nations announced that there will be five new locations in the country where U.S. forces will conduct operations and training. “U.S.-Phillipine Alliance Strengthens as it Enters New Phase”, DoD News, February 2, 2023. See also “How the US-Philippines military pact could counter China’s rising threat”, by Brad Dress, The Hill, February 2, 2023.

ISIS – Down But Not Out. Although the Islamic State has lost its territory in Iraq and Syria it still is active and poses a threat. The U.S. continues to work with its partner forces in Iraq and Syria to degrade the terror network. In January 2023 U.S. operations resulted in 11 ISIS operatives klled and another 227 detained. “The US military is ramping up operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria”, by Jared Keller, Task & Purpose.

Al-Shabaab’s Intelligence Wing. Bobby Payne provides a detailed account of the intelligence organization of al-Shabaab. He writes on the command structure, regional commanders, finances, logistics, intel collection, and more. “The Amniyat: Al-Shabaab’s Secret Security and Intelligence Wing”, Grey Dynamics, January 21, 2023.

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Upcoming Events

February 8, 2023. D.C.
ISO Hearing: The Role of Special Operations Froces in Great Power Competion
House Armed Services Committee

April 5-6, 2023. San Diego, California
Warrior West

April 14-16, 2023. Fort Benning, Georgia
Best Ranger Competion

May 8-11, 2023. Tampa, Florida
SOF Week

May 22-26, 2023. Indianapolis, Indiana
Special Forces Association Convention

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Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Sentinel. Chapter 78 of the Special Forces Association has posted its February 2023 issue of Sentinel. Some good stories this month. Topics include SF history, honoring our legacy, Salvadoran war criminal, Army’s new Sergeant Major, and stories of the “Originals”.

Book ReviewEnemies Near and Far: How Jihadist Groups Strategize, Plot, and Learn. John P. Sullivan reviews this book by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Thomas Joscelyn. Small Wars Journal, February 4, 2023.

Report – Powerful Narratives. A 52-page pub (PDF) has been posted on the Army Cyber Institute website that discusses weaponized harmony and the soft power tools of China’s rise to global primacy.

CTC Sentinel. The January 2023 issue of the CTC Sentinel by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has been posted. A number of articles on terrorism; this issue focused on Africa, the current epicenter of global jihadi terror. Among the topics are the Wagner Group in Burkina Faso, Somalia’s new offensive to defeat al-Shabaab, and views of the Deputy Director of Intelligence for U.S. Africa Command.

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Video – 2023 Best Ranger Competition. Rangers from units all over the world will be going against each other for the annual Best Ranger Competion at Fort Benning, Georgia on April 14-16, 2023. Watch a one-minute long video teaser on the event. Fort Benning, YouTube, January 27, 2023.

Spy Series – ‘Rabbit Hole’. Kiefer Sutherland is off on a new adventure. The star of 24 is now in a new eight-episode spy thriller series set to stream on Paramount+ starting March 2023. “Jack Bauer Goes Corporate in Spy Series ‘Rabbit Hole'”, Military.com, January 30, 2023.

Podcast – The End of the War. In July 2021, Colonel Matt Hardman deployed with his unit to support 10th Mountain Division Operations in Afghanistan. His unit was tasked with providing security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as well as at the Kabul international airport during the August 2021 non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO). Hardman is interviewed about this chaotic time in Afghanistan. The Spear, Modern War Institute at West Point, February 1, 2023.

Video – The Quiet Professional. A Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC), Nick O’Sullivan, talks about his job. America’s Navy, July 2022, 5 minutes.


SOFCAST. United States Special Operations Command

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.