Special Operations News Update – Feb 21, 2023

20th SFG(A) Winter Warfare

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

Photo / Image: 20th SFG(A) Mountain Team members conduct backcountry movement on skis in Colorado. Mountain SFODAs specialize in negotiating highly technical mountainous terrain in Winter and Summer Alpine enviornments. Image 20th SFG(A).

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SOF News

COL Joe Celeski – RIP. Colonel (Ret.) Joseph Cileski, age 69, died on February 13, 2023. He retired from a thirty-year career with the U.S. Army in September. When serving as 3rd Special Forces Group commander he deployed to Afghanistan where he was the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) commander. Obituary. Cileski was the author of The Green Berets in the Land of a Million Elephants. Watch a video of Cileski talking about the secret special operations war in Laos. (C-SPAN2 Book TV, March 2019, one hour).

Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell – RIP. Retired Green Beret Gary Harrell died at age 71. He had served for three decades of service with the U.S. Army to include numerous tours in SOF units to include Delta Force. He served as commander of Special Operations Command – Central (SOCCENT) during the beginning phases of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). “Harrell Dies in Tennessee”, Coffee or Die Magazine, February 14, 2023. Obituary.

New Cdr for SOJTF-Levant (OIR). Brig. Gen. Philip Ryan, CG, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command; Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is to be assigned as commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Levant, Operation Inherent Resolve, Kuwait.

News on SOCPAC Cdr. Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Jeromy B. Williams has been nominated for appointment to the grade of rear admiral.  Williams is currently serving as commander, Special Operations Command Pacific, U.S. Special Operations Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.

Rangers Take ‘Best Medic’ Competition. Two Rangers from the 6th Ranger Training Battalion took top honors in a three-day event at Fort Polk. “Meet the winners of the 2023 Army’s Best Medic Competition”, Army.mil, February 14, 2023.

Retired SF COL to Receive MoH. A retired Special Forces officer who served in Vietnam will receive the MoH from President Biden. “Biden to award Medal of Honor to Black Vietnam War vet who’s waited decades”, The Washington Post, February 13, 2023.

Marine Raiders. The history, organization, TTPs, training pipeline, equipment, weapons, and missions of MARSOC units is examined in this article by Michael Ellmer. “Marine Raiders: Always Faithful, Always Forward”, Grey Dynamics, February 14, 2023.

Decker With the Panthers. A former Special Forces officer who served two tours in Iraq is now the new vice president of development for a NFL team. “Panthers add Brian Decker, former “GM for Special Forces”, Panthers,com, February 16, 2023.

SOTTACs, JTACs, CCTs, and TACPs – A Brief. There is a lot of confusion about who is a Joint Terminal Air Controller or JTAC. In Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant (official YouTube trailer), Jake Gyllenhaal plays a Special Forces solder with a JTAC patch on his uniform. Is that accurate? Max Hauptman explains in “JTAC vs TACP: A user’s guide to the troops who call in close air support”, Task & Purpose, February 10, 2023.

Wingsuiting at 150 MPH. A wingsuit skydiver from Argentina talks about his dangerous sport. “Flyin Squirrel”, Harvard Magazine, March 2023.

Britt Slabinski – MoH Recipient. A retired Navy SEAL is profiled in this article. The Battle of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan in 2022 is where Slabinski was leading a recon team on top of a 10,000-foot snow-covered mountain that led to a fierce fight with the Taliban. Read about it in “Medal of Honor Recipient: Britt Kelly Slabinski”, Informed Insight, February 21, 2023.

Bonuses for NSW Operators. The U.S. Navy is offering large cash re-enlistment bonuses to veteran Navy special warfare sailors. The bonus system for keeping highly-skilled members of the military community on active duty have worked for many decades. Read more in “Attrition: U.S. Navy Bonuses for Special Operations Sailors”, Strategy Page, February 20, 2023.

3rd ASOS Developing Arctic Skills. In an operation designed to test the capabilities of Airmen and equipment in extreme-cold long-distance movements, members of the 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron took a 130-mile trek in Alaska. The TACPs support the 11th Airborne Division based in Alaska. “3rd ASOS Arctic Warfighters participate in Operation Agipen 2”, Pacific Air Force, February 10, 2023.

SOA AAR. The Special Operations Association held its annual convention this past October 2023. It was a week-long event bringing together former and current members of the U.S. special operations community. Read the SOA’s AAR on the convention dated February 2023, PDF, 72 pages.

SOF Injured in ISIS Raid. U.S. service members and one combat dog were injured on February 16, 2023 during a night helicopter raid in northeast Syria that killed a senior ISIS leader. They are reported to be receiving medical treatment at a facility in Iraq. The raid was conducted in conjunction with members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). “Four US service members injured in ISIS helicopter raid”, The Hill, February 17, 2023.

CIA’s Spec Ops Center. Jordan Smith details the covert action and paramilitary operations division of the Central Intelligence Agency. He says that this organization is the ‘third option’ for the resolving of U.S. crisis or problems abroad. The first would be the State Department using diplomacy and the second the Department of Defense using its military forces. The third option, is using the CIA’s Special Activities Center of the Directorate of Operations (DO). Read more in “CIA Special Activities Center: The Third Option”, Grey Dynamics, December 6, 2022.

193rd SOW Receives 1st MC-130J Commando II. The Pennsylvania Air National Guard unit has taken possession of its first Commando II transport. The unit previously operated the EC-130J Commando Solo as part of the airborne Military Information Support Operations broadcasting platform. The MC-130J is used to conduct low-level infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces. “US Air National Guard unit receives first MC-130J special operations transport”, Defence Blog, February 11, 2023.

AFSOC Recruiting. The Air Force Special Operations Recruiting Wing is tasked with providing a talent pool of skilled, qualified, and diverse applicants to the AF Special Warfare training programs. “Special Warfare, Air Force Recruiting Teams Develop Programs, Scour Nation to Attact Candidates”, Special Warfare Training Wing, February 15, 2023.

Not Guilty. Irene Loewenson provides a detailed look at the MARSOC 3 trial. Four years ago in January 2019 a military contractor and retired Green Beret died after an altercation outside of a bar in Irbil, Iraq. Three members of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command were charged with homicide in connection with the retired Special Forces NCO’s death. “Verdict, not guilty: An inside look at the homicide trial of 2 Marines”, Marine Corps Times, February 16, 2023.

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International SOF

NORSOF Checking Out Arctic Gear. Norwegian special operators staged the Arctic Warrior Experiment inviting participants from eight countries to test their latest cold weather gear in rugged terrain. “Norway special operators field pitches on fresh, Arctic-capable gear”, by Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo, Defense News February 9, 2023.

SAS Recruiting Women. The ban on women serving in the UK’s Army frontline units was lifted in 2018. However, up to this point, there are no women in the Special Air Service or Special Boat Service. One in ten of the armed forces are women. So far, only two women are believed to have tried the selection proscess. “Elite SAS launch recruitment drive to encourage women to join its ranks”, Mirror, February 11, 2023.

Video of Canadian Sniper Shot Causes Concern with CANSOF. A recent podcast that depicted a Canadian sniper taken a long-range shot of an ISIS fighter has placed a former member of Joint Task Force Two (JTF2) and a former U.S. Navy SEAL in hot water. “Former Navy SEAL in Canada’s crosshairs after publishing video of world’s longest sniper shot”, Task and Purpose, February 17, 2023.

UAS Solution for NATO SOF. Two drone firms are going to provide a unmanned aerial system that meets the requirements of all-weather functionality, quick deployment, hand launchability, and more. “Rheinmetall and AeroVironment Join Forces for NATO Special Forces Project”, Defense Advancement, February 10, 2023.

SOF History Banner

Bio on Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow. A Lithuanian Jew who experienced and survived the Holocaust eventually became a U.S. citizen and would go on to serve with the U.S. Army’s Special forces. He retired as a major general. “Sidney Shachnow: The Holocaust Survivor Who Became a Green Beret”, War History Online, February 9, 2023.

Seaspray. A covert air unit was a collaborative effort between the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Army that began in 1981. The clandestine air power organization grew out of the chaos of the revolution in Iran and failure of Operation Eagle Claw – an attempt to rescue U.S. citizens held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Read more in “SEASPRAY: Clandestine Air Operations and Covert Activity”, by Alec Smith, Grey Dynamics, February 12, 2023.

Rhodesian SAS. Learn about the history, organization, training, equiment, and missions of the Rhodesian Special Air Service. This special forces unit was active during the time of the white minority-ruled Rhodesia. It was based on the British Special Air Servie – which they were originally a part of. The SAS was extremely active during the year-long Rhodesian Bush War. “The Rhodesian SAS”, by Aidan Hickey,Grey Dynamics, February 18, 2023.

Elite Australian Dive Team in Vietnam. It has been 56 years since the arrival of the Australian Naval Clearance Diving Team in South Vietnam. They were a group of men who put their lives at risk in a complex and dangerous mission risk by clearing underwater mines and obstacles during the Vietnam War. “Anniversary of the Arrival of Australian Naval Clearance Divers in Vietnam”, Veteran Web, February 6, 2023.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Biden Visits Ukraine. The US president made his first visit to the war zone just ahead of the 1-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion. “Biden arrives in Kyiv on surprise visit to war zone”, Politico, February 20, 2023.

SOF, Ukraine, and Propaganda. An interesting article by Caitlin Johnstone about a possible attempt by U.S. special operations forces to employ ‘propaganda’ in the Ukraine conflict. “Pentagon Wants to Return Special Ops Propagandists to Ukraine”, Scheerpost, February 12, 2023. Read more in “Pentagon looks to restart top-secret programs in Ukraine”, Stars and Stripes, February 10, 2023.

Former GB Describes Fighting in Ukraine. William Brangham, a former Green Beret with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, fought for the Ukrainians for over ten months last year. Listen to a podcast describing his time in Ukraine. “Former Green Beret who fought for Ukraine offers perspective on war, how to counter Russia”, PBS, February 14, 2023, 7 minutes.

SFA and Ukraine. In 2022 the United States provided Ukraine with over $20 billion in security assistance. The authors of this article provide some recommendations on how to better provide SFA to Ukraine. “More Bang for the SFA Buck: Improving US Security Force Assistance in Ukraine and Beyond”, Modern War Institute at West Point, February 15, 2023.

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Commentary

Roles and Limitations of SOF. David Ucko argues that SOF can play a vital role in countering threats by Russia and China. However, to do so, he believes that SOF must recalibrate, changing their composition and their focus. “Indispensable but Insufficient: The Role and Limits of Special Operations in Strategic Competition”, Lawfare Blog, February 19, 2023.

SOF – Too Big? R.D. Hooker provides his perspective on the U.S. special operations community – it is a little too big, over-staffed, draws too much talent from the conventional forces, redundant, and it is a stovepiped community insulated from the established chains of command across the globe. “America’s Special Operations Problem”, Joint Force Quarterly, National Defense University Press, January 2023.

And a Response. Charlie Black provides his comments on the R.D. Hooker essay in the above paragraph. He believes that Hooker’s argument is a misinterpretation of recent historical events and derives some generalized conclusions from a relativetly small number of incidents or events. “Challenging the ‘Problem of Special Operations and USSOF'”, Small Wars Journal, February 20, 2023.

More Thoughts on IW. Mark Grdovic, a retired Special Forces officer and currently a Senior International SOF Advisor within the USSOCOM J3 – International Division, provides his thoughts on how the U.S. military is addressing how it will institutionalize the topic of Irregular Warfare (IW). “Untangling the Gordian Knot that is Irregular Warfare”, Small Wars Journal, February 9, 2023.

GSOF and IW. The Global Special Operations Foundation has made Irregular Warfare a central theme in its 2023 SOF Imperatives effort. Read more in 2023 SOF Imperatives, PDF, 4 pages.

Managing Risk for SOF. Tim Ball, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, writes on “Managing Risk for Special Operations Forces in Large-Scale Combat Operations”, War on the Rocks, February 21, 2023.

OSINT and ‘Special Forces’. Jeff Giesea argues that a new approach is needed for how the United States generates open source intelligence products. He points to U.S. Army Special Forces as a model for how hybrid intelligence operators could fill this role. “America Needs Special Forces for Open-Source Intelligence”, Small Wars Journal, February 12, 2023.

Blacksmith Publishing

Upcoming Events

Februrary 28 – March 2, 2023
Special Air Warfare Symposium
Globa SOF Foundation

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

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

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

May 16-18, 2023. Fort Bragg, NC and via Zoom
Geostrategic Symposium 2023
USASOC

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

June 21-22, 2023
Warrior East
ADS

August 5, 2023. Perdido Key, Florida
Deep Dive 2023 Combat Diver Reunion
CDF


Books about Special Forces Training
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Podcasts, Videos, Pubs, and Movies

Movie –The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. A story of Britain’s World War II Special Operations Executive (SOE) is being filmed – with initial work being done in Turkey. The SOE was also known as Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, a term applied by some senior members of the Uk military who were disdainful of SOE tactics. “Cameras Now Rolling on Movie About Churchill’s Securet WWII Spec Ops Unit”, Military.cojm, February 14, 2023.

Video – The Role of Special Operations in Great Power Competition. The U.S. House Armed Services Committee heard testimony from Seth Jones and Dr. David Ucko about SOF and GPC. February 8, 2023, YouTube, one hour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tDmJxPkIYI&t=982s

Video – Psychological Operations – Narrative. Col. Jeremy Mushtare, Dr. Ajit Mann, and Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Brian Steed discuss the use of narrative in PSYOP. 1st Special Forces Command, YouTube, January 29, 2021, one hour.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2-m9CHG7sw

Video – USASOC Command Video 2022. United States Army Special Operations Command PAO, February 8, 2023, YouTube, 3 minutes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClWZjoNwOxA

Podcast – Theory and Practice of Proxy Warfare in Strategic Competition. LTG (Ret.) Ken Tovo, Dr. Vladimir Rauta, and Dr. Nakissa Jahanbani are the guests for a podcast about special operations forces as well as conventional forces that engage with proxy forces. Social Science of War Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, February 20, 2023, 51 minutes.

Podcast – 5th Generation Warfare. Boone Cutler is the guest of this podcast where he talks about the ongoing conflicts and the importance of understanding irregular warfare. He is the co-author of The Citizens Guide to Fifth Generation Warfare. February 10, 2023, one hour.

Podcast – That Others May Live: CSAR in Future Conflicts. Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, February 18, 2023, 36 minutes. An assortment of guests are featured in this podcast that discuss the challenges facing the USAF’s Combat Search and Rescue mission as it adapts to changing global threats.

Armor. The mounted maneuver journal for Fall 2022 has now been posted online. PDF, 53 pages.
https://www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/66234

Podcasts

SOFCAST. United States Special Operations Command
https://linktr.ee/sofcast

The Pinelander. Blacksmith Publishing
https://www.thepinelander.com/

The Indigenous Approach. 1st Special Forces Command
https://open.spotify.com/show/3n3I7g9LSmd143GYCy7pPA

Irregular Warfare Podcast. Modern War Institute at West Point
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/irregular-warfare-podcast/id1514636385


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