Special Operations News Update – March 6, 2023

Airborne Operation 2022 Italy

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

Photo / Image: U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, descend onto Frida Drop Zone, Pordenone, Italy after exiting U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 86th Air Wing during airborne operation on Nov. 16, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Paolo Bovo)

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SOF News

Dave Maxwell Now VP at CAPS. David Maxwell, a former U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel (ret.), has been appointed to the position of Vice President at the Center for Asia Pacific Strategy. He had a 30-year career in Special Forces followed by many years of academic work.

USMC Scout Snipers – Going Away? The Marine Corps has had Scout Snipers since World War II. Marine reconnaissance and special operations units will continue to have their own school-trained snipers. The USMC is replacing the Scout Sniper Platoons found at infantry battalions with Scout Platoons. The 0317 MOS will no longer be awarded; however the Reconnaissance Sniper (0322) will be found organic to recon battalions. The structural change is stemming from the Force Design 2030 – an overhaul of the Marine Corps force structure. “The Marine Corps is getting rid of Scout Snipers”, Task & Purpose, February 27, 2023.

SOF and Drones. The use of drones are changing the way SOF and covert operations are supported and conducted. The UAVs are used to monitor enemy movements, scout out potential targets, and carry out strikes with precision accuracy. “The Role of Army Drones in Special Forces and Covert Operations”, TS2, March 2023.

SPRINT – Secret SOF Aircraft? The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) announced that it’s working with the U.S. Special Operations Command on the Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT) program. The project could meet a growing demand for aircraft that can land on unprepared surfaces. “The Pentagon’s Mysterious New Aircraft Doesn’t Need a Runway”, Popular Mechanics, March 3, 2023.

IW Medical Resiliency. The Center for Global Health Engagement of the Uniformed Services University, the Irregular Warfare Center, and ASD SO/LIC combined thier resources to hold a three-day conference. The Irregular Warfare Medical Resiliency Working Group met in Bethesda, Maryland on February 22-24, 2023. (DoD, Mar 3, 2023).

MARSOC 3 Update. An appeals court will review the case of a third defendent in the ‘MARSOC 3’ case – which may result in a dismissal. The case revolves around the death of a retired Green Beret who was involved in an altercation with the three Marines. “Dismissal of 3rd ‘MARSOC 3’ defendent’s case to be weighed by court”, Marine Corps Times, February 28, 2023.

U.S. SOF, Drones, and Facial Recognition. If you are on a ‘hit list’ maintained by one of the United States more secretive organizations then drones could become a bigger problem than before. Flying aerial robots now have a facial recognition capability that targeteers can utilize for hitting terrorists and other targets. “Yikes, the U.S. is Now Using Facial Recognition Rigged Drones for Special Ops”, Gizmodo.com, February 27, 2023.

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International SOF

Flintlock 2023. Twenty-nine nations and approximately 1,300 personnel are participating in an annual special operations exercise in Africa. This year the event takes place in the countries of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire from March 1-15, 2023. U.S. Africa Command and Special Operations Command Africa are providing key support to the exercise. “AFRICOM’s SOF exercise kicks off in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire”, DVIDS, March 1, 2023.

SAS Rescue Operation in Iraq. In 2005 two Special Air Service operators were captured by Iraqi police forces and then turned over to a militia group in Basra, Iraq. A SAS unit, disobeying orders from London, conducted a rescue. “The time the SAS defied orders to rescue two of their won in Iraq”, We Are the Mighty, March 2, 2023.

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SOF History

OSS and Propaganda. On March 3, 1943, the Morale Operations Branch of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was established. It utilized psychological warfare to sap morale, induce confusion, and sow distrust within the populations of Axis countries and within the ranks of their armed forces.

5th SFG(A). On March 3, 1971, the 5th Special Forces Group departed South Vietnam. The Green Berets were withdrawn as part of the U.S. troop reductions in Vietnam.

Ballad of the Green Beret. On March 5, 1966, a song about Special Forces hit number one on the music charts. https://specialforcestraining.info/balladgreenberets.htm

UW Tactics Through History. Unconventional warfare has been used by small and large nations alike over the course of time. Read more in “A Look at the Unconventional Tactics Use by Western Militaries Throughout History”, SOFREP, February 28, 2023. (subscription)

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National Security and Commentary

National Cybersecurity Strategy. The administration has released the National Cybersecurity Strategy that will help secure the digital ecosystem for Americans and the nation. It outlines some fundamental shifts in how the United States allocates roles, responsibilities, and resources in cyberspace. “Biden-Harris Administration Announces National Cybersecurity Strategy”, The White House, March 2, 2023. The full document – National Cybersecurity Strategy – can be read online here. (The White House, March 2023, PDF, 39 pages)

Bring Back the 6th SOS. One of the more striking self-inflicted wounds that USSOCOM and AFSOC have inflicted on the special operations community is the closing down of the 6th Special Operations Squadron. The unit was uniquely suited for building partner capacity, security force assistance, and aviation foreign internal defense. However, Air Force Special Operations Command recently ‘remissioned’ the unit and discarded the special capabilities of the airmen who did some very important work overseas. Ioannis Koskinas provides the details in “Ready, FIRE, Aim: Great Power Competition without Combat Aviation Advisors”, Small Wars Journal, March 1, 2023. See also “Any Time Any Place? Why Cutting the Air Force’s Irregular Warfare Capabilities is a Mistake”, Modern War Institute at West Point, August 4, 2022.

Defining Special Forces. Pierre Jean Dehaene, a PhD candidate at King’s College London and a soldier in the Belgian Army with a special operations background, provides his thoughts of special operations forces. “Defining the Special in Special Forces: A Soldier’s Perspective”, Small Wars Journal, March 5, 2023.

IW – Incorporating Past Lessons. The painful experience of the two-decade long Global War on Terror (it is not over, is it?) should be remembered and incorporated into ‘lessons learned’. So argues James Holmes of the U.S. Naval War College. He believes that the thoughts of Mao Zedong and Julian Corbett should influence the U.S. approach to Irregular Warfare doctrine. “Irregular Warfare, American Style”, 1945, March 4, 2023.


Video – Happy Afghan Soldier’s Day 2023. This ten minute video features American and Afghan veterans recognizing a special day for members of the Afghanistan Security Forces. Stan McCrystal, Scott Miller, and others from the U.S. and Afghan special operations community say their part. Honor the Promise, YouTube, February 27, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsT8w4Y469U

Operation Anaconda. One of the biggest operations in Afghanistan in 2002 took place in the Shah-i-Khot Valley during March 2020. The 10th Mountain Division led the effort supported by the Air Force with airstrikes and by 200 U.S. SOF and 200 SOF from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Norway, New Zealand. Included in the force were some Afghan allies as well. Read a detailed account of the battle in “Operation Anaconda”, Military Review, March 2017.

Scott Mann – Retired Green Beret. A career Special Forces officer, now retired, provides a glimpse of his life during his long career in SF – to include his tours in Afghanistan. He is now very involved in the Afghan Evac community helping former Afghan SOF escape Afghanistan and relocate to the U.S. “From Pineapple Express to Last Out, retired Green Beret continues the fight for Afghanistan veterans”, We Are the Mighty, March 2, 2023.


“Danab” – Somali Elite Unit and U.S. SOF. A special operations unit in the Somali armed forces has been in the forefront of the fight against Al Shabab. U.S. Commandos are actively providing assistance, intelligence, mission planning, and training to the elite unit. Eric Schmitt, a senior writer on the Times staff has visited Somalia several times. This comprehensive report by Eric is a result of his most recent trip to the country. “U.S. Commandos Advise Somalis in Fight Against Qaeda Branch”, The New York Times, February 27, 2023.

HR in Africa by CV-22 Unit. In October 2020 four CV-22s departed Naval Station Rota, Spain to drop off a team of Navy SEALs in northern Nigeria by parachute. The mission was a hostage rescue of an American. “How the Air Force flew its longest-distance night hostage rescue”, Task and Purpose, February 23, 2023.

Wagner Group in Sahel. While the French are downsizing their presence in the Sahel region of Africa a Russian paramilitary group is stepping up . . . and into the vacumn left behind. “The Wagner Group’s Growing Shadow in the Sahel: What Does it Mean for Counterterrorism in the Region?”, Modern War Institute at West Point, March 2, 2023.

Troubles in Tunisia. Hundreds of opposition supporters are marching through the streets of the capital demanding that President Kais Saied step down. (Aljazeera, Mar 5, 2023). The U.S. State Department, United Kingdom, and Canada have issued security alerts.

Upcoming Events

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Pubs, Reports, and Videos

Pub – Disruptive Technology in SOF. Failure to effectively harness disruptive innovations today reduces future decision options, operational capability, and the likelihood of winning tomorrow’s fight. Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), February 28, 2023, PDF, 90 pages.

Proceedings. The March 2023 issue of Proceedings by the U.S. Naval Institute is now available online. There are a number of interesting articles to read. Topics include spy Baloons, Liberty Lifter, ship class designations, enlisted education, submarines and China, fighting without ‘the network’, a strategy of denial for the Western Pacific, book reviews, China’s navy, seafloor cables and pipelines, and more. Not a lot of SOF material here; but still interesting reading.

Country Reports on Terrorism 2021. The Department of State has released its annual report on terrorism. This report, required by Congress, was published in February 2023. The DoS is having trouble getting this report out in a timely manner. PDF, 330 pages.

Takeaways on DoS Terrorism Report. Katherine Zimmerman, a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, examines the Department of State terrorism report. “Takeaways from the State Department’s Report on Terrorism”, AEI, March 2, 2023.

CTC Sentinel. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has posted its February 2023 issue of CTC Sentinel.

Video – IWC Overview. The Irregular Warfare Center has posted a video describing the purpose of the IWC. YouTube, March 3, 2023, 3 mins.


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.