Special Operations News Update – March 15, 2023

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

Photo / Image: U.S. Navy Special Warfare combat-craft crewman candidates in class 125 participate in “The Tour” during first phase of Basic Crewman Selection (BCS) training on 30 January 2023. NSWCEN provides initial assessment and selection and subsequent advanced training to the Sailors who make up the Navy’s SEAL and Special Boat communities. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan Lavin, 30 January 2023)

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SOF News

SAWS Exposition. The Air Force Special Operations Command and the Global SOF Foundation co-hosted the annual Special Air Warfare Symposium and exposition in Fort Walton Beach, Florida from February 28 to March 2, 2023. “Air Commandos co-host SAWS, champion transformation and partnerships”, Air Force Special Operations Command, March 3, 2023.

Fenton on FBNC Crime. The top general for the U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Bryan Fenton, was quizzed by a North Carolina Senator during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7th about crime cases at Fort Bragg. He was asked about reports of suicides, murders, overdoses, drug trafficking, and numerous arrests involving SOF personnel at FBNC. “The top Spec Ops general on Fort Bragg crime”, Army Times, March 14, 2023.

Beards Are Not Needed. The DoD’s senior enlisted service member has come out strongly against beards in the military. The ‘operator look’ – beard, baseball cap, Nine Line t-shirts – became a badge of pride in Afghanistan for SOF personnel. “Want to Grow a Beard? Not in My Military, Says Colon-Lopez. Others Aren’t So Sure”, Air and Space Forces, March 10, 2023.

“If you want to look cute with your skinny jeans and your beard, by all means, do it someplace else. But quit wasting our time on something that doesn’t have anything to do with kicking the enemy’s ass.”

SEA Ramon Colon-Lopez, March 8, 2023

MC-130J Floatplane Update. USSOCOM is continuing to look at options for a MC-130J Amphibious Capability (MAC). The program is progressing and once in place will offer the SOF community greater flexibility in mobility and tactics. “USSOCOM’s AFSOC Updates on the MC-130J Floatplane’s Status”, Naval News, March 9, 2023.

Vetting and Section 127E. There are some members of Congress that want to see human rights vetting required for security assistance provided by US special operations forces under Section 127e of Title 10, US Code. Currently the DoD Leahy Law does not apply to ‘127 echo’. “Congress Should Mandate Human Rights Vetting for Partner Forces: The Case for Closing the Section 127E Loophole”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, March 9, 2023.

Women and SOF. A report by the Government Accountability Office states that women are victims of gender discrimination in the SOF community. “Report Says Women in Special Operations Still Face Barriers”, Association of the United States Army, March 9, 2023.

SOF Training Hub in Europe. Plans to transform a rural Army garrison in western Germany into a special operations hub will be funded with money from the military’s 2024 budget. $41 million is allocated for a special operations company operations facility and $23 million for a joint parachute rigging site. The location will serve as a home for hundreds of Green Berets and SEALs. “New Baumholder special operations hub allocated $64 million in 2024 proposal”, Stars and Stripes, March 14, 2023.

Aviator Next Delta Commander? Sean D. Naylor brings us news that the Army has selected an aviation officer to head up Delta Force. Things that make you go “Hmmm”. “In a First, Army Selects Pilot to Command Delta Force”, High Side, March 14, 2023.

Profile of Chris Miller. A retired SF colonel and D.C. national security insider is picked to be Trump’s last Secretary of Defense. It was a job he probably should have delined; at least, that is what his wife thought. Read more in “Forever Warrior”, The Intercept, March 11, 2023.

SOF and “Deep Fakes”. USSOCOM may be looking to target potential enemies’ populations with propaganda and disinformation via the internet. “US Special Operations Command Wants to Use Deep Fakes as a Weapon, but that Could Create Problems”, SANDBOXX, March 13, 2023.

AFSOC Planes. Christian Orr provides us with details about the various airframes used by Air Force Special Operations Command. “The Aircraft of the U.S. Air Force’s Special Forces”, 1945, March 14, 2023.

Mike Echanis – Martial Arts Honor Scheduled. A former Special Forces soldier who died in Nicaragua in 1978 will be recognized in his hometown. “Ontario veteran Mike Echanis to be posthumously lauded for martial arts”, Argus Observer, March 10, 2023.

MH-47G Modernization. The U.S. DoD is investing more modern components to replace parts of the a SOF helicopter that are decades-long old. “More modernisation investment for US MH-47G Chinooks”, Air Force Technology, March 13, 2023.

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International SOF

UK’s SRS. The Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS) is primarily made up of Royal Marines from 30 Command Information Exploitation group. The unit is capable of deploying elements to work in the deep battle space for up to 90 days ahead of the main commando force. “SRS: The eyes and ears of UK Commando Force”, Forces.net, March 13, 2023.

IRGC and DPVs. Iran has acquired modern western special forces gear for underwater operations. One of its latest acquisitions is a diver propulsion vehicle. “Iran’s IRGC Special Forces Using Modern German Underwater Vehicles”, Covert Shores, March 12, 2023.

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National Security

IW and Doctrine. Dr. Robert S. Burell, a historian and instructor at the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), advocates the adoption of full spectrum of conflict design to integrate the distinct ways of traditional warfare, deterrence, irregular warfare, and competition. “A Full Spectrum of Conflict Design: How Doctrine Should Embrace Irregular Warfare”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, March 14, 2023.

Paramilitary Groups. Both Russia and Iran employ paramilitary groups in foreign countries to advance their national interests. This topic is examined in detail in “Wagner Group and the IRGC: The Rise of Self-Sustaining Military Proxies”, National Interest, March 12, 2023.

CIA and Wagner Group. The Central Intelligence Agency says it is secretly helping to fight Russian mercenaries that are deployed to regional conflicts in Africa to Ukraine. In testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence CIA Director Bill Burns detailed the many activities of the Wagner Group and how his agency is working with other international allies to counter the threat the mercenary group poses. “The CIA Says It’s Already Fighting Russia’s Wagner Mercenaries Abroad”, Vice.com, March 8, 2023.

U.S. Training in Africa and Military Coups. The United States has provided training to several West African military officers who later went on to be involved in coups against their government. “Glass Houses: U.S. Military Trainees and Destabilization of African Governments”, INTELBRIEF, The Soufan Center, March 10, 2023.

‘Stay in Syria’. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Micheal McCaul has come out against legislation that would remove U.S. armed forces from Syria. (Foreign Affairs Committee, Mar 10, 2023).

Secret Mission to Save a Fox News Correspondent. Benjamin Hall was severely injured in Ukraine. An elaborate rescue operation was developed to get him out of Ukraine and to a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Ukrainian SOF, a retired Special Forces soldier, and others all played a role. (Vanity Fair, Mar 10, 2023).

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Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, Videos, and Reports

Annual Threat Assessment. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has published its 2023 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The PDF, dated February 6, 2023, is 40 pages long.

VideoSpecial Operations ’24 Budget on Table with House Subcommittee. Christopher Maier, ASD SO/LIC, and General Bryan Fenton, commander of USSOCOM, testify before the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee for Intelligence and Special Operations. (DVIDS, Mar 9, 2023, one hour).


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.