Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: U.S. Army A/MH-6X Mission Enhanced Little Birds land during Weapons and Tactics Instructor course in Yuma, Arizona. Photo by Zachary M. Ford, DoD, April 4, 2016.
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Parachute Fatality. A member of the U.S. Army Parachute Team died after sustaining injuries during a training jump at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Ty Kettenhofen died on Monday, March 13, 2023. He joined the Golden Knights parachute team in 2020 and had over 1,000 jumps. “Soldier from Army’s Golden Knights dies in training accident”, Military Times, March 16, 2023.
NSW Officer Selection. Cole Black writes on ruthless selection of officers for Naval Special Warfare. He argues that the pool of candidates is weighted in favor of graduates from the Naval Academy; and that perhaps more outreach should be done with ROTC and OCS programs. “Does the Officer Selection Process for Naval Special Warfare Leave a Lot of Talent on the Beach?”, SOFREP, March 18, 2023.
Honor Project. Chapter XLIII of the Special Forces Association recently hosted an event where former Green Berets talked about their experiences in Special Forces. “Special Forces Association preservers stories of vets”, CDA Press, March 19, 2023.
AFSOC to Receive Three MQ-9Bs. A new contract with Air Force Special Operations Command will result in three MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft systems. “AFSOC Selects MQ-9B SkyGuardian for UAS Family of Systems Concept”, UAS Magazine, March 8, 2023.
SOF and Weaponizing Rights. Major Joseph Bedinfield, a Civil Affairs officer, argues that weaponizing ‘rights’ offers US Army special operations forces (ARSOF) an innovative option to gain an advantage in irregular warfare and strategic competition. The global competition for influence shows no signs of slowing down, and the rights as weapons framework offers ARSOF an opportunity “. . . to dominate the information environment, inspire partners to action, and potentially win the battle before the first shot is fired.” “Weaponizing Rights: An Untapped Tool for Special Operations Forces”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, March 15, 2023.
AFSOC and Balikatan 2023. Units of the Air Force Special Operations Command will be taking part in an exercise to be held in the Philippines. Two AC-130J gunships, MQ-9, and other AFSOC personnel will support the event. “27th Special Operations Wing to participate in Balikaton 2023”, 27th SOW PA, March 16, 2023.
Israeli SOF ‘on Strike’? Israeli reservists who in the Military Intelligence’s Special Operations Division are protesting due to moves to overhaul the government’s judicial system. “Hundreds of elite IDF reservists stop showing up for duty over judicial overhaul”, The Times of Israel, March 19, 2023.
South Africa’s Underwater Elite. Explore the difficult path to becoming a military diver in South Africa. Before you even begin dive training you must successfully complete the 18-month Special Forces Operator training course. Learn more in “Special Forces Diver”, DAN Southern Africa, March 15, 2023.
Canada’s SOF Aviation. The 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron is an air force unit which supports the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command or CANSOFCOM. It was founded during the Second World War and is based at CFB Petawawa, Ontario, Canada. “Canada’s 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron”, Grey Dynamics, January 1, 2023.
Somalia’s SF Training. The United States will continue to train up the Danab Brigade – one of the elite forces fighting to reclaim parts of Somalia from Al Shabaab. “US signs deal to continue training Somalia’s special forces”, Garowe Online, March 16, 2023.
OIF. On March 19, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) began. Special operations forces played a big role in the invasion of Iraq. JSOTF-W conducted CTBM in the West and UW in the South. Elements of the 10th SFG(A) linked up with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. Read more about the invasion in this 15-slide briefing on the early days of OIF.
160th SOAR and OIF. Attack helicopters of the 160th SOAR struck Iraqi targets along the southern and western borders. The MH-60 “Black Hawk” Direct Action Penetrators (DAPs) and AH-6M “Killer Egg” attack helicopters eliminated over 70 Iraqi observations posts, crippling the enemy’s ability to effectively gauge the size and scope of the incoming ground assault.
Skyhook Extraction and the CIA. The Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Special Forces used the Fulton Extraction as a method of exfiltrating individuals from denied areas. The origins of of the Fulton Extraction come from the 1920s – 1930s when mail pickups were conducted by aircraft in remote locations. Some reports say that British intelligence used the method to recover personnel from occupied Europe during World War II. Later, U.S. Special Forces and the CIA would use the pickup method in the 1950s through the later part of the 20th century. Read more in “Skyhook Extraction Mechanism Instructions”, Central Intelligence Agency (Online Museum).
Australian SAS Soldier Arrested. A decorated former special forces officer faces life in prison after being charged with war crimes under Australian law. It is alleged that he murdered an Afghan man while deployed to Afghanistan with the Australian Defense Forces. He served in the SAS’s 3 Squadron in 2012. “Former SAS soldier charged with Afghanistan war war crime”, The Age, March 20, 2023.
“Paddy” Mayne and the SAS. During World War II one of the heroes of the UK’s special operations community emerged from the ranks of the Special Air Service. Robert Blair Mayne first served in the desert of North Africa fighting the Italians and the Germans. He eventually rose to become one of the leading figures of the British SAS. “How a Rivalry Propelled This Irish Special Forces Trooper to the Top”, by Gavin Mortimer, HistoryNet, March 17, 2023.
Battle of Bahkmut. The longest fight of the Ukraine conflict continues. The Ukrainians continue to hold the western portion of the small industrial city while the Russians hold the eastern portion and are advancing from the north and south. One road leads from Bahkmut to the west; used for Ukrainian resupplies, personnel replacement, and evacuation of the dead and wounded. View the situation on a Google map.
Ex-Navy SEAL (Korea) Arrested. A former Korean Navy special forces officer who went to Ukraine a year ago to help that country defend itself against Russia has been arrested upon his return to Korea. “Ex-Navy SEAL admits violating passport law”, The Korea Herald, March 20, 2023.
Russia’s Armata Tank. When the T-14 Armata tank was revealed in a 2015 May Victory Day parade it embarrassingly broke down. Seven years later the tank can be declared dead. Read about the demise of the Russia’s latest prototype tank. “Armata – the story is over”, by Sergio Miller, Wavall Room, February 10, 2023.
Trouble in Moldova. The Russians are busy in the small country just to the west of Ukraine. There are concerns that Russia actively using hybrid warfare in an attempt to replace the current government with one more to their liking. “Moldova facing Russian hybrid warfare: defence minister”, France 24, March 3, 2023. See also “Russia’s secret document for destabilizing Moldova”, Yahoo! News, March 14, 2023.
Russian PSYOPS. Oscar Rosengren provides a detailed examination of Russian influence operations in northern Europe; to include methods, tools, and other activities that target Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. “Russian Psyops in Northern Europe”, Grey Dynamics, March 15, 2023.
Syria – and Turkish Interference. The United States is actively conducting operations against ISIS targets in Syria. Many of these operations are done in joint operations with the US and the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF). However, cyclical meddling by Turkey has been a thorn in the side – causing the SDF to divert attention from counter-ISIS operations to security its front lines against possible Turkish incursions. Read more in “Operation Claw-Sword Exposes Blind Spots in the US’ NE Syria Strategy”, Newslines Institute, March 7, 2023.
Podcast – Somalia – the ‘Forever War’. Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage of The New York Times are interviewed about the al Shabaab insurgency in Somalia. Schmitt recently embedded with U.S. special operations forces in that country. Lawfare Podcast, March 16, 2023, 46 minutes.
Somali Increases Size of Security Forces. The last African Union soldier will leave Somalia in December 2024. The government is increasing the number of army and police personnel to respond to the al Shabaab threat. “Somali Leaders Agree to Increase Troop Numbers”, Voice of America, March 19, 2023.
Flintlock 2023 – Opening Ceremonies. Participants from 29 countries kicked off the command post and field training portion of Exercise Flintlock 2023 at four locations. The annual special operations exercise is supported by SOCAFRICA. “Flintlock 2023 opens with ceremonies across Ghana and cote d’Ivoire”, USAFRICOM, March 16, 2023.
April 5-6, 2023. San Diego, California
April 14-16, 2023. Fort Benning, Georgia
Best Ranger Competition
May 8-11, 2023. Tampa, Florida
Books, Videos, and Podcasts
Book Review – Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution, by Stephen Zunes and Jacob Mundy, Syracuse University Press, 2022, Second Edition. Joseph Huddleston, an Assistant Professor in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, reviews a recent book describing the plight of Western Sahara and the effort of Morocco to maintain control of the territory.
Video – SOCKOR Year of the Tiger Recap. A short video looks back at 2022. Special Operations Command Korea, DVIDS, February 27, 2023, 3 minutes.
Podcast – Gen Bryan Fenton, USSOCOM Commander. The commander of the United States Special Operations Command spends an hour talking about the SOF community. SOFcast, March 15, 2023, 1 1/2 hours.
Podcast – Leadership. Tim Burke, a member of the special operations community (82nd, SF, and the Unit), is interviewed on on leadership and how humility plays an important part in personal growth and leading others to be their very best. The Pinelander Podcast, March 16, 2023, one hour.
Podcast – Sax & the Spy. Merryl Goldberg, a 25 year old musician, is asked to go behind the Iron Curtain in 1985 to help rescue a group of Russian musicians. The saxophonist from Boston used sheet music to hide coded information. DIA Connections, Defense Intelligence Agency, March 13, 2023, 32 minutes. Listen to this fascinating story. Read more in “How a Saxophonist Tricked the KGB by Encrypting Secrets in Music”, Wired.com, June 8, 2022.
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