Special Operations News Update – April 17, 2023

Ice Diver

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

Photo / Image: A diver inserts an ice screw during an emergency procedures drill as part of an ice diving exercise in Sheridan Lake, British Columbia, March 14, 2023. The exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between U.S. and Canadian diving units. (Courtesy Photo, DoD, March 14, 2023)

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SOF News

Best Ranger Competition. A team from the 75th Ranger Regiment won the Best Ranger Competition. This was the third year in the row that a team from the 75th took first place. This year’s competition saw 56 teams taking part. The teams went through 32 different events over the course of three days that tested their physical, technical, and cognitive skills.

Pararescue Jumpers. The Air Force’s PJs perform very challenging rescue missions under extreme and hazardous conditions in remote environments. The PJs undergo rigorous physical and mental training to include parachuting, scuba diving, and intensive medical training. Learn more about the history, organization, and training of the PJs. “Air Force pararescue teams: Unsung heroes of special operations”, We Are the Mighty, April 17, 2023.

ARSOF and Post 9/11. During the 21 years since the terrorist attacks of September 2001 the Army Special Operations Forces have been in the forefront of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Read about the men and women of ARSOF who lost their lives in the GWOT. “7,290 Days: A Salute to the ARSOF Fallen of the Post 9/11 Era”, ARSOF History, April 14, 2023.

MH-53 Pave Low. Read about the helicopter that has transported PJs and other Spec Ops types to and from the battlefield. The Pave Low helicopter program provided an airframe that could operate at night and/or during inclement weather. it has some advanced features that make the MH-53 able to fly clandestine, low-level missions 24/7 no matter the weather or light conditions. “MH-53 Pave Low: A U.S. Military Helicopter Designed to Save Lives”, 1945, April 2023.

“Dirty Boat Guys”. The legacy of the Navy’s Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) dates back to the Beach Jumpers and PT Boats of World War II. The history of SWCC can be traced as well through the 1950s and into the 1960s where boat crews support Navy SEALs and Green Berets during the Vietnam conflict. In 1987, when the Naval Special Warfare units became part of the United States Special Operations Command (USASOC), the boat crews continued their work overseas in conflict areas leading into the Global War on Terror (GWOT) era. Read more in “Dirty Boat Guys: An Expansive History of Navy SWCC”, by Matt Fratus, Coffee or Die Magazine, April 16, 2023.

Cuts to TACPs? The elite corps of tactical air control party airmen may very well be cut in half over the next three years. The Air Force is downsizing certain units in its transition to being prepared to fight in the Indo-Pacific region. The TACPs deploy with Army and special operations forces on the ground and a critical to calling in close air support. “Air Force looks to cut nearly 50% of tactical air control party jobs”, Air Force Times, April 14, 2023.

Adm Howard on BoD for Somewear Labs. A technology company enabling critical communications for defense has announced that Rear Admiral Hugh Wyman Howard III (ret.) has been appointed to its Board of Directors. (PR Newswire, Apr 17, 2023). Admiral Howard previously served as the Commanding Officer of the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Ex-SF Officer and Free Burma Rangers. For over 25 years a former Green Beret has been dodging bullets to bring humanitarian aid to rebels in Burma’s ongoing civil conflict. A reporter from the Rolling Stone spent three weeks in the jungle with Dave Eubank. Read about it in “Zealot or Savior? This U.S. minister is training rebels in a Civil War”, The Rolling Stone, April 16, 2023.

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International SOF

Women in IDF. From 2020-2021, the Israeli Defense Force conducted an analysis of combat positions for women. Previous studies had found that there was a low probability for women being able to fulfill the physical requirements of certain units, such as armored and heavy infantry. Some elite units are open to women while others are not. “IDF: Women can’t serve in combat units due to physiological differences”, The Jerusalem Post, April 17, 2023.

India’s Special Forces. Read about the history, training, and missions of India’s Special Forces. “Enabling India’s Finest Soldiers”, Frontier India, April 17, 2023.

Australian SASR. The demands placed on the Special Air Service Regiment and Commando Regiment have stretched Australia’s elite troopers to the point where they may be a systemic culture problem that needs fixing. MENAFN, April14, 2023.

Portuguese SOF. The Army Special Operations Forces of Portugal are part of the Army Rapid Reaction Brigade. Portuguese Army SOF has participated in missions and operations by the United Nations, European Union, and NATO. Read about the organization, tasks, mission, operations, training, weapons, and equipment of the SOF unit based in Lamego, Portugal. “Portuguese Army Special Operations Forces”, Spec Ops Magazine, April 12, 2023.

Russian Spetsnaz in Ukraine. Hundreds of Russian commandos are being used as frontline soldiers, with poor results. According to leaked documents tracking the war in Ukraine, losses have been so high among the elite units that it could take up to a decade to replace the losses of the last 14 months. “Russia’s Spetsnaz forces are being annihilated in Ukraine, leaks claim”, Task & Purpose, April 16, 2023.

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SOF History

“Nick Rowe”. On April 21, 1989, Col James N. “Nick” Rowe was assassinated in the Manila, Philippines. He was an American prisoner of war that escaped captivity during the Vietnam War after being held for five years. He helped establish the US Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training program at Fort Bragg. He was killed by a unit of the New People’s Army in the Philippines.

Failed Hostage Rescue Attempt. Operation Eagle Claw was a failed attempt to rescue American hostages held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran on April 24, 1979.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

UK SOF in Ukraine? According to some leaked U.S. intelligence documents the United Kingdom has UK special forces operating in Ukraine. One document indicates that as many as 50 UK SOF personnel had been deployed to Ukraine alongside SOF from other nations. The UK Ministry of Defence is pushing back on the claims saying:

“The widely reported leak of alleged classified US information has demonstrated a serious level of accuracy. Readers should be cautious about taking a face value allegations that have the potential to spread disinformation.”

Spokesman for UK MoD, April 11, 2023, MOD @DefenceHQ Twitter

U.S. SOF In Ukraine. The CIA and U.S. Army Special Forces have some personnel based in Ukraine serving in an advisory capacity. Read more in “The Unknown Mission of American Special Ops Troops Fighting in Ukraine”, SOFREP, April 16, 2023. (subscription) See also “Ukraine Situation Report: US Troops for Embassy Support Only Pentagon Says”, The Drive, April 17, 2023.

New Ukrainian Head of SOF. Yevhenii Khmara has been appointed by President Zelenskyy as the head of the Alpha Group of the Security Service of Ukraine and head of the Special Operations Centre. Yahoo! News, April 14, 2023.

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National Security

Capture of ISIS Operative. On April 12, CENTCOM announced that U.S. forces conducted a helicopter raid on April 8, 2023, in eastern Syria capturing an attack facilitator and two of his associates. Read more in “U.S. Special Forces Silently Hunting ISIS in Syria”, Newsweek, April 17, 2023.

Female Afghan Interpreters Who Worked for U.S. SOF Now in U.S. Members of the Afghan Female Tactical Platoon served as interpreters for U.S. special operations forces hunting the Taliban. After the takeover of the Afghan government by the Taliban in August 2021 more than forty members of the FTP were able to make their way to the United States. The legal future of these veterans of the Afghan war is now in question. They wait for their asylum packets to clear the bureaucracy hurdles but at the same time are hoping that the Afghan Adjustment Act passes Congress this year.

Conflict in Sudan. Fighting has erupted Saturday between the Sudanese Army and a paramilitary group. The capital city, Khartoum, is suffering from water and electricity shortages. Sudan has been ruled by two generals who took power in a coup two years ago and was supposed to transition to civilian rule in one month. The rival forces are fighting for control of the country. Read more in “Sudan’s Violent Power Struggle: A Situational Assessment”, Grey Dynamics, April 16, 2023. “US Top Diplomat Calls for Ceasefire in Sudan as Death Toll Nears 200”, Voice of America, April 18, 2023.

Blacksmith Publishing

CIA’s ‘Zero Units’ – Now in Limbo. Afghan members of a clandestine U.S.-trained counterterrorism force were flown to the U.S. on military transports during the Kabul NEO of August 2021. Many of them have now been admitted to the United States where they are now in a ‘legal limbo’. Some members of the U.S. intelligence community worry that the U.S. is neglecting men who were a key asset during the long war. “They helped the CIA in Afghanistan. Now They’re Suffering in America”, The Washington Post, April 16, 2023. (subscription)

Biden’s Botched Afghan Policy. The recent release of a the Afghan withdrawal report by the Biden administration laid blame for the chaos in August 2021 on the Trump administration. The Biden administration took no blame for the catastrophic withdrawal. This lack of accountability is cited by many as a sign of failed leadership. “Accountability for Biden’s Botched Afghan Withdrawal?”, Real Clear Defense, April 15, 2023.

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Guest Writers for SOF News

SOF News welcomes the submission of articles for publication. If it is related to special operations, current conflicts, national security, or defense then we are interested.

Books about Special Forces Training

Pubs and Movies

Military Review. The March-April 2023 issue of Military Review is now online. This online magazine by the Army University Press has several interesting articles on doctrine, operational art, mission modeling for commanders, irregular approach to integrated deterrence (financial access denial), air defense artillery, suicide prevention, and more.

CRS Report on DNI. The Congressional Research Service has published a short brief about the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI oversees the integration of the intelligence functions of the 18 statutory elements of the Intelligence Community (IC) and serves as the principal intelligence advisor to the President. Learn more about the creation of the DNI position, authorities, and responsibilities. PDF, April 7, 2023, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10470

Movie Review – Tears of the Sun. This movie came out in 2003 and features Bruce Willis as a U.S. Navy SEAL. His team is given the task of rescuing a missionary and her staff in an African country in the midst of conflict. “Bruce Willis’ Film ‘Tears of the Sun’ Gave Post-9/11 America An Important Moral Message”, War History Online, April 14, 2023.


The Pinelander. Blacksmith Publishing

SOFCAST. United States Special Operations Command

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.