Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo: Project DYNAMO flight boards AMCITs for evacuation from Port Sudan to Egypt on April 30, 2023. Read more about Project DYNAMO under Sudan conflict heading. (photo courtesy Project Dynamo).
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USASOC – First Female CSM. The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) is making history with the appointment of the first woman to be its command sergeant major. Command Sgt. Maj. JoAnn Naumann, the current senior enlisted advisor for Special Operations – Korea, will be appointed on Monday. Naumann entered the Army in 1996 as an Arabic linguist; she has served for 27 years. On May 1, 2023 Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Weimer handed over colors to Command Sgt. Maj. JoAnn Naumann. “1st Woman to Take Top Enlisted Job at Army Special Ops”, Military.com, April 28, 2023.
SOCOM Shopping List. Josh Luckenbaugh describes some of the upgrades that the United States Special Operations Command is looking for in its vehicle fleet. The shift from CT/COIN to near-peer strategic competition has the SOF command upgrading its ground mobility capability to meet the new operating environment. “SOCOM Lays Out Shopping List For Key Vehicle Upgrades”, National Defense Magazine, May 1, 2023.
Evans to 25th ID. Maj. Gen. Marcus S. Evans, chief of staff, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, will be assigned to be commanding general, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
JSOC Leadership and USASOC. There is a growing trend of officers from the Joint Special Operations Command leading United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) units. According to Sal Artiaga, this raises several concerns related to cultural differences, operational focus, and disparities in training and expertise. “Assessing the Impact of JSOC Leadership in USASOC Units”, LinkedIn, April 29, 2023.
New SOF Wing? A Special Operations ‘Power Projection Wing’ is planned for Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. It will include MC-130s and light attack aircraft. (Air & Space Forces, April 27, 2023). See also “SOCOM’s New Recon Aircraft to Pack Big Punch”, National Defense Magazine, April 27, 2023.
Roger Carstens – Green Beret and Ambassador. The special presidential envoy for hostage affairs has been busy. “To us every day counts’: How top diplomat works to get hostages like Lombard’s Frerichs home”, Daily Herald, April 29, 2023.
Arrow Security & Training, LLC is a corporate sponsor of SOF News. AST offers a wide range of training and instruction courses and programs to include language and cultural services, training, role playing, and software and simulation. https://arrowsecuritytraining.com/
Mental Health and NSW. Naval Special Warfare Command is conducting a campaign that focuses on the importance of physical wellness and mental health among NSW personnel and their families. The NSW community offers a range of resources, programs, and services to help operators manage stress, cope with challenges, and enhance their emotional wellbeing. Learn more in “NSW Focuses on Mental Health Awareness”, DVIDS, April 28, 2023.
USAF SWTW. Getting ready for a confrontation with China? Learn more in “Special Warfare Training Wing and Strategic Competition”, Air Education and Training Command, April 25, 2023.
Emerald Warrior. Air Force Special Operations Command is hosting the 16th Annual Emerald Warrior exercise at multiple locations across Florida as well as in Puerto Rico. The exercise lasts about two weeks and will end in mid-May. “16th Annual Emerald Warrior Jumps Into Action”, AFSOC, April 27, 2023.
DTRA, SOF, and CWMD Training. A highly specialized team from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency trained a SOF unit during a countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) scenario. “DoD Leaders Observe ‘Nearly Invisible’ CWMD Training Mission”, DVIDS, April 27, 2023.
Next-Gen Tech for SOF. Jennifer Stewart writes about the need for SOF to acquire systems to improve its cyber and space capabilities. “Special Operators Require Next-Gen Technologies”, National Defense Magazine, April 28, 2023.
SOCAFRICA in Uganda. Civil Affairs soldiers recently concluded a JCET alongside the Uganda Wildlife Authority during a six-week period. The training focused on teaching park rangers how to counter illicit trafficking within the country’s national parks. Topics included weapons handling, field medical care, land nav, crime scene investigations, and more. “U.S. Military Hosts JCET With Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers”, DVIDS, May 1, 2023.
Book on Spetsnaz. Read an excerpt from a recent book by Mark Galeotti entitled Putin’s Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine. The topic is Russia’s Spetsnaz forces – what it is and what it really does. “Moscow’s ‘special’ forces: An inside look at how Russia’s famed Spetsnaz really operate”, Business Insider, April 30, 2023.
SOCSOUTH and Chile. The Chilean Army’s Special Operations Command (COPE) and military personnel form U.S. Special Operations Command South carried out a communications exercise to develop capabilities and integrate communications. The exercise took place in February 2023 and included elements of the U.S. Army’s 112th Special Operations Signal Battalion. “SOCSOUTH Sponsors Exercise with Chilean Army”, Dialogo-Americas, April 26, 2023.
SAS – Myths and Reality. Every once in a while the folks at Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) run an article about the British Special Air Service. While these articles provide information and ‘facts’ about the SAS they also have a bit of a political tone to them. “The myths and reality of the British Special Air Service (SAS)”, AOVA, April 25, 2023.
Video – Czech Joint Tactical Attack Controllers during Close Air Support Training. NATO Allied Air Command, YouTube, May 1, 2023, 2 minutes. (nicely done!)
Video – London Embassy Siege. On April 30, 1980, a group of Arab terrorists seized the Iranian Embassy in London and held its occupants hostage for six days. The British Special Air Service ended the hostage event when it raided the embassy killing 5 of the 6 terrorists. Watch the official trailer of 6 Days, YouTube, 3 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HthiTi_IcI
UK and NEO History. The current evacuation of foreign nationals from Sudan (see below) has sparked renewed interest in non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO). The United Kingdom has frequently conducted NEOs around the world. Most evacuations by the United Kingdom involved the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, and one or more of its elite special forces units. Read “From the Archives ` Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations”, Joint Forces.com, April 30, 2023.
LRDG. Stavros Atlamazoglou has published an article about a small British special operations unit established in World War II. Read “The Long Range Desert Group and the Birth of SOF”, Real Clear Defense, April 27, 2023.
Son Tay Raid. Read about one of the most daring special forces operations in U.S. history. (Real Clear Defense, April 26, 2023).
Conflict Update. In the last few days the pace of Russian missile attacks jumped dramatically. Various targets have been hit including logistics facilities, railway hubs, and fuel depots. In addition, a number of civilian targets have been struck as well. Many of the Russian cruise missiles are intercepted by Ukrainian air defense but still some get through to their targets. A Crimean oil depot was on fire after being struck by two Ukrainian drones. Russia has stiffened penalties for men who are avoiding military service.
Counteroffensive? Russia has been digging in its defenses in anticipation of the expected Ukrainian campaign to take back occupied territory in eastern and southern Ukraine. There has been an increase in sabotage of the Russian logistics system – warehouses, bridges, and rail lines. “Explosion in Russian border area derails freight train”, BBC News, May 1, 2023.
Russian Casualties. There are varying estimates of the Russian personnel losses in the Ukraine conflict since February 2022 as well as during the Battle for Bakhmut. According to the White House tens of thousands of Russian soldiers have been injured since fighting intensified in eastern Ukraine in December. Over 20,000 Russians killed and perhaps as many as 80,000 wounded or injured. Over half of these casualties are likely from the Wagner Group. “US believes 20,000 Russians killed in Ukraine war since December”, Aljazeera, May 1, 2023.
Sudan Conflict and Evac of Foreign Nationals
Update on the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), ceasefire, humanitarian crisis, and evacuation of foreign nationals.
Project DYNAMO – Evac Flight. Social media reports that almost 100 American citizens were airlifted out on a plane coordinated by Project DYNAMO. The plane landed in Port Sudan, picked up evacuees, and was reported to be ‘wheels up’ at 302200RAPR23. It’s destination was Egypt. Thus far Project DYNAMO has conducted bus and plane evacs for AMCITs in Sudan. The cost to the passengers was zero; Project DYNAMO operates on donations. The U.S. State Department was cooperative and helpful with the coordination needed for the private charter plane to enter Sudan airspace. Project DYNAMO is an international search, rescue, aid and assistance, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in the United States. It was founded and is led by U.S. military veterans. It has been active in the Afghan Evac and Ukraine Evac efforts as well.
Netherlands Evac. De Marine Spearhead Task Unit (MSTU) participated in the evacuation of 250 people from Sudan. Koninklijke Marine, YouTube, May 1, 2023, 6 minutes. The Dutch conducted a total of 8 flights; including 150 people from 18 different nationalities.
Greece SOF and Sudan. Two C-130 transport aircraft and a C-27j aircraft and a SOF element joined the Sudan Evac effort. There were an estimated 150 Greek nationals in Khartoum. “Greece Deploys Special Forces, Aircraft in Egypt for Sudan Rescue”, Greek Reporter, April 23, 2023.
DoS Evacuation Efforts. The United States government was a little slow to react to the Sudan crisis. Although it quickly and safely evacuated over 100 people during its U.S. Embassy evacuation it, initially, did very little to help the over 16,000 American citizens at risk. Other nations, like India, China, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia stepped up big-time and picked up the slack for the U.S., evacuating their own nationals as well as U.S. citizens. However, it has now run three U.S. government-facilitated convoys (700 people) on three successive days; April 29th, April 30th, and May 1st. This probably doesn’t mean that U.S. troops or State Department officials were present with the convoys – just that DoS made the appropriate phone calls and spent the necessary cash to make it happen. A press briefing by DoS says the locally employed staff made the arrangements. Or, perhaps, someone from the agency or an SMU was on the ground facilitating the convoy – something we may never get wind of.
The U.S. AMCIT Numbers. The State Department said in a May 1st press briefing that over 1,000 U.S. citizens have been evacuated by either private volunteer groups or allies. In addition, in the 700 who traveled by convoy; some are AMCITS, which would raise the 1,000 evacuated AMCIT figure higher. Over 5,000 of the estimated 16,000 U.S. citizens are requesting evacuation or assistance. The State Department spokesman was grilled on the numbers and failed to provide the clarity needed to understand ‘the numbers’. “Department Press Briefing”, U.S. Department of State, May 1, 2023.
U.S. Navy Support. The Navy did not have an amphibious readiness group in the region to respond to the Sudan crisis. Instead, it sent two unique ships to the Red Sea off the coast of Port Sudan. “U.S. Navy Sends Nontraditional Ships to Support Sudan Evacuation”, USNI News, May 1, 2023.
26th MEU (-) Deploys. A small task-organized element of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is deploying on short notice the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) area of operations on May 2, 2023. As a crisis response force, the 26th MEU is prepared to aggregate forces at a moment’s notice to support operations across the globe. “26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deploys an element to CENTCOM”, DVIDS, April 29, 2023. See also “Marines Update Evacuation Playbook”, Defense One, April 28, 2023. See also “Marines Look to Get Closer to Special Operations Teams While Practicing Extractions”, Military.com, April 25, 2023.
National Security and Commentary
‘Partners’ or ‘Proxies’. Terms carry a lot of meaning – and the term ‘local proxy forces’ has a little bit of baggage. US defense posture has been emphasizing the benefits of working by, with, and through allies and partners. Some in the national security establishment use the term ‘proxies’. Barbara Elias has some thoughts on that. “Local Partners Are Not Proxies: The Case for Rethinking Proxy War”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, April 20, 2023.
Taiwan and U.S. SOF. At the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) annual capabilities exercise (CAPEX) members of the command gamed out a scenario of the PRC invading Taiwan. The commander of USASOC, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, said that the People’s Republic of China is the true pacing challenge faced by the United States. Read more in “Defending a Mock Invasion of Taiwan Signals Shift for Army Special Operations After Years of Counterinsurgency”, Military.com, April 29, 2023.
Army’s Operating Concept. An explanation of the Army’s operating concept and its relationship to doctrine is provided in this article. It explores the importance of having concepts that are looking out to the middle of the century. “War in 2050: The Army’s Operating Concept After Next”, Modern War Institute at West Point, May 1, 2023.
Border Crisis. The Biden administration is sending troops to the southern border. The numbers of illegal crossing have surged in the past several months and it is believed that it will get even worse when the pandemic policy Title 42 ends next week. “Biden sending 1,500 active-duty troops to border ahead of Title 42 ending”, Washington Examiner, May 2, 2023.
Wagner Group in Africa. The Russian paramilitary group has been active in a number of African countries. The Russians have managed to displace the U.S. and some European nations – extending the influence of its country and protecting its strategic interests. “Forces of Destabilization: Countering Wagner Group in the Sahel”, by Anthony Marco, Irregular Warfare Initiative, April 4, 2023.
Wagner Group – Report. The Foreign Policy Research Institute has published a report entitled “The Wagner Group’s Expanding Global Footprint”, FPRI, April 2023, 36 pages.
Female Tactical Platoon – Members Seek Legal Status in U.S. A small yet highly effective unit of female Afghan soldiers worked closely with U.S. special operations forces on secret and dangerous missions in Afghanistan. In August 2021 and shortly after, some members of the Afghan National Army’s Female Tactical Platoon (FTP) managed to escape Afghanistan on U.S. military evacuation flights and arrived in the United States. They now are seeking Congressional legislation that will address their precarious immigration status. Currently they are in the U.S. on a temporary two-year humanitarian parole that is set to expire in August. The Afghan Adjustment Act would provide the security needed for the FTP as well as for members of the Afghan Air Force (AAF), Special Mission Wing (SMW), and Afghanistan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC). Read more in “Afghan Women Who Fought With U.S. Military Seek Legal Immigration Status”https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/27/us/politics/female-afghan-soldiers-us.html, By Luke Broadwater and Ava Sasani, The New York Times, April 27, 2023. (subscription)
Moral Injury. Veterans are continually receiving messages from former Afghan counterparts and interpreters desperately seeking assistance in fleeing Afghanistan. Some veterans are wondering where the U.S. government is on this issue and don’t believe enough is being done. Many of these veterans have been emotionally and mentally affected by the experience. “Moral Injury – the Ongoing Fight to Bring Our Afghan Allies Home”, Newsweek, May 1, 2023.
May 8-11, 2023. Tampa, Florida
May 16-18, 2023. Fort Bragg, NC and via Zoom
Geostrategic Symposium 2023
May 22-26, 2023. Indianapolis, Indiana
Special Forces Association Convention
May 31, 2023. Ijamsville, MD
6th Annual Golf Tournament
Three Rangers Foundation
June 21-22, 2023
August 5, 2023. Perdido Key, Florida
Deep Dive 2023 Combat Diver Reunion
Books, Pubs, and Reports
Sentinel. The May 2023 issue of the Special Forces Association Chapter 78 Newsletter is now available online. There are a number of interesting articles to read: MoH recipient Col. (Ret.) Paris Davis, Special Forces Association Convention, Book Review of Break in the Chain, SFQC Graduation – Class 332, Bringing the Wall That Heals, SOF Integration Detachment and the Iraq War, Billy Waugh, and more.
Carrying the Gun. The latest monthly issue is now online. Some interesting perspectives by the author on a host of topics. CTG #30, May 1, 2023.
Special Warfare. A magazine that was once published by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School should be brought back to life. Zachary Griffiths sees value in getting the magazine published once again. “Bring Back Branch Magazines”, Modern War Institute at West Point, April 27, 2023.
CTC Sentinel. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has published the April 2023 issue of its monthly online magazine. This issue examines U.S. counterterrorism in the Sahel and its relation to great power competition, the Islamic State in Somalia, and the digital terror financing of Central Asian Jihadis. PDF, 29 pages.
Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Video – Former Acting SECDEF and Green Beret Chris Miller. Watch this great interview by The Team House. An interesting and hours-long discussion. One of the topics is Miller’s recently published book. It is amazing just how good cigars and neat whiskey can enhance a conversation about special operations and national security. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO6k4j1p928
Video – Foreign Nationals in MACV SOG? Lodge Philbin Act. A quick video depicting the names and faces of members of Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group who came from foreign countries. MACVSOG69 History, April 30, 2023, 2 minutes. Watch video here.
SEAL Movies. “Why Are These 5 Navy SEAL Movies so Popular?”, Coffee or Die Magazine, April 27, 2023.
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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