Special Operations News Update – June 26, 2023

Airborne Sniper

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

Photo / Image: A U.S. special operations forces soldier practices sniper rifle marksmanship aboard an airborne Hellenic UH-H1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter during Hellenic SOFEX ORION 23, April 28, 2023 near Megara, Greece. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Dunlap)

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SOF News

1st SF Command CCWO CoR. On June 20, 2023, Command Chief Warrant Officer Scott Gronowski relinquished responsibility to Command Chief Warrant Officer Felix “Lalo” Mosqueda. The 1st Special Forces Command Change of Responsibility for the two CW5s took place at Fort Liberty, North Carolina. CW5 Gronowski is heading to a well-earned retirement.

Dragon Challenge. Top Airmen competed in a three-day competition at Fort Cambell, Ky in events testing physical strength and technical knowledge. The Airmen came from three career fields: Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), intelligence, and Special Warfare Mission Support (SWMS). The Air Force is considering a drastic drop in its TACP force in the near future. “Airmen Compete for ‘Top TACP’ Title, as Air Force Plans Deep Cuts to Career Field”, Air and Space Forces, June 23, 2023.

Viable CT Capability. The move of the US from CT and COIN to strategic competition could be affecting the ability of the US to strike terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. National Defense University’s Kim Cragin examines the Biden administrations over-the-horizon approach and argues that its foundations are increasingly shaky. “Counterterrorism Jenga”, Lawfare Blog, June 25, 2023.

10th SFG(A) Trains With Swedish Home Guard. Members of the 10th Special Forces Group trained with Swedish forces in Lapland for several days – training the ended on 2 June 2023. In the training scenario, the Green Berets trained a ‘guerrilla force’. (DVIDS, Jun 2, 2023).

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International SOF

10 Elite SOF Units. The SAS, SEALs, KSK, GIGN, and others are featured in this article. “Top 10 Most Elite Special Forces Unites: Unveiling the World’s Best Warriors”, SOFREP, June 25, 2023.

Australian SF and Body Cams. In an effort to curtail misconduct of Australian special forces in combat situations there is a recommendation that they wear ‘Big Brother’ cameras into battle. This came about as a recommendation of the Brereton Inquiry which investigated alleged war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan. (Daily Mail, Jun 18, 2023).

Philippine SF. President Marcos recognized the contributions of the Philippine Army’s Special Forces Regiment – Airborne (SFRA) in maintaining the peace and dealing with security threats in the country during a recent ceremony on June 25, 2023. It was the regiment’s 61st founding anniversary. The SFRA is considered as one of AFP’s Special Operations Forces most elite units. It specializes in air assaults, anti-guerrilla operations, CQB, COIN, CT, hostage rescue, and other missions. “Marcos hails Army’s Special Forces: You’ve been dependable sentinels for Filipinos”, Manila Bulletin, June 25, 2023. See also “61st founding anniversary of the Special Forces Regiment Airborne of the Philippine Army”, PIA.gov.ph, June 26, 2023.

SOF History Banner

SOF History

History of Army Rangers. Mac Caltrider traces the history of the U.S. Army Rangers from pre-revolutionary days to the current era. “Sua Sponte: The Fighting Spirit of the 75th Ranger Regiment”, Coffee or Die Magazine, June 20, 2023.

10th SFG(A) Activation. On June 19, 1952, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. https://www.specialforceshistory.info/groups/10sfga.html

1st SFG(A) Activation. On June 24, 1957, the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated. On of its first missions was the deployment of training teams to South Vietnam. https://www.specialforceshistory.info/groups/1sfga.html

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Short-lived Wagner Group Revolt. Over the past several weeks the Wagner Group had been repositioning its forces from the Ukraine front lines into ‘rest and refit’ areas. In late June 2023 about 25,000 personnel (according to some news reports) of the Wagner Group conducted a military revolt. They left Ukraine, crossed into Russia, and occupied Russia’s Southern Military District in (VOA, Jun 24, 2023) Rostov (Google Maps) for a short time beginning on Friday and early Saturday. The leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, threatened to advance to Moscow on a “March to Justice” to confront Russia’s military leadership and had come within 120 miles of the capital.

The Washington Post (Jun 24, 2023, subscription) reported that U.S. intelligence had learned in mid-June that an ‘armed operation’ could be attempted by the Wagner Group. One possible trigger for the mercenary group’s actions could be the June 10th Russian Defense Ministry order that all ‘volunteer’ detachments would have to sign contracts with the government by July 1st. Certainly a interesting turn of events over the past few days!

A Failed Coup. On Sunday the ‘armed action’ was called off – most likely as it didn’t gain the support needed to be successful. Prigozhin went to Belarus (or so it seems). Charges against Prigozhin (PBS, Jun 23, 2023) had been filed against Prigozhin by the Russian Federal Security Services on Friday. These charges were dropped and Wagner Group fighters given immunity on Sunday. A column of Chechen forces loyal to Ramzan Kadyrov (SOF News, June 9, 2023) threatened action against the Wagner Group. It had left Ukraine for Rostov, but then returned to Ukraine once the coup failed.

And Next? A lot of questions remain. Does Prigozhin lose control of the Wagner Group. Does the paramilitary organization get absorbed into the Russian military? Will it continue to fight on behalf of Russia in Ukraine? What of the Wagner Group elements in Syria, Africa, and elsewhere?

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IWC, DoD, and Congress. Has the Department of Defense lost its way in the establishment of the Irregular Warfare Center? Two U.S. Senators think so. Stalled by bureaucratic indecision, the Pentagon is operating its new center in an interim capacity that risks dangerously narrowing its field of vision. “Get Moving on That Irregular Warfare Center, DOD Leaders”, by Sen. Mark Kelly and Sen. Lindsey Graham, Defense One, June 20, 2023.

IW: The ‘Unseen’ but Constant Fight. The aspects of intelligence, irregular warfare, and political warfare are explored in this article by Philip Wasielewski. He is the Director of the FPRI’s newly established Center for the Study of Intelligence and Nontraditional Warfare. “The Constant Fight: Intelligence Activities, Irregular Warfare, and Political Warfare”, FPRI, June 20, 2023.

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National Security

M10 Booker – Is It a Tank? The Army is rolling out the news that it has a new ‘combat vehicle’. The M10 Booker – formerly known as Mobile Protected Firepower – is not a light tank according to defense officials. But it certainly looks like a tank. Light tanks have historically been used to perform reconnaissance functions – but the Booker is not a recon vehicle. “The Army’s M10 Booker is a tank. Prove us wrong”, Army Times, June 21, 2023.

Competition in the Arctic. Both Russia and China are taking the opportunity to expand their ‘reach’ into the High North. Both countries are waging campaigns of influence, money, disinformation, and incremental chage to subvert cooperative frameworks and gain power projection throughout the Arctic. Lilian Alessa, Ph.D., explains in “The ‘Coldest War’ Is an Invisible One for the Arctic”, The Messenger Opinion, June 24, 2023.

DoD – Pashto Speakers – No Longer Needed? It is reported the Defense Language Institute (DLI) at Monterey, California will no longer conduct courses in Pashto. Some analysts believe this to be short-sighted; including former Green Beret Justin Sapp who was the first U.S. service member to enter Afghanistan after 9/11. “In a sign of the times, the Defense Language Institute quietly shutters its Pashto language program”, Connecting Vets – Audacy, June 20, 2023.

Meta, WhatsApp, and the Taliban. The popular messenger service that offers end-to-end encryption is increasingly being used by the Taliban to conduct government business. This puts Meta in a quandry – how to keep the vital communicatons application available to the general Afghan population while restricting its use by a sanctioned regime. ( Business Insider, Jun 18, 2023).

Blacksmith Publishing

Wagner Group in Africa. Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the recent actions of the Wagner Group and its leader Yevgeny Prigozhin a “betrayal” that will be punished. The events of the past week could have huge implications for Africa – the paramilitary group has thousands of its mercenaries active in several African countries. But Wagner is more than a ‘security’ force; it is engaged in many business alliances and endeavors and is a force that extends Russia’s influence in Africa.

China’s PSCs in Africa. China is expanding its influence and position in Africa. Russia’s Wagner Group has been present in Africa for years. Is China following suit? “Will China’s Private Security Companies Follow the Wanger Group’s Footsteps in Africa?”, The Diplomat, June 24, 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

Books, Pubs, Videos, and Reports

Paper – The Role and Limits of Special Operations in Strategic Competition. David H. Ucko, a professor at the National Defense University, has published a report that explores the promise and limitations of special operations in this new strategic competition era. June 20, 2023. You can also watch his testimony in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee (Feb 8, 2023). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/figure/10.1080/03071847.2023.2219701

Military Strategy Magazine. Several interesting articles are in the latest issue. https://www.militarystrategymagazine.com/

CRS Report – AUKUS Piller 2: Background and Issues for Congress. The Congressional Research Service has published a report that explains a security pact agreed upon by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia to develop and field “advanced capabilities”. Pillar 2 activities have been coordinated among the three governments by means of eight working groups that address technological and function areas of undersea capabilities, quantum technologies, AI, cyber, hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation, and info sharing. The security pact is an attempt to “promote a free and open Indo-Pacific that is secure and stable.” It is interpreted by many to counter the growth of Chinese influence and capability in the Pacific region. CRS R47599, June 20, 2023, PDF, 17 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47599

Video – Within You is the Best You. Royal Marines Commandos recruitment video, June 19, 2023, YouTube, one minute. http://A new recruitment video for the Royal Marines Commandos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi3syKhmUXw&t=3s


SOFCAST. United States Special Operations Command

The Pinelander. Blacksmith Publishing

The Indigenous Approach. 1st Special Forces Command

Irregular Warfare Initiative

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.