Special Operations News Update – July 5, 2023

Marines in Combat Rubber Raid Craft

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

Photo / Image: Marines in a Combat Rubber Raid Craft during a boat raid exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joshua Brittenham, September 14, 2020)

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SOF News

Saying Goodbye to Billy Waugh. A legendary Green Beret was honored in a ceremony recently held at MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida. The retired CSM had a distinguished career – his early days serving in Korea, then Vietnam, and finally serving for many years in the Central Intelligence Agency’s paramilitary program. While in his early 70s he infiltrated into Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 with a CIA team that linked up with members of the Afghan Northern Alliance. Billy Waugh passed away at the age of 93 and was known by some as “the Yoda of Special Forces”. “A Warrior’s Goodbye”, People Magazine, Jun 29, 2023. See also “The legend of Billy Waugh: Special Forces soldier, CIA contractor”, Army Times, June 30, 2023.

SEALs Seeking New Techologies. The acquisitions people at USSOCOM are always looking for new types of equipment that helps their special operators infiltrate, exfiltrate, and conduct their missions. The command’s Science and Technology Office continually evaluate new products for the SOF units. “Navy SEALs Seek New Tech for Covert Missions”, National Defense Magazine, June 30, 2023.

MARSOC 3 Update. Although manslaughter charges were dropped, two Marine Raiders may find that their special operations career could be coming to an end. The Marines have been fighting allegations stemming from an incident that took place in Erbil, Kurdistan in 2018 where they got into an altercation with an American civilian contractor – a retired Green Beret. The former Special Forces soldier was killed as a result of the incident. “Marines look to boot 2 of MARSOC 3 and take their Raider badge”, Task and Purpose, June 30, 2023.

NSW Center Has New Command Master Chief. CMDCM (SWCC) Joaquin Martinez is the newest command master chief for the Naval Special Warfare Center. He is the first Special Warfare Combatant Crewman (SWCC) operator to take the postion; previous CMDCM’s were members of the SEAL community. (DVIDS, Jun 29, 2023).

New Commander for 24th SOW. Col. Daniel Magruder assumed command of the 24th Special Operations Wing during a ceremony at the Special Tactics Training Squadron on Hurlburt Field on June 29, 2023. The outgoing commander, Col. Jason Daniels, is moving on to serve as the Deputy Director of Operations at headquarters AFSOC. “Magruder takes command of Special Tactics”, AFSOC, July 3, 2023.

AF PJs Need a New Boat. An elite unit of the Air Force is looking for a rigid-hull craft that can drop by parachute in the middle of the ocean from a C-130 or C-17, that can carry a 6-person team up to 300 nautical miles at 35 knots, and that has room for at least 2 ‘soaking wet’ astronauts. “Air Force Pararescue teams are looking for a new boat to rescue astronauts”, Task and Purpose, July 3, 2023.

SEALs in Congress. The number of U.S. Navy SEALs who are in or seeking office in Congress is growing. (The Washington Times, July 3, 2023).

Marine Raiders and the Tech They Need. MARSOC has a lot of unique hardware and software applications with which to perform their various missions. However, one distinct limitation is that these various systems and platforms don’t always ‘mesh’ with each other. “Enough ‘one trick ponies’: Marine special ops specialists want industry to help to fuse tech”, Breaking Defense, June 28, 2023.

GBs Provide Assistance to a Worthy Cause. Former Green Berets provided assistance to a benefit named “Green Beret with a Mission Challenge” recently held in New Hampshire. An endurance, skill, and obstacle course that simulated combat training for participants helped to raise money to support Camp Resilence. The funds raised will be used to provide therapeutic outdoor experiences to military veterans, first responders, and their families. “Green Beret with a Mission builds bridges and raises spirits”, Stars and Stripes, June 28, 2023.

Naval Commando Honored. Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Art Nicholas was one of the first naval commandos and a celebrated World War II veteran. He was recently recognized with a Trident presentation. “Naval Legend and Original Naval Commando Honored at SEAL Graduation”, DVIDS, June 30, 2023.

Rubber Ducks – a Little History. There are various types of ‘duck insertions’ and they have probably been around since the early 1950s when first practiced by U.S. Army Special Forces. These insertion techniques can be used SOF elements infiltrating by fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft. There are soft ducks, k-ducks, hard ducks, and rolled ducks. Read more in “What Are Navy SEAL ‘Duck’ Insertions and Which One Would You Prefer?”, SANDBOXX, June 27, 2023.

SOF Cuts Ahead? The Army’s special operations community could see some cuts in the years ahead. As the military services shift from CT/COIN missions (and IW?) to a strategic competition focus it has to re-evaluate its force structure and budget. Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth has been setting the stage for a reduction in ARSOF with recent statements. This certainly is concerning and it seems like we are repeating the mistakes of the early 70s. “Army secretary talks force structure cuts, SOF ‘reform'”, Army Times, June 28, 2023.

SEALs: Most Dangerous Weapon? This article describes the physical and mental toughness necessary to become a U.S. Navy SEAL. “The U.S. Navy SEALs: America’s Most Dangerous ‘Weapon’?”, by Kris Osborn, 1945, July 2, 2023.

New SOCKOR Commander Brings Change. Special Operations Command Korea recently had a change of command ceremony which witnessed the departure of Maj. Gen. Michael Martin and the arrival of Brig. Gen. Derek Lipson. Read more in “Brig. General Derek N. Lipson: Pioneering Change in US Special Operations Command – Korea”, SOFREP, July 1, 2023.

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International SOF

GBs and Finland’s Utti Jaeger Regiment. The 10th Special Forces Group has been busy training up on its winter warfare skills over the past few months with Finland’s Utti Jaeger Regiment. Now that Finland is part of NATO, Russia has to contend with NATO troops positioned along its very long border in the north. Read more in “US Green Berets are looking to troops from NATO’s newest member as ‘mentors’ for harsh winter combat”, Business Insider, June 28, 2023.

South Korea SOF Visits U.S. SOF-Capable Sub. The commander of SOCKOR and ROK Navy Special Warfare Flotilla paid a visit to the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan during June 2023. The sub is one of four Ohio-class guided-missile submarines. “Michigan Leaves Busan After ROK Special Operations Forces Visit”, DIVDS, June 22, 2023.

Polish CT Police Moves to Border. The relocation of Wagner Group forces from Russia to Belarus following a failed Wagner Group revolt has stoked fears of greater instability in the region. Police from Polish riot patrol and counterterrorism units will deploy along the border, joining 5,000 Polish security guards and 2,000 soldiers already stationed at the border. It is believed that up to 8,000 Wagner Group fighters are now in Belarus. “Poland to send counterterrorism police to Belarus border”, Politico, July 2, 2023.

Greek Amphib Raiders to Get New Speedboats. The Hellenic Amry Amphibious Raider Squadrons of the Joint Special Operations Command is receiving 41 new S1200 Armored speedboats. “Hellenic Army receives S1200 Armored speedboats”, Janes.com, July 4, 2023.

China’s SF. The growth and modernization of Chinese Special Forces represent an ever-growing challenge to U.S. military hegemony. Chinese SOF units have significantly transformed over the past several years. “The Modernization of Chinese Special Forces”, SOFREP, July 3, 2023.

U.S. and Philippine SOF Exercise. The United States Special Operations Command Pacific (SOFPAC) and members of the Philippine Army’s 18th Special Forces Company (18SFC) are in the middle of at five-week long exercise aimed at enhancing the capabilities and readiness of Filipino special forces. The bilateral exercise began on June 12 in the joint operational area of the Western Command. “US-Philippines joint exercise strengthens special forces for enhanced security”, Palawan News, July 2, 2023.

UK SF and War Crimes. Special forces commanders in the United Kingdom allegely destroyed computer data to hid potential evidence of the killing of unarmed Afghan civilians. It is alleged that the SF officers deleted the files prior to a visit by the Royal Military Police as a part of a war crimes investigation. “UK special forces chiefs allegedly deleted war crimes data ahead of probe”, Arab News, July 2, 2023.

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SOF History

On June 29, 1990, the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) was reactivated to cover Special Forces operations in EUCOM’s African region.

On June 30, 1972, the 8th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was redesignated as the 3rd Bn 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Panama.

On July 2, 1959, detachments of the 77th Special Forces Group began Project HOTFOOT in Laos. Special Forces personnel, wearing civilian clothes and assuming the role of contracted civilian technicians, trained Laotian Armed forces units on U.S. weapons and individual soldier skills. At the time, Laos was a Cold War ‘hot spot’ facing threats from the Communist Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army troops operating inside Laos. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Hotfoot_(Laos)

On this day, July 4, 1968, The Green Berets, a film loosely based on a book by Robin Moore, was released starring John Wayne as a colonel in Vietnam and David Janssen as a newspaper correspondent who questioned the war’s wisdom. Much of the film was shot in the summer of 1967 (before the Tet Offensive).

On July 8, 1961, the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated in Birmingham, Alabama.

On July 9, 1941, the First Special Service Force was officially activated.

On July 9, 1961, teams of Green Berets began organizing and training tribesmen in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, forming up the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG).

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Ukraine – Offensive Underway. The slow, steady, and incremental advance of Ukrainian forces along the front lines is continuing – especially in southern Ukraine. There are indications that the Ukrainians are concentrating their long-range fires on strikes deep behind enemy lines – hitting Russian supply depots in the occupied territories. The intent is to set the conditions for a larger scale attack into Russian-held areas of eastern Ukraine.

Russian Attacks. Over the past week Russian forces in eastern Ukraine have attempted some small-scale attacks yielding modest gains amid heavy fighting.

ATACMS for Ukraine? The Ukrainians may soon have an impressive weapon to use in their fight against the Russian invaders. The Biden administration is considering sending advanced long-range missiles to bolster Ukraine’s offensive capability. The ATACMS have a range of 190 miles (or more) and provide a very highly precision strike capability. Another capability needed by Ukraine are dual-purpose improved convention munitions or DPICM. It is an artillery shell that contains submunitions that are highly effective on the battlefield. For the moment, the U.S. has not decided whether to provide the DPICMs.

GIS Arta System. One of the reasons that Ukrainian offensive fires against Russian targets have been so successful is the use of a geographic information system for artillery app. “Uber for Artillery – What is Ukraine’s GIS Arta System?”, The Moloch, 2023.

SF Officer On Training Needed by Ukraine. Rudy Weisz, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer, provides his perspective on the type of training the Ukrainian military needs to be successful. He believes that the U.S. needs to avoid falling into the trap of pushing the Ukraine military to align its doctrine, force structure, and TTPs in lock-step with U.S. doctrine, force structure, and TTPs. And, he offers his opinion on the use of U.S. contractors to provide training as well. “Ukraine Doesn’t Need U.S. Contractors”, War on the Rocks, July 3, 2023.

Americans Fighting in Ukraine. Two former U.S. service members, one a Green Beret and the other a Marine, are profiled in this article by Shannon Vavra entitled “Americans Who Fought Putin Share ‘Horrifying’ War Surprises”, The Daily Beast, July 1, 2023.

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Sudan Conflict and Evac of Foreign Nationals

Sudan Conflict Update. The fighting between the Sudanese Army and its rival paramilitary group is now about three months long – with no end in sight. The people of Sudan are in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. Negotiations have not been fruitful and are now dormant. Most civil aviation is cancelled except for humanitarian flights bringing aid into the country.

Royal Marines and the Sudan Evacuation. Military personnel from the UK Commando Force and other British units responded within hours to evacuate British nationals from Sudan as violence and threats rose in that country. They immediately set up operations at the Wadi Seidna Airport just north of Khartoum – flying out hundreds of British nationals as well as citizens of other countries. “Royal Marines mobilised within hours to fly into the ‘extraordinary uncertainty’ of Sudan”, Forces.net, June 30, 2023.

Update on the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), ceasefire, humanitarian crisis, and evacuation of foreign nationals.

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National Security

More Drama Over Army PT Test. The U.S. Senate may attempt to roll back the U.S. Army’s efforts to update its method of evaluting the physical fitness of its soldiers. The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced legislation that includes restoring the Army’s Physical Fitness Test (APFT) as the test of record. Lawmakers are frustrated with the current Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) that became the official test on October 1, 2022. “Senate committee advances bill that may kill Army Combat Fitness Test”, Army Times, June 26, 2023.

Triple Canopy – Details of a U.S. PMC. The onset of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) witnessed numerous security contracting firms – large and small- that formed up to service the many DoD, DoS, and other U.S. government contracts that required security services in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in other parts of the world. One of the larger PMCs was Triple Canopy founded by former members of the special operations community. This firm has a solid presence around the world even today – despite the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. troops. “Triple Canopy: A Deep Dive”, Grey Dynamics, June 30, 2023.

Border Crisis. Since early 2021, annual encounters involving unaccompanied alien children (UC) at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have remained at record-high levels. Encounters include both apprehensions and expulsions. Since February 2021, UC encounters have consistently exceed 8,500 per month. Increasing Numbers of Unaccompanied Children at the Southwest Border, Congressional Research Service (CRS), CRS IN11638, updated June 28, 2023, PDF, 4 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN11638

Mongolia – Assisting in Peace and Security in Northeast Asia. Mongolia is taking a leading role among nations to promote human rights, denuclearization, and the peace process for the Korean penisular. A retired Special Forces officer, Dave Maxwell, recently returned from that country and provides details of this effort in a recently published article. “Mongolia Forum: Peace and security in Northeast Asia through Korean reunification”, The Korea Times, July 4, 2023.

UN Mission in Mali Ends. The United Nations Security Council has opted to end its years-long peacekeeping mission in Mali after the country’s military junta asked for its departure. MINUSMA’s 13,000 strong force will leave a security vacumn that will be filled by 1,000 personnel from the Wagner Group. Mali’s security forces will likely have increased difficulty in handling the Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of people. The insurgents are linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. For many years the U.S. had Special Forces military training missions in Mali but scaled down their presence due to other worldwide committments. European nations, under French leadership, established Task Force Takuba – a European SOF element – to fill that gap. However, TF Takuba has also departed Mali. “UN ends peacekeeping mission in Mali, US blames Russia’s Wagner”, Reuters, June 30, 2023.

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Books about Special Forces Training

Books, Pubs, and Reports

Sentinel. Published by Chapter 78 of the Special Forces Association, this monthly publication provides interesting reading for the Special Forces community. The July 2023 issue has several articles of interest to include a book review about the Jedburghs, Paris Davis (MoH recipient), El Salvador, a MAC-V Recondo Advisor, and more. https://www.specialforces78.com/chapter-78-newsletter-for-july-2023/

Book Review – Ballad of the Green Beret. A new book is out about the life and death of SSG Barry Sadler, the Special Forces NCO who’s song of the same name hit number one on the charts in the 1960s. The book covers his time in Vietnam, his stardom, and to his death. The book, 296 pages long, was published in 2023 and is reviewed in Military Review, July-August 2023.

CRS Report – Army’s XM-30 Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle. The Congressional Research Service has published a short brief (3 pages, PDF) about the U.S. Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) which will likely be designated the XM-30. The OMFV will have the capability to conduct remotely controlled operations while the crew is not in the vehicle. It is being designed to replace the M-2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). The M-2 Bradley has been in service since 1981 and is used to transprot infantry on the battlefield, provide fire support to dismounted troops, and destroy enemy fighting vehicles. CRS, updated June 27, 2023. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12094

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Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Video – SWCC: Making an Operator. A short video about Special Warfare Combat Crewman (SWCC) training. DVIDS, June 30, 2023, one minute.


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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.