Special Operations News Update – July 17, 2023

Airborne Operation Latvia

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

Photo / Image: U.S. Army Paratroopers descend on a drop zone during airborne training at an airfield in Daugavpils, Latvia, June 29. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alex Soliday)

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SOF News

Navy’s ‘Iron Man’ Dive Suit. A new dive suit is being developed that will enhance diver safety and allow them to work longer and in deeper waters. The Deep Sea Expeditionary with No Decompression System or DSEND is a form-fitting atmospheric dive suit composed of rotating and flexibe joints that provide greater mobility while also keeping internal pressure steady. “The Navy is working on a transformational ‘Iron Man’ dive suit”, Navy Times, July 10, 2023.

Pontoons for the MC-130J? USSOCOM continues its search for air capability that can operate on water. This would be a great benefit for conducting operations in the Indo-Pacific region. Learn more in “Air Force Special Ops Wants Runway Independence, More Speed”, National Defense Magazine, July 14, 2023.

MEU SOCs and Questions. A recent article posted by SOF News (courtesy of DVIDS) announced that the Marines were redesignating the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit as Special Operations Capable. Some readers responded to this with questions like “Why was the MEU SOC concept discontinued in the first place?” and “Is this an attempt to justify the proposed cut of ARSOF by 10 to 20%?”. Things that make you go “Hmmm”.

SERE School. The U.S. Air Force has a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape school that teaches Airmen how to live off the land, evade enemy forces, and . . . if captured, how to resist their captors and survive captivity. “SERE School: The Infamous Course That Teaches US Troops to Survive With Honor”, Coffee or Die, July 13, 2023.

Award for CRD 10th SFG. The 82nd Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was awarded the MG William L. Sibert Award for the second year in a row. The Sibert Award is a recognition of excellence by the Chemical Corps Regimental Association. The 82nd CRD was recognized as the best detachment over all Chemical Teams in the U.S. Army. “82nd Chemical Reconnaissance Detachment Sibert Award Winners”, DVIDS, June 29, 2023.

AFSOC General to be Deputy Director of DTRA. U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Matthew Davidison has been assigned as the Deputy Director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. DTRA has a special relationship with the special operations community and is charged with countering weapons of mass destruction. (DVIDS, July 13, 2023).

USSOCOM Contracts for PGKs for 81mm Mortar Rounds. A $2 million contract will provide Precision Guidance Kits for the 81mm mortar rounds used by SOF personnel. The PGK will provide a more reliable targeting solution for SOF teams. “OKSI Awarded USSOCOM Contract for 81mm Mortar Precision Guidance Kit”, PR Newswire, July 11, 2023.

Guardian Angels Conduct Medical Evacuation Mission. A crew member on a fishing boat in the Pacific suffered a serious life-threatening head injury but was saved due to the actions a pararescue team. The team parachuted from a HC-130 Combat King II aircraft into the Central Pacific Ocean to get onto the fishing vessel and provide medical treatment. The patient was transported to a hospital and was reported to be making steady improvement. “129th Rescue Wing conducts multi-day rescue mission of the coast of Costa Rica”, DVIDS, July 13, 2023.

USSOCOM and JADC2. The three services are in the process to develop a joint all-domain command and control program – and USSOCOM will likely be a big part of that effort as well. “Special Operations Command Has Key Role to Play in JADC2 Success, National Defense Magazine, July 11, 2023.

AFSOC Training Reorganization. The Air Force Special Operations Command is reframing their thinking on how they organize, train, and equip Air Commandos to meet future challenges. AFSOC has stood up the Air Commando Development Center – Provisional (ACDC-P). The new organization is comprised of the AF Special Operations School, 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron, and the new 370th Special Operations Combat Training Squadron. “492nd SOTRG change of command, Air Commando Development Center – Provisional activation”, AFSOC, July 14, 2023.

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International SOF

Philippines Light Reaction Regiment. The Philippine Army’s counterterrorism unit was officially established in 2004. The LRR was mandated to conduct CT and other SOF type missions on Philippine soil. Learn about the history, deployments, doctrine, organization, training, and weapons of the LRF. “Light Reaction Regiment: The Sharpshooters of Death”, Grey Dynamics, July 4, 2023.

AFSOC Cdr Meets With ROKAF CoS. U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tony Bauernfeind (AFSOC) and Brig. Gen. Derek Lipson (SOCKOR) recently met with Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea Air Force. “Republic of Korea Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Leaders Reflect on Decades-long Alliance”, DVIDS, July 13, 2023.

SOF Vehicles for Romania. Polaris has been awarded a contract to provide DAGOR ultralight tactical vehicles to Romania. The Deployable Advanced Ground Off-Road vehicles are to be provided under a $10 million contract. “Romania orders Polaris DAGOR special operations vehicles”, Shephard Media, July 12, 2023.

Kenya SF Attack on al-Shabaab. Security forces ambushed militants in northest Kenya. Six government soldiers were killed during the combat engagement. There has been a spate of terror along the border of Kenya and Somalia recently. The border between the two countries has been closed for over a decade; but may soon reopen. Kenyan has troops deployed in Somalia with the Africa Union-led peacekeeping forces. “Kenya Special Forces Kill 23 al-Shabab Militants”, Voice of America, July 7, 2023.

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SOF History

Creation of COI. On July 11, 1941 the Coordinator of Information (COI) was established. President Franklin Roosevelt appointed William J. Donovan to head a new civilian office attached to the White House. The office was an intelligence and propaganda agency of the U.S. government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_the_Coordinator_of_Information

The Devil’s Brigade. The Canada-U.S. First Special Service Force played a leading role in the Italian campaign during World War II. (Legion Magazine, July 10, 2023).

Remembering MH17. On this day, on July 17, 2014, a Russian Buk shot down a passenger aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur over the eastern section of Ukraine. All 283 passengers and 15 crew were killed.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Reservists to Europe? President Biden has signed a document that provides for the activation of reservists to serve in an overseas assignment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The move is likely to shore up staff and support positions in Europe to account for the stepped up level of operations by European Command in eastern Europe and the support being provided to Ukraine. There are about 80,000 U.S. troops in Europe. “Biden Approves Mobilization of Reserves to Support EUCOM”, DOD News, July 13, 2023.

Russian Chain of Command. Since the mutiny by the Wagner Group senior officers in the Russian military have been playing musical chairs or ‘retiring’. Putin and the MoD is conducting an increased number of reassignments amongst senior military leaders. It is speculated that this is a purge of officers seen as insubordinate. (Institute for the Study of War, July 15, 2023).

Kerch Bridge Damaged? There are reports that the bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland has been damaged with mulitiple explosions – possibly by Ukrainian drone boats or a missile strike on Monday, July 17th. The Kerch Strait Bridge had been severely damaged in October 2022. The bridge is a key logistics route for Russia. “Russia’s Kerch Strait Bridge Has Been Badly Damaged”, The Drive, July 17, 2023.

Wagner Group. President Putin says that he intends to maintain the Wagner Group as a cohesive fighting force rather than breaking it up. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen. The paramilitary organization is not believed to be heavily committed to the Ukraine conflict at this time. Many Wagner Group personnel have relocated to a military camp in Belarus. (Institute for the Study of War, July 14, 2023).

U.S. Cluster Bombs Arrive in Ukraine. Munitions needed by Ukraine to continue its summer offensive have now arrived according to the Joint Staff. The decision to send these munitions to Ukraine was hotly contested in the U.S. and in Europe due the possibility of long-term civilian casualties in the years to come.

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National Security

Border Security. One of the primary regions of migration (legal and illegal) across the southern border is from Northern Central America. Root causes for people departing that region include poor economic prospects and lack of security. Read more in Central American Migration: Root Causes and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF11151, updated July 10, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11151

CENTCOM and the ME. The nations in the U.S. Central Command area of operations remain important to the U.S. National Defense Strategy and are a big consideration when addressing the concerns of stratetic competion. The threats from China, Russia, Iran, and extremist groups remain a focus of the command. “CENTCOM Remains Important to National Defense Strategy, Official Says”, DOD News, July 15, 2023.

Russian Aircraft in Syria. U.S. forces have been increasingly harassed in Syria over the past several weeks. A particular target are U.S. drones flying over Syria. Another instance is an AN-30 aircraft loitering over the Al Tanf garrison for an extended period of time. The Antonov AN-30 is a surveillance and survey aircraft loaded with cameras for mapping and photographic purposes. The Al Tanf garrison is close to the border junction of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. It serves as a launch point for counter-ISIS operations and training site for Syrian opposition factions fighting the jihadist group.

TikTok a National Security Threat. A majority of Americans see TikTok as a threat to the security of the United States. Congress is questioning the platforms ties to China and the security of users’ data. More Republicans than Democrats view the platform as a threat; and older people see it more as a threat than do younger people. “Majority of Americans say TikTok is a threat to national security”, Pew Research Center, July 10, 2023.

Combat Swimmer Operations and Strategic Competion. A rethinking of how SOF conducts operations has taken place over the past few years with the shift of focus from CT / COIN to near-peer conflict with adversaries like China and Russia. The number of combat swimmer operations conducted during the twenty-year long Global War on Terror was probably not a large percentage of Naval Special Warfare missions. However, in the event of possible conflict with a near-peer adversary this would be very different. Read more on this topic in “Combat Swimmer Operations and Their Importance in a Near-Peer Conflict”, SANDBOXX, July 10, 2023.

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Books, Pubs, and Reports

Report on Covert Action. Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community, Congressional Research Service, CRS R45191, Updated July 10, 2023, PDF, 14 pages.

Book – By All Means Available. Micheal Vickers is interviewed about his book detailing his career in service of his country. Vickers is a former Green Beret, CIA officer, and high-level Pentagon official. His Cold War memoir is being highly praised for the explanation of world events that he was involved in over the past several decades. (The Washington Post, Jul 10, 2023) (subscription)

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Videos and Movies

Video – Special Ops: Lioness. The Lioness Program enlists female special operators to operate undercover among the power brokers of State terrorism in the Central Intelligence Agency’s efforts to thwart the next 9/11. Paramount, June 8, 2023, one minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3axWgmlwnl4

Video – Inside America’s Secret War in Somalia. Reporters and TV cameras accompany U.S. special operations forces in country. NBC News, July 9, 2023, 11 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jplJ1U1TeU4

Video – SFACON 2023 Highlight Episode. #EverydayGSD Podcast was in attendance at the Special Forces Association Annual Conference recently held in May 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. While there a number of attendees were interviewed. View some highlights of the speakers. July 1, 2023, 16 minutes.

Video – CSM Robert Abernethy – Senior Enlisted Advisor, EUCOM. U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Abernethy is the SER for U.S. European Command. In this video he talks about his career in Special Forces, valuable takeaways from working at the highest levels, and advice to those in the force to remain ready and vigilent. SOFCast, USSOCOM, Jun 21, 2023, 54 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOfBx-2XLa4


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