Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: SOF operators train in unforgiving terrain at Pituffick Space Base, Greenland to demonstrate operational capabilities that are critical for integrated deterrence and layered defense during Arctic Edge 23. Courtesy photo USSOCOM.
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Cuts to ARSOF. Army special operations forces may be subject to personnel cuts – perhaps as much as 10 to 20 percent to help fund Army modernization. The proposal is under consideration for the Army’s fiscal 2025 budget request. “Possible Personnel Cuts at Army Special Operations Command Loom”, by Frank Wolfe, Defense Daily, September 19, 2023.
General (Ret.) Clarke. A former commander of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Platform Aerospace. (Newswire, Sep 22, 2023)
LTG (Ret.) Beaudette. PenFed Foundation has announced that Lieutenant General (Ret.) Fran Beaudette is their new Ambassador. Beaudette spent his U.S. Army career in Special Forces and was a former commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). The PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that supports veterans in their transition from service to success. Affiliated with PenFed Credit Union, the Foundation has provided more than $55 million in financial support to veterans, active-duty service members and military families. (yahoo!finance, Sep 21, 2023)
SOF, OSINT, and Contracting Firms. An article by Matt Taibbi explains in detail the world of open-source intelligence contracting firms that support the U.S. special operations community. Not sure how much is fact and how much is fiction – but it is an interesting read. Of course, the article is published by ScheerPost . . . so there’s that. “Forget Bellingcat – Meet a Real “OpenSource” Watchdog”, Scheerpost, September 23, 2023.
AFSOC SR. U.S. Air Force SR is a specialized military unit that deploys advanced technology and covert operations deep behind enemy lines to provide critical battlefield intelligence, develop targets, and achieve global access, air, space, and cyberspace superiority. September 13, 2023, “United States Air Force Special Reconnaissance”, by Ahmed Hassan, Grey Dynamics.
Green Beret to Run for VA Congressional Seat. A Special Forces veteran is joining the race to flip Virginia’s 7th Congressional District from Democratic control, stating that he “could no longer remain silent on the sidelines.” Republican Derrick Anderson, a veteran who served six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan during the war on terror, is entering what is shaping up to be one of the House’s most competitive races in 2024. “Green Beret veteran launches campaign for Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s Virginia Seat”, Washington Examiner, September 18, 2023.
AFSOC, MQ-9s, and a ‘UAS Network’. MQ-9s may likely grow beyond their traditional role as intelligence and strike platforms. They would become mobile control centers for a network of small drones or other systems which could form an “expansive sensing grid” to find targets or create a communications pathway for special operations forces that will be in the deep battlespace. “AFSOC Wants MQ-9 Reapers to Act as ‘Capital Ships’ for Smaller Drones”, by David Roza, Air & Space Forces Magazine, September 19, 2023. See also “U.S. Air Force Special Ops to Demo MQ-9 Air-Launching UAS”, Aviation Week, September 22, 2023.
MH-60 Loaded With Extras. The Army’s Night Stalker Black Hawks are loaded with sensors, defensive systems, and communications gear to take on the hardest of missions. “Special Ops MH-60 Seen Absolutely Crammed With Modifications”, The Drive, September 21, 2023.
AFSOC Strategic Guidance. Air Force Special Operations Command has released the 2023 AFSOC strategic guidance. The strategic guidance aligns with the 2022 National Defense Strategy and sets forth a framework for Air Commandos, their readiness, and pathfinding efforts. The command is transforming to properly prepare, prevent, and prevail against any adversary in today’s complex and uncertain operational environment. “COMAFSOC releases 2023 Strategic Guidance”, AFSOC, September 22, 2023.
Combat Diver Competiton. The inaugural U.S. Army Special Operations Command Best Combat Diver Competition will take place in Key West Sept. 25-27, hosted by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. The competition determines the best two-man ‘dive buddy’ team while promoting the Army Special Operations Forces core attributes of Integrity, Courage, Perseverance, Personal Responsibility, Professionalism, Adaptability, Team Player and Capability, according to a military press release. “Military Special Ops Teams Compete in Key West Sept. 25-27”, Keys Weekly, September 21, 2023.
Former 10th Group Doc Now in Space. Lt. Col. Frank Rubio has spent a full year in space, longer than any other U.S. astronaut. He has been serving as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He is a former UH-60 Black Hawk pilot as well as a former battalion surgeon for 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colorado. “Soldier sets record with year on International Space Station”, U.S. Army, September 20, 2023. See also “He should’ve returned to Earth months ago. Instead, he broke a NASA record”, The Washington Post, September 21, 2023. (subscription)
GB – Out of the Fight, But Not Forgotten. A retired Green Beret with the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), suffered severe injuries in 2018 during a combat mission in Afghanistan. But his teammates have not forgotten him. His injuries left him paralyzed after his L1 and L2 vertebras shattered, and his spinal cord was damaged. Additionally, he underwent surgery to remove his left pancreas, diaphragm, and intestines. The Special Forces soldier was recently moved into a new home that has been specially outfitted for his needs. “Retired 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Beret Finds a New Home”, by Broderick Hennington, DVIDS, September 22, 2023.
Exercise Polar Dagger. As Big Navy continues to work to bring the SEALs back into the conventional fleet fold after decades of largely autonomous special operations, a SEAL team recently took part in an Arctic exercise to showcase a role they could potentially play in the next conflict. The effort came during Operation Polar Dagger, an exercise that took part in the frigid environment off Alaska in the Bering Sea. “SEALs operate in the Arctic during Polar Dagger”, by Geoff Ziezuleqicz, Navy Times, September 22, 2023.
MC-130s, Beaches, and the Pacific. Special operations aircraft may be using beaches in the future to provide critical logistics in the Indo-Pacom region where runways are few in number and under threat. “Special Ops C-130s Using Beaches as Runways Eyed for Pacific Fight”, The WarZone, September 19, 2023.
26th MEU(SOC) and Baltic Sea Exercise. Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) concluded exercise Northern Coasts 2023, a multinational naval exercise series in the Baltic Sea region held in September. “26th MEU(SOC) Concludes Baltic Sea Exercise – Northern Coast 2023”, DVIDS, September 22, 2023.
AF Special Warfare Initial Training to be ‘Streamlined’. The Air Force Special Operations Command is looking to trim down the training pipeline for its special operations personnel. Some training in the pipeline will be moved to unit level training. “Old is new again as Air Force special ops branch revamps training”, by Rachel S. Cohen, Air Force Times, September 19, 2023.
Spetsnaz Depleted. The Ukraine conflict has taken its toll on Russian special operations forces. Some were squandered during the opening states of the war in Ukraine. More recently, they have been used on the front lines in the role of conventional infantry. Analysts project that it may be years before personnel can be trained up to replace the losses. “Cannon Fodder: Russia’s Special Forces Has Been Slaughtered Thanks to Ukraine War”, 1945, September 23, 2023.
Royal Marines and Their New Rifle. The U.K. Royal Marines are on the absolute cutting edge with their newest DMR. Specifically, the Royal Marines have adopted an LMT AR-10-type rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor with HUXWRX suppressors and the Leupold Mk5 HD. (The Fire Arm Blog, Sep 21, 2023).
Life of a Swedish Mercenary. A ghost writer relates his experience working with a former Swedish special operator who resigned from the military and spent years in northern Iraq working with the Kurds. “A Swedish Mercenary in Iraq: A Ghostwriter’s Ode to Axel Stal”, by Jonas Vesterberg, Soldier of Fortune Magazine, September 13, 2023.
FSB Alpha Group. Learn about the history, organization, training, equipment, mission, and more of Russia’s special forces unit that is part of the Russian Federal Security Service’s (FSB) Special Purpose Center. “FSB Alpha Group: Russia’s Elite A Team”, Grey Dynamics, September 22, 2023.
OSS. On September 20, 1945, Executive Order 9621 disbands the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
5th SFG(A). On September 21, 1961, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated at Ft. Bragg.
SFOD-K. On September 23, 1961, Special Forces Operational Detachment – Korea was formed. Det-K started as a series of TDY assignments from the 1st Special Forces Group in Okinawa. By November 1961, SFOD-K became known as the FA 40th Detachment, under the operational control of the Korea Military Assistance Group. It was redesignated on 16 October 2005 as the 39th Special forces Detachment (Airborne).
Amphib Scouts of WWII. On Sept. 24, 1943, the 7th Amphibious Force Special Service Unit #1, a top-secret scout unit in the Pacific made up of American and Australian military and natives from Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands, began the reconnaissance of Cape Gloucester.
Green Beret. On September 25, 1961, Department of the Army Message 578636 designated the Green Beret as the official and exclusive headgear of the Army Special Forces.
GSG 9. On September 26, 1972, GSG 9 of the German Federal Police was founded.
ATACMs. An important weapon for Ukraine’s military may soon be provided by the United States. The Biden administration is reported to have decided to send the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. It is a tactical ballistic missile that can be fired from the HIMARS. The ATACMS extend the ability for Ukrainian missile strikes to the naval port of Sevastopol, Crimea (Google Maps) and the Kerch Bridge (SOF News). Some critics say this decision is ‘better late than never’. Phillips Obrien provides a detailed analysis in his “Weekend Update”, Phillips Newsletter, September 24, 2023.
Russian Black Sea Naval Commander Dead? Russian Admiral Viktor Sokolov may have been killed in a missile strike called ‘Operation Crab Trap’ against the Russian fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea. The attack took place on Friday, September 22, 2023, with the use of Storm Shadow missiles. “Russia’s Black Sea Commander Alleged Dead After Strike Against Fleet’s HQ”, SANDBOXX, September 22, 2023.
Paladin Howitzers Scoring in Ukraine Conflict. The Paladin self-propelled Howitzers are keeping the Russians pinned down and surviving to fight another day. The Paladin M109 Self-propelled Howitzer is playing a big role in Ukraine’s counteroffensive push. The Paladin’s ability to rapidly reposition after firing has made them a vexing challenge for Russian artillery troops. “Ukraine Situation Report: M109 Paladins Are Proving Too Wily For Russian Gunners”, by Howard Altman, The WarZone, September 18, 2023.
Foreign Fighters and Ukraine. Brian Petit, a retired Special Forces officer, provides his perspective on the foreigners who travel to Ukraine to participate in the fight against Russian aggression. He goes further – exploring the opportunities to incorporate foreign fighters into our own military. “A Backdoor Call to Arms: Foreign Fighters in National Defense”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, September 7, 2023.
Ukraine’s Covert Combat Kayak. The country has two seas – the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. In addition, it has thousands of big and small rivers. So, the use of kayaks by its special operations forces is a logical outcome. Read more in “It’s a kayak with a grenade launcher. And it could be game-changer in Ukraine”, ABC News, September 22, 2023.
Partisan Warfare. Read how old Russian military theories can give new insight into resistance to occupation in Ukraine. “The Art of Partisan Warfare is not Dead”, Irregular Warfare Center, September 21, 2023.
IW – Quite Regular and Not Going Away. Michael Miklaucic, a Senior Fellow at National Defense University and the Editor-in-Chief of the PRISM journal, says the national defense community needs to acknowledge that most future struggles will take place in the gray zone of irregular warfare. IW really isn’t all that irregular. U.S. armed forces have been engaged in irregular warfare for 92 of the last 125 years, while in conventional warfare for only 17 of those years. Read more in “The Relentless Regularity of Irregular Warfare”, Real Clear Defense, September 16, 2023.
Genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh? While the world is focused on the war in Ukraine another conflict is ‘quietly’ taking place in the Armenia – Azerbaijan region. Read about it in “California’s Armenian diaspora sees another genocide happening in homeland”, The Fresno Bee, September 23, 2023. See also “The Choice in Nagorno-Karabakh: Ethnic Cleansing or Self-Determination?”, E-International Relations, September 22, 2023. For more history on the conflict see “IntelBrief: Azerbaijan Seizes Control of Nagorno-Karabakh”, The Soufan Center, September 25, 2023.
Report – Abrams Modernization. On September 6, 2023, the Army announced that it would close out the current version of the M-1A2 effort and develop a newer version of the Abrams tank. The current version of the tank can no longer grow its capabilities without adding extra weight, and the Army needs to reduce its logistical footprint. The new version will allow for quicker technology upgrades and require fewer resources. This will result in a more survivable, lighter tank that will be more effective on the battlefield at initial fielding and be easier to upgrade in the future. Read more in “The Army’s New M-1E3 Abrams Tank Modernization Program”, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12495, September 18, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12495
Border Crisis. The news does not get any better. The ‘sanctuary cities’ are crying ‘no mas’ yet illegal immigrants continue to pour across the border. U.S. officials last month encountered 232,972 people entering the United States without authorization through the southwest border, up from 183,494 in July, according to numbers released by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “Border apprehensions up nearly 27 percent from July to August”, The Hill, September 22, 2023. See also “Biden sets record for illegal immigrant border encounters in August ever recorded”, Washington Examiner, September 22, 2023.
NYC – “No More Hotel Rooms”. The governor of New York says that “we don’t have capacity.” See “Hochul says New York has reached a limit with its immigrant crisis”, Washington Examiner, September 21, 2023.
Cyber Strategy. The U.S. Department of Defense has published (released to public 12 Sep 2023) an unclassified summary of its 2023 Cyber Strategy. “DoD Releases 2023 Cyber Strategy Summary”, SOF News, September 14, 2023.
CRS Report – Taiwan: Defense and Military Issues. U.S. policy toward Taiwan has long prioritized the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. To dissuade the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from using force to try to gain control of self-governing Taiwan (which officially calls itself the Republic of China or ROC), the United States has supported Taiwan’s military deterrence efforts. At the same time, the United States has been strengthening its ability to deter PRC military aggression in Asia. One challenge for the United States has been how to deepen military ties with Taiwan without triggering the conflict that U.S. policy seeks to prevent. Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12481, updated September 19, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12481
Help Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel with spine injuries receive the healthcare options, education, and care they need.
Afghan Allies in U.S. Stuck in Immigration Limbo. Luke Coffey, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, writes about the tens of thousands of at-risk Afghan allies that are stuck in legal ambiguity here in the United States or those members of Afghan special operations forces that remain in hiding from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Congress can fix this with passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act – hopefully, our Representatives and Senators will do the right thing. “America’s Afghan Allies Are Still Desperate for Help”, Foreign Policy, September 18, 2023.
Temporary Protected Status. The Biden administration announced on September 21, 2023, that it has extended and redesignated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Afghanistan. The extension will benefit the thousands of Afghan nationals who were covered under the initial TBS decision made on May 20, 2022 – they will be able to re-register for an additional 18 months of protection and receive work authorization. The redesignation also allows for over 14,000 newly arrived Afghans to apply for TPS for the first time. “Extension of TPS for Afghans”, Afghan Report, September 22, 2023.
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Books, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies
Play – The Team Room. In the fall of 2023, a play about a Special Forces team will run for two weeks in the Washington, D.C. area. “Special Forces A-Team 824 serves at Camp Diamond, West Virginia. On the morning of September 10, 2001, they report for a routine week of duty and training exercises. The audience steps into the world of Army Special Forces operators, during their last day of peace and a sudden transition to war. Team Room Foundation. https://teamroomfoundation.org/
Podcast – Green Beret Chris Robishaw. A retired Special Forces officer discusses his journey into the military, Special Forces selection, his perspective on leadership, the soldier’s lens on war, building international relations with allied forces, his transition story, the Kabul evacuation, his work in the Ukraine, veteran mental health, overcoming cancer, and much more. “Chris Robishaw – Episode 824”, Behind the Shield, September 17, 2023, 2 hours.
Podcast – China’s Political Warfare. Listen to examples of China’s information operations and how they intersect with a variety of global security challenges. Hear some recommendations on how to counter China’s political warfare and build resilience against it. Irregular Warfare Podcast, Modern War Institute at West Point, September 22, 2023, one hour. https://mwi.westpoint.edu/irregular-warfare-podcast-chinas-political-warfare/
Video – Airborne Operation. Nice video of Air Commandos from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron jumping from an MC-130J Commando II. (1st SOC Wing, 21 Sep 2023, 22 seconds). https://www.dvidshub.net/video/898062/crews-conduct-four-ship-formation-flight-jump-operations-jcoc
Report – Military Suicide Prevention and Response. The Congressional Research Service has published a 3-page document that covers topics about suicides in the military services. CRS IF10876, updated September 19, 2023, PDF. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10876
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