Curated news, analysis, and commentary about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world.
Photo / Image: Naval Special Warfare Combatant Craft (image from DVIDS video, 3 Oct 2023).
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Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ken Tovo. A former commander of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) is assuming the position of Strategic Advisor (Instagram) with Oak Grove Technologies. Tovo had a 35-year Army career with much of it spent in Special Forces.
Army SOF Cuts Coming. Defense Department officials and the Army undersecretary briefed congressional staff members on Thursday, October 12th, on the 3,000 cuts in personnel that will take place in the USASOC force structure. “Pentagon briefs Hill on Army special ops cuts, vacant slots targeted”, Army Times, October 12, 2023.
U.S. SOF Hostage Rescue in Gaza Strip? A Navy SEAL who is now a GOP lawmaker says that a U.S. special operations hostage rescue in Israel would take considerable effort. (Fox News, October 15, 2023)
‘Space Ranger’. An MIT graduate who works on satellites has completed U.S. Army Ranger School. His primary job in the Air Force is to develop satellite communications tools. He has attended other ‘infantry’ type schools to include the Sapper Leader’s Course and Air Assault School. (The Messenger, October 15, 2023).
SOF and Multidomain Operations. Lt. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, spoke during the Association of U.S. Army’s Warriors Corner event – “Special Operations, Space, and Cyber Operations: A Modern-Day Triad” – in Washington D.C. on Oct. 11. Braga said he foresees the Triad being leveraged for irregular warfare options, flexible deterrents and flexible response options for the joint warfighter. He said the Triad has to work together, experiment together and learn together. “TRIAD leaders update AUSA at Warriors Center”, DVIDS, October 13, 2023.
Green Beret (the hat) History. Sarah Sicard has penned an article that provides details on how the green beret became the official headgear for Special Forces soldiers. “How the green beret became the symbol of US Army Special Forces”, Military Times, October 10, 2023.
A Dad Remembers His Fallen Son. On October 4, 2017, four U.S. soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Group died in an ambush in Niger. While this event captured the attention of the nation for several months, for most Americans, it is a faint and distinct memory. But not for the families of those lost soldiers. “A father reflects on the death of his son during the 2017 Niger ambush”, by Henry Black, Military Times, October 6, 2023.
‘Hell Week’. Joshua Skovlund provides some historical perspective on SEAL training and the early days of frogmen. “Why Navy SEALs wear a trident and other facts about life as a frogman”, Task and Purpose, October 12, 2023.
3rd SFG(A). On October 16, 1991, 2nd Battalion, 3rd SFGA was activated with HQs company, 2 SF companies, and a forward support company.
Martha Raye. On October 19, 1994, the Honorary Special Forces LTC “Maggie” Raye died.
Afghanistan. On October 19, 2001, two SF detachments infiltrate into northern Afghanistan to link up with the Northern Alliance. They were the first two U.S. Army SF teams inserted into Afghanistan to work with Northern Alliance Forces. On the same day, Operation Rhino took place in southern Afghanistan. The 3rd Ranger Battalion conducted an airborne operation to seize Objective Rhino. This was part of a highly publicized U.S. effort to show that the United States could put boots on the ground anywhere in the world whenever it wanted.
PSYOP. On October 16, 2006, the Psychological Operations branch was established.
Conflict in Israel and Gaza
Hostages. Israel and the international community are confronted with the vexing problem of recovering their citizens held hostage by Hamas in Gaza Strip. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) says that more than 120 hostages are being held by Hamas. There are a total of 32 countries with ‘missing’ citizens. The United States has more than ten Americans held in dispersed locations by the terrorist group. Over 30 countries have had at least one of their citizens killed by Hamas in Israel. At least 27 Americans have been killed in the Israel-Gaza War. According to reporter James LaPorta the U.S. has special operations forces in the region should a hostage rescue attempt be necessary. In addition, he says U.S. hostage rescue experts may now be in Israel (The Messenger News, Oct 11, 2023).
Civilians in Combat Zones. Israel has moved thousands of its citizens from the border areas of Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon. The IDF has warned civilian Palestinians that northern Gaza will soon see extensive combat operations and urges them to evacuate (IDF Twitter) to southern Gaza along two designated ‘safe routes’. Some news reports stay that Hamas has set up roadblocks to prevent Palestinians from moving south. Despite the roadblocks hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled northern Gaza to the south.
U.S. State Department. DoS has authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and eligible family members from Israel. It has updated (Oct 14, 2023) its travel advisory for Israel. U.S. citizens who wish to depart with U.S. government assistance must express their interest via the DoS crisis intake form. The U.S. Embassy in Israel has announced that a ship will leave Haifa, Israel on October 16, 2023, for Cyprus to evacuate U.S. citizens. There are about 200,000 U.S. citizens in Israel, most of them dual citizens.
Evacuations. Most foreign nationals are leaving Israel on commercial flights. Some nations, including the U.S., have chartered aircraft to evacuate their citizens from Israel. Poland was one of the first to conduct evacuation flights for its citizens, completing the task with over 27 lifts.
Crossing into Egypt from Gaza. Negotiations with Egypt for the use of the Rafah Border Crossing as an evacuation corridor from Gaza Strip is ongoing. It was reported that a few citizens of the U.S. and Canada got across a few days ago; but it has now been closed by Egypt. There is the possibility that the crossing will be open on Monday, October 16, 2023, at 9 am (local time) according to the U.S. State Department, but only for a limited amount of time and probably only for foreign nationals.
Coming Ground War. Tunnels, anti-tank missiles, drones, and suicide bombers are just some of the perils that await Israeli forces in the tight confines of heavily populated Gaza. “The Perilous Tactical Realities Israel Will Face Fighting in Gaza”, by Howard Altman, The WarZone, October 13, 2023. Read also “Reflections on Israel’s Urban Operations”, Irregular Warfare Center, October 12, 2023.
CRS Reports. The Congressional Research Service has published two reports about the Hamas – Israel conflict. https://www.national-security.info/country/israel/hamas-attack-2023.html
Odds and Ends. The Iraqi Parliament has called for the activation of the Arab Defense Treaty (Yale.edu) in response to the ongoing Israeli actions in Gaza. The U.S. has been building up its naval forces in the region; a US armada is now based in the waters off Israel and more ships are on the way (The Washington Post, subscription). Sec Def Austin issued a statement on the composition of U.S. naval forces in the region (defense.gov). The U.S. is providing a variety of assistance to Israel (Military.com, Oct 15, 2023). Despite the dropping of over 6,000 bombs on Hamas targets in Gaza by the Israeli Air Force the terrorist group still has the capacity (as on Mon, 16 Oct) to send a large number of rockets and missiles into Israel’s cities.
Russian Offensive. The Russians have begun offensive operations in the Avdiivka (Google Maps) region close to Russian-occupied Donetsk. Thus far it has gained minimal ground. The Russians have stepped up attacks on military and civilian targets with drones over the past few days. F-16 fighter training will begin in the coming days for Ukrainian pilots and crews in the United States.
IO Front. Ukrainian information operations activities are credited with the defection of over 17,000 Russian soldiers according to US Army Special Operations Command’s Lt. Gen. Jon Braga (Breaking Defense). A recent RAND corporation study examines the respective characteristics and persuasiveness of the Russian and Ukrainian information operations campaigns. See “The Nightingale Versus the Bear”, RAND, October 2023, PDF, 59 pages. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA2032-1.html
Help Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel with spine injuries receive the healthcare options, education, and care they need.
Bolduc on our Generals. In modern military operations, the role of Generals and Admirals is critical in shaping the direction and outcomes of defense strategies. However, there has been an increasing concern over the failure of these top-ranking officers to fulfill their duties effectively. Retired Brig. General Don Bolduc, a career Special Forces officer, examines the reasons behind this perceived failure and the implications for our military today. “Evaluating the Leadership Failure of Generals and Admirals in Today’s Military”, SOFREP, October 9, 2023.
IW and the Gaza Conflict. The future is entirely unwritten, but the history that will be made in the Middle East in the coming weeks and months will prove valuable to the study of multi-echelon irregular warfare. “The Irregular Warfare Implications of the Israel-Hamas Conflict”, by Doug Livermore, Irregular Warfare Initiative, October 12, 2023.
Are China and North Korea Allies? Beijing is keeping a careful eye on its neighboring nation – it has concerns that the growing threats from Pyongyang will destabilize Northeast Asia. “North Korea and China Aren’t the Allies You Think They Are”, The RAND Blog, September 27, 2023.
Russian Military Ground Forces. The Institute for the Study of War has published Russian Regular Ground Forces Order of Battle: Russian Military 101. The PDF (60 pages) was published on October 12, 2023. It has two sections: an introductory essay on the regular Russian ground forces and a fully sourced order of battle (OB). https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-regular-ground-forces-order-battle-russian-military-101
Sahel CT Effort. If the US is forced to end operations at the air base it modernized at Agadez, Niger and to withdraw US troops from Niger, they may be able to relocate to another country. But it’s hard to see how the US can continue to pursue its counterterrorism strategy in the Sahel without a base in the immediate area. “West Africa: Collapse of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy in the Sahel”, All Africa, October 15, 2023.
Another Earthquake. A third earthquake, measuring 6.3 magnitude, struck an area close to Herat on Sunday, October 14, 2023. Over 100 have been injured with some deaths reported as well. The last two earthquakes flattened thousands of homes, killed over 3,000 people, injured more than 7,000, and displaced thousands. The United States is providing over $12 million in aid for Afghan earthquake relief. The Hindu Kush Mountain range lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. “Afghanistan hit by third earthquake in a week”, BBC News, October 15, 2023.
SOF News Book Shop
View our selection of books about special operations forces at the SOF News Book Shop.
Book – The Fourth Age: The Future of Special Operations. This anthology of fictional stories helps us visualize a future era of special operations. Through their creative talents and subject matter knowledge, the authors realistically portray what is within the realm of possible. They draw upon lessons of the past while imagining the future. Joint Special Operations Press (JSOU), October 2, 2023, PDF, 192 pages. https://www.jsou.edu/Press/PublicationDashboard/239
Podcast – SEALs in Iraq. The commander of a SEAL team in Iraq, Rick Witt, talks about the deployment. The Spear Podcast, October 11, 2023, 50 minutes. https://mwi.westpoint.edu/podcast-the-spear-seals-in-iraq/
Video – NSW Overview. Naval Special Warfare Command, located on Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, leads the Navy’s maritime special operations force and is the Navy component to U.S. Special Operations Command. NSW is the nation’s elite maritime special operations force, uniquely positioned to extend the Fleet’s reach and gain and maintain access for the Joint Force in competition and conflict. DVIDS, October 3, 2023, 6 minutes. https://www.dvidshub.net/video/900276/nsw-overview-video
Video – AFSOC Mission Overview. A look at the history, heritage, and missions of Air Force Special Operations Command. DVIDS, October 12, 2023, 5 minutes. https://www.dvidshub.net/video/900214/afsoc-mission-overview
October 16-20, 2023
Special Operations Association
November 29-30, 2023
SOF & Irregular Warfare Symposium
Defense Strategies Institute
December 8, 2023
Combat Diver Association
December 8-10, 2023
2023 Civil Affairs Conference
Civil Affairs Association