Special Operations News – Nov 27, 2023

5th SFG(A) Dive Requalification

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

Photo / Image: Green Berets with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) practice underwater transportation methods Sept. 2022, near Fort Campbell, Ky. Green Berets continually adapt to their environment and create solutions to solve complex challenges. (U.S. Army Courtesy Photo by Spc. Taylor Shaffer)

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SOF News

USASOC CCWO. On November 15, 2023, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Davis relinquished responsibility as the United States Army Special Operations Command CCWO Officer and retired after 35 years of service. CW5 Steven Finney is the incoming USASOC Command Chief Warrant.

SOF Operators Suffer Brain Damage. Pentagon researchers say weapons like shoulder-fired rockets expose troops who fire them to blast waves far above safety limits, but they remain in wide use. “U.S. Troops Still Train on Weapons With Known Risk of Brain Injury”, The New York Times, November 26, 2023. (subscription)

U-28 Crews Receive Awards. Ten Airmen assigned to the U-28 Draco spy plane have been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions during the August 2021 effort to evacuate people during the Kabul airlift. The crews provided situational awareness and intelligence to the U.S. ground forces at the Kabul airport. “10 Airmen Make History as the First U-28 Crews to Receive Distinguished Flying Crosses”, Air and Space Forces Magazine, November 21, 2023.

SEAL’s Life Profiled. Solomon ‘Sol’ Atkinson led a life guided by his time as a U.S. Navy SEAL as well as his Native American heritage. He carried those two aspects of his life into his later years with his life-long involvement in community affairs in Alaska. (DVIDS, 24 Nov 2023)

12th Annual Special Operations Forces and Irregular Warfare Symposium

USSOCOM Seeks Counter-EW Technology. The US Special Operations Command is seeking information on drone tech that takes down ground-based electronic warfare systems. The drones should be able to conduct preplanned autonomous attacks on active emitters. “US Special Operations Command Seeks Counter-Electronic Warfare Drone Tech”, The Defense Post, November 24, 2023.

Navy SEAL Honored. SO1 Ebbert was a member of SEAL Team Four (ST-4) and participated in numerous critical operations. His final deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM exemplified his bravery and tactical expertise. “A Real Act of Valor: Navy SEALs honor a fallen hero”, DVIDS, November 17, 2023.

A Green Beret on JFK’s Grave. 60 years ago, a Special Forces soldier placed his Green Beret on the grave of President John F. Kennedy. His spontaneous act become a Special Forces tradition. “Green Beret’s tribute to JFK continues”, Reading Eagle, November 26, 2023.

Seawolf Subs. One of the more ‘secret’ subs used by the U.S. Navy can be outfitted with a Multi-Mission Platform (MMP) – sometimes described as an underwater hanger. The MMP can be used to deploy Navy SEALs or other special operations forces. “USS Jimmy Carter: The Navy Has a Spy Submarine That Can’t Be Matched”, National Interest, November 23, 2023.

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International SOF

Report – Accountability and Oversight of UK Special Forces. A report by the University of Essex Human Rights Centre Clinic is critical on the lack of external oversight and accountability of the United Kingdom’s Special Forces. November 2023, PDF, 43 pages.

Philippine FSSR Will Receive Enhanced Capabilities. President Marcos has assured the First Scout Ranger Regiment of government support to enhance its operational capabilities. “Marcos assures Army Scout Rangers of support”, The Manilla Times, November 26, 2023.

Vajra Prahar 2023. U.S. Special Forces teams from 1st SFG(A) and Special Forces personnel from India’s Eastern Command have been an exercise that will conclude on December 11th. The event will provide an opportunity to share best practices and experiences in areas such as joint mission planning and operational tactics for CT operations and unconventional scenarios in mountainous terrain. “Joint training of India, US commandos begins at Umroi”, Highland Post, November 22, 2023.

Aussie SOF Leader Visits MARSOC. U.S. Marine Corps Col. Adam Conway, deputy commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command welcomed Australian Maj. Gen. Paul Kenny to MARSOC during a visit on Camp Lejeune, NC, November 8, 2023. During his visit, Maj. Gen. Kenny met with leaders from the command to discuss future integration and interoperability between MARSOC and Australian Special Operations Forces.

Exercise Arctic Light 2023. Personnel from the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing joined Danish SOF in a September two-week long exercise to advance capabilities to conduct operations in the Arctic region. The wing provided a HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft and aircrew as well as Guardian Angel personnel for the event. “New York Air Guard Trains With Danish Special Forces in Greenland”, DVIDS, November 7, 2023.

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SOF History

1943 – Alamo Scouts. On November 28, 1943, the Alamo Scouts was activated by the U.S. 6th Army. This special reconnaissance unit was employed in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. The unit is known for its role in liberating American prisoners of war from a Japanese POW camp near Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines in January 1945. A movie called the Great Raid was produced about this action. (Wikipedia) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Scouts

1963 – CIDG Camp Overrun. On November 24, 1963, Camp Hiep Hoa, Republic of South Vietnam, was overrun by the Viet Cong. It was the first CIDG camp to be overrun during the Vietnam War. A Special Forces soldier, Isaac Camacho, one of four missing Americans, later became the first American to escape from a Vietcong POW Camp. In the battle, an estimated 500 Viet Cong fighters took the Hiep Hoa Special Forces Camp, resulting in four American personnel MIA. South Vietnamese commando units and the American Green Berets resisted but were overwhelmed.

1970 – Combat HALO Jump. On November 28, 1970, the first combat HALO jump was conducted by CCN, MACV-SOG. The nighttime parachute jump took place over Laos from C-130 blackbird flying at 17,000 feet. (Coffee or Die Magazine, June 17, 2021) https://coffeeordie.com/macv-sog-halo

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Ukraine Conflict

Ukrainian Offensive. News reports indicate that Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian forces away from parts of the east bank of the Dnipro River (Britannica). For more than a year the opposing forces have occupied the opposite banks of the Dnipro in southern Ukraine – the Ukrainians on the west bank and the Russians on the east bank. The Ukrainian offensive has lasted months and has been a grinding event with success measured in meters not kilometers. (Business Insider, 19 Nov 2023)

Russian Offensive. The attacks on the city of Avdiivka (Google Maps) continues. Both sides are suffering huge losses over the devasted city in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv suffered through the largest drone attack of the war over the weekend. (BBC News, 25 Nov 2023)

Status of War. Ukraine is asking for more international assistance – including the approval of additional aid packages from the U.S. and European nations and a formal start of accession talks to join the European Union.

Interactive Map. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine by the Insitute for the Study of War and Critical Threats.
On storymaps.arcgis.com

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Commentary and National Security

SOF and IW Campaigns. Brian Petit, a retired Special Forces officer, provides his perspective on how irregular warfare campaigns can influence the future. “U.S. Special Operations and the Shadowy Promise of Irregular Campaigns”, War on the Rocks, November 21, 2023.

China and Hybrid Warfare. Nils Peterson has penned a paper entitled The Chinese Communist Party’s Theory of Hybrid Warfare. Institute for the Study of War, November 21, 2023, PDF, 7 pages. Read or download here.

China’s Propaganda Strategy. In an era where digital content is king, the CCP has recognized the power that foreign influencers wield compared to more traditional communication channels. Boasting millions of followers in China and overseas, especially on platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Twitter, the CCP has identified, harnessed and actively developed foreign influencers as unique propaganda assets. “Singing the CCP’s tune: foreign influencers and China’s propaganda strategy”, The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, November 27, 2023.

Gaza Update. Israeli troops have occupied much of northern Gaza and have taken control of much of Gaza City. The city has seen massive devastation from Israeli airstrikes and artillery. Thousands of Gaza residents have left the north for the ‘safer’ southern region of the Gaza Strip. The internally displaced residents have few avenues of escape from the violence . . . the border with Egypt is closed to refugees.

Report – Defense Primer: Naval Forces. The Congressional Research Service has updated its “In Focus” brief on U.S. naval forces (Navy and Marines) with info on U.S. strategy, navy ship types, size of the navy, and more. CRS IF10486, updated November 14, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10486

U.S. Military and the Arctic. The United States has considerable interests in the Arctic and is one of just eight countries with territory in the region. It also has a responsibility to prepare and protect its armed forces that could be called upon to secure its Arctic interests as the region becomes an increasingly active security environment. Learn more in a report entitled Report on the Arctic Capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces, RAND Corporation, November 2023, PDF, 104 pages. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1638-1.html

Russia Funnels Migrants to Border Points. Finland, Estonia, and Latvia are accusing Russia of shipping migrants to the Finnish border. This has caused Finland to shut all but one border crossing with Russia. The Russians are using the tactic as a “hybrid attack”. Meanwhile, some human rights groups are raising concerns about asylum seeker’s rights. “Finland shuts more Russia border points, says asylum inflow must stop”, Reuters, November 24, 2023.

Border Security. Legal and illegal migration across the U.S. southern border is up dramatically. Illegal crossings topped a daily average of more than 8,000 earlier this fall. The Biden administration is facing criticism for not stemming the tide of illegal immigrants. Recent reports detail the extent of the problem and what the U.S. government is attempting to do to alleviate the crisis.

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Medals for Airmen. Hundreds more airmen who orchestrated Operation Allies Refuge, the massive evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdrew in 2021, will receive medals honoring those efforts, the Air Force announced. “Hundreds more airmen to receive medals for roles in Kabul evacuation”, Air Force Times, November 8, 2023.

Al-Qaeda Defeated? Not So Much. Sara Harmouch reports that the terrorist group is still a threat to the United States. A June 2023 United Nations report states that the group’s activities are intensifying in Afghanistan as well as globally. The group continues to have ties with the Taliban. “Al-Qaeda: A Defeated Threat? Think Again”, War on the Rocks, November 22, 2023.

History – Canada in Afghanistan. The first comprehensive, in-depth history of Canada’s war in Afghanistan, written largely in real time over several years by a military historian, was quietly (some might say reluctantly) published last summer by a federal government printer. Average Canadians, the soldiers who fought there and the families of those killed in action will have a hard time getting their hands on a copy, however. “Canada now has its own history of the Afghan war – good luck finding a copy”, CBC News, November 10, 2023.

Haqqani Network. Apurva Ramakrishnan provides us with a deep dive into the Haqqani Network. The organization’s enduring influence underscores the necessity for counterterrorism practitioners to prioritize containment and disruption efforts, as the group’s ability to sustain and perpetuate global terrorism remains undiminished. “A Network of Possibilities: How the Haqqani Network Changed the Face of Global Terrorism Forever”, Georgetown Security Studies Review, November 13, 2023.

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Middle East

AC-130 Strikes Militants in Iraq. The U.S. has experienced an increased number of rocket, missile, and drone attacks over the past few months. In late November a U.S. AC-130 gunship flying over Iraq struck a target that had launched a missile against Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq. “AC-130 Strikes Iranian-Backed Militants Following Missile Attack”, DoD News, November 21, 2023.

U.S. Navy Detains Would-be Pirates. Five gunmen boarded and attempted to take control of the M/V Central Park; a tanker owned by an Israeli businessman. However, the tanker crew had barricaded themselves in an armored panic room, The pirates then left the ship and headed to Yemen aboard a skiff but were apprehended before reaching shore. They were apprehended by U.S. and allied ships of the coalition counter-piracy force (TF 151). The event took place in the Gulf of Aden. (USNI, 26 Nov 2023).

Report – Syria and U.S. Policy. The Israel-Hamas conflict has resulted in increased attacks against U.S. troops in Syria by Iran-backed militia organizations. Read about the current conflict in Syria and U.S. responses. Congressional Research Service, CRS IF11930, updated November 15, 2023, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11930


Sudan Conflict. A detailed look at the long-running conflict in the West Darfur region of Sudan is provided in the report by Human Rights Watch. The report was completed before the current outbreak of fighting in Sudan began in 2023 but is good background on the fighting taking place now between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Violence in West Darfur, Human Rights Watch, November 26, 2023.

Sudan – Attacks Against Civilians. Arab forces are pressing ahead with their efforts to move Sudan’s ethnic-African Masalit tribe from West Darfur. The paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and its allied Arab militias are intensifying attacks against civilians. “Sudan refugees detail second wave of bloody ethnic purge by Arab forces”, Reuters, November 22, 2023.

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Books, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Podcast – SOG Was Compromised in Cambodia. HL Serra, a Naval intelligence officer who served during the Vietnam conflict, knew that MACV-SOG was compromised. SOG CAST, Red Circle, November 14, 2023, 58 minutes. Listen here.

Podcast – Surviving Special Forces Selection. Pineland Underground, November 6, 2023. Google Podcasts.

Video – Civil Affairs in Benin. The Benin Armed Forces and a U.S. Army Civil Affairs unit conducted a medical civic action program (MEDCAP) in Cana, Benin this past July. The MEDCAP served as a temporary field clinic providing medical treatment to the local population. Special Operations Command Africa, July 17, 2023, 3 minutes. Posted November 20, 2023.

Video – Napoleon 1805 – The Austerlitz Campaign. Animated maps show the Battle of Ulm to the Battle of Austerlitz and cover movements of the major units during this campaign – which is often considered the pinnacle of Napoleonic warfare. Army University Press, YouTube, November 22, 2023, 6 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GK-fmyQqqUc

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