Special Operations News Update – January 22, 2024

EOD Trains in Wind Tunnel

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

Photo / Image: Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians practice free fall techniques during a vertical wind training exercise in Virginia Beach, Va., Dec. 15, 2023. The maneuvers help train jumpers to respond to midair malfunctions. Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jackson Adkins.

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SOF News

VBSS – a “Sketchy Mission”. Two Navy SEALs went missing during a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure operation off the coast of Somalia searching for Iranian weapons enroute to Yemen. “Navy SEALs describe how boarding a ship is a team’s ‘sketchiest’ mission”, Task & Purpose, January 15, 2024. After a 10-day exhaustive search the U.S. Navy has been unable to recover the two missing SEALs. Their status had been changed to deceased. “CENTCOM Status Update on Missing Navy SEALs”, CENTCOM, January 21, 2024.

10th SFG(A) and Their Woodcarver. Sebastian Demmel, a German woodcarver, has spent a lifetime cultivating a bond with U.S. Special Forces Soldiers. He has received the title of Honorary Green Beret from U.S. Special Operations Command and is an Honorary Original of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “German Woodcarver engraved into SOF hearts and history”, DVIDS, January 17, 2024.

SOF Promotions.

  • Navy Captain Liam M. Hulin has been nominated for appointment to the grade of rear admiral (lower half). Hulin is currently serving as the executive officer to the Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.
  • Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Peter D. Huntley for appointment to the grade of major general. Huntley is currently serving as commander, U.S. Special Operations Command South, Homestead, Florida.

Fitness for SOF Recruits. Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL, provides advice to those who want to be physically fit for the training ahead of them during special operations selection and qualification. “How to Cross-Train Effectively for Special Operations Jobs”, Military.com, January 17, 2024.

SF Col (Ret) Chats about Cruise Ships. Mark Mitchell, a former Special Forces colonel, talks about how to optimize your cruise experience. “A Veteran’s Guide to Cruising on the High Seas”, AARP, January 18, 2024.

AFSOC’s Aircraft. Chrisian D. Orr profiles the various aircraft that Air Force Special Operations Command uses to support the ‘operators’ of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. “The Aircraft of the U.S. Air Force’s Special Forces”, National Interest, January 19, 2024.

Passing of CSM (Ret.) Clark. On January 18, 2024, retired Command Sgt. Maj. David L. Clark passed away. His service to the nation spanned a total of 70 years. He spent decades in the U.S. Army Special Forces and later as a civilian working in the Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C. Read more about the career of Clark in “Special Forces recognizes long-time Fort Bragg Veteran, employee”, The Fayetteville Observer, September 1, 2022. Obituary (legacy.com)

GB Running for Congress. Derrick Anderson is a candidate to represent one of Virginia’s congressional districts – hoping to take the seat from a Democrat. (Washington Examiner, Jan 18, 2024)

Retiring. Vice Adm. Collin Green is retiring after 38 years’ service in the U.S. Navy – most of it with the Naval Special Warfare community. His last position was SOCOM Deputy Commander. During his command he served as commander of SOCSOUTH, NSWC, NSW Task Force Iraq, and Navy SEAL and SWCC teams.

New Sniper Weapon? A new rifle may likely replace the M107 and MK15 systems. “US special ops on the hunt for cutting edge sniper rifle to compete with Russia, China”, by Michael Lee, Fox News, January 13, 2024.

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International SOF

GRU Spetsnaz. Read up on the training, equipment, weapons, operations, and more of one of Russia’s premier special operations forces. The GRU was first formed up in 1950, the main missions were espionage, reconnaissance, sabotage, counterintelligence, and other like operations. “GRU Spetsnaz: The Batman of Russia”, by Wes Martin, Grey Dynamics, January 18, 2023.

Russian Paramilitaries in Eurasia. There are several ways that ‘semi-state’ organizations can advance the Kremlin’s interests in other countries. Read about it in “Potential Russian Uses of Paramilitaries in Eurasia”, Center for a New American Security, January 17, 2024.

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SOF History

Ravens Over Laos. Marc Yablonka explores the history of the Ravens who flew missions over Laos from 1967 to 1972. They were volunteer ‘sheep-dipped’ U.S. Air Force pilots – trained Foward Air Controllers – that worked in a highly secret government program. “Ravens Flew High and Low Over Laos”, Hmong Daily News, January 15, 2024.

Delta in Panama. In the early stages of the US invasion of Panama Delta conducted an operation to rescue Kurt Muse – a US citizen held by the Panamanian authorities. “Operation Acid Gambit: Delta Force in Panama”, Grey Dynamics, January 17, 2024.

CIG. On January 22, 1946, President Truman directed the establishment of Central Intelligence Group, forerunner of CIA. https://www.cia.gov/resources/csi/studies-in-intelligence/1996-2/the-creation-of-the-central-intelligence-group/

MACV-SOG. On January 24, 1964, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was established. It was a highly classified, multi-service U.S. special operations unit that conducted operations during the Vietnam War in Indochina. It conducted reconnaissance missions, capture of enemy soldiers, rescued downed pilots, and rescued POWs throughout Southeast Asia. Individuals assigned to MACV-SOF came primarily from U.S. Army Special Forces. However, members of the U.S. Navy SEALs, Air Force, Marine Corps, and CIA were present in the organization as well.

1/75th. On January 25, 1974, General Creighton Abrams directed the activation of the first battalion-sized Ranger unit since World War II. HQ U.S. Army Forces Command issued General Orders 127 directing the activation of the 1st Ranger Battalion 75th Infantry with the effective date of January 31, 1974. The battalion was to be an elite, light, and very proficient infantry unit. (USASOC)https://www.soc.mil/rangers/1stbn.html

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Black Sea Update. Glen E. Howard updates us on the maritime aspect of the Ukraine – Russia War. (map NSI) There is a feeling in the Ukraine military that it is ‘winning’ the fight for the Black Sea and isolating the Russian-occupied (since 2014) Crimean Peninsula. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has been the target of numerous sea and air strikes (sea drones and cruise missiles) forcing some Russian naval ships to reposition from the Black Sea to the naval port at Sevastopol. Since April 2022, when the Ukrainians sank the Russian Flag Ship of the Black Sea Fleet, Russian naval activity has been lessened. The Russian naval blockade of Odessa has been halted and Ukrainian grain shipments have resumed. The Ukrainian military is now looking at options for Crimea. Certainly, the future destruction of the Kerch Straits Bridge is a key factor, which would cut of one of the two logistical routes to Crimea. “The Black Sea is now the center of gravity for the Ukrainian War”, The Hill, January 17, 2024.

U.S. Aid for Ukraine – Not So Much. U.S. House Republicans are holding firm on their quest for increased border security before sending more money to Ukraine. The Senate has crafted a compromise deal that encompasses a number of issues, but the House is reluctant to accept it. The Ukraine aid is one of the few bargaining chips House Republicans have to fix the border security problems. Some conservatives are losing interest in supporting Ukraine; but others see a danger in the appeasement of Russia. Larry Provost thinks “Reagan Would Be Ashamed of Our Anti-Ukraine Stance”, Newsmax, January 17, 2024.

Video – Ukraine Briefing Featuring Ambassador Michael McFaul. At this briefing on January 18, 2023, Spirit of America CEO Jim Hake spoke with Ambassador Michael McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia and discussed why Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a global security threat, what Putin and Russia might try to do next, and why US support of Ukraine’s fight for freedom still matters. Spirit of America, January 18, 2024, YouTube, 30 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8GkOPpz9pE&t=2s

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Measuring Resiliency. Robert S. Burrell describes a twelve-step analysis process that planners, statesmen, or practitioners can use to frame a country or region in terms of resilience and resistance. “A Guide for Measuring Resiliency”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, January 16, 2023.

Arctic Security. Sonner Kehrt has concerns about the ability of the United States to conduct and sustain military forces and operations in the High North (map NSI). Read more in “US Military Can’t Sustain Arctic Operations, ‘Let Alone Dominate,’ Experts Say”, The War Horse, January 18, 2024.

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National Security

SECDEF Released. After hospitalization for two weeks at Walter Reed Hospital for treatment of prostate cancer Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has been discharged and is now ‘working from home’ on a temporary basis. Austin received heavy criticism for keeping his cancer prognosis and stay in ICU secret from leading members of DoD, the National Security Council, Congress (Washington Examiner, 15 Jan 2024), and the White House. In addition, he delegated his authority to his deputy who had no idea that he was in ICU. (Editorial note: we will likely have a new SECDEF prior to the November election).

Border Security. The House of Representatives Judiciary Commitee is considering a resolution that would condemn the Biden Administration’s open border policies and urge the President to provide more security to the border. See synopsis at Congress.gov. A major concern of Republicans are the thousands of migrants who enter each day requesting asylum and the transport of fentanyl (CBP 17 Jan 2024) across the border. The Department of State recently met with Mexican officials to discuss several topics to include illegal migration, criminal smuggling networks, and fentanyl trafficking. “Discussions with Mexican Officials on Migration at the Department of State”, U.S. Department of State, January 20, 2024.

Report – Army Organization. The Congressional Research Service has updated Defense Primer: Department of the Army and Army Command Structure, CRS IF10544, updated January 16, 2024, PDF 2 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10544

DOL Foundation

Information Operations

DoS and Information Manipulation. The U.S. Department of State has published a Fact Sheet entitled “The Framework to Counter Foreign State Information Manipulation”, DoS, January 18, 2024. View Fact Sheet. “This Framework seeks to develop a common understanding of this threat and establish a common set of action areas from which the United States, with its allies and partners, can develop coordinated responses to foreign information manipulation and protect free and open societies.” The ‘Framework’ calls for five Key Action Areas to build societal resiliency to foreign disinformation.

Deepfakes. Videos created with artificial intelligence are very realistic and can sway viewers to believe in false narratives. More the 40 countries are due to hold significant elections over the next year and it will be harder and harder for votes to separate fact from fiction. News reporters are frequent targets – they find themselves saying things on the web that they never said. “Deepfakes a ‘Weapon Against Journalism’ Analyst Says”, Voice of America, January 20, 2024.

Al-Shabaab’s IO Campaign. The Somali terrorist group has a robust and highly disciplined information operations organization. The counterinsurgency effort against this group must understand the vital importance and integrated nature of its online operations. “Decoding al-Shabaab’s Social Media Strategy”, CTC Sentinel, January 2024.

Great Power Competition GPC

Great Power Competition

Weaponized Migration. Russia has frequently used a sudden influx of refugees into another country as a way to distract Western governments, forcing spending, and causing military forces to augment border security. This tactic has been used frequently against Nordic and East European countries. “People as a Weapons System: Moscow and Minsk’s Continued Attempts to Weaponize Migration”, by Rick Chersicla, Irregular Warfare Initiative, January 18, 2024.

Putin, IO, and the Baltic States. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stepped up rhetoric on Russian ethnic minorities in Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. “Putin may be setting information conditions for escalation against Baltics”, LRT.lt, January 17, 2024.

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SOF News welcomes the submission of articles for publication. If it is related to special operations, current conflicts, national security, or defense then we are interested.


Pakistan – Iran Exchange Airstrikes. Last Tuesday (Jan 16th) Iran launched missiles at targets in Pakistan that had terrorists of Iranian nationality. In retaliation, early on Thursday morning (Jan 18th) Pakistan launched missile and aircraft strikes against what it says were targets containing Pakistan terrorists located in Iran. The terrorists targeted by Pakistan were likely from the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). See map of Iran and Pakistan region (NSI).

Paper on Nagorno-Karabakh. Walter Landgraf and Nareg Seferian write about the history of the Karabakh Conflict and the outlook for the future. A Frozen Conflict Boils Over: Nagorno-Karabakh in 2023 and Future Implications, Foreign Policy Research Institute, Eurasia Program, January 2024, PDF, 40 pages.

Latin America

Drug Cartel ‘Hitwomen’. The drug cartels are increasing their presence and influence in Central and South America. Women are becoming more involved in the criminal landscape. In Mexico, women represent about 6 percent of active personnel in criminal groups. Read more in “Hitwomen on the Rise in Latin American Cartels”, by Julieta Pelcastre, Dialogo Americas, January 18, 2024.

Mexican Army Visits Fort Liberty (FBNC). A Mexican Army specialty unit collaborated with Special Operations Command – North (SOCNORTH) and 1st Psychological Operations Battalion on the adaptation of new mission capabilities and technology. “Mexican and U.S. Army Psychological Operations Leaders Strengthen Partnership”, DVIDS, January 19, 2024.

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Report – Taliban Rule at 2.5 Years. Haroun Rahimi and Andrew Watkins examine governance of Afghanistan and its foreign relations over the past few years since the Taliban took power in August 2021. CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, January 2024, PDF, 16 pages.

Surviving in Afghanistan. Child marriages have skyrocketed across Afghanistan due to an economic collapse and dim future prospects for girls under Taliban rule. Selling a daughter into marriage can bring enough to feed a family for a year and many families take that desperate step for survival. “In the new Afghanistan, it’s sell your daughter or starve”, The Washington Post, January 15, 2024. (subscription)

Middle East

Yemen Attacks Continue. The U.S. military has been conducting significant attacks against targets to warn the Houthis from making drone and anti-ship missile attacks against international commercial shipping and warships. However, Yemen (map by NSI) is continuing to threaten the sea lanes (Washington Examiner, 15 Jan 2024). In addition to conducting attacks against land-based targets in Yemen the U.S. Navy has been conducting Vessel Boarding Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations. One VBSS operation resulted in the loss of two Navy SEALs (SOF News, 16 Jan 2024) As a result of the attacks the Department of State has announced the designation of the Houthis as a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group.’ (DoS, Jan 17, 2024). President Trump had designated the Houthis as a terrorist group, but President Biden reversed that in 2021.

Lost Reaper. There are news reports that a U.S. MQ9 Reaper has exploded in the air and crashed in Diyala Province near Baghdad, Iraq on January 18, 2024. Militant groups claim they have shot it down. Iraqi security forces recovered the aircraft.

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Podcasts, Videos, and Journals

Podcast – Of Green Berets and Secret CIA Missions. James Stejskal is a former Green Beret, CIA case officer, and now a book author. He is interviewed by Jeff Stein on the Spytalk podcast. (Jan 2024)

Podcast – Words Matter: Irregular Warfare Definitions and Constructs. Robert S. Burrell, Richard Tilley, and David Ucko discuss the definition of IW. The Trident, January 2024. https://digital-commons.usnwc.edu/the-trident/1/

Special Warfare Magazine. The latest issue is now online. https://www.swcs.mil/Special-Warfare/Special-Warfare-Archive/fbclid/IwAR1RppmOHzMtXi5RmxUe9lZhum6sHnEK6j4eamdKPnFCYOPKQMd4_7YN6sI/

CTC Sentinel. The January 2024 issue is now posted online. This monthly journal by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has some interesting articles about the Taliban rule, risks of generative AI exploitation, al-Shabaab’s social media strategy, and left-wing terrorism in Germany. https://ctc.westpoint.edu/january-2024/

Infantry. The Winter 2023-2024 issue is now available online. Several interesting topics are presented in this issue to include SBCTs, C2, leadership, Russian airborne mechanized raids, breaching and clearing operations, and more. PDF, 60 pages.

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