Special Operations News – February 26, 2024

11th Airborne Division Jumps in Alaska

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

Photo / Image: U.S. Army Soldier Pfc. David Hanson, from 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 11th Airborne Division, recovers his parachute after jumping onto Donnelly Drop Zone as part of Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center 24-02 at Donnelly Training Area, Alaska, Feb 8, 2024. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Wyatt Moore / 28th Public Affairs Detachment)

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SOF News

‘Angel of Death’ Retiring from AFSOC. Colonel Allison Black is retiring from the Air Force. In the initial stages of OEF she was referred to by Afghan fighters as “the Angel of Death” for her radio calls from AC-130 gunships. “Afghanistan’s ‘Angel of Death’ is retiring from Air Force special ops”, Task & Purpose, February 23, 2024.

New Cdr for 1st SOW. With the retirement of Col Black (see para above) the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida has a new commander. “Welcome Col. Patrick Dierig; 1st SOW change of command ceremony”, 1st SOW Public Affairs, February 23, 2024.

Former 10th SFG(A) Doc Awarded Army Astronaut Device. Army Col. (Dr.) Frank Rubio has earned many awards and decorations throughout his long career. He has deployed to Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan . . . and spent a year in space. He set the U.S. record for the most days in space on a single spaceflight on the International Space Station. In addition to being a doctor (served with 10th Special Forces Group) and an astronaut, he also has been a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot (600 combat flight hours). “Army Secretary Says Astronaut’s Army Values Inspire Others”, DOD, February 22, 2024.

Another List of Elite Units. At least once a month some journal or online blog publishes an article about the “Ten Most Elite Units in the World”. Typically, no list is the same as the other. Sometimes, the best units are sometimes left out while obscure units are included. Here is the latest ‘list’: “These Are 16 Most Dangerous Special Forces in the World 2024: Deathly Elite”, by Srdjan Ilic, Southwest Journal, February 20, 2024.

CV-22 Mishap Update. Air Force Special Operations Command has issued a press release providing an update on the November 29, 2023, aircraft ‘mishap’ in the waters off Yakushima, Japan that claimed the lives of eight servicemembers. Ongoing investigations found that a material failure that occurred is known but the cause of the failure has not been determined. “CV-22 Mishap Investigation Update”, AFSOC, February 20, 2024. Read an article on the same topic in Air & Space Forces Magazine, February 20, 2024.

Help Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel with spine injuries receive the healthcare options, education, and care they need.

26th MEU(SOC). The Marines of the 16th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) have been quite busy during their deployment the past several months. One of the units training events has been working with the Italian San Marco Brigade Marines. (DVIDS, 21 Feb 2024)

SOF and Cancer Screening. The President of the Globa SOF Foundation, Stu Bradin, notes that special operations veterans have a higher rate of cancer than the general population and that we should take some steps to detect it early rather than in its later stages. “Options for Screening for Cancer in SOF”, Global SOF Foundation, February 20, 2024.

SOCAFRICA Trains SNA Danab Forces. Somali National Army units received training in media, medical, and tactics during a recent event held in January 2024. “U.S. Special Operations Command hosts Knowledge Exchange with Somali and Kenyan Partners”, DVIDS, February 22, 2024. There have been recent news reports that the U.S. will begin construction of five bases in Somalia (map, NSI) for the Danab unit.

SOCNORTH and Arctic Edge. The Special Operations Command North, along with NORTHCOM and Marine Forces North, will be participating in an annual defense exercise that is designed to demonstrate that U.S. forces are engaged, postured and ready to defend U.S. interests in the Arctic security environment (map, NSI). The 3-week long multi-domain exercise is taking place in late February and early March. It will focus on operations in extreme cold and high-altitude environments.

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SOF History

Merrill’s Marauders. On February 24, 1944, Merrill’s Marauders began a campaign in northern Burma. The mission of the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional) was to disrupt Japanese supply and communications lines.

Operation Bunghole – OSS in WWII. On February 27, 1944, a five-man team from the OSS parachuted into Malo Ticevo, Yugoslavia to establish a weather station. Operation Bunghole consisted of members of the OSS and USAAF specialists. Yugoslavia was occupied by the Germans at the time.

Corregidor Secured. On February 26, 1945, the 503rd Parachute Regimental Combat Team (PRCT) secured the island fortress of Corregidor after two weeks of fighting. The 503rd had parachuted onto the island on February 16th. It was assisted by the 34th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the 24th Infantry Division that made a seaborne assault, as well as other smaller units.

SR Mission in Desert Storm. On February 23, 1991, SOFDA 525 was inserted by helicopter at night and moved to a hide site to conduct a recon mission deep behind enemy lines in Iraq. On the next morning, the 24th, this 5th SFG(A) team would find itself fighting for survival against an overwhelming enemy force.

MARSOC. On February 24, 2006, the Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) was officially activated at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Two Years Ago – Invasion. On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The objective of the Russians was to occupy the capital city of Kyiv and topple the Ukrainian government in three days. The conflict had been ongoing since 2014 when the Russians seized Crimea and created the regimes in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine. Although the Russians captured a considerably amount of territory in the first several months of the conflict, Ukraine has retaken more than half of that land back. The fight continues, two years later. However, Ukraine suffers from manpower shortages, lack of air defense systems, and a severe shortage of artillery ammunition. Until Western aid picks up, Ukraine will remain on the defensive and Russia will retain the momentum. Ukraine has been successful in the Black Sea (GIS Reports, 14 Feb 2024). Read an account of the first day of the invasion of Ukraine, SOF News, February 24, 2022.

Commentary on Ukraine. There is a lot of coverage about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Some of the articles and reports are listed below:

  • Ukraine and IW Lessons. Doug Livermore, a Special Forces officer, highlights “several critical lessons regarding irregular warfare and its broader implications for global security and stability.” He used the conflict in Ukraine to underscore the importance of hybrid warfare strategies. He applies these lessons to China, Africa, and the Middle East. “Two Years On: Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine and the Continuing Lessons for the Future of Irregular Warfare”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, February 20, 2024.
  • The Russo-Ukrainian War: A Strategic Assessment Two Years into the Conflict, by Amos Fox, Land Warfare Paper 158, Association of the United States Army, February 2024, PDF, 23 pages. Abstract or PDF.
  • Ukraine Two Years Later: Memories and Observations from My time on the Ground, Spirit of America, February 2024. The Regional Director – Europe of Spirit of America writes of her experiences in the effort to assist the fighting forces of Ukraine and being an enabler for U.S. SOF efforts in Ukraine. Read more in “Spirit of America – Helping Ukraine Win“, SOF News, May 3, 2022.

Resistance Behind the Lines. While the world is fixated on the grinding war of attrition on the front lines, Ukrainian intelligence operatives of the SBU and GUR have been busy conducting operations deep behind Russian lines and in Russia. “Tip of the Spear: Analyzing Ukrainian Intelligence Operations Behind Russian Lines”, Georgetown Security Studies Review, January 10, 2024.

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National Security

IW Global Network. In February 2024 the Irregular Warfare Center introduced a new initiative entitled “IW Global Network”. This project has been established to address specific areas of interest, focusing primarily on confronting irregular challenges. The IW Global Network consists of several Functional Area Networks (FANs). These cover the topics of contested logistics, mission assurance, medical resilience, intelligence, information operations, and emerging technologies. Read more about it here at IW Global Network.

NDAA. The Congressional Research Service has updated a publication that provides an overview of the structure and organization of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It also provides a description of the legislative process within the Senate and House of Representatives. Defense Primer: Navigating the NDAA, CRS IF10516, updated February 22, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10516

Emerging Military Technology. The Congressional Research Service has updated a publication that provides an overview of new technologies that are being incorporated into the U.S. defense forces. These include artificial intelligence, lethal autonomous weapons, hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons, biotechnology, and quantum technology. Emerging Military Technologies: Background and Issues for Congress, CRS R46458, updated February 22, 2024, PDF, 43 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46458

Border Security:

  • Report – Illicit Fentanyl and China’s Role. The Congressional Research Service has published a document that provides the background, trafficking pathways, role of China, and Congressional legislation of the opioid crisis in the United States. Beginning in the mid-2010s, U.S. authorities identified the People’s Republic of China as a primary source of U.S.-bound illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. CRS IF10890, updated February 20, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10890
  • Restricting Asylum. President Biden’s campaign for reelection is struggling with one of the foremost election issues – border security and the surge in border crossings. The White House is considering action that would prevent people from making asylum claims during border crossing surges. “Biden Mulling Plan That Could Restrict Asylum Claims at the Border”, The New York Times, February 31, 2024. (subscription) See also an article on this topic by Associated Press, February 21, 2024.
  • Suspending Entry of Aliens. A recent Congressional Research Service report gets into legal aspects of border security and limiting the entry of aliens across U.S. borders. The report finds that the President has the authority “to suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens” whenever he finds that entry of aliens would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. Presidential Authority to Suspend Entry of Aliens Under 8 U.S. C 1182(f), CRS LSB10450, updated February 21, 2024, PDF, 23 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/LSB/LSB10458
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Strategic Competition

Russia and Unconventional Activities. A recent report details “Russia’s unconventional military activities outside Ukraine, including efforts to prepare for destabilization in European countries, expeditionary operations in Africa to seize control of critical resources, and outreach to target audiences in the Middle East.” This special report is entitled The Threat from Russia’s Unconventional Warfare Beyond Ukraine, 2022-2024, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), February 2024, PDF, 38 pages. See Unconventional Warfare (NSI) for more references on UW.

Russia and ‘Offensive’ Resistance Operations. Russia, as well as the Soviet Union, has a long history of utilizing local collaborators to pursue political objectives in foreign nations. Dr. Jonathan White, a career Special Forces officer, writes on this topic in “Russian Offensive Resistance Operations”, Irregular Warfare Center, February 21, 2024.

Report – Taiwan: Background and U.S. Relations, The Congressional Research Service has updated its publication about the country that lies across the Taiwan Strait from mainland China. A recent U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet refers to Taiwan as “a key U.S. partner in the Indo-Pacific.” This CRS report has info on the modern history of Taiwan, the recent elections, U.S. policy toward Taiwan, the country’s security, and more. CRS IF10275, updated February 23, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10275

Battle for Taiwan and U.S. Big Tech. Leading technology companies of the United States have provided significant assistance to Ukraine over the past two years. This includes services like mapping, ISR, targeting, cyber security, and more. However, these same firms may not come to the aid of Taiwan (map NSI) in the same manner due to their business ties with mainland China. Which Ties Will Bind? Big Tech, Lessons from Ukraine, and Implications for Taiwan, Issue Brief, Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Georgetown, February 2024, PDF, 76 pages. Read the report here.

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Middle East

Video – Inside Look at U.S. Navy Response to Houthi Red Sea Attacks, 60 Minutes, YouTube, February 18, 2024, 13 minutes. A good video describing how the U.S. Navy keeps the waterways open in the Red Sea and other surrounding waters. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRRJmOTCqqQ&t=1s

Houthi Threat. Dr. Can Kasapoglu provides his perspective on the Houthi threat. He states that Iran has successfully targeted global supply chains through its Yemeni proxy (Houthis). Up to this point, Operation Prosperity Guardian has not established a credible deterrence in the (NSI map) Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. “Assessing and Addressing the Houthi Threat”, Hudson Institute, January 2024.

Legal Status of U.S. in Syria. The United States has had a military presence and conducted operations in Syria (SOF News, 2022) since 2014. The primary reason for being there is so it can target Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) within Syrian territory (map) – as part of a broader counterterrorism campaign. It conducts this campaign unilaterally and in concert with the Syrian Democratic Front (SDF) (SOF News, 2018) and other proxies. Many observers of the conflict question the legal status of the U.S. conducting operations in a country where it is not invited. However, there is a legal justification. See “Enduringly Unwilling and Unable: The Syrian Chapter of the Forever Wars Saga”, by Thea Charlotte Andersen, Articles of War, Lieber Institute West Point, February 23, 2024.

Tower 22, al Tanf, and SF. A small U.S. base in Jordan burst into the news in January 2024 when a terrorist drone exploded within its perimeter killing three and injuring over 40 U.S. servicemembers. “What is the U.S. Doing in a Disputed Triangle on the Jordan / Syria / Iraq Border?”, Stimon.org, February 20, 2024.

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Journals, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

InterPopulum: Journal of Irregular Warfare and Special Operations. The Spring 2024 issue has been posted online. There are a number of interesting articles for the IW practitioner. PDF, 117 pages.

  • Jedburgh Teams – Lessons for Unconventional Warfare
  • Secret War in Cuba: The Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1960-1961
  • Limited Conflicts and Use of SOF in Global Competition
  • 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) “Merrill’s Marauders”
  • The Liberator’s Dilemma: The Paradox of American Leadership
  • and . . . six reviews of books relating to SOF, intelligence, insurgency, and AI

CTC Sentinel. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has published its February 2024 issue containing articles about “Long-Range Stand-Off Terrorism”, an interview of Christopher Maier (ASD SO/LIC), and Somalia’s stalled offensive against al-Shabaab. PDF, 28 pages.

Upcoming Events

February 27-29, 2024
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March 11-13, 2024
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April 24-25, 2024
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May 6-10, 2024
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SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.