Special Operations News – March 4, 2024

MWD 10th SFG(A)

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

Photo / Image: U.S. military working dog assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) looks on as his handler prepares to assault an objective as part of a joint combined exchange training (JCET) near Tirana, Albania, Feb. 26, 2024. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Tim Beery)

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SOF News

Ospreys in the Air? The Navy, Air Force, Air Force Special Operations Command have Ospreys. AFSOC has about 50 CV-22Bs. A series of crashes had grounded the Ospreys for about three months – the latest crash resulting in the deaths of eight AFSOC crew members. “Pentagon to Lift Ban on V-22 Osprey Flights, 3 Months After Fatal Crash in Japan”, Real Clear Defense, March 2, 2024.

1st SFG(A) in Taiwan. Military advisors and trainers from the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) are reported to have begun a continuous presence in Taiwan to conduct training missions with various Taiwan special operations forces. The U.S. advisors, most likely a rotational presence, are interacting with the 101st Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion and Airborne Special Service Company. At one time, the U.S. had 1st Special Forces Group personnel permanently assigned to Taiwan from 1959 to 1973. “US Green Berets reportedly permanently based in Taiwan for 1st time”, Taiwan News, March 2, 2024.

SAWS at Hurlburt Field. The Global SOF Foundation (GSOF) and the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) hosted the Special Air Warfare Symposium at Fort Walton Beach, Florida February 27-29, 2024. The symposium had attendees from 25 countries and several SOF components with over 1,200 attendees. “Allies, Partners, SOF community force partnerships at SAWS”, AFSOC, February 29, 2024.

Exercise Cobra Gold 24. Personnel from Thailand and U.S. special operations forces took part in a Joint Planning Process (JPP) course presented by instructors from the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) in preparation for an upcoming exercise. “JSOU Training Preps Participants for Cobra Gold 24”, SOF News, March 1, 2024.

Airborne School – “Last Hard Course”? Students must complete 3-mile runs to pass the Basic Airborne Course; but the longer run is no longer required. “Army quietly dropped 5-mile run requirement from airborne school in 2018”, Task & Purpose, March 1, 2024.

New ‘Little Bird’. The U.S. Army’s replacement helicopter for the MH-6 “Little Bird” will be designated the MH-6R. The planned replacement for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) is part of USSOCOM’s Mission Enhanced “Little Bird-X” upgrade project. The helicopter was originally developed as a reconnaissance aircraft for Army armored units but has been used by the special operations community since the early 1980s. “Army’s Night Stalker’s new ‘Little Bird’ officially called the MH-6R”, Interesting Engineering, February 28, 2024. See also “New Night Stalker Little Bird Helicopters Now Dubbed MH-6R”, The WarZone, February 27, 2024.

Jocko Willink Interview. A former Navy SEAL talks about Navy SEAL training, Iraq, and the civilian life of entrepreneurship and leadership consulting. “Behind the Brand with Navy SEAL Jocko Willink”, Inc., March 3, 2024.

Grange ACP. The gate on Legacy Boulevard, Columbus, Ga was the scene of a recent memorialization of a former post commander – Lt. Gen. David Grange Jr. The ceremony at Fort Moore (Benning) took place on February 22, 2024, at Access Control Point 2. Grange was a veteran of 20 campaigns spanning three wars serving in multiple Airborne and Ranger units. In 1992 he was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. “Fort Moore names gate after legendary Ranger”, U.S. Army, March 1, 2024.

DOL Foundation

SOF Officer Assignments

New SOCSOUTH Cdr. Rear Adm. (lower half) Mark A. Schafer will be assigned as commander, Special Operations Command South, U.S. Southern Command, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida. Schafer is currently serving as commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force – Central, Doha, Qatar.

New Commander of NSWC. Rear Admiral Milton J. Sands will be assigned as commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, San Diego, California. Sands is currently serving as chief of staff, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

Rear Adm. Bennett Leaves JSOC. Rear Adm. (lower half) Brian H. Bennett will be assigned as deputy director, Special Operations and Counter Terrorism, J-3, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C. Bennett is currently serving as assistant commander-Operations, Joint Special Operations Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Fort Liberty, North Carolina.

SOJTF-L Commander Reassignment. Brigadier General Philip J. Ryan, Commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Levant, Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, Jordan to Commanding General, United States Army South, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.

JSOC Assignment. Capt. Bartley A. Randall, selected for promotion to rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as assistant commander-operations, Joint Special Operations Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Fort Liberty, North Carolina. Randall is currently serving as assistant deputy director for Global Operations, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

JSOC Assignment. Brigadier General Joseph W. Wortham II, Deputy Commanding General (Operations), 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), Fort Liberty, North Carolina to Assistant Commander-Support, Joint Special Operations Command, United States Special Operations Command, Fort Liberty, North Carolina.

NSW Veteran to Command Naval Academy. Capt. Walter Allman III will take the helm as the 90th commandant of the Navy’s midshipmen this summer. “Naval Academy Names Special Warfare Officer as 90th Commandant of Midshipmen”, Military.com, February 29, 2024.

SOCAFRICA Commander Promoted. Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Ronald A. Foy has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Foy is currently serving as commander, Special Operations Command Africa, U.S. Special Operations Command, Stuttgart, Germany

New SWCS Commander. Brigadier General Jason C. Slider, Deputy Commanding General (Operations), 3rd Division (France), France to Commanding General, United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Liberty, North Carolina.

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International SOF

Los Kaibiles – Guatemala’s SOF. The special operations wing of the Guatemala Army was created in 1974. Read about the history, mission, training, equipment, and organization the SOF unit. “Los Kaibiles: Guatemala’s Special Operations Forces”, Grey Dynamics, February 29, 2024.

UKSF and Virtual Reality Training. The United Kingdom special forces are now using a technological system that can create near-limitless scenarios in almost any location. “Special Forces adopt virtual reality for cover-combat training”, The Telegraph, March 2, 2024.

Russia’s SOF. President Vladimir Putin promised to increase the mobility and striking potential of Russia’s special operations forces, saying this is a key priority to make the country’s army stronger. The statements by Putin came a few days prior to the celebration of Russia’s Special Operations Forces Day on February 27th. “Putin Vows to Boost Russian Special Forces’ Ability to Strike”, U.S. News and World Report, February 26, 2024.

French SOF to Ukraine? “Macron mulls sending special forces into Ukraine”, Yahoo!news, March 1, 2024.

Ukrainian SOF Losses. During the execution of a seaborne raid on Thursday, February 28, 2024, about twenty members of the 73rd Naval Special Purpose Center died in the Kherson region. The losses were reported by the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The battle took place near Tenderovsky Island, a narrow spit of land on the southeast coast of the Crimean Peninsula. Kyiv Post, 29 Feb 2024)

Afghanistan’s Badri 313. One of the elite special operations forces units of the Taliban is the Badri 313 unit. It is tied in with the Haqqani Network. Much of its weapons and equipment came from the weapons of the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command units. Read more in “Badri 313: The Taliban’s Special Forces Unit”, by Bobby Payne, Grey Dynamics, March 1, 2024.

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SOF History

OSS. On March 3, 1943, the Morale Operations Branch of the OSS was formed. It utilized psychological warfare to sap morale, induce confusion, and sow distrust within the populations of Axis countries and within the ranks of their armed forces.

11th SFG(A). On March 1, 1961, the 11th Special Forces Group was activated. It was a part of the U.S. Army Reserve and had units based in Eastern United States from Florida to Massachusetts and inland. It was deactivated in 1995 and some members were rolled into the 19th and 20th SFG(A)s.

Barry Sadler. On March 5, 1966, Barry Sadler’s “The Ballad of the Green Berets” made #1 on the music charts, a hit song by favored by music fans at the height of the Vietnam War.

5th SFG(A). On March 3, 1971, the 5th Special Forces Group departed South Vietnam. The Green Berets were withdrawn as part of the U.S. troop reductions in Vietnam.

MoH Afghanistan. March 4, 2002, was a deadly day for American troops on a mountaintop in Afghanistan. Several men lost their lives. Two earned the nation’s highest honor – the Medal of Honor. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Britt Slabinski and Air Force Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman.

Davis MoH Award. One year ago, on March 3, 2023, COL (Ret.) Paris Davis (Special Forces) received the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House for his actions in Vietnam in June 1965. Although wounded, he refused medical evacuation to remain on the battlefield and rescue fellow soldiers.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Situation Update. In the last few weeks, the Ukrainians have shot down11 SU-34s, 2 SU-35s, and an A-50 radar aircraft. These are some of the most advanced aircraft in Russia’s inventory. Ukrainian ground forces are on the defensive; Russian ground forces are making incremental gains in territory at great personnel and equipment costs. The Russian are fielding a new missile patrol boat called the ‘Black Widow’ (Proceedings, Mar 2024). Funding from the U.S. is still locked in a partisan fight. The majority of Democrats support more money for Ukraine, but less Republicans are supporting funding for the defense of Ukraine. A railway bridge across the Chapayevka River was blown up in Samara Oblast (Google maps), Russia. The bridge is commonly used to transport military cargo. (Yahoo!news, 4 Mar 2024)

Non-Violent Resistance. Ukraine has been implementing whole-of-society resistance in its fight against the Russia invaders. From the very beginning of the invasion the Ukrainian people self-mobilized en masse and resistance in numerous ways. This resistance continues in violent and non-violent ways. “Ukrainian Civilians Are Pioneering the Art of Resistance”, by Nicholas Krohely, Foreign Policy, February 28, 2024.

CIA and Ukraine. A decade long secret partnership between the CIA and Ukraine has been critical for lethal operations against Russia. Although the partnership can be traced back to February 2014 (the taking of Crimea and eastern portions of Ukraine by Russia), it has been deepened since the February 2022 full-scale invasion by Russia. (Business Insider, 25 Feb 2024)

Anti-Drone Pistols? In warfare, technology is always advancing forward. The dramatic increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles has reshaped warfare. This is especially true in the Ukraine – Russia conflict where each side is effectively using drones to great effect. One of the newest aspects of drone warfare is the use of ‘first person view’ or FPV drones to attack soldiers, equipment, and vehicles. Combatants are seeking effective anti-drone measures and one under consideration is the use of a pistol that will shoot pellets into a targeted area (the space where the drone is). Read more in “Ukraine’s Handheld FPV Killer?”, The Armourer’s Bench, February 25, 2024.

SAG-U Commander Reassignment. Major General Garrick M. Harmon, Deputy Commanding General, Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, Operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE, Germany will be reassigned as Director of Strategy, Plans, and Programs, United States Africa Command, Germany.

Paper – Russia’s War in Ukraine: Ballistic and Cruise Trajectories, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), September 2023, PDF, 30 pages.

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National Security

Special Warfare – Losing Its Influence Capability. Ajit Maan and other authors have collaborated on an opinion article that is critical of the upcoming cuts to some of Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) capabilities. The Army is experiencing a severe recruiting crisis at the same time that it is pivoting from COIN / CT to Strategic Competition. The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) is cutting force structure – and it looks as though Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations will take the brunt of those cuts. The authors of this article argue that we “should not only retain our current levels of funding but expand and unite our influence force capacities.” “Choreographing Influence: Expanding and Integrating Special Warfare”, Homeland Security Today, February 27, 2024.

USASOC Personnel Cuts – SOAA Letter. The Special Operations Association of America is speaking out against the cuts to ARSOF structure. PDF, February 2024.

An Endangered Armenia. Lela Gilbert provides her perspective on the constant threat posed to Armenia by Azerbaijan and other neighboring nations. “Abused Armenian Christians: Today and Yesterday”, Washington Stand, February 29, 2024.

T.E. Lawrence, ARSOF, and SFABs. Garrett M. Searle provides an interesting account of the famous ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and two advisors who accompanied him during the ‘Arab Revolt’ in World War I. He goes on to apply his perspective on advising as it relates to Army Special Operations Forces and the Security Force Assistance Command. “Lewis and Stokes: What Lawrence of Arabia and His Sergeants Teach Us about the Modern Combat Advisor”, Military Review, March-April 2024. (PDF, 10 pages)

Report – Army Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs), Congressional Research Service, CRS IF10675, updated February 29, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. “In the past, Special Forces units handled the majority of SFA missions, but the growing requirement for SFA over time resulted in conventional forces assuming a more active role in conducting SFA missions.” https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10675

Crum's Sauce

Sinking of the MV Rubymar. A Belize-flagged, UK-owned bulk carrier sank in the Red Sea on Saturday, March 2, 2024, after being struck by an Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist anti-ship ballistic missile on February 18, 2024. The ship had been slowly taking on water since the attack. The ship was carrying approximately 21,000 metric tons of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer. This has the makings of an environmental disaster.

Report – Houthi Attacks in the Red Sea, Congressional Research Service, CRS IN12301, updated February 26, 2024, PDF, 4 pages. Despite responses by the United States, its allies, and partners, the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen (NSI country profile) continue to target Israeli territory, commercial vessels, and naval ships in key maritime choke points. This has diverted maritime traffic from the Red Sea and is driving up shipping costs. This CRS reports provides background on the attacks in the Red Sea, the U.S. response, and issues for the U.S. Congress. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IN/IN12301 See also, “The Red Sea Crisis Continues with no Resolution in Sight”, Intelbrief, The Soufan Center, February 26, 2024.

Report – USMC’s MLR. As part of its “Force Design” initiative, the U.S. Marine Corps are redesigning forces to place a stronger emphasis on naval expeditionary warfare to better align with the National Defense Strategy. As part of the redesign, the Marines plan to establish at least three Marine Littoral Regiments (MLRs). Read about the mission, operational environment, employment, organizational structure, and systems of the Marine Littoral Regiment. The U.S. Marine Corps Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR), Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12200, updated February 27, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12200

Border Crisis:

Great Power Competition GPC

Strategic Competition

Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense – Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, CRS R43838, updated February 28, 2024, PDF, 94 pages. Special operations gets a brief mention on page 28. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R43838

Taiwan: Defense and Military Issues, Congressional Research Service, CRS IF12481, updated March 1, 2024, PDF, 3 pages. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF12481

Sweden in NATO. The last major war that Sweden fought in ended in 1814 and it has not taken up arms since then. It did, however, send troops to Afghanistan for many years – but mostly in the northern part of the country which was relatively quiet. Over the past two centuries, Sweden has had a policy of neutrality – avoiding wars and not joining any military alliance. However, it won’t be long before ceremonial formalities are held making Sweden a part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “As Sweden joins NATO, it bids farewell to more than two centuries of neutrality”, Associated Press News, March 2, 2024.

Combating the Wagner Group in Africa. The Russian paramilitary group continues to expand its footprint and operations across Africa. The private military company’s criminal activities involve resource extraction with financial gains flowing through its illicit network of shell companies. In addition, it is a destabilizing force in many nations of Africa. The United States has had difficulty in countering the Wagner Group through legal mechanisms. However, a reworked strategy could employ the RICO statue to seize Wagner’s assets and prosecute individuals. Read more in “Legal Mechanisms to Combat the Wagner Group: Opportunities and Challenges With the RICO Statute“, New Lines Institute, February 2024, PDF, 12 pages.

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Journals and Periodicals

Sentinel. The “Newsletter of the Quiet Professional” March 2024 edition is now posted online. Articles include a tribute to Col. Roger H.C. Donlon, an update on helping the Montagnards in Vietnam, book review of The Green Berets and Their Victories, and a Mobile Advisory Team (MAT) during the Vietnam War.

Spotlight. The February 2024 newsletter by the Irregular Warfare Center is now posted online. https://irregularwarfarecenter.org/news/newsletter/february-2024-newsletter/

Proceedings. The March 2024 issue by the U.S. Naval Institute is now online. Articles on Russian patrol boats, Naval War College, medical standards, USMC, Taiwan crisis, torpedoes, INDOPACOM, Coast Guard, book reviews, and more.

Strategika. Issue No. 90 features three essays stressing that the United States should retaliate more aggressively against Iranian proxy militia groups the Middle East. Hoover Institution, February 26, 2024.

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