Special Operations News – March 25, 2024

Pararescue Chute Landing

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

Photo / Image: U.S. Air Force pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron drop near Aviano Air Base, Italy, March 13, 2024. The 57th RQS provides personnel recovery, combat search and rescue, civil search and rescue and casualty evacuation to fulfill U.S. European Command, U. S. Africa Command and NATO security cooperation requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joseph Bartoszek)

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SOF News

3rd SFG(A) Wins Sniper Competition. A team from the 3rd Special Forces Group took first place in the special operations international best sniper competition. The event was hosted by the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School during March 18-22, 2024, at Fort Liberty, N.C. (FBNC). There were 20 sniper teams that represented seven countries. The 1st, 3rd, 7th, 10th, and 19th Special Forces Groups had teams as well as the 75th Ranger Regiment, MARSOC, NSW, and the U.S. Coast Guard. A French team finished second and the 10th SFG(A) was in 3rd place. (U.S. Army, 22 Mar 2024)

Lt. Gen. James Glynn Assignment. A former commander of MARSOC (SOF News, 28 Jun 2020) will soon be commanding U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific and Fleet Marine Forces Pacific. He is currently serving as the deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Quantico, Virginia.

26th MEU(SOC) Returns. More than 4,000 Sailors and Marines assigned to the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)) returned to Hampton Roads following an eight and a half-month deployment to the U.S. 2nd, 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations, on March 21, 2024. (Navy, 21 Mar 2024)

NSWG-8 Commander Relieved. A Navy commodore has lost his job due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to command” according to a press release from Naval Special Warfare Command. The Navy SEAL has spent nearly 20 years assigned to East Coast-based special warfare units. (Military.com, 20 Mar 2024)

SOWMTC. Green Berets recently attended the Winter Mountain Operator Course (WMOC) at the Special Operations Warfare Mountain Training Center (SOWMTC) in Colorado. “Cold Forged Elite Mountaineers”, DVIDS, March 13, 2024.

Raiders Train in Jungle. Today, as the US attempts to redirect its focus to the Indo-Pacific amid steadily rising tensions between the US and China, it looks like jungle operations are back on the menu for the US special operations community. “With eyes on China, US special operators are back to battling the jungle”, Business Insider, March 24, 2024.

Hiking for Afghan Heroes - Team America Relief

A Special Forces medic who was involved in the evacuation of Afghans onto Kabul Airport during the August 2021 fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban is continuing his support for our Afghan allies. He has begun his journey of hiking the Appalachian Trail to raise funds for Team America Relief’s efforts to provide assistance to the relocation and resettlement of our Afghans allies in the United States.


AC-130 Gunship Changes. The AC-130U was set to get the first operational airborne laser weapon, but there are changes planned for the airframes’ future. “AC-130 Gunship’s Laser Weapon Cancelled, 105mm Howitzer May Be Removed”, The Warzone, March 19, 2024.

AC-13W on Display. One of the last ‘W” models has retired and is now a static display at Cannon Air Force Base. “AC-130W Static Display Unveiled”, DVIDS, March 21, 2024.

Cuts to Armed Overwatch. The Armed Overwatch program, designed to augment special operations forces with a dedicated light attack and surveillance capability, has faced a significant reduction due to budget constraints. “U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Has Decided to Cut the Size of One of its Most Controversial Programs”, National Interest, March 22, 2024.

Reduced Budget for AT-802U Sky Warden. U.S. Special Operations Command has cut back on its planned purchase of the AT-802U Sky Wardens. It has reduced the amount to be bought from 75 airframes to 62 due to budget constraints. “SOCOM Cuts Armed Overwatch Buy from 75 to 62 Aircraft”, Air and Space Forces Magazine, March 19, 2024.

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International SOF

UK’s Ranger Regiment. Formed up in December 2021, the unit is made up of four Special Operations-capable battalions. “Ranger Regiment deployed on hundreds of missions since creation”, Forces.net, March 18, 2024.

JCET in Chile. US SOF trained up with elements of the Special Operations Brigade “Lautaro” (BOE) during a recent Joint Combined Exchange Training exercise. (Zona Militar, 18 Mar 2024)

Indian Anti-Piracy Operation. On March 12, 2024, the MV Abdullah (a bulk carrier) was taken by Somalia pirates in the Indian Ocean approximately 600 nautical miles east of Mogadishu, Somalia. An Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft executed a precision airborne drop of two CCRC boats along with Indian Navy MARCOS. A combination of actions by the Indian military resulted in the capture of the 35 pirates and release of the 17 crew members. “Indian Navy’s recent showdown with Somali pirates”, Business Insider, March 18, 2024.

Russia’s Elite Force. Alec Bertina writes about a SOF unit that is part of the Russian Federal Security Service’s (FSB) Special Purpose Center. It is one of Russia’s most well-equipped, combat-capable, and secretive units. “FSB Alpha Group: Russia’s Elite A Team”, Grey Dynamics, March 17, 2024.

US SOF Train with “Wolves” and “Tigers”. Special operations forces from North Macedonia trained up with members of the 10th Special Forces group during a recent Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercise. (DVIDS, 19 Mar 2024)

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SOF History

On March 29, 1911. The United States Army adopted the M1911. This is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. It served as the standard-issue sidearm for the United States military for over 75 years, from 1911 to 1986.

On March 24, 1961, the 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated.

On March 24, 1969, SFC William M. Bryant, a Green Beret assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group, was killed while engaged in a fierce firefight with the enemy in Vietnam. He was the commander of a company of the 3rd Mobile Strike Force that was surrounded by the enemy. For his heroic actions that day he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Operation Ugly Baby. On March 22, 2003, JSOAD-N successfully inserted 19 U.S. Army Special Forces teams along with 4 Company Headquarters elements onto landing zones in northern Iraq.

On 25 March 2011, the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne) was provisionally activated as a new HQs under USASOC to provide the Commanding General with an element that serves both as a command and staff entity to advocate aviation issues for USASOC.

Ukraine Russia Conflict

Ukraine Conflict

Supporting Ukraine’s IW Campaign. A former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Georgia and a retired paramilitary case officer collaborate in an article arguing for support to Ukraine’s IW campaign. “Bolster Ukraine’s irregular warfare tactics with Western tech”, Defense News, March 15, 2024.

Ukraine Oversight. The Special Inspector General for Operation Atlantic Resolve has established a website that describes the oversight work, funding, reports, news, and more. https://www.ukraineoversight.gov/

And More News:

Battle of Avdiivaka. The Ukrainian city of Avdiivka has been at the center of armed conflict since 2014. Since the full-scale invasion of 2022, the Russians have fought to seize control of the city. After significant equipment and personnel losses, the Russians finally succeeded in driving the Ukrainians out. The Ukrainians conducted a well-planned and executed withdrawal (an initial assessment) and there are some ‘lessons to be learned’ from the event. “The Battle of Avdiivka and Its Lessons on Withdrawal Under Pressure”, by Ryan N. Forte, Modern War Institute, Mach 12, 2024.

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Sudan Conflict and Evac of Foreign Nationals

Situation Update. The conflict raging on in Sudan has resulted in thousands of deaths, millions displaced, and a humanitarian disaster. The competing armed factions continue to attack each while inflicting pain and suffering on civilians. In South Sudan, democracy is fragile, with the violence increasing in the past several months. (AP, 19 Mar 2024) In the mix are state and non-state actors exploiting the situation for their own interests. A non-resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center was recently charged with conspiring to illegally export “millions of dollars’ worth” of weapons to armed groups in South Sudan. “U.S. Justice Dept. Charges Harvard Kennedy School Fellow with Arms Trafficking”, The Harvard Crimson, March 8, 2024.

Update on the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), ceasefire, humanitarian crisis, and evacuation of foreign nationals.

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Improving USSOCOM for the Future. Monte Erfourth, a retired Army colonel, served as the former USSOCCENT J5 and USSOCOM Chief of Plans. He has sent off a letter to the commander of the United States Special Operations Command with some recommendations on how to adapt and evolve for its role in this era of strategic competition. “Open Letter to a USSOCOM Commander”, Strategy Central, March 18, 2024.

Weaponizing Rights and ARSOF. “The global competition for influence shows no signs of slowing down, and the rights as weapons framework offers ARSOF, the first to influence and compete, an opportunity to leverage their unique skills to dominate the information environment, inspire partners to action, and potentially win the battle before the first shot is fired.” “Weaponizing Rights: An Untapped Tool for Special Operations Forces”, by Joseph Bedingfield, Irregular Warfare Initiative, March 15, 2023.

Principles of Special Air Operations. Jan-Joost Ackermans, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Royal Netherlands Air Force with a SOF background, has penned an article entitled “Building upon McRaven’s Foundation: Operational and Strategic Principles of Special Air Operations”, Irregular Warfare Initiative, March 19, 2024.

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National Security and Strategic Competition

Drones. Michael Peck writes about the domestic threat to the U.S. infrastructure that commercial drones in the wrong hands can provide. “Swarms of drones are a rising threat to the US homeland, and law enforcement isn’t ready”, Business Insider, March 17, 2024. The RAND report cited in the article can be found here. (PDF, 12 pages)

Border Crisis:

Vulnerability of Ocean Cables. A lot of telecommunications and internet traffic travels via the sub-surface ocean cables stretching around the globe connecting continents with each other. Recent cable disruptions (the Houthis perhaps?) in the Red Sea connecting the Middle East with East Africa came to light that has had a significant effect on communication systems in East Africa. The undersea cable systems are vulnerable. Take a look at a map depicting how they are laid out on the ocean floor. https://submarine-cable-map-2024.telegeography.com/

Worried About a Russian Invasion? Protect the Airports! Michael Peck examines the strategy that Russia (and the Soviet Union) has used over time when invading smaller countries. They seized the main airports of Prague (1968), Kabul (1979), and Sevastopol (2014). Their failed attempt in 2022 to take the main Kyiv airport failed. “Don’t want Russia to successfully invade your country? Then do this.”, by Michael Peck, Business Insider, March 2, 2024.

Evacuations in Haiti. A week after quietly conducting a non-combatant evacuation operation for some non-emergency embassy staff and families the Department of Statement began to air evacuated some American citizens. A flight took off from Cap Haitien on the northern coast of Haiti with some 40 plus AMCITS aboard. “Evacuation flights to US begin as Haiti deteriorates”, BBC, March 18, 2024.

Map of Hispaniola

JTF-2 in Haiti. Members of Joint Task Force 2 are at the Canadian embassy in Haiti’s capital city. The counterterrorism team is there to assist with “contingency planning”. (Global News, 23 Mar 2024)

Assessment of Russian Military. A recent intel report provides info on Moscow’s military, the Ukraine conflict, and future trends. “The US Intelligence Community Assesses the State of the Russian Military”, SANDBOXX, March 18, 2024.

Chinese Underworld and Illicit Trade in Marijuana. All across America there are reports of illegal marijuana growing sites – usually in rural areas. In Maine, there are over 300 of these sites with Chinese nationals being arrested every week. Read more in “Gangsters, Money and Murder: How Chinese Organized Crime is Dominating America’s Illegal Marijuana Market”, ProPublica, March 14, 2024.

China and Antarctica. The status quo in Antarctica is unraveling – two factors come into play: climate change and great power competition. Just this February, China completed building its fifth research station on the continent. Antartica offers reach into the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. It has vast deposits of precious minerals, oil, and natural gas. “Great-Power Competition Comes to Antarctica”, by Elizabeth Buchanan, Foreign Affairs, March 18, 2024.

Old Salt Coffee is a corporate sponsor of SOF News. The company offers a wide range of coffee flavors to include Green Eyes Coffee, a tribute to those Navy special operations personnel who operate in the night.


More SIVs. Included in the bipartisan funding bill passed by Congress and signed by the president was a provision of 12,000 additional special immigrant visas (Afghan Report) for Afghans who assisted the U.S. military during its 20-year-long involvement in the Afghan conflict. Next on the agenda for those affiliated with the #AfghanEvac effort is passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act (Afghan Report) – this would put an end to the legal limbo so many of our allies already here are facing.

Afghan Exit – Biden in the Spotlight. A U.S. House of Representatives hearing on the disastrous exit from Afghanistan and chaotic non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) of August 2021 has put President Biden in the glare of public scrutiny once again. This is much to the dismay of Democrats who fear that the issue will not go away by the November presidential elections. Coupled with the terrible situation on the southern border, these two events are going to cost Biden some votes. Two top generals who oversaw the fall of Afghanistan and the chaotic events of the Kabul NEO testified at the hearing cast blame on the White House and Department of State. “Republicans continue to hammer Biden for Afghan exit”, The Washington Post, March 19, 2024. (subscription)

IS-KP Attack in Russia. The terrorist attack in Moscow that claimed the lives of 133 people on Friday, March 22, 2024, may have been conducted by the Islamic State – Khorasan Province organization based in Afghanistan. IS-KP claimed responsibility for the attack. There are multiple reasons why Russia would be attacked by IS-KP. These include the 10-year occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, Russia’s close ties to the present-day Taliban, and the ground, air, and logistical support to Bashar al-Assad during his fight to destroy ISIS in Syria. This ISIS affiliate continues to exist despite efforts by the former ANDSF and U.S. up to 2021 and the current efforts of the Taliban to degrade or destroy the terrorist group.

Disinformation by Russia . . . Of Course. It did not take long for Russia to push out the disinformation narrative that Ukraine was responsible for the attack in Moscow. This, of course, was totally expected. U.S. intelligence officials had warned Moscow earlier in March both publicly and privately to expect an attack by ISIS. Read more in “U.S. Says ISIS Was Responsible for Deadly Moscow Concert Hall Attack”, The New York Times, March 22, 2024. (subscription)

Lessons of a General. Brig. Gen. (Ret) Don Bolduc (SF) details how a change in strategy from bottom-up nation building to top-down nation building cost us the war in Afghanistan. He points to the abandonment of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program and the Afghan Local Police (ALP) as a big mistake. “Afghanistan Revisited – Lessons from a General’s Perspective”, SOFREP, March 23, 2024.


Libya Militias. Ever since the Arab Spring in 2011, the country of Libya has been in crisis. The vacuum left with the overthrow of dictator Omar Qaddafi was filled by numerous armed militias of various types. Slowly, many of these coalesced into two loose confederations centered in the western and eastern portions of Libya. In the west – in Tripoli, there are several armed militias funded by the government under very loose control. Learn more about them in “An Introduction to Tripoli’s Armed Factions”, by Jawhar Farhat, Grey Dynamics, March 23, 2024.

Trouble in the Sahara. The Polisario Front is a politico-military organization that is seeking the independence of part of the Western Sahara from Morocco (NSI map). Read more in “The Polisario Front: An Organizational Overview”, by Alex Purcell, Grey Dynamics. See also “Exploring the Escalation in Western Sahara“, by Jawhar Farhat, Grey Dynamics.

Danab Force. Elite soldiers from Somalia made history at exercise Justified Accord 2024, taking part in their first ever mission abroad. A platoon-sized element joined over 20 other partner nations in the U.S. Africa Command’s largest exercise in East Africa, which ran from Feb. 26 – March 7, 2024. “Somali Danab forces make history at Justified Accord 2024”, Army.mil, March 21, 2024.

ME Nations Assisting Somalia. There is some competition among some Middle East nations assisting Somalia in its fight against al Shabaab. Qatar, Turkey, and the UAE each have their reasons for providing advisors and money; but it is in a competitive atmosphere. Read more in “Emirati Military Support is Making a Difference in Somalia”, The Washington Institute, March 18, 2024.

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Books, Pubs, Videos, Podcasts, Videos, and Movies

Book – Mustering for War. Michael G. Anderson is the author of a publication that provides a detailed account of the role that the Army National Guard had during the GWOT era. There are a few pages that give mention of the Army National Guard Special Forces units (29-31, 54, 98, and 147). Mustering for War: Army National Guard Mobilization for the Global War on Terrorism, Combat Studies Institute Press, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 2024, PDF, 178 pages.

Pub – Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, February 5, 2024, PDF, 41 pages. https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/ATA-2024-Unclassified-Report.pdf

Journal – CTC Sentinel. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has published its latest monthly journal (March 2024). Articles cover topics such as the future of the Jihadi movement, antisemitism, and information operations.

Movie – The New James Bond. A 33-year-old British actor is expected to accept the role as British spy 007, taking over from Daniel Craig. Shooting should start this year with new adventures for the glamorous MI6’s spy. Craig, age 56, retired his Walther PPK, once he completed “No Time To Die”. The US Sun, March 18, 2024.

VideoThe Hukbalahap Army in the Philippines, 1941-1945. Robert Burrell discusses IW in WWII. YouTube, one hour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM1-daRr–Y

Video2024 U.S. Special Operations Command Europe Command Video, DVIDS, 6 minutes.

Video MARSOC Command Video, DVIDS, 5 minutes.

Video – Fight Club International. There is a YouTube channel for those who design war games – whether for commercial or military use. The channel has a slick one-minute-long promotional video as well as videos for how to design wargames. A long way from the old Strategy & Tactics board games of the 1970s that would come in a brown envelope once a month. https://www.youtube.com/@fightclubinternational

PodcastResistance and the National Defense of Small States, Modern War Institute at West Point, March 21, 2024. https://mwi.westpoint.edu/mwi-podcast-resistance-and-the-national-defense-of-small-states/

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