Recent news, analysis, and commentary on special operations, national security, and current conflicts.
SOF News Returns!
Our small staff took a four month break in writing articles and sending out the newsletter. What was supposed to be a short break got a bit extended due to the editor working a couple of contracts that involved significant travel for several months. But we are back! If you no longer wish to receive the newsletter click unsubscribe at the bottom of the email.
Catching up! This article will catch you up on some of the more important events and issues in the special operations community over the past month . . . just in case you missed them. Subsequent articles will cover more current happenings in the SOF world.
Interview of USASOC Commander. Lt Gen Francis Beaudette, the commander of the United States Army Special Operations Command, was interviewed in May 2019. He talks about ARSOF’s worldwide mission, the National Defense Strategy driving change within USASOC, future challenges, and the promise of technology. (Defense Media Network, May 28, 2019).
SF Dive School. A short article on the past and current activities of the U.S. Army’s facility at Key West, Florida. Read “Special Forces Underwater Operations School marks 50 years”, Stars and Stripes, May 9, 2019.
Interview of NSWC Commander. Rear Admiral Collin Green, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, was interviewed recently. He spoke about several topics to include NSWC’s operational responsibilities around the world, what the future NSW force will look like, various programs to improve NSW, future equipment fieldings, and the culture of NSW. (Defense Media Network, May 21, 2019).
Battle of Mogadishu and ‘Secret Helicopters’. Joseph Trevithick once again provides us with a detailed account of a shadowy SOF unit. This time it is the involvement of Flight Concepts Division in Somalia in the early 90s. (The WarZone, May 23, 2019).
SOF’s ATAK. The special operations Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) is in use by SF in Syria and Afghanistan – and is an example on how to beat the bureaucrats in weapons development and acquisition. Read “Close Air Support Timeline Cut; Wait for Tech Was Too Long”, Breaking Defense, May 22, 2019.
USASOC Observes Memorial Day. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command honored 13 Soldiers during its Fallen Soldier Memorial ceremony held on May 30th at the Army Special Operations Memorial Plaza. (Army.mil, May 30, 2019).
Sad News. Bill Dean, a retired Special Forces officer, died during a climbing expedition on Mount Rainier. He was injured in a rock fall on May 29th. He served with Special Forces and 1st SFOD-D. He was a West Point and Stanford graduate. He had retired just last year and returned home to Alaska.
Alpha Company Raiders. A little bit of Marine Corps history is provided in this article about a company of Marines with the legacy of the Marine Raiders. See “Alpha Company, the Original Marine Raiders”, DVIDS, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, April 30, 2019.
Chief Shannon Kent. Marty Skovlund of “Black Rifle Coffee Company” has penned an excellent article on Chief Shannon Kent (KIA in Syria Jan 2019). Read “The Legend of Chief Shannon Kent”, Coffee or Die, May 13, 2019.
Future of MARSOC. The commander of the Marine Special Operations Command believes that the Marine Raiders would not be disbanded and that the elite force may even grow. (Marine Corp Times, May 22, 2019).
Commando Readiness Center. The USAF has increased the effectiveness of the welcoming program for Airmen assigned to Cannon Air Force Base. (DVIDS, 27th SOW, May 29, 2019).
CA and Human Geography. The CA Regiment would benefit greatly from establishing a working relationship with the NGA on HG-related concepts. Read more in “Calibrating Civil Affairs Forces to Human Geography”, Small Wars Journal, May 18, 2019.
SOF Culture, Ethics, and War Crimes
SOF – Ethics and Culture. The media is having a field day with the various reports of misconduct by members of the SOF community. Several SOF members are accused of war crimes. Congress is putting pressure on SOCOM to fix its ‘culture’. The various commands from USSOCOM down are addressing this issue through a variety of methods.
A number of U.S. SOF personnel are implicated in war crimes or offenses. Thrown into this mix is Congressional pressure for USSOCOM to clean up its act and President Trump indicating he will pardon some of the accused. Some retired senior SOF personnel are not in favor of the pardons saying it sends the wrong message to the force.
A Navy Seal is in trouble because of his alleged activities in Iraq. The military court hearing for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, accused of killing an Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017, has been postponed. The case is further complicated by the sending of emails by prosecutors to defense attorneys and journalist that had secret embedded codes and the defense team’s close ties to President Trump. On Thursday (May 30th) a judge ordered Gallagher released from detention. (Navy Times, May 30, 2019).
A Green Beret is accounting for his actions in Afghanistan and the Army officer is facing a court martial in the coming months. On May 15, 2019, the commanding general for U.S. Army Special Operations Command referred Maj. Matthew Golsteyn’s case to trial by General Court-Martial. The future trial dates will be determined by a military judge.
Two SEALs and two MARSOC Marines are facing charges for the ‘accidental’ killing of a Green Beret in Mali. One SEAL has pleaded guilty and has received a one year jail sentence under a plea bargain arrangement. The other legal proceedings are plodding along at very slow pace.
Russia’s KSSO. Read a detailed description of the Komandovaniye Sil Spetsialnykh Operatsiy (Special Operations Command) by Roger McDermott. See “Russia’s Special Operations Forces Command and the Strategy of Limited Actions”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, The Jamestown Foundation, May 21, 2019.
Belgian SOF in the Sahel. Nina Wilen, a researcher with the Egmont Institute, writes about Belgian SOF in Niger. See “Belgian Special Forces in the Sahel: A Minimal Footprint with Maximal Output?”,PDF, May 14, 2019, 10 pages.
UAE and Fast Attack Crafts. There is talk that the United Arab Emirates will be obtaining new small craft for its Navy Special Forces. (Tactical Report, May 31, 2019).
New Afghan SOF Leader. Major General Mohammad Farid Ahmadi formally assumed charge of the Special Operations Corps of the Afghan military in the rank of Lieutenant General. (Khaama Press, May 25, 2019).
India’s SOF. Read a summary of India’s special operations organization and capabilities. See “India tries/fails to improve its special ops capability”, Asia Times, May 31, 2019. Some observers believe the recent reorganization is ‘too little too late’. (Financial Express, May 20, 2019).
Female CoBRA Commando Profiled. The first female CoBRA commando (India) explains her motivation to join an elite unit – the Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA). Read “The Face of Courage”, The Asian, May 26, 2019.
U.S. and Indonesian SOF to Conduct Training. High level meetings between defense officials from the two countries are paving the way for U.S. and Indonesian special operations forces to train and participate in joint exercises. Read reports dated late May 2019 on this topic from Eurasia Review and Thomson Reuters Foundation News.
Australia’s SASR Bracing for Bad News. In a few months the findings of an investigation of possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan will be revealed. Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment and Commandos could see some significant changes in the future. Read “Braced for a Culture Shock”, The Australian, May 25, 2019.
NZ SAS Member Dies in Training. A New Zealand Special Air Service Regiment member died during a training accident with the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) in early May. (Stars and Stripes, May 9, 2019).
Salvador SF Increase its Capabilities. The Salvadorian Armed Force’s Special Forces Command increased its helicopter and surprise capabilities as a result of joint training with U.S. SOF and aviation units. (Dialogo, May 9, 2019).
FFL in the Amazon. The French Foreign Legion patrols the jungles of South America to prevent illegal gold mining. See “The Soldiers Who Protect a Rainforest”, BBC, May 10, 2019.
Books and Pubs
Tip of the Spear. The April 2019 issue of the USSOCOM pub is now online.
Special Operations Outlook 2019. There are a lot of interesting articles in this years edition. 136 pages on SOF technology and missions.
USACAPOC(A) Strategic Plan 2019-2026. A new document on the future of PSYOP and Civil Affairs, May 2019, 35 pages.
Paper: U.S. IW Doctrine. A Green Beret Colonel (John Pelleriti) and several others have authored a 7-page paper entitled “The Insufficiency of U.S. Irregular Warfare”, Joint Force Quarterly, May 14, 2019.
Sea Stories. Admiral (ret) McRaven has penned a new book entitled
“Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations”. Read a review of the new book. (Houston Chronicle, May 30, 2019).
Book Review – Any Place, Any Time, Any Where. Joe Scobey , a USAF Air Commando, has reviewed a book about the 1st Air Commandos in World War II. (Small Arms Journal, May 29, 2019.
CTC Sentinel. The May / June 2019 issue of CTC Sentinel by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point is now online. Various articles on Syri Lanka terrorist attack, Syrian foreign fighters, Moonshot CVE, and more.
GAO Report on SOF. See “Special Operations Forces: Additional Actions Are Needed to Effectively Expand Management Oversight”, GAO, May 2019, 27 pages, PDF.
Indo-Pacific Strategy Report. The Department of Defense released a 64-page document that articulates DoD’s vision to compete, deter, and win in the competitive Pacific region. (DoD, June 1, 2019).
Expanding the UW Toolkit. Two SOF officers – one SF and the other with SOAR – provided a briefing at the NSI SMA Speakers Series in May 2019. You can view their slides and listen to the 30 minute podcast at the following link – “Nonviolent Resistance and Expanding the Unconventional Warfare (UW) Toolkit”.
“Call Sign Chaos”. Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has a book coming out in mid-July. He says it isn’t a ‘tell-all’ about his time as SecDef and relationship with President Trump. The book will trace his career, participation in the Afghan and Iraq wars, and provide ‘lessons on war and peace’ and leadership. See a review of the book in “Call Sign Chaos: Mattis’ Book is Coming this Summer”, Real Clear Defense, May 28, 2019.
Book Review – To Build as Well as Destroy. Andrew Gawthorpe, a researcher and lecturer at Leiden University (UK) and research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School has penned a 258-page pub about the CORDS program in Vietnam. I did a “Ctrl-F” searching for ‘special forces’ and ‘green berets’ and came up with nothing. But could be some interesting reading for some of the older crowd reading this newsletter. The pub is available to download for free (PDF) at:
SFA National Convention. The Special Forces Association will be conducting its national meeting from 14 to 17 August in West Virginia.
Deep Dive – Combat Diver Foundation. On September 21, 2019 the Combat Diver Foundation will host a fundraiser to build awareness of the organization’s mission. Location is Pensacola, Florida. Sounds like a fun time and worthy cause!
Photos: Featured photo (top) is a 10th Special Forces soldier conducting a High Altitude jump. Photo from USASOC Twitter feed May 31, 2019.