SOF News Update – Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. SEAL heads top intel post, SOCOM’s AI strategy, more SOF gone rogue, CANSOF history, law of covert action, 1st SFAB, NICKA, Syria’s ‘safe zone’, Syrian Christians, PMCs in Africa, videos, B.A.T.M.A.N., CSM (Ret) Thetford on Operation Gothic Serpent,and more.
Former Navy SEAL now Acting National Intelligence Director. A retired Vice Admiral has been appointed by President Trump to take on the role as national intelligence director. Joseph Maguire most recently was serving as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. He takes over on August 15, 2019 with the departure of the current director Dan Coats. In addition, the deputy director of national intelligence, Sue Gordon, will also be leaving by mid-month. Read more in “Trump Picks New Acting National Intelligence Director”, Time.com, August 8, 2019. See also an article by Mother Jones (Aug 9, 2019) that indicates Maguire may not be the loyalist Trump thinks he is.
“Admiral Maguire has a long an distinguished career in the military, retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2010. He commanded at every level, including the Naval Special Warfare Command. He has also served as a National Security Fellow at Harvard University. I have no doubt he will do a great job!”President Donald Trump, Twitter, August 8, 2019
Preserving the Force and Family. U.S. Special Operations Command Central recently conducted a “Newcomers and Family Orientation” for the organizations newly arrived service members and their families. (SOCCENT, August 8, 2019).
Award for 3rd SFG Soldier KIA in Niger. SFC Jeremiah Johnson was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism while serving in Niger. He was killed in October 2017 along with three other members of his team. (WJHL News, August 10, 2019).
Interesting SOF Courses. Members of the special operations community are highly trained professionals due to a rigid selection process, comprehensive initial SOF training, and then very advanced follow-on courses. Three of these advanced courses are described in a recent article. See “Deception and Low-Visibility Ops: Here are the three most interesting SOF courses”, Loadout Room, August 6, 2019.
What is an ‘Operator’? Luke Ryan explains to us where the term ‘operator’ came from originally. And it goes back several decades. Read “What’s the Origin of the Term ‘Operator'”, Black Rifle Coffee Magazine, August 11, 2019.
SOCOM’s AI Strategy. Advancements in technology are helping the SOF community to improve its AI capabilities on the battlefield. Read “SOCOM Plans New Artificial Intelligence Strategy”, National Defense Magazine, August 9, 2019.
LTG (Ret) Blum Recognized. A former SF detachment commander now has his name on a National Guard building in Glen Arm, Maryland. Read more in “Maryland National Guard renames Gunpowder Military Reservation in honor of former chief of the National Guard Bureau”, DVIDS, August 7, 2019.
AC-130: A Classic Killer. Read about the crew of an AFSOC gunship raining flying over the ‘highway of death’ during Operation Desert Storm. See “If You See This in the Sky It Means You’re Dead: Why AC-130 Gunships Rule”, The National Interest, August 7, 2019.
Underwater Veterans Memorial. The nation’s first underwater dive memorial honoring veterans was recently established off the coast of Florida. (Military Times, Aug 6, 2019).
SOF Gone Rogue
3rd SFG WO Charged. A chief warrant officer for 4th Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group was indicted on Tuesday, August 6, 2019 on charges of theft of military property, conspiracy, and aggravated identity theft. The incident dates back to 2013 and apparently there are other individuals involved as well. It seems he stole 43 enhanced night vision goggles and sold them to a military surplus store in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Hmmm . . . and he was in 4th Battalion; you would think . . . never mind. It seems that he was the battalion’s Property Book Officer (PBO). Read “Former Fort Bragg soldier charged with stealing military goods”, Stars and Stripes, August 8, 2019.
Gallagher Prosecutor Reassigned. The former lead prosecutor in the court-martial of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher was reassigned amid a service shakeup of the Judge Advocate General Corps. (Stars and Stripes, August 8, 2019.
Legal Costs of Gallaghers’ Defense. Apparently Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher had two different legal teams defending him of the various charges related to his tours in Iraq. And one of the lawyers is seeking payment for his services. (The San Diego Union-Tribune, Aug 7, 2019)
Charges Dropped in Navy SEAL Case. Detainee abuse charges against four Navy SEALs that were related to an event in Afghanistan in 2012 at a Village Stability Operations base have been dismissed. The evidence in the case had been degraded to the point that obtained convictions were no longer likely. See “Navy drops detainee abuse charges against four SEALs”, Stars and Stripes, August 7, 2019.
CANSOF History. The Canadians have had a long history of units performing special operations mission. Some trace their history back to the First Special Service Force during World War II. Learn more in “Let Us Dare: A History of the Canadian Special Forces”, Gunpowder Magazine, August 9, 2018.
Update on CANSOF Aircraft. Canada is purchasing some specialized surveillance aircraft over the next few years. Read “Next phase of Canadian special forces aircraft project to begin soon”, Canada.com, August 8, 2019.
Fuerzas Comando Results. Every year, for the past 15 years, special operations teams from the western hemisphere compete against each in a SOF competition. This years competition – Fuerzas Comando 2019 – was held in Chile. The U.S. special operations team placed sixth overall. (Military Times, Aug 8, 2019).
New Patch for Ukraine SOF. A new patch for the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine is the silver head of a werewolf with golden eyes. (Unian (UK), Aug 8, 2019).
Australian SOF – Capability to Increase. A major investment is being made in the Aussie special forces that will increase survivability and lethality of the SOF units. See “Increasing the capability of Australia’s special operations”, Defence Connect, August 12, 2019.
Photo Essay – Australia’s SASR. View 12 photos of Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment. (Defense Connect, Aug 12, 2019).
UK’s SAS. Jamie Read provides details about the Special Air Service in “UK Special Forces Breakdown: The Special Air Service (SAS)”, Loadout Room, August 10, 2019.
Law of Covert Action. A former operational lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency tells us that law school instruction on covert action is important. Read “Teaching Covert Action to Law Students”, Lawfare Blog, August 8, 2019.
Military News and National Defense
1st SFAB Now the ‘Spearhead Brigade’. In early August the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade has picked up a new name. It is now being referred to as the ‘Spearhead Brigade’. Apparently this is because the 1st SFAB helped pave the way for the combat advisor and SFAB concept. This is in addition to the spearhead depicted on the unit patch.
American Volunteers in Foreign Conflicts. There have been several conflicts through history where Americans have joined foreign armies or military groups to fight for a foreign cause. Read more in “5 Times Americans Left to Fight in Foreign Wars”, We Are the Mighty, June 18, 2018.
NICKA – Coming Up with Secret Code Names for Projects. Ever wonder how the Pentagon comes up with the nicknames and code words for secret projects? Learn about the “Code Word Nickname and Exercise Term System” in “Here Is How The Pentagon Comes Up With Code Words and Secret Project Nicknames”, The War Zone, August 9, 2019.
USAF, PT test, and Stress. The Air Force has recognized that it is stressful taking a physical fitness test – so they are adapting. Read “Stressed out about passing your PT test? The Air Force has got you covered.”, Task & Purpose, August 11, 2019.
UK – Women in Infantry? Not so Much. When the British Army opened its doors for women to join the infantry it was seen by some as a historic milestone for gender equality. However, less than five female soldiers have switched to the infantry in the past ten months. “Women dismiss opportunity to join infantry”, The Times (UK), August 9, 2019.
Army’s New Body Armor. A North Carolina firm will be providing the Army the new Modular Scalable Vest (MSV) and Blast Pelvic Protector (BPP). It is all part of the Soldier Protection System (SPS). See “Army Orders $40 Million of its Newest Body Armor”, Military.com, August 2, 2019.
Iran and Military Technology. Iran has been a bit behind when it comes to robotics and autonomous systems that other countries (U.S., China, and Russia) currently have. But it is catching up. Read “Iran’s Military is Making Strides into Twenty-First Century Technology”, The National Interest, August 8, 2019.
Status of Counter-Iran Coalition. The U.S. is finding that it has some reluctant allies in the Persian Gulf region. This could be attributed to some changes in U.S. policy and uncertainty of possible U.S. future actions and President Trump’s next tweet. Read “About that Counter-Iran Coalition . . .”, by Jon Alterman, Defense One, July 29, 2019.
UMS and the Gulf. One author thinks that the use of advanced Unmanned Maritime Systems could assist the U.S. and other nations in providing security in the Persian Gulf region for merchant ships and oil tankers. Read “Why Unmanned Systems Are The Go-To Option for GrayZone Ops in the Gulf”, Center for International Maritime Security, August 6, 2019.
DoS Statement on ‘Safe Zone’. The U.S. Embassy in Turkey released a statement on the joint military talks regarding Syria and the establishment of a ‘safe zone’. (Aug 7, 2019).
Kurds: ‘Wait for Details’ on ‘Safe Zone’. A top Syrian Kurdish official says that the details will determine if an agreement between the United States and Turkey is a welcome event. Turkish and US officials agreed to establish a joint operations center to oversee a safe zone between the Turkey and Syrian border. Turkey has threatened to attack the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that controls a large area of northeastern Syria. (Yahoo! News, Aug 8, 2019).
Leaving Syria. Jerrod Laber, a fellow at Defense Priorities, says that core national interests should guide U.S. foreign policy . . . what happens next in Syria is not our military’s concern. “Turkey-Kurd Dispute Shows Why the U.S. Should Leave Syria”, Real Clear Defense, August 9, 2019.
The Syriac Christians – an Uncertain Future. In the northeast of Syria a minority people are experiencing a revival of language and culture. The Syriac Christians – who fought alongside YPG and U.S. SOF – are experiencing social changes previously not possible. But they face the prospects of a Turkish invasion or Syrian regime recapturing the Kurdish-held region. Read “The Syriac Christian Renaissance”, by Sam Sweeney, National Review, August 8, 2019.
Putin and Syria’s Future. Neville Teller, an author and blogger about the Middle East, explains the conflicting interests of Russia, Turkey, and Iran in Syria. Read more in “Putin Hijacks Syria’s Future – OpEd”, Eurasia Review, August 11, 2019.
Role of PMCs / PSCs in Africa. Private corporations providing security or military expertise and support are busy in Africa. Some are involved in counterinsurgency campaigns against jihadist groups. Learn more by reading “Peeling back the layers on the role of private security companies in Africa”, The Conversation, August 4, 2019.
Update on Air Base in Niger. The United States presence in Niger appears to be more permanent as time goes on. Millions of dollars are being spent to support U.S. military operations in the region. (The War Zone, Aug 6, 2019).
Publications and Books
CTC Sentinel. The August 2019 issue of the CTC Sentinel published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point is now available online. It features articles on the expanding footprint of the pro-Iranian militias, lessons learned (by UK) in counterterrorism, foreign fighters of Kosovo and the Western Balkans, and the rise of paramilitarism in Venezuela.
Armor Journal. The spring – summer 2019 issue of Armor: Mounted Maneuver Journal is now posted online. The 68-page pub contains articles about . . . well, tanks and stuff.
ADP 6-0 Mission Command. The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center has published an updated Army Doctrine Publication entitled Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces, July 2019. The intent of the ADP is to simplify the term ‘mission command’ and reintroduce ‘command and control’ to the doctrine lexicon. Sounds like fascinating reading!
Book Reviews -Covert Wars. Christopher Preble reviews two books and points out the pros and cons about secret wars abroad. See “Covert Wars, To What End?”, War on the Rocks, August 7, 2019.
CSM (Ret) Thetford on Operation Gothic Serpent. A retired Senior Enlisted Leader of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) provides his perspective on U.S. SOF and Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia in Mogadishu, Somalia. Watch “CSM Thetford Briefs Cannon AFB Air Commandos on his Time in the US Army Special Forces”, DVIDS, August 2, 2019, 36 minutes.
Video – B.A.T.M.A.N. and USAF Special Warfare. The Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided Knowledge program is an advanced technology development facility that creates new capabilities within the Air Force Special Warfare community. U.S. Air Force, August 2, 2019, 5 minutes.
Video – Talisman Saber 2019. Watch a 2-minute long video featuring U.S. and Australian special operations forces training during a bilateral exercise. SOCPAC, July 22, 2019.
Video – The Canadian Recon Expert. A reconnaissance patrolman deployed to Latvia as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup talks about his job. NATO, July 31, 2019, one minute.
Video – The First Airborne Division. The 82nd Airborne Division recently celebrated an anniversary of its establishment. Watch a 30 sec video, U.S. Army, August 5, 2019.
Podcast – Explaining Mission Creep in Afghanistan. Listen to a 46-minute long podcast about the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the state of civil-military relations. The post 9/11 mission expanded from counterterrorism to nation-building without a serious discussion about the relationship between the desired end state and the military effort required to reach it. Or, at least the panel participants thinks so. Also discussed is foreign policy and conventional deterrence in the Asia-Pacific region.
War on the Rocks, August 8, 2019.
Photo: A U.S Army Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group rides horseback while leading a mule through Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest during the SOF Horsemanship Course at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California. The purpose of the SOF horsemanship course is to teach SOF personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses and load and maintain pack animals for military applications in austere environments.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey, June 19, 2019)