SOF News Update – Curated news, commentary, and analysis about special operations, national security, and conflicts around the world. Ethics guide for SOCOM, alienating allies, UAV contract for SOF, advising, political warfare, language training, and more.
Casualties in Afghanistan
Casualties. Two members of Resolute Support – one American and one Romanian – were killed in a suicide bombing near the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, September 5, 2019. The names will not be released until 24 hours after the next of kin notification.
Ethics Guide for SOCOM. The chaplains of the United States Special Operations Command will soon be kitted up with an ‘ethics field guide’. USSOCOM intends to negotiate and award a sole source contract to develop the guide which will help chaplains within SOCOM to reduce incidents of suicide as well as provide a moral compass for special operators. The high rate of suicides among SOF operators and recent incidents of unethical conduct has prompted the special operations command to field the guide. Read “SOCOM is in the hunt of a field ethics guide”, Military Times, September 3, 2019.
Former Wounded Navy SEAL Heads to Yale. A Navy SEAL who was involved in the search for Beau Bergdalh in Afghanistan – resulting in wounds requiring 18 surgeries – has been accepted to Yale University. He will start off, at age 52, as a freshman. (Fox News, Sep 3, 2019).
Online Biometrics and Exploitation by SOF. A research topic currently being explored by U.S. Special Operations Command is the use of applications to gather biometrics posted online for intelligence value. Fingerprints, voice recordings, and photographs (selfies) could be the next frontier in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Read more in “How special ops could exploit information people are already sharing online”, Military Times, September 4, 2019.
Former Army Ranger Enters Politics. A West Point graduate is running for the seat now held by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH). Read “Former Army Ranger challenging Shaheen for US Senate Seat”, Army Times, September 4, 2019.
UAV Contract Awarded by SOCOM. The U.S. Special Operations Command is upgrading its MQ-9 and MQ-1C fleet with special operations forces-unique mission kits, mission payloads, weapons, and other modifications. The UAVs are used to find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyse time-sensitive high-value targets. The contract has a potential maximum estimated value of $93 million. Read more in “GA-ASI Gets $93M Reaper / Gray Eagle Special Ops Contract”, UAS Vision, September 3, 2019.
Green Berets and Rangers Survive Mount St. Helens Eruption. Read the story of how a group of Green Berets and Rangers lived through the volcanic eruption that killed 57 people in 1980 and ejected hundreds of millions of tons of ash. (TDN.com, Sep 5, 2019).
Remembering Det – A. Eugene Piasecki tells of his experiences with his SF assignment in Berlin during the Cold War. Posted on 10th SFGA Facebook, September 5, 2019.
Changes for 27th Special Operations Medical Group. Two squadrons of the 27th SOMG have been renamed and restructured to ensure the group becomes more efficient in the care for patients and to increase the ability to support the overall mission. (DVIDS, Aug 29, 2019).
Oldest College Football Player is SOF Vet. The oldest player on a major college football team is still on active duty in the US Army (attending a two-year stint for a college degree). He is also a veteran of a few Army special operations units. (Coloradoan, Sep 4, 2019). (Editor’s note: When I played cornerback at Boston State College in the ’70s we had a placekicker who was a retired U.S. Army veteran).
Kenya’s Female SOF Unit. A new special operations unit is on the scene in the capitol of Kenya. After five months of intensive training it has deployed for duty. Read more in “All-female commando unit hits Nairobi streets”, The Standard Media, September 5, 2019.
Indonesia’s CT War. One of Indonesia’s national security priorities is finding a strategy to deal wit terrorism. This article takes a look at the counterterrorism measures the country has adopted over the past two decades and judges the success of those measures. Read “Tracing Indonesia’s Counterterrorism Measures Since the 2002 Bali Bombings”, The Diplomat, September 4, 2019.
HR and Training Foreign Security Forces. The United States is involved in numerous efforts to train FSF in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. In addition, it is heavily involved in training up the security forces of Iraq and Afghanistan – as well as proxy forces such as the SDF in northeast Syria. However, it is falling short in the requirement to evaluate the effectiveness of their human rights training. This . . . according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) 43-page report entitled U.S. Agencies Should Improve Oversight of Human Rights Training for Foreign Security Forces, August 12, 2019.
Paper – Air Advising and 6th SOS in OEF-P. Major Michael M. Trimble (USAF) has authored a 131-page paper (PDF) entitled Asymmetric Advantage: Air Advising in a Time of Strategic Competition. The paper is published by the USAF Air University Press, August 2019. There are several chapters on the current status of the USAF advising effort. Of note for SOF professionals is the chapter about the 6th Special Operations Squadron in Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines.
Military and National Security
Sig Sauer Prototypes for Replacement M4 / M249. The arms manufacturer has released information on the prototypes that may replace the Army’s M4 carbine and M249 machine gun. Sig Sauer is one of three firms selected to develop prototypes for further testing. (Military.com, Sep 3, 2019).
Mattis on Women in Combat Units. Former SECDEF Mattis doesn’t seem to go all out in support of women in combat units. Read “Mattis Still Has Concerns About Women Serving in Combat Units”, Military.com, September 3, 2019.
Navy Takes the Cake. According to a recent DOD study 22 percent of our naval service is obese. Read “This branch takes the cake as the US military’s fattest”, Military Times, September 3, 2019.
Votel on Intel Challenges. The former commander of Central Command, retired General Joe Votel recently spoke at an intelligence conference about intelligence challenges the U.S. military faces. Read “Former CENTCOM Boss Outlines Intel Challenges in Current, Future Fights”, Air Force Magazine, September 4, 2019.
Mattis, Political Identity, and Tribalism. General James Mattis has a new book out and one of the themes is the importance of international alliances and the growing divisiveness in America to tribalism. But Jeff Goodson, a retired U.S. foreign service officer, believes that Mattis gets this point about domestic divisiveness wrong. Read “What Mattis gets wrong: Alliances also need rebuilding at home”, The Hill, September 3, 2019.
Australia and Political Warfare. Thomas Paterson, a writer covering national security and cyber policy issues (and an active Australian Army reservist), provides his view that Australia needs to recognize the importance of being able to practice and counter political warfare (hybrid warfare, gray zone activities, etc.) in the new digital age where controlling the narrative becomes increasingly important. Read “The ‘grey zone’: Political warfare is back”, The Interpreter, September 3, 2019.
Language Training and Advising. George Calhoun, an Army Captain and future foreign area officer, writes about the importance of cultural and language fluency for advisors working with foreign security forces. Read “Speak Fluently and Carry a Big Stick: Strengthening Language Training to Enhance Capability”, Modern War Institute at West Point, September 4, 2019.
American Deminer Killed in Iraq. On Tuesday, September 3, 2019 Brandon Pinson, an American, was killed following the explosion of an IED near Mosul, Iraq. He was a supervisor of a team of Iraqi deminers. Pinson was a seasoned explosive ordnance disposal technician with ten years of experience in the field. He had been in Iraq for five months demining explosives left behind by the Islamic State. Pinson was working for FSD – a humanitarian NGO based in Geneva. He is survived by his wife and two young children. Read a statement by FSD (Sep 3, 2019).
Yemen Update. Saudi Arabia is struggling to keep the coalition fighting the Houthis together. Local allies in southern Yemen have turned on each other in power struggles and have caused some damage to the Saudi – UAE relationship. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda Arabia Peninsular (AQAP) is exploiting the strife by attempting to gather support. (Reuters, Sep 2, 2019).
U.S. Military Bases in Persian Gulf. The United States had military units stationed / based in many countries of the Middle East to include Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. There are also large and smaller ‘temporary’ bases in places like Jordan, Turkey, Syria, other locations in the Middle East region. Read “A Look at Foreign Military Bases Across the Persian Gulf”, The Washington Post, September 3, 2019.
Iran’s Expanding Militia in Iraq. Michael Knights dives into the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and provides detailed information about the ‘special groups’ that are allied with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF). Read “Iran’s Expanding Militia Army in Iraq: The New Special Groups”, CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, August 2019.
US CT Efforts in Somalia. The United States is engaged in a small war which currently has a light footprint approach. But increased involvement in the future is very possible. Read “Assessing the Goals of U.S. Counterterrorism Efforts in Somalia”, Small Wars Journal, September 5, 2019.
Europe and NATO
NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence. Beginning in 2017 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization deployed multi-national battlegroups to the Baltic region in an effort to deter Russian aggression. The four battlegroups were based in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland. Many observers cite a RAND study that says Russia could take the Baltic nations in 60 hours. However, Steven Maquire – a British Army officer and associate editor at the Wavall Room – believes that the battlegroups are significant in the overall plan for deterring Russia. Read “The Positive Impact of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence”, Real Clear Defense, September 3, 2019.
Denmark, Greenland, Trump, and More. Our president seems to be adept at alienating our best allies. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis is right to point out that the U.S. needs friends overseas to assist us in pursuing our objectives around the world. Denmark has been an ally that has stood alongside the U.S. for the past 30 years. It lost many of its soldiers fighting alongside U.S. Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Trump’s recent statements about Greenland and his abrupt decision to cancel a trip to Denmark may have an effect on Denmark’s foreign policy. Recently the small European country was asked to provide troops for northeast Syria (filling a vacancy by departing U.S. troops) and to participate in a naval force to ensure freedom of passage through the Strait of Hormuz. Hmmmm. Read “Through Thick and Thin: Will Danish Military Engagements with the U.S. Endure in the Middle East?”, by Helle Malmvig, Foreign Policy Research Institute, August 27, 2019.
Videos and Movies
Video – U.S. Navy Rescue Swimmers Partner with Colombian Special Forces, DVIDS, August 29, 2019. Sailors assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28 on the hospital ship USNS Comfort participated in a 3-day aviation and search and rescue swimmer event with a Colombian Army Special Forces Battalion.
Movie – Danger Close. In August 1966 approximately 100 Anzac troops found themselves in a fight for their life in South Vietnam. Read a review of the movie. (Stuff.co.nz, Sep 4, 2019).
Photo: A Lebanese Special Forces Regiment 5 member at a sniper range during Exercise Eager Lion 2019 at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex, August 31, 2019.