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The Year in


SOCOM 30th Anniversary

75 Years of

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The Year in



2017-2018 Edition

U.S. Army Rangers, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, advance toward their objective during Task Force Training on Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014. Rangers conduct rigorous training to maintain their tactical proficiency.

FOREWORD This year’s edition of The Year in Special Operations commemorates two important anniversaries in the world of special operations forces. It is now 30 years since United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was activated in 1987. Those who advocated for its creation looked forward from tragedy toward a world where special operations forces would be of vital importance, something difficult to envision at a time when NATO and the Warsaw Pact faced each other on either side of a Berlin Wall. Yet SOCOM today is truly the tip of the spear in what has become America’s longest conflict. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Army Rangers. Although Ranger bloodlines may go back much farther than World War II, Maj. William O. Darby’s formation of the 1st Ranger Battalion in 1942 was the beginning of the modern outfit, with personnel from that battalion forming the core of several more that followed and building a legacy that lives on today in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Accordingly, we’ve featured interviews with the commander and command sergeant major, as well as a four-part history of the Rangers. Finally, this year is the first time the publication will be produced without consulting editor John D. Gresham at the helm. John was gravely ill in intensive care when last year’s publication went to print, and he passed away without ever seeing it in print. In many ways, The Year in Special Operations was John’s baby, and he was rightfully proud of all that he had helped accomplish. He is missed. The Year in Special Operations will go on in the capable hands of veteran military writer and editor Scott R. Gourley, who has been a linchpin of Faircount publications for nearly two decades. A former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500 articles covering topics across all military services, Scott is editor or correspondent for nearly one dozen international defense publications. We hope you find this edition informative and enjoyable.

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Leading The Situational Awareness Revolution




SOCOM 30 Years of Special Operations Forces and Their Evolving Mission Sets By Chuck Oldham


AFSOC Air Commandos Going High and Low By Maj. Gen. Richard Comer, USAF (Ret)


MARSOC Flexibility in Dealing with Uncertainty By J.R. Wilson


NAVSPECWARCOM Ready Today and Tomorrow By Scott R. Gourley


Lt. Gen. Ken Tovo Describes the Four Pillars of Army SOF By Scott R. Gourley


By Andrew White


74 INTERVIEW: COL. MARCUS S. EVANS 75th Ranger Regiment Commander By Scott R. Gourley

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A LEGEND BEGINS, 1942 By David C. Isby






R ANGERS SINCE 9-11: 2001-PRESENT By David C. Isby


SPECIAL OPERATIONS 100 1917: Special Operations Begin By David C. Isby



The Year in

SPECIAL OPERATIONS 2017-2018 Edition

Published by Faircount Media Group 701 North West Shore Blvd. Tampa, FL 33609 Tel: 813.639.1900 EDITORIAL Editor in Chief: Chuck Oldham Consulting Editor: Scott R. Gourley Managing Editor: Ana E. Lopez Editors: Rhonda Carpenter Contributing Writers: Maj. Gen. Richard Comer, USAF (Ret.), Scott R. Gourley David C. Isby, Mike Markowitz Andrew White, J.R. Wilson DESIGN AND PRODUC TION Art Director: Robin K. McDowall Project Designer: Daniel Mrgan Designer: Kenia Perez-Ayala Ad Traffic Manager: Rebecca Laborde ADVERTISING Ad Sales Manager: Art Dubuc III Account Executives: Patrick Pruitt Brandon Fields, Adrian Silva, Steve Chidel Dustin “Doc” Lawson, Robert Panetta OPER ATIONS AND ADMINISTR ATION Chief Operating Officer: Lawrence Roberts VP, Business Development: Robin Jobson Business Development: Damion Harte Financial Controller: Robert John Thorne Chief Information Officer: John Madden Business Analytics Manager: Colin Davidson


FAIRCOUNT MEDIA GROUP Publisher, North America: Ross Jobson COVER PHOTO: Rangers from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as part of a combined Afghan and coalition security force operating in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, await a CH-47 coming in for extraction, Feb. 13, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Pedro Amador

©Copyright Faircount LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial content in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Faircount LLC does not assume responsibility for the advertisements, nor any representation made therein, nor the quality or deliverability of the products themselves. Reproduction of articles and photographs, in whole or in part, contained herein is prohibited without expressed written consent of the publisher, with the exception of reprinting for news media use. Printed in the United States of America.





30 Years of Special Operations Forces and Their Evolving Mission Sets

SOCOM SOCOM U.S. Army Rangers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, prepare for extraction on an objective during company live fire training on Camp Roberts, California. Rangers constantly train to maintain their tactical proficiency, even with a heavy deployment schedule.



1980, the greatest threat to the United States and the u InWest was envisioned as wave after wave of Soviet tanks pouring through the Fulda Gap into Germany, striking at the heart of NATO, as the prelude to World War III. In this bi-polar world, nations poured resources into the engines of massive, conventional war between peer adversaries while hoping any future conflict wouldn’t go nuclear. In this world, special operations forces (SOF) were relatively unknown and unheralded, an often-neglected adjunct to the “big” Army, Navy, and Air Force, and their budgets and lack of career paths reflected it. It was in this atmosphere that, in November 1979, Iranian “students” stormed the American embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostages. While then-President Jimmy Carter pursued a negotiated release of the hostages, he also approved planning for a military operation to rescue them. Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. David Jones, both of whom served during the Carter administration, hastily stood up a planning cell within the Joint Staff’s J-3 Special Operations Division. From the beginning, planning for the mission was compartmented and secret, and while each of the services was given a part to play in the mission, there was little outside oversight of the overall plan. Overall command of the mission went to Army Maj. Gen. James B. Vaught, with Army Col. Charles A. “Charlie” Beckwith, the ground assault commander, leading Special Forces Detachment-Delta troops. Air Force Col. James H. Kyle commanded the fixed-wing aircraft carrying Delta as well as aircraft carrying fuel bladders to refuel the helicopters on the ground, and Marine Corps Lt. Col. Edward Seiffert led the Marine pilots flying the Navy RH-53D helicopters. Each service conducted its own training in separate locations on its part of the overly complex operational plan, rarely seeing members of another service. Navy RH-53D helicopters, with a subpar reliability rate and no aerial refueling capability, were used instead of Air Force HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” helicopters, which could be refueled in midair, due to concerns that any sightings of the distinctive HH-3Es aboard an aircraft carrier would compromise the mission. Operation Eagle Claw began to delaminate not long after the helicopters launched the evening of April 24, 1980. Severe sandstorms separated and slowed the eight Navy helicopters flying the mission. The Marine pilots were not specifically trained to fly long distances at night over land using night vision goggles, and especially not in sandstorms, about which they hadn’t even been briefed. After one Sea Stallion aborted and another was forced down by mechanical failure, only six helicopters arrived, more than an hour late, at the “Desert One” rendezvous point. There, a third helicopter broke down, dropping the number

of serviceable helicopters to five, one fewer than what was considered the minimum force. The mission had to be aborted. Worse, one of the helicopters collided with one of the Air Force EC-130E command and control aircraft, which was carrying fuel bladders in an unaccustomed role of tanker, and in the resulting conflagration eight U.S. personnel died. The rest of the rescue force got onto the surviving Hercules aircraft, forced to abandon helicopters with classified mission data still aboard. In the immediate aftermath of the failure of Operation Eagle Claw, the military stood up Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in December 1980. But without further reforms across the whole defense establishment, special operations forces were going to continue to be condemned to second-class status in the military. However, in the wake of the very public failure of Eagle Claw, a number of legislative investigations were launched, the most important of which was conducted by the six-man Holloway Commission, led by former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James L. Holloway, III. The commission published a highly critical report that exposed the shortcomings in U.S. joint operations doctrine as well as the shortfall of SOF capabilities in the services. In Congress, a group of like-minded legislators were looking to change what they saw as a broken military, among them William S. Cohen, then a freshman Republican U.S. senator from Maine. He had served three terms in the House of Representatives before taking his Senate seat in 1979. With seats on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, Cohen had a thorough knowledge of the military and intelligence communities during this period. He became part of the Military Reform Caucus, a movement led by Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, D-Wash., Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and Barry M. Goldwater, R-Ariz. “The thing that initiated it for me was how Desert One unfolded – the lack of unified command, integrated training, and the tragedy that took place and what it did to the country in paralyzing us for some time in terms of the hostages being held and the loss of our service personnel,” Cohen recalled in an interview on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). “That was followed by the invasion of Grenada, which, while successful, revealed a number of difficulties, once again in coordination. So I decided that I was going to focus on the ways in which we might create a command that would combine the SOFs, like the Army Special Forces, that would put them at the tip of the spear for a variety of missions, one of which would actually be to prevent war from taking place. To have men and women who would be skilled in language, who could have studied the culture and history of a



Above: Three RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters are lined up on the flight deck of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in preparation for Operation Eagle Claw, a rescue mission to Iran. The failure of these helicopters was only one of the reasons for mission failure.

country, to be inserted in a very pre-emptive way, blend into the community, then gather and send back intelligence that might be used to make conflict unnecessary. But also to have a dual role to prepare the battlefield as such in case you did have to go in. To do that you had to have a very specialized type of command to coordinate the Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marines so they could carry out that mission. So it was born out of tragedy.” Three years after the debacle at Desert One, Operation Urgent Fury showed that problems still hadn’t been solved. While new SOF units and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) had been formed, the “big military’s” command of these units could result in misuse and the resulting casualties. “Despite the addition of new SOF units like the 160th Aviation Battalion, which became the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR – the “Night Stalkers”), and a brand-new U.S. Navy SEAL SMU (special mission unit), along with improved command and control from the new JSOC at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Urgent Fury brought another series of SOF disasters. In fact, SOF units suffered more casualties in Grenada than during the Desert One fiasco. Perhaps the worst failure during Urgent Fury for SOF units was the almost immediate breakdown of the joint communications structure, sometimes with deadly and absurd results,” the late John Gresham wrote in this publication on SOCOM’s 25th anniversary. SEAL units were tasked with taking and holding objectives, despite being vastly outnumbered. The Night Stalkers were forced to assault objectives in daylight, Army SOF were tasked with a frontal assault on a prison that intelligence failed to disclose was on a nearly unscalable promontory, communications were faulty, equipment failed to work, Rangers


aboard C-130s for a combat jump were told they would actually land and debark, then had to hastily re-rig for a jump, and more. Clearly, despite formation of further special operations forces and some institutional changes, a number of problems had contributed to the SOF casualties. Along with Desert One and Grenada, a 1985 study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) at Georgetown University gave the Military Reform Caucus more ammunition in its defense-reform efforts. Its resulting legislation, known as Goldwater-Nichols for its key sponsors (Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., and Rep. William F. Nichols, D-Ala.), changed the chain of command to run from the president through the secretary of defense down to the combatant commanders. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs was named as the principal military adviser to the president, secretary of defense, and the National Security Council, and the position of vice chairman was created. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were tasked with advising the chairman, and given responsibility for the training and equipping of their


Right: Aftermath at Desert One: the charred remains of an RH-53.


Rangers armed with M16A1 rifles, participate in the evacuation of American students from Grenada.

respective services. Goldwater-Nichols also elevated the SOF community out of its “stepchild” status with the services. And yet, there were still problems to overcome. “I felt that Goldwater-Nichols really did not deal with the issues that I had been concerned with originally,” said Cohen. “How do you take the talent of SOF warriors that we have, get ‘jointness’ of command for them, along with the training and study of language, culture, and history, and then insert them into a country that is a potential trouble spot? And do this well in advance, so that they have time to learn the customs of the people and the region? Then have those individuals gather information and report back to us, without it being just the examination of a single CIA agent in the field, but the observations of a trained military observer who may have to go into battle as the tip of the spear, either going after select targets, or serving the combatant commanders directly? I just did not feel that was coming through with Goldwater-Nichols. “The key staffer in crafting the SOF legislation was … Jim Locher [then-congressional staffer James R. Locher III]. And you need to keep in mind that he also was behind the creation of the position of assistant secretary of defense [ASD] for special operations and low intensity conflict [(SOLIC). Some refer to the civilian ASD SOLIC as the “secretary of SOF,” who essentially plays the role of service secretary.] “That also was hard fought. He was working with the staff members of the committees, which were open to him by virtue

of what they had heard during the hearings into Desert One, the Grenada operation, and the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon,” Cohen said. “It comes back to the fractured command structure that we saw during Desert One,” Cohen said. “I was convinced you [have] to have a command created with a four-star officer in charge with budget authority, that could not be shoved aside by those in the parent services. This had to be a joint command unto itself. And from the beginning, I saw that money is power, so having budget authority means being able to control things. And once again, I think it was Jim Locher who came up with that feature in the legislation. I would turn to Jim Locher as our intellectual reservoir for putting together the research, and making sure we were apprised of all the pitfalls of what we were trying to do. Even if you are relatively knowledgeable as a senator on military affairs, you still have four other committees you are serving on and who knows how many subcommittees, and you’re spread pretty thinly. So you depend upon people like Jim Locher, staff members who are extraordinarily bright. Jim, coming from a West Point background, was a student of organizational science and history, and I would have to give him and those who worked with him a great deal of credit. I don’t profess to be at that level. The SOLIC position at DOD [the Department of Defense] was the same kind of thing, and I have to give Jim credit for that as well.” The resulting legislation became known as Nunn-Cohen, and resistance to it from some corners was fierce. It essentially was




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A crewman stands atop the cabin of a Mark III patrol boat tied up to the barge Wimbrown 7 during Operation Prime Chance. The barge is heavily armed, carrying, from lower to upper right, an M2 .50-caliber machine gun, a Mark 2 81 mm mortar, and a Mark 19 40 mm grenade-launcher. The patrol boat


and barge were among the Navy assets being used to provide security for U.S.-flagged shipping in the Arabian Gulf during Operation Prime Chance.

creating a fifth service that would take all the SOF units from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines and place them under the new SOCOM. With a few compromises, however, the legislation passed. In combination, the two acts created SOCOM, headed by a four-star general or admiral and included each of the services’ SOF components. While originally this did not include the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) became part of SOCOM in 2005. SOCOM is responsible for training and equipping units for combatant commanders, and is also empowered to form and operate its own joint task forces. SOCOM also encompasses JSOC, Special Operations University, and other headquarters’ functions. The command was also granted its own Title 10 budget authority under the legislation. While SOCOM remains beholden to the services for the “big ticket items,” SOCOM and the ASD SOLIC have their own Title 10 funding line and budget, independent of the rest of the services and DoD, to buy SOF-specific weapons and equipment. U.S. Special Operations Command stood up April 16, 1987. Not long after, the new command had its first test in the form of Operation Prime Chance, protecting tankers in the Arabian Gulf from Iranian small boat attack. The Joint Task Force formed to counter this threat included 160th SOAR helicopters, SEALs, special boat units, Marines, and Navy personnel. Missions were staged from Navy frigates, destroyers, and the command ship LaSalle and from two large oil platform construction barges, essentially mobile sea bases, deployed in international waters

near Iran’s Farsi Island in the northern Arabian Gulf. Mk. III patrol boats conducted patrols and escorted convoys, and MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds from the 160th flew search-and-destroy missions by night. The operation was a complete success, and showed that sister-service SOF could work in harmony under SOCOM. In December 1989, U.S. special operations forces were called upon once again for Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, to depose President Manuel Noriega and take him to the United States to face drug trafficking charges. Special Forces, SEALs, and Rangers participated in the invasion. SEAL teams successfully disabled Noriega’s private jet and sank his personal gunboat, preventing his escape, but at the cost of four killed and nine wounded. In August 1990, U.S. forces began to be deployed to Saudi Arabia after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait, triggering Operation Desert Shield, the reinforcement of Saudi Arabia and build-up of forces to re-take Kuwait. U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, in overall command of the operation, was not a great fan of SOF, and while by law SOF had to be included in the order of battle, he constrained their role in the overall operation. Still, special operations forces were among the first to arrive in theater. Among them were 5th Special Forces Group, the 160th SOAR, SEAL Team Two, and a special boat unit. Some units immediately moved to the border with Kuwait to carry out reconnaissance missions, but many were involved in training Saudi and coalition troops as they arrived. SEALs, along with


SOCOM Left: Special operations forces “SCUD Hunters” pictured deep behind Iraqi lines during the 1991 Gulf War were deployed into the Western Iraqi desert in response to Saddam Hussein launching SCUD missiles at Israel. Using modified HMMWVs, they scouted large tracts of desert searching for the elusive, mobile SCUD launcher vehicles and seeking out and disabling the communications infrastructure that allowed them to operate. The British Special Air Service were also deployed on SCUD hunting operations. Below: U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command combat controller Bart Decker rides an Afghan horse in Afghanistan during the

Navy and Marine Corps units, also carried out operations on the Kuwaiti coast in order to deceive the Iraqi defenders that an amphibious landing was imminent. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), having just stood up on May 22, 1990, played an especially important part in the opening attack. When Operation Desert Storm kicked off a little after 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1991, MH-53J Pave Low IIIs of the 20th Special Operations Squadron, led by then-Lt. Col. Rich Comer, and Hellfire-armed AH-64 Apaches of the 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne, led by then-Lt. Col. Richard A. “Dick” Cody, teamed to knock a hole in Saddam Hussein’s air defense radar coverage. The MH-53Js had terrain-following radar and advanced navigational systems the Apaches lacked, and the Apaches had the weapons to do the damage. The eight Apaches and four Pave Lows split into two teams to eliminate the two radar stations, which were 70 miles apart, and when they were taken out in a barrage of Hellfire missiles, coalition warplanes poured through the gap. AFSOC also carried out combat search-and-rescue missions throughout the conflict. One of those missions, to rescue a Navy F-14 pilot downed deep in enemy territory, won the unit the Air Force’s MacKay Trophy for the outstanding flight unit of the year. More controversial was the SCUD-hunting mission. SOF teams were sent into the western Iraqi desert to hunt down SCUD transport erector launchers (TELs) in an effort to stop or slow the Iraqi attempts to hit Israel and Saudi Arabia with the ballistic missiles. Efforts to hunt down the launchers by SOF teams likely had more of a deterrent effect than a practical one, but the effort itself helped play a part in keeping Israel out of the war. On the other hand, SOF psychological operations (PsyOp) stressing that the coalition’s war was against Hussein and not on his people contributed to the large number of Iraqis who surrendered, many of them carrying surrender leaflets that had been produced and distributed by PsyOp and civil affairs teams. Desert Storm was hailed as a great feat of arms for the American military. The “revolution in military affairs” had borne fruit in a 100-hour war that had routed a Soviet-trained force considered formidable before the battle began. But it also spelled the end of the Cold War era. The Soviet Union, the reason for being of the American forces that had crushed Saddam Hussein’s army, was in its death throes. As it died, and the bi-polar world with it, simmering conflicts and old hatreds moved toward the boil.


Locher, who had become ASD SOLIC in October 1989, provided words of warning that December. “The coming decade will, in particular, place a major share of the responsibility for preserving our national interests squarely on the doorstep of those involved in special operations and low intensity conflict.” An ongoing humanitarian disaster in Somalia, with the country falling into starvation after a complete breakdown in civil order, found the U.N. creating the UNOSOM I mission in April 1992. But local warlords refused to cooperate in favor of consolidating their own power, fired on aid convoys and aircraft, and refused to allow ships carrying food to dock. In response, the United States began Operation Restore Hope in December 1992. Prior to the main force coming ashore, SEALs and special boat units carried out reconnaissance of the airport and harbor. Over the course of the operation, the Unified Task Force Somalia managed to distribute enough food supplies to save the lives of an estimated 100,000 people, but this success was clouded by Operation Gothic Serpent. The operation was meant ultimately to remove the warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed from power, and part of the operation was a mission on Oct. 3, 1993, to capture two of his lieutenants hiding in a safe house in Mogadishu. During the afternoon of Oct. 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger, consisting of 160 Rangers, Delta Force operators, Navy SEALs,


early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom.

SOCOM Air Force pararescuemen, and combat controllers, personnel from the 160th SOAR, 19 helicopters, and a ground convoy of 12 vehicles was assigned to capture two of Aideed’s lieutenants. While the capture itself was successful, two helicopters were shot down, with two crew members killed outright and others hurt, and in the ensuing rescue attempts, two Delta Force troopers were killed. The Rangers and Delta Force personnel, fighting their way to the second crash site, soon found themselves surrounded, seemingly by an entire armed city, as they held out throughout the night. By the time a rescue convoy was able to evacuate them the next morning, 18 U.S. personnel had been killed. Some 1,000 militiamen were estimated to have been killed during the battle. Aideed’s two lieutenants, captured during the mission, were jailed, but that fact was obscured in the public aftermath. U.S. troops were pulled out of Somalia soon afterward. In the same year, SEALs were helping to blockade and embargo Haiti in Operation Support Democracy, after the legally elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been deposed in a military coup. As Yugoslavia separated into several autonomous republics, different ethnic groups fell into civil war. SOF were among the first troops into the region as NATO and the U.N. responded to the violence in 1995. Under the ensuing operations Joint Guard, Joint Forge, Joint Guardian, and Joint Endeavour, U.S. and NATO SOF performed a full range of missions to bring peace to the region and enforce it. When NATO began Operation Allied Force in 1999 in order to stop persecution of the Albanian population in Kosovo by Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and other forces, AFSOC carried out leaflet drops and broadcasts from MC-130 and EC-130 aircraft, as well as other missions. Sept. 11, 2001, permanently changed the security environment. When it became clear that al Qaeda and the Taliban were responsible for the hijackings and suicide strikes against the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and a third hijacked airplane that subsequently crashed into a field, the question was how to strike back. An initial plan for a conventional attack with 60,000 troops after a six-month period of battlefield preparation was rejected in favor of using SOF to get “boots on the ground” in a matter of days. Former SOCOM Commander Gen. Charles R. Holland, USAF, and his staff worked to ready a force package for what had been designated Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan (OEF-A), and create transportation and logistical lines of supply into a landlocked region of roadless mountains and high desert, surrounded by Muslim nations likely to support little if any western military presence. “Units selected for initial deployment made up a rainbow of SOF capabilities: Navy SEALs and special boat teams, AFSOC aircraft and Special Tactics personnel, Army SF, Rangers, and helicopters and flight crews from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment,” wrote Gresham in 2007. “At the core of all this was the 5th Special Forces Group [SFG]. Led by then-Col. John Mulholland, USA, and then-Capt. Robert Harward, USN, they would become Combined/Joint Special Operations Task Force-North [C/JSOTF-N] and -South [C/JSOTF-S] respectively. C/JSOTF-N, also known as Task Force Dagger, was based at Karshi-Khanabad [known as ‘K2’], Uzbekistan, on an old Soviet air base just 90 miles from the Afghan border. JSOTF-N’s facilities were built from an old garbage dump by USASOC signals and support personnel, and austerely supplied by long-haul airlift. Harward’s C/JSOTF-S was composed of SEALs, an SF battalion, special boat teams, and SOF contingents from six

allies [Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand, and Norway]. The unit operated in southern Afghanistan and at sea, where it would interdict maritime routes in and out of the region.” While OEF-A opened as expected on Oct. 7, 2001, with an initial wave of long-range airstrikes from American bombers and cruise missile strikes coming from U.S. Navy warships, what followed was something never seen before. Instead of months of air attacks to soften up the battlefield, teams of Special Forces and AFSOC Air Commandos were inserted by helicopter at night into Bagram and Mazar-e Sharif and Rangers dropped onto “Objective Rhino,” an airstrip near Kandahar, on Oct. 19. These few “boots on the ground” linked up with CIA personnel and the Afghan Northern Alliance to identify Taliban strongholds and positions, and then began to call in airstrikes. By November the Northern Alliance, trained by SF personnel and with overwhelming air power backing them, had taken the offensive. They took Mazar-e Sharif Nov. 9, and pressed on. Across Afghanistan, Taliban abandoned the towns they had ruled and beat a disorderly retreat, until their remnants surrendered at Kandahar in December. Every element of SOCOM had participated in the 49-day campaign that had routed the Taliban, but as it turned out, the war was far from over. Attempts to kill or capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden failed, and after a time, terrorists began to organize for a prolonged insurgency. OEF-A was just the most well-known element of a campaign to fight al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations wherever they constituted a threat. The United States initiated Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P, also called Operation Freedom Eagle) in January 2002, commanded by then-Brig. Gen. Donald Wurster, USAF, to support the government of the Philippines in its fight against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist organization. OEF-P grew into a Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) of almost 1,200 U.S personnel. Similar operations included Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa, (OEFHOA) based in Djibouti; Operation Enduring Freedom-Pankisi Gorge (OEFPG) in Georgia; and Operation Enduring FreedomTrans Sahara (OEF-TS) in sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel. But even as OEF-A continued, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) began on March 19, 2003. The United States and its allies committed to OIF the largest collection of SOF ever, including most of SOCOM as well as SOF from Great Britain, Australia, and Poland. Under new authorities established by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, SOF officers would for the first time be allowed to command joint task forces (JTFs), as well as JSOTFs. JSOTFs could now also have conventional units assigned under the orders of the task force commander. Despite Turkey’s refusal to allow U.S. heavy forces to invade from Turkish territory, and an infiltration plan foiled by a pre-emptive airstrike on Saddam Hussein, U.S., British, and Australian SOF units rapidly cleared the western third of Iraq once battle was joined. SOF forces captured airfields, bridges, and critical infrastructure. U.S. Navy SEALs, Royal Marines, and Polish Grom commandos seized the Faw Peninsula, offshore oil platforms, and the channel to the vital port of Umm-Qasr. SF teams flooded into southern Iraq from Kuwait, taking bridges and airfields and pushing deep into Iraq on special reconnaissance missions. In the North, Turkey’s barring of U.S. heavy forces meant that then-Col. Charles Cleveland, commander of the 10th SFG, was faced with the task of keeping 16 Iraqi divisions north of Baghdad so busy that they would be unable to attack the






SOCOM Kurds or proceed south to defend the capital. As commander of CJSOTF-N – Task Force Viking, he commanded the entire northern Iraq area of operations. Along with three SF battalions, he would be reinforced by the 173rd Airborne Brigade and tanks from the 1st Armored Division flown in on USAF transports a few at a time. Cleveland launched an offensive to occupy the oil production center of Kirkuk. He teamed small SF teams with Kurdish Peshmerga militia bands, and with massive air support, new Javelin anti-tank missiles, and light vehicles, Task Force Viking took Mosul and Kirkuk with little, if any, damage to the oil production infrastructure. Baghdad surrendered in early April 2003. These successes brought American SOF from neglected stepchild status to the forefront of the public imagination. This transformation of SOF from working in the shadows to national heroes was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, morale, already very good, initially soared within the units. On the other, the popularity and usefulness of SOF in this new world of conflict meant they were soon stressed by the operational tempos of deployment after deployment. As well, the increased attention meant that details of operations, including tactics, techniques, and procedures, began to leak out. The first problem was easily diagnosed if not easily solved. SOCOM had to grow. Following the 2006 “Quadrennial Defense Review,” SOCOM was given authority to increase its personnel. Plans included adding several Special Forces battalions, enlarging the 160th SOAR, accelerating and expanding naval special warfare recruiting, and enlarging the SOF schoolhouses. Another important change was that a Marine Corps component became part of SOCOM. After the secretary of defense directed the formation of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) in 2005, the Marine Corps built a command with an initial strength of approximately 2,500, organized around a regiment with three battalions. Stood up in 2006, MARSOC expanded to three additional support battalions under the Marine Raider Support Group, and establishment of a Marine Special Operations School. Initially focusing on foreign internal defense, MARSOC personnel have since taken on the traditional mantle of “Raider” as the command has worked to expand capabilities while it builds up to an authorized end strength of 2,742. This makes it the smallest SOCOM component of a command that itself is the smallest “service” command. SOCOM as a whole has grown under the pressure of more than 15 years of war, as well as the continued commitments to train, advise and assist friendly governments that are countering terrorism and transnational organized crime. Between 2006 and 2017, SOCOM has managed to grow from fewer than 53,000 personnel to nearly 70,000. Despite the global conflict with terrorism, SOCOM continues to send teams to more than 90 countries for Joint/Combined Exchange Training (JCET) programs, as well as conduct humanitarian and civil affairs missions. While the popular conception of SOF revolves around direct action missions, it is in fact these missions of foreign internal defense and civil affairs that help solve challenges before they become threats to be defeated. On May 1, 2011, a raid by JSOC SMU personnel into Abbottabad, Pakistan, finally eliminated bin Laden. SEALs recovered his body for identification purposes, after which he was buried at sea. It was far from the end of the war on terrorism, however. In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as Daesh, attacked across Iraq and Syria, taking large

Elite special operations forces (SOF) from Kuwait, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and the United States conducted a simulated raid on a defended objective, practiced room clearing, responded to an explosive device, searched for and detained a high value target, and evacuated a wounded teammate as part of Exercise Eagle Resolve, April 2, 2017, in Abdali Farms, Kuwait. As nations around the world have built and developed their own SOF components, SOCOM has worked to maximize interoperability with allied and partner nations.

swaths of land, driving Iraqi forces out of several cities, including Mosul and Fallujah, and declaring the Syrian city of Raqqa the capital of its “caliphate.” By all accounts, Daesh’s rule has been brutal, employing a particularly violent variety of sharia law. In the wake of Daesh’s success, existing terrorist groups in Yemen, Africa, Libya, Algeria, Uzbekistan, and other regions and countries swore allegiance to the organization. In response, the United States formed Combined Joint Task Force-Inherent Resolve (CJTF-IR) in December 2014, and began joint combined operations to degrade and destroy Daesh. While these operations were mostly limited to airstrikes, U.S. SOF have been training Iraqi and Syrian units to combat Daesh, and have more recently been committed to combat in advisory roles. At this writing, anti-ISIS forces were advancing on Raqqa and had taken most of Mosul. Overall Daesh has lost more than half the territory it had previously taken. SOCOM and American special operations forces have grown and matured in the crucible of war, relied upon more and more as the complexities of war have multiplied. SOF in general and SOCOM in particular continue to evolve as the war on terrorism, the longest conflict in United States history, goes on. “The complexity has built as we’ve gone to the current [conflict],” SOCOM Commander Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I can’t imagine a more complex set of threats than we’re currently facing. The challenge … in the critical phase that arguably is the hardest, is war termination – how you finish what you start, how you complete, how you do work yourself out of a job, in terms of … your security requirements… . That’s the perennial challenge, in my mind.” n


A U.S. special mission aviator assigned to the 7th Special Operations Squadron awaits takeoff Jan. 31, 2017, from Slunj Range, Croatia. More than 50 airmen from the 352nd Special Operations Wing deployed to the site to support and conduct mission-essential proficiency training at Croatia’s Multinational Aviation Training Complex.






Air Commandos Going High and Low BY MAJ. GEN. RICHARD COMER, USAF (RET.)



“Our challenges will continue to run the spectrum of conflict from the low-end irregular and asymmetric threats to the high end against exceptionally capable adversaries.” – Lt. Gen. Brad Webb during his July 19, 2016, change-of-command speech

Gen. Brad Webb assumed command of Air Force u Lt. Special Operations Command (AFSOC) in July 2016, a command continuously in combat and currently in transition. He is the 11th AFSOC commander and inherited a worldclass organization shortly after the leadership changes of both the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Commanding General of Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Webb simplified AFSOC’s priorities to align under the new Air Force and SOCOM strategic guidance, ensure combat readiness and resiliency, and balance the force to meet the demands of both the high and low ends of the conflict spectrum throughout the ongoing modernization of the command’s aging aircraft and investment in new weapons systems. Moving toward simplification, Webb published his priorities in a succinct and easy-to-remember list of three Rs: Readiness, Relevance, and Resiliency. The AFSOC priorities ensure Air Force special operations forces (SOF) readiness to combat the nation’s enemies worldwide, transform the fleet through continued revitalization to stay relevant in the future, and invest in the resiliency of the force with families and relationships. These priorities are essential to accomplishing AFSOC missions across the spectrum of conflict. Readiness and Resiliency are very much concerned with the preparation and sustainment of AFSOC’s Air Commandos and their relationships, internally and externally. Air Commandos are integrated into their missions by realistic training and building relationships with their fellow Air Force special operators and joint mission partners. Relevance focuses on force modernization and innovation to develop new capabilities. MOST IMPORTANT: PEOPLE

Soon after taking command, Webb recognized the immediate needs that affected AFSOC’s Air Commandos were intrinsic to their weapons systems or Air Force specialty. His first action as AFSOC’s leader was to request a waiver from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for those operating below the minimum 1-to-1 ratio of time at home versus time deployed in combat. He said the gunship crew force has the most pressure on their in-garrison “dwell time,” followed by battlefield airmen, which include combat control, pararescue, and combat weather career fields. The overall average dwell time of AFSOC airmen is 1.8-to-1; however, some mission sets have endured much more pressure than others. Asked about how that pressure affects performance, Webb said AFSOC recognizes the problem and is taking action to relieve the pressure. AFSOC’s morale remains high and performance under the pressure of combat is superlative.


One of the unrecognized shortages of people in AFSOC is in the unmanned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) community. Webb pointed out that AFSOC has moved to an all MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) fleet. AFSOC has gone to the Reaper because of its range and weapons capabilities. The MQ-9 is a service-common aircraft provided to AFSOC by Air Force funding. In order to meet the ISR appetite, AFSOC and the Air Force are increasing manning for the ISR mission. These Air Commandos are combat deployed at home and face a unique set of challenges. However, joint commanders worldwide continue to rely on AFSOC’s ISR capabilities. Throughout 2016, it remained firmly among the no-fail missions of Air Force SOF. HIGH-TECH SOLUTIONS

AFSOC spent 2016 focused on developing a balanced, diverse, and agile multi-domain force that meets requirements at both the high and low ends of the conflict spectrum. Often this involves high-tech solutions. As conventional forces occupy the conflict spectrum, AFSOC and SOCOM have made equipment investments in those margins at both the high and low ends. At the forefront of AFSOC modernization is the C-130 fleet with the advent of the C-130J model. Webb continues to advocate the full re-capitalization of the AFSOC C-130 fleet, stating that the 94-aircraft requirement remains unchanged. Obtaining funding for the remaining 15 C-130J aircraft is a high command priority. Webb said budget negotiations are progressing, taking into account the new presidential administration’s directive, which Webb summarized as “to fix readiness and grow capability.” So far, the Department of Defense (DOD) has accepted AFSOC’s requirement and is considering how to fund the remaining aircraft. As with all service-common aircraft in the Air Force inventory, C-130Js are purchased with Air Force funds. Afterwards, SOCOM provides money and guidance to turn these conventional aircraft into high-tech, special operationsready aircraft. In keeping with high-tech solutions, the new AC-130J gunship will include a precision strike package (PSP). A 30 mm GAU-23/A cannon, a 105 mm cannon, and standoff precision guided munitions such as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and AGM-176 Griffin missile are in the PSP portfolio. Webb said AFSOC depends on the Air Force for its new C-130Js, but he pointed out that AFSOC costs to the Air Force amount to a mere .71 of one percent of the overall Air Force budget. The special operations modifications of those planes will be a much larger percentage of the SOCOM budget, which will have to get a plus-up from OSD as part of the modification process.



• • •

An AFSOC graphic outlining Lt. Gen. Brad Webb’s priorities of Readiness, Relevance, and Resiliency.


Tech. Sgt. Jarred Huseman, left, and Tech. Sgt. Oscar Garcia, special missions aviators with the 1st Special Operations Group, Detachment 2, operate a 105 mm cannon on an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, “Angry Annie,” during a training mission over Eglin Range, Florida, Jan. 23, 2017. The 105 mm cannon recoils back 49 inches, with 14,000

Aircraft in AFSOC’s inventory have unique capabilities that set them apart from service-common counterparts. The primary aircraft in AFSOC is the C-130. AFSOC’s program of record has 94 total aircraft, 57 dedicated to mobility and 37 aircraft dedicated to gunship missions. As the command converts to the newer C-130J model aircraft, the legacy C-130E, H, and U aircraft are scheduled to retire. The infusion and integration of high-tech solutions to mobility and strike missions makes the AFSOC C-130 fleet distinctive. So far, the command has obtained funding to buy 79 new aircraft, which means either getting additional funds for 15 C-130Js or that number of the legacy aircraft may have to be retained. Converting the C-130Js into MC- and AC-130Js means adding the high-tech capabilities to penetrate higher-threat areas for all the aircraft. The defensive systems required have been identified, funded, and contracted. Design, installation, and testing are now in progress. Once fully developed and installed, the MC-130Js will have increased capability over and above that of the legacy MC-130H Talon IIs. Until then, the legacy MC-130Hs have greater threat-penetration capability in higher-threat environments. The same is true of the AC-130U over the current AC-130J gunships. To ensure readiness, selected tail numbers of these legacy aircraft will remain in the inventory for up to five years longer than originally scheduled. Final installation of the fully developed and tested defensive systems on the new J-model aircraft will enable the retirement of the last of the H and U models. The development of one high-tech capability continued momentum in 2016. Tactical Offboard Sensing, or TOBS, is a system that encompasses several parts, the air vehicle and




pounds of force.


U.S. Air Force Air Commandos assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron (STS) execute a military


free fall from a CV-22 Osprey, March 17, 2017, over

the integrated control through a gunship’s PSP. The purpose of TOBS is to allow gunship crews to launch a small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV) that transmits information back to the gunship. When weather obscures an objective, the probability of AC-130 support to the ground forces diminishes rapidly. TOBS will enhance gunship coverage and enable weapons employment that was previously lost due to weather. This SUAV acts as an extension of the gunship by utilizing datalinks to communicate flight data and full motion video (FMV) from the SUAV to the AC-130. These datalinks provide the necessary information to the fire control software on board the AC-130 from the SUAV sensor, allowing the AC-130 to employ its suite of weapons through the weather against enemy targets. The development of the AC-130J weapons suite has moved into the high-tech arena to provide increased capability across the spectrum of conflict. AFSOC has requested that OSD fund a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, or JCTD, of a High Energy Laser (HEL). AFSOC’s position is that technology exists today for an offensive weapon, and that an offensive weapon, vice a defensive weapon, is easier to scale and produce. AFSOC believes today’s technology supports integrating an offensive system into the AC-130 gunship. Additionally, an HEL system would be more cost effective than kinetic weapons currently in use. While current gunship weapons are precise, a HEL munition, or shot, is created by recharging the laser’s batteries through

RAF Mildenhall, England. The exercise also included Air Commandos performing free falls from an MC130J Commando II and allowed flight crew and 321st STS members to practice safely deploying from aircraft to reach designated drop zones.

the fuel burned to run the aircraft engines. The result is a lower cost per munition fired. AFSOC has developed concepts for laser operations, which could be used covertly and below lethal levels. After Webb’s address to the Air Force Association Symposium in Orlando, Florida, in early February 2017, he spoke to the press about AFSOC’s plan for the future. In a Q&A session, he referenced the proposed HEL testing. Webb said the majority of his talk showcased the low-tech side of specialized air power – people, training, joint relationships, and the need to re-vitalize AFSOC’s capability to help increase partner nation’s success in the air.



A U.S. Air Force MC-12 takes off during Exercise Emerald Warrior 16 May 11, 2016, at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 137th Special Operations Wing, recently



The Commander of SOCOM, Gen. Tony Thomas, and the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, have advocated the need to work closely with U.S. allies, particularly those involved in the counterterrorism fight. Many countries where terrorist groups operate, are struggling to extend the authority of their governments across all of their territory. AFSOC’s combat aviation advisors (CAAs) are working by, with, and through allies and partner-nation air forces to assess, train, advise, and assist the partner-nation’s military forces to protect themselves from threats. This is the basis for AFSOC’s Aviation Foreign Internal Defense (AvFID) program. Webb said that AFSOC continued to enhance its CAA capacity in 2016 to help partner-nation air forces grow their combat air mobility, manned aircraft ISR, precision strike, and agile combat support capabilities. The growth of the AvFID mission means increasing the number of AFSOC’s CAAs and the capacity to work with U.S. training partners. The perennial problem is a SOF truth, “SOF cannot be massed produced.” AFSOC’s CAA training time line takes Air Commandos up to two years to attain proficiency in language, cultural competencies, and the CAA mission set. Long-term relationship-building and interaction with partnernation forces is foundational. Webb’s real challenge is providing CAAs a realistic career path when they will remain assigned to the same mission in the same place for a long period.

associated with AFSOC, flies MC-12s for manned ISR.

To preserve long-term relationships, AFSOC has welcomed Reserve Component forces to the AvFID mission. The 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field, Florida, is the home of AFSOC’s AvFID mission. Active-duty airmen from the 6th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) have an association with the 711th SOS, from Air Force Reserve Command, to preserve long-term CAA relationships. Concerning partner-nation ISR, AFSOC’s recently associated 137th Air National Guard Wing became a Special Operations Wing in 2016. The 137th SOW specializes in manned ISR with the MC-12 aircraft. Webb said the 137th SOW will take on the AvFID mission and help teach partners manned ISR. Production, exploitation and dissemination (PED) turns raw sensor data into useable and actionable intelligence, and is the challenge when teaching partners to use manned ISR aircraft effectively. Strike capability presents some difficulty for AFSOC in teaching AvFID, as few partner air forces can foresee acquiring gunship capability. The U.S. Air Force has seen the need for additional precision strike capability. Goldfein recently announced there is a requirement for up to 300 light attack aircraft. These aircraft will be low cost and have fixed, forward-firing weapons. They will provide the Air Force with less expensive attack aircraft,


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Ten CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron (SOS), Hurlburt Field,


Florida, and the 20th SOS, Cannon Air Force Base, New

flying in low threat environments and will serve as a training bed for fifth-generation fighters. For AFSOC, this concept may provide an excellent future engagement opportunity for the CAA community. When asked if AFSOC will acquire the light attack aircraft, Webb affirmed AFSOC will need expertise in the fixed, forward-firing mission to perform the important AvFID mission. Such aircraft added to the AFSOC fleet would also enable operations in more austere environments, increasing the places from where AFSOC might launch strike missions. Webb said AFSOC will work with Air Combat Command to field these strike aircraft. 2016: YEAR OF COMMITMENT

Though in active combat for more than 15 years, AFSOC’s missions continued to grow in 2016 and it continues to play a vital role across the spectrum of conflict. The unique skills and capability of the command ensured the United States’ joint commanders still want more AFSOC. Despite ongoing combat in Africa, Afghanistan, and Syria/Iraq, AFSOC continued to recapitalize its fleet. Ten C-130Js were delivered for conversion to AC-130J gunships. The AC-130J program is on track

Mexico, fly in formation over Hurlburt Field, Florida, Feb. 3, 2017. This training mission was the first time in Air Force history that 10 CV-22s flew in formation simultaneously.

for initial operating capability by the fourth quarter of FY 17. To help ease dwell times to stressed special tactics units, the 26th Special Tactics Squadron was activated. This new unit will assist in force projection and will increase training capacity. Training with partner nations was a point of emphasis in 2016. In three separate exercises, there were 100 training events, with an increase planned for FY 17. In 2016, AFSOC worked closely with Canadian, Australian, and United Kingdom allies at Coalition Virtual Flag. AFSOC’s CAAs in Afghanistan worked with the Afghan Special Mission Wing to utilize their new PC-12NG simulator. This robust combat mission profile training capability virtually enabled Afghan partners to practice tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), which led to more effective training. Overall, with a focus on ready today, relevant tomorrow and resilient always, 2016 was a year of challenges and successes for AFSOC. n



A U.S. Marine attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, fast ropes out of a CH-53E Super Stallion prior to conducting urban operations on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 17, 2016. The joint raid between the Marines of the 24th MEU and 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, was held to strengthen the interoperability


between the different types of forces.



MARSOC Flexibility in Dealing with Uncertainty BY J.R. WILSON


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Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III became the sixth u When commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) in August 2016, MARSOC had just celebrated its 10th anniversary and was still working toward its full authorized strength level, but had established itself as a fully operational component of Special Operations Command (SOCOM) at all levels. During his two-year command tour, Mundy’s predecessor – Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman – oversaw the adoption of the name “Raiders” for all MARSOC subordinate units and individual warfighters; regionalization of the three Marine Raider Battalions and their support battalions; significant expansion of MARSOC’s intelligence organization and capabilities; the first deployment of a Raider-led Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force; expansion of the command’s information operations capabilities; and development of the Special Operations Forces Liaison Element (SOFLE) concept, which integrates planning and coordination between special operations and Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs). Mundy is building on those accomplishments and taking a hard look at the command’s future, from internal structure and anticipated growth, to interaction with its sister service special operations forces (SOF) commands within SOCOM and with conventional forces. “We’ve embarked on a ‘MARSOC 2030 Capstone’ document to help move us forward, one that looks far enough into the future to be ahead of or in stride with forward threat areas,” Mundy told The Year in Special Operations. “It is attempting to look at areas where we may need to shift or adapt as we move forward. Because we are a new organization, we have been able to take ideas from the ground level and quickly fuse them into what we’re doing. But we also want a top pull, looking a bit farther out. Linked to that will be a capabilities roadmap that will link these threat areas and capabilities. “Since I took command, I’ve implemented a number of lowlevel, practical items. We think there is a lot to be gained by greater integration, interoperability, and interdependence with conventional forces. The big Corps is a good fit with MARSOC and we would like to expand that and are pushing on all fronts to do that. We helped SOCOM and the Marine Corps with a draft document about a SOCOM/conventional force operating concept.” As with the rest of the U.S. military, MARSOC’s end size was revised downward at the end of the Obama administration, but the general acceptance of SOF as a major part of future U.S. military operations and the Trump administration’s stated commitment to increased defense spending and growth has led to cautious optimism.

“Our authorized build is 2,742, which is the smallest of the SOCOM components, but we are hopeful, as the Marine Corps grows in the next few years, we will be able to gain additional structure, as was originally envisioned. The original target was 3,100, and we believe we will get MARSOC to fill out that structure between 2,742 and 3,100 to achieve our final end state,” Mundy predicted. “Currently, we are growing the number of authorized special operations officers and critical skills operators to achieve the 2,742 goal. “Beyond that, we are always thinking of new capabilities and what we could do with more, but that is more aspirational than anything else. We had the benefit, coming late to the game, of learning from others and getting the best practices they were happy to share with us. That enabled us to mature fairly quickly into what I would describe as a full and equally respected partner in the SOF enterprise. We’ve also had to mature the internal processes and headquarters functions to enable us to maintain an agile posture and respond to emerging events.” Regardless of the final numbers or how long it takes to get there, MARSOC and its fellow service SOF components are looking into areas Mundy said will be pursued as SOCOM seeks to enhance what it can provide to support geographic regional and theater commanders. At the top of that list for the Raiders are two closely linked capabilities: enhanced unmanned platforms and ways to counter enemy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as converted off-the-shelf platforms Daesh (the Arabic term for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) has begun using. “We have been pursuing an unmanned aerial component for years. We’re the only [SOCOM] component that doesn’t have an organic UAV capability. While not large, but very important also is the counter-UAS systems that will help us deal with a threat our enemies already are making use of – employing commercial UAV systems available to anybody,” he said. “There are lots of UAV capabilities available to the joint force. We are working on systems that will detect, identify, and then defeat small and larger UAV systems because the threat is showing an ability to put them up in greater numbers. That is available now, so we don’t have to wonder what it would look like. “The Marine Corps is pursuing unmanned resupply and, with one foot in the Corps and one foot in SOF, we are looking at that rotary-wing UAS capability. We’re also looking at micropower generators we can send out with our forward-deployed teams to help reduce the logistics burden while maintaining their operational performance. And we always need to maintain an eye on IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. As the threat shifts to new capabilities, such as small UAV swarms, you have to be able to shift, which is why we are focused more on that at this



A critical skills operator with 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, secures a


doorway and hallway during training at Atlantic Airfield, North Carolina, Dec. 16, 2015. The training was part of a four-day exercise that included eight day and night missions.



time, while looking at other items that would make us more capable, such as man-in-the-loop precision strike.” MARSOC has purpose-built a force that allows flexibility in dealing with uncertainty, Mundy said, while also growing mission command capabilities. “We take a group of special operators and critical skills specialists and put them together in a force package capable of handling some of the complex problems theater SOF commanders are dealing with at a sub-regional level. We train together as a cohesive team to send a full-spectrum SOF capability downrange. Now we want to expand that to deal with sub-regional problems with a mission command capability,” he noted. “I think we would like to become proportionally larger to the whole effort, move closer to some parts of the SOF enterprise, look for ways where we see a mutual benefit in common capabilities to partner closer with certain aspects of the enterprise. We want to build a Marine special operator capable of handling the most complex threats, not just terrorists, but making a contribution against all the potential threats we see out there; a special operator who is actively sought – when there is a difficult problem, send a Raider to take care of it.” Special operations is divided into six primary areas: direct action, foreign internal defense (training indigenous forces), special recon, counterterrorism, security force assistance, and COIN (counterinsurgency). “We produce and send downrange Raiders capable of all those, but you tailor a lot of pre-mission training to the specific job they are expected to do,” Mundy explained. MARSOC does not have the facilities, personnel, nor budget for internal research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E)

MARSOC in a world where technology changes and advances have become constantly disruptive, but is working to deal with those as rapidly and efficiently as possible. “Cyber is not nine years from now, but here and now. The cyber challenge is one all the services – and SOCOM, in particular – are trying to grow capabilities to deal with. We’re not specifically growing a cyber capability – we’re too small for that right now – but looking out to 2026 and what our needs will be in that and other areas,” he said, including an area his predecessors have consistently rejected as a future organic capability for MARSOC.

Marine Raiders from Company F, 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, honed their skills shooting 60 mm mortars during a Company Collective Exercise in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, Feb. 25, 2016.

“The Marine Corps is very proud of its MAGTF [Marine Air/ Ground Task Force], for good reason. As an offspring of the Corps, I think we would definitely benefit from having the MAGTF ‘A’ in MARSOC, beyond UAVs. There are no plans for that right now, but it certainly is something that would fit very well with our culture, our experience as Marines, and the capabilities we expect to use in the future.” Two recent major changes – adopting the Raiders name and making special operations a career path – were important developments MARSOC hopes will be reflected in higher morale, recruitment, and retention, although Mundy said it is still too early to tell with any degree of confidence. “The other major change, in terms of retention, was the decision to make critical skills operator a closed-loop career path, enabling them to remain with MARSOC for life. We’re about a 2-to-1 split, with the larger component being Marines filling non-combat and combat-support roles. Building high-end enablers organic to MARSOC has been critical. They train with our special operators, a concept that has matured since it took root when we went into Afghanistan. Retention there couldn’t be higher,” Mundy said. “The conventional support side of MARSOC, which is quite large, offers those Marines a secondary MOS [military occupational specialty]: Special Operations Capability Specialist [SOCS]. They come in for perhaps five years, then move on to other places in the big Corps, which gains from their experience here. The retention among those Marines is very high, which says a lot about the experience they gain here.” On Feb. 16, 2017, a naval message announced the launch of a new effort: the MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course (MCSOC). The five-day MCSOC is designed to help Marines interested in serving a tour of duty as a SOCS better understand the career opportunities available to them at MARSOC while still remaining in their MOS. If they pursue it, they would be trained in one of eight specialties: special operations fire support specialist; SOF communications specialist; SOF multipurpose canine handler; SOF explosive ordnance disposal; SOF signals intelligence specialist; SOF geospatial intelligence specialist; SOF counterintelligence/human intelligence specialist; or SOF all-source intelligence specialist. Marines attending the MCSOC also receive in-depth instruction on strength and conditioning, advanced MOS-specific skills, and other topics related to supporting special operations activities. At the same time, a series of interviews, aptitude tests, graded physical events, and mental performance discussions help MARSOC identify the best-qualified candidates for Manpower Management Enlisted Assignments for possible assignment to the command. As to MARSOC itself, “our numbers are stronger, by comparison, than the rest of the Marine Corps on the retention side. And we’re having no trouble recruiting the numbers we need,” Mundy said. “Our doors are open to any Marine, male or female, who wants to go through our assessment selection process. To date, we’ve had three women enter the pipeline, although none were selected and there currently are none waiting. There are female Marines filling non-special operator roles in MARSOC, of course, both officers and NCOs [non-commissioned officers].” When originally conceived in the mid-2000s, Raiders were expected to be embedded with traditional MEUs aboard ship, ready for rapid deployment into any developing situation anywhere on Earth. But the long land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and foreign internal defense training deployments




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Members of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces’ special operations forces serve as a security element during a direct action raid, March 3, during Exercise Flintlock 2017. They are joined by a Marine from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command. Throughout the exercise, MARSOC Marines and their Moroccan peers trained together, refining tactics, techniques, and procedures across multiple


full mission profiles.

in Africa and Asia made that impossible for the small, developing force. And at least for the foreseeable future, it is more likely that ship-based Marines will be assigned to work with MARSOC ashore. “There are lots of ways we can be mutually beneficial,” Mundy said, “but there is no effort and no aim point that would have MARSOC going aboard ship. We need to be prepared to go anywhere, of course, and it is important that we continue to work with the amphibious assets so we can operate from the sea. So we have supported the SOFLE program with Marine special operators and that has gone quite well. Beyond that, we also see great benefit in working with habitually and persistently deployed MAGTFs. “We’re looking at ways to get some of the great capabilities that reside in the MEUs to be partnered with us as the situation calls for it. That doesn’t necessarily mean we would go aboard ship, but it might mean Marines from the ship would come ashore to complement MARSOC units. There have been several instances of that being done, in both exercises and operations, and it has gone very well. I think it is an avenue that needs to be pursued even further.” All MARSOC battalions train in maritime operations and advanced training also looks to various potential combat environments – jungle, mountain, snow, etc. “We’re focused on the ‘hot war’ [in Southwest Asia], but constantly revise our training to be capable in any of those areas,” Mundy said. MARSOC now has enough personnel to maintain permanent geographic units – reinforced Marine Special Operations Companies [MSOC (Rein)] – specializing in languages and cultures of different regions, with about half the command dedicated to training indigenous forces in Africa and Asia. “Like everyone else, we’re weighting our effort to the conflict in the Middle East. But the violent extremist organizations have become transregional and globally networked, so we’re part of

any effort to be agile in a counter-global sense,” Mundy said. “Without being too specific, we have three regions where we consistently deploy – CENTCOM [Central Command], AFRICOM [Africa Command], and PACOM [Pacific Command] – operating under the regional commands. “That regional alignment grew from our focus on Afghanistan several years ago and I wouldn’t expect that to change in the near future. We think the way we built the force has the capability to shift to an emerging requirement, so if we have to go somewhere else, we feel pretty good about being able to do that. And like all the other [SOCOM] component commanders, we’re trying to stay ahead of the threat and look out to where that might lead us so we can be postured to respond accordingly.” As the newest and smallest service component in SOCOM, MARSOC has followed the path of the big Corps in leveraging the knowledge and developments of others to achieve its goals with limited resources. “Being small does help us, because it forces us to partner with other organizations, such as other SOCOM components, to take advantage of their ideas, especially where new technologies are involved. And we do that largely through a top-down driven process that also takes advantage of the services’ conceptdriven capabilities, while our bottom-up process takes advantage of operators who are downrange and see and deal with issues at hand, then return with new ideas,” Mundy concluded. “We are completing a MARSOC capabilities development order that will codify some of that. We have to make sure the authorities to use new technology keeps up and that’s not something we’re in charge of. We need the authorities permission to use these new things and make sure we’re not just chasing tech, but willing to deal with what’s good enough. There is a danger in moving so fast there is not enough time to train with it, meaning operators see something new for the first time when they get downrange. So balancing all that is what we are trying to manage.” n


Greek special forces and U.S. Navy SEALs clear a stairwell during Sarisa 16, an annual Greek exercise, near Thessaloniki, Greece, Sept. 21, 2016.









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Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM) u U.S. comprises approximately 8,900 personnel, including more than 2,400 active-duty SEALs, 700 Special Warfare Combatantcraft Crewmen (SWCC), 700 Reserve personnel, 4,100 support personnel, and more than 1,100 civilians. In early August 2016, Rear Adm. Timothy G. Szymanski relieved Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey as commander of NAVSPECWARCOM during ceremonies at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California. Szymanski brought with him a broad naval special warfare (NSW) background, having most recently served as assistant commanding officer of Joint Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, with previous roles including commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 2 and commander of SEAL Team 2. Szymanski shared his perspective on the challenges of delivering ready forces today while simultaneously modernizing for tomorrow during a government and industry panel discussion in early 2017. Asked about challenges to NSW readiness, Szymanski offered, “I think the theme of our forces that go forward from Naval Special Warfare are [that they are] always in a high state of readiness. They are in a C-1 state of readiness. And for me to sustain that C-1 readiness is the most important aspect.” He referred to an earlier presentation by former Supreme Allied Commander Europe Adm. James Stavridis, U.S. Navy (Ret.), observing, “I’ll put it in this context. One of the threats that Adm. Stavridis talked about today was the violent extremist organization threat. And that’s the primary threat challenge for United States Special Operations Command. We’ve been addressing that threat for the last 16 years … So the violent

extremist organization threat, as Adm. Stavridis laid it out this morning, is still the No. 1 threat that’s out there. That’s an enduring threat. And we don’t see a relief from that threat for somewhere out to 10 years where we will get any return.” He went on to outline the challenge of maintaining NSW forces “and my supporting capabilities through that increasing demand signal from the [Geographic Combatant Commands] for some of the near peer things; for partner nation capacity [and] security force assistance,” while maintaining “a crisp narrative of not breaking what we call our inter-deployment training cycle.” While some panel participants cited a “2-to-1” training cycle for some U.S. Navy elements, Szymanski said that the cycle is “really 3-to-1” for much of NAVSPECWARCOM, “trying to work up so I can maintain the violent extremist organization challenge as well as some of the niche maritime capabilities that we provide against some of the higher end scenarios.” He acknowledged that some outside observers have asked about “mass producing SOF [special operations forces],” but quickly asserted, “Obviously that goes against a SOF truth. And that won’t happen anytime soon.” “But one of the other SOF truths – it was the fifth one added by Adm. Olson – is that we are heavily dependent on other conventional support, whether that’s Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, or civilian contractor,” he said. That reliance extends to the combat support and combat service support elements assigned to NAVSPECWARCOM. “They’re typically on a 2-to-1 rotation, where they’re not necessarily working up with the same team that they’re going

Elite military special operations forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States conduct a simulated rapid response to the hijacking of the oil tanker Hadiyah in Kuwait


territorial waters.



Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson transits the San Diego Bay aboard a Combatant Craft Medium


(CCM) boat alongside a Combatant Craft Assault boat

to deploy with,” he said. “And then we turn them around much quicker. So if I’ve got any challenges, it’s really working through the personnel system to get my commands manned and my technical support – analysts, gunners’ mates, communicators – manned to 100 percent.” Adding to those challenges is the so-called “continuing resolution” budgeting process, which he said “hurts us” in the way that orders are processed and the resulting impact on “getting enough people in to get them into some sort of workup as part of that inter-deployment training cycle in preparation for their six-month deployment.” “So again, my challenge is sustainment of this force through the next 10 years to be able to maintain a common fight right now against the violent extremist organizations but [also]


(foreground) assigned to Special Boat Team (SBT) 12. The CCM is a reconfigurable, multimission maritime surface tactical mobility craft with a primary mission to insert and extract special operations forces in a medium threat environment.

prepare for those other things short of conflict on the high-end scenario,” he said. Later in the discussion, Szymanski expanded on his statements surrounding NSW operations in high-end scenarios, beginning with what he termed a “framing point.” “The enemy has watched us fight now for 16 years in the counterinsurgency/combating terrorism/violent extremist fight – as well as our own blue forces who have looked at special warfare and SOF through that same lens,” he explained. “We have got to change that lens for the high-end scenario.” As a second point, he identified “some very unique maritime capabilities in our family of craft – both surface and undersea – as well as the integration of many things we’ve done over the course of the last 15 years in integrating sensors and unmanned [equipment].” He then placed those capabilities and that experience in the context of broader ongoing U.S. Navy discussions on issues surrounding “distributed lethality” and “sea control,” emphasizing that “all the systems that I have and all the capabilities that I am developing at a smaller level need to be completely compatible with the next [generation of platforms] so that I can, in those higher end scenarios, be able to support at a different level out of the combating terrorism view.”



A U.S. Navy SEAL assigned to Naval Special Warfare Unit 2 observes the target as a member of the


Serbian Special Anti-terrorist Unit shoots in the

Turning to cybersecurity, he characterized it as “imperative,” adding, “It’s the most important aspect of cyber warfare in that all of our weapons and all of our systems have to work under high peer competitor threat. But on the flipside of that, cyber is a tactical domain. And I think we have to be a little more bold and decisive in that space as we move forward. I see the future of cyber for special operators as a core individual skill – SOF enabled tactical offensive cyber as part of tactical operations.” He said that the enemy environment, “particularly in the [violent extremist organization] piece,” is frequently “mischaracterized” as a permissive cyber climate. While he agreed that might be true in how we can communicate and use electronics in those environments, it is nonetheless a sophisticated cyber threat “in the way they finance, the way they communicate, the way they radicalize, the way they incentivize in social media and on cyber tools. And it is a space that we are over-regulating and, I think, policy is over-regulating to the point that we are ceding that space currently.” But he quickly added that he is “pretty optimistic” about the cyber future. “One core aspect of my forces is trying to ensure that people understand that there are vulnerabilities in cyber and they need to treat it as a loaded weapon at all times,” he said. “But I don’t want to lose sight of where we need to be in the offensive cyberspace.”

prone position on the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during a Special Operations Command Europe Joint Combined Exchange Training event.

Szymanski also noted that current NSW operations might provide non-SOF forces with lessons that can be applied in future high-end cyber threat environments where there might be limited abilities to receive guidance from higher command. “From a SOF perspective, we do that every day,” he said. “I’ve got some 1,000 personnel deployed in 35 countries today. And they are led at the 03-04/E7-E8 level [by individuals] that are very empowered. And actually, they operate in a more sophisticated environment just as dangerous as any of the areas of active hostilities, which include some of those 35 countries, but also in the other-than-designated theaters of active armed conflict that are very remote, very arduous, [where] the threat is real and they are constrained by some ROE [rules of engagement] and some policies that they have got to navigate pretty adroitly. And they are good at it. They do it well. I’m not saying that makes them prepared for the high-end threat of this, but we are, on a day-to-day basis, just by the nature of the business, actually practicing that concept today.” n


U.S. and Georgian special operations soldiers assault an objective during Exercise Jackal Stone 2016 in Tblisi, Georgia, Aug. 15, 2016.







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Lt. Gen. Ken Tovo is the commander of United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). As the Army service component command of U.S. Special Operations Command, USASOC represents a force of more than 33,000 personnel. Army special operations forces (SOF) operate worldwide across the spectrum of conflict and under any operating conditions in support of joint force commanders and interagency leaders.


THE YEAR IN SPECIAL OPERATIONS: The past year continued a trend of high operational tempo for SOF. Would you characterize the role and value of Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) in this context? LT. GEN. KEN TOVO: ARSOF represent more than half of the nation’s special operations forces and consistently fill over 60 percent of all U.S. SOF deployments worldwide. Each day of the past year, ARSOF soldiers were deployed in more than 70 countries across all six Geographic Combatant Commands, delivering strategic value by providing an indigenous approach to operations, precision targeting operations, developing understanding and wielding influence, and crisis response. These four complementary pillars of ARSOF capability are employed throughout the operational spectrum and across all campaign phases, including interagency or coalition-led campaigns and operations. Together, the four pillars of ARSOF capability provide options to shape or prevent outcomes in support of our national interests. ARSOF expertise in these capabilities, coupled with tailorable mission command nodes and scalable force packages that are low signature and employ a small footprint, are particularly suited for employment in politically sensitive environments. The four pillars are a new way to talk about ARSOF capabilities. What drove the decision to define ARSOF strategic value through these capability bins, and would you expand upon each? Military doctrine contains terms that are not universally known by audiences outside of the Department of Defense [DOD]. There are times when doctrinal terms should be used; however, when conveying the strategic value of ARSOF capabilities to a wide range of audiences, there exists a need to simplify the narrative. The four pillars represent a way to define ARSOF capabilities in simple terms, easily understood by a wide range of audiences. The indigenous approach is a means to address challenges to regional stability with and through indigenous populations and security forces empowered by ARSOF persistent engagement. Through an indigenous approach, ARSOF formations leverage nascent capability within populations, transforming indigenous mass into combat power. ARSOF training pipelines, unlike any other in the Department of Defense, produce regionally aligned, culturally astute, and language-capable ARSOF personnel that apply an indigenous approach across the spectrum of conflict in permissive, uncertain, and hostile environments. Since World War II, ARSOF elements have amassed unique institutional and organizational expertise in living among, training, advising, and fighting alongside people of foreign cultures, achieving effects with and through partner forces. Transforming indigenous mass into combat power through the ARSOF indigenous approach provides a low-cost means to

address state and non-state threats. It is also a means by which to set conditions for conventional force success and execute sensitive activities without large commitment of national resources. The approach provides high-impact options to national decision-makers through minimal force commitment. Precision-targeting operations involve direct action and counternetwork activities enabled by SOF unique intelligence, targeting processes, and technology, such as ARSOF rotary-wing capabilities and armed unmanned aerial systems. Precision-targeting operations are employed against uniquely difficult target sets that may require operating in uncertain or hostile environments, careful and focused application of force, and significant intelligence and operational preparation. They are executed by highly trained, rapidly deployable, and scalable ARSOF personnel and formations. These operations are employed to buy time and space for other operations to gain traction, as seen in counterinsurgency campaigns. They create precise physical and psychological effects and can be used to collapse threat networks through deliberate targeting of critical nodes, as demonstrated in counterterrorism campaigns. They also include sensitive activities in support of targeting processes and the execution of operations. Developing understanding and wielding influence are essential aspects of the value ARSOF capabilities provide joint force commanders and the nation. The SOF network of personnel, assets, and international partnerships represents means by which to obtain early understanding of trends, emerging local, regional, and transregional threats, and where opportunities exist for advancing U.S. objectives. Employment of the SOF network provides capabilities needed to influence outcomes in all campaign phases and especially in environments experiencing conflict short of overt war.


Above: Chile and U.S. Special Forces (SF) wait for a U.S. Army MH-60 Black Hawk to evacuate two simulated hostages July 22, 2016, during a training rescue operation as part of exercise Southern Star in Antofagasta, Chile. SF assigned to Special Operations Command South conducted simulated operations under the command and control of a Chile and U.S. combined operational headquarters. Right: A local female Manbij Military Council (MMC) trainee fires a 7.62 mm PK machine gun during marksmanship training Feb. 21, 2017, at Sanaa Training Center in northwest Syria. The instruction was 20 days long to include basic rifle marksmanship and squad-level weapons and movement techniques. This was the first cycle of women to graduate and join the MMC. The course is administered by Special Operations


indigenous approach, a small number of operators can respond to crisis with and through partner forces in an effort to enable host-nation solutions to local or regional security challenges. Would you share some examples of ARSOF employment over the past year? In the past year, members of USASOC fought against violent extremist organizations, built partner-nation capacity, and ultimately stood prepared for any crisis that might threaten the United States. In CENTCOM [Central Command], Special Forces, Rangers, and Army special operations aviators maintained pressure on insurgent networks in Afghanistan through partnered operations. Their efforts enabled Afghan forces to retain control of key cities under threat from Taliban. Additionally in the past year, 1st Special Forces Command established Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve [SOJTF-OIR] as the SOF component headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. The SOJTF-OIR headquarters is synchronizing SOF activities and effects in the fight against ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as Daesh] in Iraq and Syria.


Engagement in countries worldwide allows ARSOF to develop long-term partner-nation relationships and the understanding of complex operating environments that can be leveraged to secure our national interests. Developing understanding and wielding influence in culturally and politically complex operating environments requires ARSOF personnel to be adept at interacting and coordinating with multiple agencies and partners. Institutional training and education programs unique to ARSOF, along with long-term regionally aligned employment, provide the expertise necessary to understand complex environments and the ability to influence relationships and circumstances. Crisis response, provided through alert forces and persistently deployed and dispersed units, provides national decisionmakers with agile, tailorable, and rapidly employable special operations formations necessary to respond to emergencies. These forces provide options to rescue people under threat, to recover sensitive materials such as WMD [weapons of mass destruction] components, or to address other short-notice requirements. ARSOF crisis response capabilities leverage the SOF network and partner-nation relationships established before crisis occurs. ARSOF crisis response includes unilateral capabilities and those created through partner-force development. Through an


Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve trainers.

Left: A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier assigned to Combined



Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan provides security

The benefits of standing up SOJTF-OIR are seen in gains steadily made by ARSOF soldiers and other U.S. SOF members operating with partner forces against ISIL. Those gains include the liberation of more than 60 cities in Iraq, including Tikrit, Haditha, Ramadi, and Fallujah. Recent efforts have freed the majority of Mosul. In Syria, SOJTF-OIR enabled opposition forces to seize Hasakah, Tall Abyad, Manbij, Dabiq, and many other towns from ISIL. In EUCOM [U.S. European Command], Special Forces, Psychological Operations, and Civil Affairs soldiers worked to professionalize European partner and ally SOF capabilities in Ukraine, the Baltic states, and Uzbekistan, to name a few. In August, 10th Special Forces Group established Special Operations Command-ForwardEastern Europe to synchronize SOF activities in the region. In AFRICOM [U.S. Africa Command], USASOC soldiers enabled host-nation partners to counter violent extremist organizations in countries such as Somalia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad. Members of 3rd Special Forces Group continue to man SOC-Forward-North/West Africa to synchronize joint SOF effects on behalf of SOCAFRICA [Special Operations Command Africa]. In PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command], Special Forces and elements of 75th Ranger Regiment conducted partnered training in Korea while other USASOC units developed partner-force capabilities in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and Nepal. Korea now has a rotational SF [Special Forces] company persistently present on the peninsula. Additionally, the 1st Special Forces Group headquarters and its forward-deployed battalion are now committed to enduring mission-command roles in support of SOCPAC [Special Operations Command Pacific]. In SOUTHCOM [U.S. Southern Command], Special Forces, Psychological Operations, and Civil Affairs members trained with host nation forces in Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. These and other efforts in the region focused on achieving effects

during an advising mission in Afghanistan. Right: U.S. Army Rangers of 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, conduct platoon Multilateral Airborne Training (MLAT) exercises at McChord Army Airfield, Fort Lewis, Washington. Rangers conduct MLAT to maintain proficiency in airfield operations.

against trafficking networks leading to our southern border. In Colombia, ARSOF soldiers from 7th Special Forces Group enabled a host-nation mission that captured and destroyed drug-making chemicals and labs valued in excess of $28 million U.S. dollars. In NORTHCOM [U.S. Northern Command], USASOC soldiers trained, advised, and assisted Mexican partner forces and enabled their operations against transregional criminal organizations through fusion-cell activities. The U.S. Army appears to be focused on Phase 3 kinetic capabilities and developing the Multi-Domain Battle concept with the U.S. Marine Corps. What are some key ARSOF contributions to Phase 3 operations and activities? ARSOF elements represent a multi-spectrum force, focused in the human terrain and optimized for competition in the gray zone between peace and overt war. SOF capabilities in gray zones and later phases of joint campaigns are largely dependent on developing relationships and an advanced understanding of complex environmental dynamics before Phase 3 conflict occurs. The current joint campaign construct, represented by sequential phases, is linear in nature. As a result, campaign phasing tends to drive attention toward the generation of physical and



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2016-2017 EDITI ON

15 Years


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Special operations forces soldiers conduct an airborne operation at Alzey Drop Zone, Alzey, Germany. The


training was part of Exercise Jackal Stone, a combined

lethal effects on a road to war in Phase 3. In actuality, these phases are not independent of one another or compartmented. Conditions in an operating environment are often complex, with activities for various phases bleeding into other phases without a clearly defined beginning or ending. ARSOF capabilities available in Phase 3 require preparatory efforts in earlier phases. These capabilities include leveraging indigenous mass, transforming it into combat power that can be employed in support of major combat operations. Providing a trained and capable partner force for Phase 3 operations requires investment of time, ARSOF personnel, and resources in early phases. It is within peacetime or gray zone environments that ARSOF develop relationships that lead to an advanced understanding of trends, emerging threats, social and political friction points, and cultural complexities in an operating environment. Such knowledge becomes an enabling factor for conventionalforce commanders as conditions escalate toward overt war. Examples include efforts to train, equip, and assist with organizing indigenous forces to resist an occupation or delay enemy consolidation of gains. These efforts create the ability to synchronize resistance activities with joint force commanders in a way that opens windows of opportunity for Brigade Combat Teams. Leveraging indigenous mass and transforming it into combat power provides the ability to attack enemy C2 [command and control] nodes, air defense systems, and lines of communication with and through partner forces. Preparation efforts in early phases of joint campaigns also enable mobilization of populations to act through demonstrations, workforce strikes, social discord, and reporting on enemy activities. ARSOF engagement and human interaction in early phases provides situational understanding of key local personalities of influence and a means to gain information, enabling intelligence

joint exercise to strengthen relationships among the European special operations forces.

and targeting processes. Building partner capacity in counterterrorism and police forces in Phase 0 leads to establishment of security forces capable of assisting with rear-area and population security, targeting enemy partner forces, and providing counterintelligence support to mitigate subversion and sabotage in Phase 3. Additionally, understanding of human terrain in early phases can help promote national resilience, counter enemy narratives, and influence populations to create cognitive effects and multiple dilemmas for the enemy. During Phases 0-2, the joint force conducts multi-domain activities to expand maneuver, generating both physical and cognitive effects in order to deter adversaries, assure allies, and deny or defeat enemies. Persistent SOF activities in Phases 0-2 can reduce the quantity and intensity of conflicts that reach Phase 3 combat operations, allowing the joint force to concentrate efforts. The key is employing SOF early so capability options are available in Phase 3 that can be leveraged to open windows of opportunity for joint force success in high-intensity conflict. Would you give some examples of specific operations that highlight ARSOF capabilities across multiple phases of joint campaigns? The four pillars of ARSOF capability are complementary, creating a layered portfolio of tactical capabilities that can have strategic effects. For example, applying an indigenous


Night Vision Devices Laser Aiming Solutions Riflescopes Beacons Binoculars Battle Lights

Philippine Congresswoman Lucy Torres-Gomez, congresswoman for District 4 in Leyte, Maj. Herb Daniels, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, and Col. Rafael Valencia, 802nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine army, examine a map of relief distribution and villages in areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Ormoc City, Republic of the Philippines, as part of


Operation Damayan.

approach can lead to developing advanced understanding of complex operating environments and the ability to influence outcomes in those environments. In October 2001, a small number of Special Forces soldiers from 5th Special Forces Group, serving in Task Force Dagger, applied an indigenous approach in Afghanistan to partner with the Northern Alliance through Phases 1-3 of the joint campaign. Their efforts leveraged and organized the indigenous mass of multiple factions, enabling employment of partner force combat power against the Taliban. Through that partnership, Special Forces developed an advanced understanding of the environment and the enemy, enabling efforts to influence conditions and outcomes. The Northern Alliance and their SF advisers, along with 75th Ranger Regiment and other SOF elements, overthrew the Taliban government, effectively clearing the way for an interim government to be sworn into office late December 2001. The indigenous approach that develops capable partner forces can also create the opportunity to execute partnered precision-targeting operations, as seen in Iraq 2003-2011 during Phases 4-5 of the joint campaign. Under Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, ARSOF built, developed, and advised more than 20 Iraqi special operations forces and Iraqi special weapons and tactics battalions, while executing partnered direct action to suppress insurgent cells. The effort bought time and space for coalition force stability operations to gain traction and achieve long-term effects. It also established enduring Iraqi units of action that now spearhead the government of Iraq’s fight against ISIL – a fight that is enabled by ARSOF and joint SOF advisers. The long-term and often repeat rotational application of ARSOF in Iraq developed understanding of the complex cultural, political, and adversarial dynamics at play within the operating environment. Advanced understanding enabled ARSOF to wield influence within cities, rural communities, and over enemies. Relationships developed over years of commitment in Iraq provided ARSOF with the contextual understanding needed to respond with and through partner forces to crisis when hostile entities took hostages, attacked Iraqi Security Forces,

or attempted to take control of city centers, as seen when Jaysh Al-Mahdi fought to seize cities across southern Iraq in 2008. Another example of crisis response includes the actions of Civil Affairs and other ARSOF and joint SOF personnel operating under Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines [JSOTF-P] in the wake of super typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda] Nov. 8-9, 2013. ARSOF members played a critical role in the distribution of relief goods and provided medical assistance to civilians in need following landfall of the storm, the strongest typhoon in Philippine history. Within the first 12 hours of the storm, ARSOF members serving within JSOTF-P conducted aerial surveys of the destruction and mapped areas most in need of assistance. All cell phone and internet coverage was knocked out by the storm, making knowledge of the terrain and population centers essential to relief efforts. ARSOF understanding of the operating environment, road networks, and city centers became critical to rapid delivery of relief to Filipino citizens. The humanitarian relief effort in the Philippines represents crisis response in a Phase 0 or 1 environment. These examples highlight tactical actions executed by USASOC members that made a strategic difference in support of joint campaigns and efforts to address crisis. They are a few of the many examples of how ARSOF operators employ an indigenous approach to gain a detailed understanding of environmental conditions, strike with and through partner forces against determined enemies, respond to crisis, and influence outcomes. The examples mentioned here also represent contributions to the ARSOF legacy of individual and unit valor, professionalism, and combat effectiveness. Today, ARSOF soldiers build upon the legacy inherited from courageous warriors of the past through actions in the face of adversity, austere environments, and under hostile conditions. USASOC elements remain fully engaged globally, delivering strategic value to the nation by applying the four complementary pillars of ARSOF capability to shape outcomes and secure our national interests. The future will continue to demand excellence of ARSOF and present a variety of challenges and adversaries. ARSOF will be ready to address future challenges with solutions provided by imaginative, adaptable, and highly trained operators dedicated to serving our nation. n





The Norwegian Army’s FSK continue to work closely with coalition partners, not only for MA operations in the Middle East but also in the High North of the Arctic Circle.



he OSS Society honors the historic accomplishments SOCIETY of the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II predecessor to the CIA and the US Special Operations Command. It educates the American public about the importance of strategic intelligence and special operations to the preservation of freedom. OSS founder General William “Wild Bill” Donovan said OSS personnel performed “some of the bravest acts” of World War II. He described them as “glorious amateurs.” Become a glorious amateur. Join The OSS Society today.


the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference u At(SOFIC) in Tampa, Florida, on May 23, 2016, newly


appointed boss of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas expressed his desire to see his organization evolve into a wider global special operations combatant command made up of international partners. Addressing delegates at SOFIC, Thomas explained: “The demand on the network of SOF has grown over the past 15 years to transcend borders and politics. Collective actions in international and interagency partners remain consistent with the way [special operations forces, or SOF] does business and this is a model we can replicate across the globe,” he suggested, while referring to a more agile operational framework. Nowhere is such a trend more prevalent than the Middle East and North Africa, where coalitions of international SOF (ISOF) partners continue to conduct counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN) campaigns against terrorist groups including Daesh (the Arabic term for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) and al Qaeda (AQ). This proliferation of joint training and operations across the ISOF community continues to dominate headlines as relative component commands execute what Thomas termed “transregional security operations” – ones in which enemy combatant forces transcend recognized borders and politics. Many defense and industry sources associated with the community informed the The Year in Special Operations how the past 12 months have seen this concept grow exponentially, with force components around the globe continuing to benefit from cooperation and collaboration across an increasingly complex contemporary operating environment (COE). Additionally, organizations such as SOCOM and the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ), based out of Mons, Belgium, continue to coordinate multilateral efforts to harmonize special operations doctrine, concepts of operation (CONOPS), and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) between allied members and non-NATO entity (NNE) partners with particular emphasis on air, land, surface, and sub-surface environments.


Illustrative of such a trend toward enhanced international cooperation and interoperability is a concept currently being embarked upon by Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands, who on Feb. 16, 2017, signed a Letter of Intent to consider the establishment of a Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC). Agreed during the meeting of NATO ministers of defense in Mons, the concept aims to streamline the command and control (C2) procedures of the various SOF components (Belgium’s Special Forces Group, the Netherlands’ Korps Commandotroepen [KCT] and MARSOF, and Denmark’s Jaegercorps and Frogman Corps) while also considering the development of doctrine, CONOPS, and TTPs in line with NSHQ and other NATO partners as well as joint operations in the form of a deployable special operations task group (SOTG). The multinational command will be able to lead and coordinate special operations forces task groups within a small joint operation scenario. NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, who described the concept as valuable and timely, explained: “This tri-national effort reflects the reality that special operations forces today operate increasingly in a multinational context. The ability to command our special forces effectively is as important as the forces themselves and NATO has made it a priority.” Whether the concept proves a success for the various member force elements has yet to be seen. However, speaking to The Year in Special Operations, senior SOF commanders associated with NSHQ explained how the move could provide a base model for other like-minded nations to consider similar partnerships in the future. The development of the concept, which aims to publish a memorandum of understanding (MoU) before the end of 2017 providing more detail into future development of the C-SOCC, is being led by commander of the Danish Special Operations Command, Maj. Gen. Jørgen Høll. Defense sources associated with the project described to The Year in Special Operations how the C-SOCC aims to achieve an

After raiding an objective, soldiers from Lithuania’s Special Purpose Service CounterTerrorism unit are exfiltrated on U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during Exercise Flaming Sword in Panevéžsy, Lithuania, May 19, 2016. Since 2012, Lithuanian SOF has organized Exercise Flaming Sword with NATO SOF and allied partners. The aim of this exercise is to train SOF elements at the Special Operations Task Group level to improve interoperability between regional partners.


A Danish Jaeger operator trains indigenous security forces at Al Asad, Iraq, as part of a

initial operating capability in 2019 with full operating capability achieved in 2020. Beyond that, sources explained the desire of the triumverate of nations to make the C-SOCC available to the NATO Response Force (comprising NSHQ force elements from across the alliance) by 2021 and beyond. The move follows a similar decision agreed in September 2016 by the governments of Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovenia to sign a multilateral agreement to establish a Multinational Special Operations Aviation Training Solution. This concept has been designed with a view to potentially creating a dedicated SOF Aviation Command capable of supporting the various force elements with rotary-wing and fixed-wing platforms in the medium term. However, official sources associated with this particular concept explained to The Year in Special Operations that the agreement would remain focused on the development of extended cooperation in regard to training. OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

The COE also continues to display growing levels of interoperability and cooperation between NATO, Non NATO Entity (NNE) and other partner SOF components, many of whom continue to conduct CT, COIN, and military assistance (MA) operations to counter Daesh in northern Iraq and Syria.


Working collectively under Operation Inherent Resolve, force elements from the United States, UK, Norway, Denmark, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, and elsewhere are tasked with “train, advise and assist” missions under the banner of a wider MA campaign. Ongoing efforts, which, as The Year in Special Operations went to press were culminating in the recapture of Mosul from insurgent combatants, have focused on the development of indigenous special forces and special mission units including Iraqi SOF, Kurdish Peshmerga, and multiple militias to conduct frontline operations against Daesh militants. This concept, which replicates recent efforts by ISOF in Afghanistan (under NATO’s command) to train up special operations forces units, is nothing new for the international community, although current operations have seen it rise to prominence as a less obtrusive means of deploying combat troops to foreign lands. On Dec. 10, 2016, SOCOM announced it would be deploying an additional 200 operators to Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve. The decision means a total of 500 personnel from the command are now present in the country, tasked with conducting MA operations in support of indigenous militia groups. According to former defense secretary Ashton Carter, who spoke to delegates at the IISS [International Institute for Strategic Studies] Manama Dialogue event in Bahrain on Dec. 10, the task forces comprises “special operations forces, trainers, advisers, and explosive ordnance disposal teams,” tasked with “… organizing, training, equipping, and otherwise enabling” indigenous partners in the region.


SOTG conducting MA operations.


The SOF components from Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have signed a Letter of Intent to develop a Composite-Special Operations Component Command, which could have interesting implications for


the future of ISOF.

“We’re helping [indigenous forces to] generate the additional local forces necessary to seize and to hold that city,” he said. Similar partnering operations were in play when the Naval Special Warfare Command lost an operator during a helicopter assault force (HAF) operation in Yemen, which was conducted with force elements from the UAE Special Operations Command and targeted an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula compound. Speaking to The Year in Special Operations at the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS) in France on March 28, sources associated with the French Special Operations Command provided additional details regarding ongoing operations as part of Inherent Resolve. Operating under the designation of the “Hydra” Special Operations Task Force, French SOF from the 10th Air Parachute Commando unit and 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine (1 RPIMa), are following up advancing Iraqi SOF and Kurdish Peshmerga special mission units with the conduct of intelligence-gathering missions. Missions include the employment of UAVs for the generation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data along the forward edge of the battle area as well as site sensitive exploitation (SSE) of former Daesh positions; explosive ordnance disposal missions; and clearance of tunnel networks and escape routes. French SOF teams have been operating across the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in support of ISOF, Peshmerga, and other coalition forces in a bid to better understand the operating procedures of Daesh ahead of the assault on Raqqa. SSE has become a staple procedure for the world’s most mature SOF elements, providing critical intelligence to enable commanders to plan follow-on missions based on information gathered. TTPs include the gathering of biometric data, imagery intelligence, and exploitation of computer-based systems as well as the tactical questioning of persons of interest on the ground. The NSHQ continues to host specialist technical SSE courses

for coalition and NNE partners as its importance gathers more and more momentum across the COE. Addressing the SOFINS conference at Camp de Souge, France on March 28, Commander of the French Special Operations Command, Rear Adm. Laurent Isnard, described his intention to increase the intelligence-gathering capabilities of force elements at his disposal. “Anything that has to do with intelligence and decision making, we are looking for some interesting [technology] to assess the environment,” he explained. “Our operators are more and more involved in EW [electronic warfare]. We already have this capability on our aircraft and speedboats but we need breakaway technology for radar waves in order to identify tunnels. We need to know what’s happening behind walls,” he added, while making reference to sense-through-wall technology. “We are striving for information. This gives us the edge today but we need to go further with better use of intelligence,” he concluded, before highlighting future integration of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to assist the decision-making processes of operators – a concept previously mentioned at SOFIC 2016 by former UK special forces director Graeme Lamb. Such technology would also assist French SOF in Iraq tasked with better understanding Daesh utilization of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), with one of their latest TTPs being to booby trap items of interest that could be exploited during SSE serials. In October 2016, French media reports described how two operators had been injured following inspection of a UAV in the vicinity of Erbil, Iraq. On Jan. 20, 2017, the Danish government granted its special operations command permission to deploy an MA team to northern Iraq and Syria in order to conduct a similar train, advise and assist operation with indigenous security forces. However, defense sources associated with the 60-strong Jaegercorps SOTG operating out of the Al Asad Air Base




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Special operations teams from Chad develop CT skills, including a vehicle


interdiction operation, illustrated

explained to The Year in Special Operations how the component retains the capability to operate cross-border in Syria and in a standalone capacity if necessary. Force elements from the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) continue to conduct “non-combat” operations in northern Iraq with the training of a Kurdish Peshmerga special mission unit. In November 2016, CANSOFCOM Commander Maj. Gen. Mike Rouleau was reported as saying: “My troops have not engaged in direct combat as a fighting element in offensive combat operations. We do not plan on that basis, because our mandate does not allow us to do so.” Finally, an Australian SOTG remains active in northern Iraq following a close advisory role with Iraqi SOF, particularly in relation to the assault on Mosul. The deployment was confirmed by Australian defense officials on Oct. 18, 2016, with news that the task group had been training, advising, and assisting Iraqi counterparts as well as providing sniper teams and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) for close air support from coalition aircraft. The task group has been supporting Iraqi elements since January 2015, focused on developing their small unit tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as urban, counter-IED and close quarters battle (CQB) capabilities. Defense sources explained to The Year in Special Operations how the SOTG has been reduced to just 80 personnel due to

here in front of visiting VIPs.

additional commitments in Syria, although no further details have been disclosed by defense officials. AFRICA

North and West Africa also remain highly strategic areas of operation for the ISOF community, with multiple force elements remaining heavily involved in Libya, Mali, and elsewhere over the past year. Special operations teams from France, Italy, UK and the United States remain active in Libya as part of a wider counterinsurgency campaign against Daesh and affiliate organizations, although details remain scarce due to operational security concerns. The first public confirmation of such a deployment was made on Aug. 11, 2016, by the Italian government, which announced it has provided permission to the Comando Operativo Forze Speciali (COFS), or Joint Special Forces Operational Command, to begin operations in Sirte. In a similar fashion to ongoing operations in the Middle East, force elements from Italy’s Underwater and Raider Command


INTERNATIONAL SOF (COMSUBIN) and Army Special Forces Command (COMFOSE) are conducting MA operations to enhance the capabilities of indigenous security forces as well as conducting their own organic intelligence gathering missions. Meanwhile, French, U.K. and U.S. SOF are understood to have worked out of operating bases around the country conducting similar concepts of operation as Italian forces. Concurrently, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) witnessed the first time a NATO SOF capability had been used in support of the organization, with Dutch, Danish, and Czech Republic force elements operating under the command of the Special Operations Land Task Group (SOLTG). However, in December 2016, the Dutch government withdrew KCT operators from the formation, announcing it would be replaced by a conventional unit – the 11th Airmobile Brigade – tasked with long-range reconnaissance patrols. The SOLTG was supplemented with special operations teams from the army’s KCT as well as the navy’s MARSOF, who worked in tandem with Danish Jaegers and operators from the Czech Republic’s 601st Special Forces Group as part of an MA operation. EASTERN EUROPE

Finally, Eastern Europe continues to present a significant growth area for the ISOF community, led from the front by cooperation with USSOCOM and, to a lesser extent, NSHQ. On Dec. 6, 2016, Ukraine’s administration announced the official establishment of the 142nd Training Center of the Special Operations Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, designed to further develop CONOPS and TTPs in line with NATO standards. The training school, which is located in Berdychiv in the Zhytomyr region, will continue to support Ukrainian SOF, who remain highly focused on internal security and CT operations. Referring to ongoing collaboration with U.S., Polish, Lithuanian, Estonian, and Latvian special operations forces, President Petro Poroshenko announced: “It is this approach that was determined for the special operations forces that are being created under NATO standards.” The center will focus on live fire training, small unit tactics, and specialist weapons cadres including sniper teams, heavy weapons, and small arms training. Elsewhere, the Lithuanian administration disclosed in January 2017 that its SOF were being mentored by SOCOM as part of a wider deterrent strategy targeting Russia. “Given the changing geopolitical environment, the active role that the United States plays in Europe and the region continues to provide the most reliable security guarantees for the Baltic states and for the whole transatlantic community,” stated the Lithuanian president’s office. TRAINING ENVIRONMENT

Despite the high tempo of operations currently being conducted by the ISOF community, much attention continues to be paid to the training cycle, with growing impetus on development of partnerships, collaboration, and most importantly, interoperability with allied forces globally. One particular area of concern for ISOF and indeed the NSHQ is Cold Weather Operations (CWOs) in the Arctic Circle, where key players including Russia, Norway, Canada, and the United



States continue to position themselves strategically to exploit natural resources. This has led to an uplift in CWO training of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command units with NATO allies, particularly those in Scandinavia, as well as providing increased emphasis on the NATO CWO Centre of Excellence in Norway. Between Feb. 19 and March 22, NATO and NNE partner SOF components participated in Exercise Cold Response 2016 in Norway’s High North. The exercise saw cooperation of multiple force elements, including Belgium’s Special Forces Group, CANSOFCOM, Denmark’s Special Operations Command, Finland’s special operations forces, France’s Special Operations Command, Germany’s KSK and SEK-M (Kommando Spezialkräfte Marine), Latvia’s Special Tasks Unit, Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Forces, Poland’s GROM (in English, Group for Operational Maneuvering Response), Spain’s Special Operations Command, Sweden’s Special Operations Task Group, USSOCOM, U.K. Special Forces, and Norway’s FSK (Armed Forces Special Command) and MJK (maritime/naval special warfare). A NATO source explained how training in the cold weather environment required “… coordination, collaboration, and practice to implement successfully,” providing allies with the chance to work together in one of the most difficult operating environments.

This SOFIC demonstration illustrates growing levels of interoperability and cooperation across the ISOF community, with growing numbers of operators taking


part in the event each year in Tampa, Florida.

Speaking to the media after the exercise, commander of the Norwegian Special Forces Nils Johan Holte explained: “The more we train together, the better we become together.” Training serials conducted during the exercise revolved around ground and maritime special operations, including counter-piracy, and littoral operations. Meanwhile, the ISOF community gathered during February and March 2016 and 2017 in West Africa as part of Exercise Flintlock under the auspices of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), designed to develop the small unit TTPs of indigenous security forces – similar in fashion to more operational roles currently being conducted in the Middle East. The latest iteration, which took place in multiple host nations including Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia also involved the participation of SOF elements from Algeria, Cabo Verde, Nigeria, and Senegal. Units were taught CT and COIN-relevant TTPs with instructors drawn from across the NSHQ and partner nations, with participants coming from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the United States.

The exercise is designed to “… strengthen the ability of key partner nations in the region to protect their borders and provide security for their people,” according to an AFRICOM press release. “The exercise bolsters partnerships between African, European, and North American special operations forces, increasing their ability to work together in response to future crises,” the release continued. According to SOCOM – Forward North and West Africa commander, Col. Kelly Smith, who also doubled up as exercise conducting officer, Flintlock 2017 provided participating troops with “robust and diverse” training in ground, airborne, and maritime environments. Training serials included MOUT, hostage rescue operations; riverine and littoral missions, as well as more live elements providing medical support to indigenous populations. West African SOF components continue to become increasingly more confident in conducting internal security special operations with the assistance of ISOF partners, especially in the targeting of Daesh-affiliate organizations such as Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. A unified global special operations command may take some time to come to fruition. However, concepts such as the C-SOCC in Europe and ongoing international cooperation elsewhere in the world look set to confirm enhanced levels of interoperability across the ISOF community in the future. n


A sniper ejects a round from his MK 13 rifle during SOCOM’s International Sniper Competition. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition provides the chance for SOCOM force elements to train with partners in fieldcraft and marksmanship.







March 20-24, 2017, the annual U.S. Army Special u Conducted Operations Command (USASOC) International Sniper Competition exemplified the wide-ranging skill sets required to effectively operate as a force multiplying sniper team. The event, which involved two-man teams from across USASOC’s Special Forces groups and Ranger battalions, also saw participation from special operations forces (SOF) and counterterrorism (CT) teams from Germany, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, and Italy, with competitors conducting a total of 20 scenarios encompassing stress shoots, engagement of moving targets, low-light scenarios, and long-range targeting. According to U.S. Army sources, the event highlighted the substantial levels of fieldcraft involved in such operations, including battle preparation, stalking, target acquisition, and marksmanship. “Not only is it tough to hit the targets every time, but the competitors are also racing against the clock. Each event has time limits, ranging from 3 to 8 minutes, along with a limited amount of ammunition,” a spokesperson explained, while describing how the event saw collaboration between the U.S. Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School as well as the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Center of Excellence Special Forces Sniper Course. This iteration is just one of many sniper competitions and cadres designed to enhance the operational effectiveness of sniper teams that continue to witness uplifts in demand across an increasingly complex contemporary operating environment (COE). The ability of a small team to work independently to insert themselves behind enemy lines, observe, positively identify highvalue targets, and successfully engage remains an integral element across the battlespace as SOF seek to disrupt terrorist networks globally. However, beyond the neutralization of high-value targets associated with such networks, snipers also continue to play a central role in most other special operations types, especially relating to direct action (DA) and counterterrorism (CT) missions. Speaking to The Year in Special Operations upon condition of anonymity, SOF operators associated with the international community explained how snipers provide “eyes and ears” to assault teams and close target reconnaissance teams. “It’s not only stacked layers of airborne ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] assets, which can provide a talk-on for assault teams onto targets,” a source explained. “Positioned correctly, snipers provide critical overwatch of a target area and a go/no-go decision for tactical commanders


on the ground. It’s not always about a sniper taking the shot but providing that situation awareness for teams who might have restricted fields of view,” it was explained, with reference to snipers operating on land, from the air, and aboard maritime vessels. The importance of sniper teams is currently being highlighted during ongoing operations in the Middle East, where coalition forces continue to encounter the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, also known as Daesh. Defense sources explained to The Year in Special Operations how sniper teams were employed during military operations in urban terrain (MOUT), including combat operations to clear enemy combatants from the city of Mosul. Sources also made reference to integral roles played by SOF snipers during CT operations, as part of both internal security and expeditionary operations, where teams can often be employed in a special reconnaissance (SR) role to trigger reactive operations. Meanwhile, semi-automatic and bolt-action sniper solutions continue to be operated side by side across U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the wider international community, sources explained. “Semi-automatic systems are ideal in CT missions, allowing operators to rapidly engage multiple targets in quick succession, although bolt-action rifles will always be more accurate because of less moving parts,” one industry source explained to The Year in Special Operations. SOCOM Options

In 2009, SOCOM launched its Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program, designed to analyze and test sniper weapon systems to replace the command’s fielded bolt-action SOF sniper systems, including the MK13, M40, and M24. The initial solicitation described a requirement for a manual or gas-operated action weapon available in left- and right-hand configurations with daylight optical gunsight and ammunition providing operators with 1.0 MOA (minute of angle) accuracy from 300 to 1,500 meters when fired from the shoulder.

Other requirements stipulated a Mean Rounds Between Failure rate of 1,000 rounds; total length of weapon system less than 52 inches; and all-up weight of 18 pounds when fitted with a five-round magazine. However, after selecting a winner based on Remington Defense’s Modular Sniper Rifle (MSR), capable of firing .338 Lapua Magnum (LM), .338 Norma Magnum (NM), .300 Winchester Magnum (WM), .308 Winchester, and NATO Standard 7.62 mm x 51 mm ammunition, the program failed to materialize. Hence why SOCOM is now pursuing its next strategy to equip next-generation snipers with suitable technology – the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program, which, according to industry sources, will also comprise a multi-caliber and bolt-action solution. Sources explained to The Year in Special Operations how the ASR program is expected to come to fruition over the “next few years.” The news follows SOCOM’s Broad Agency Announcement, published on the Federal Business Opportunities website on March 30, 2017, calling for “advanced sniper barrels” available in .300 WM and .300 NM calibers, providing lighter-weight options with “extreme accuracy less than 1 MOA and at least double current barrel life.” According to Barrett’s international sales manager, Jordan Progar, the benefits of multi-caliber technology provide SOF teams with not only cheaper training costs with options to fire smaller and less-expensive ammunition (.50 BMG versus .308 Winchester as an example) but also more theater-relevant calibers for various environments, including MOUT, where snipers are engaging at shorter ranges and do not require larger-caliber, longer-range cartridges. Progar described current requirements emerging from the COE opposed to operations in Afghanistan over the past decade, which sometimes called for a sniper capability out to 1,800 meters. “In the urban environment, including those [Daesh] controlled areas, you don’t need a .338 LM because you’re engaging at ranges of 800 meters or less. “Lesser calibers can provide more discreet capabilities for snipers, especially if fitted with suppressor technology, while the ability to switch between caliber types [as outlined by the PSR and expected ASR solicitation] also allows levels of interoperability with coalition partners deployed on operations,” Progar said. Looking ahead to the ASR requirement, Barrett confirmed it is lining up its Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) solution to participate in the program against likely competition from Accuracy International’s AX-series, Remington Defense’s MSR, and Sako’s TRG-42. According to Progar, the MRAD comprises a user-changeable barrel system that can be removed by loosening two bolts using a wrench. Calibers can be changed in the field within just 30 seconds, he said.

A U.S. Special Forces soldier fires an M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle at enemy insurgents in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 4, 2014.



“Positioned correctly, snipers provide critical overwatch of a target area and a go/no-go decision for tactical commanders on the ground. It’s not always about a sniper taking the shot but providing that situation awareness for teams who might have restricted fields of view.”

The fieldcraft designed to covertly


insert, execute, and extract into/from an

“Besides reducing maintenance and logistical burdens, the MRAD allows for user-level caliber interchangeability and serviceability. It also includes a fully adjustable trigger module, which is user accessible, with a thumb-operated safety that can be configured for left- and right-hand operation. “The ambidextrous magazine release can be used intuitively while retaining a firing grip and cheek weld,” Progar added. The MRAD relies upon a bolt-action repeater operating system and is available in .338 NM, .300 NM, .338 LM, .300 WM, .308 Winchester, .260 Remington, and 6.5 Creedmore calibers, with a barrel length of 26 inches and total length of 49.4 inches. Weighing 13.10 pounds when loaded, the MRAD has a total magazine capacity of 10 rounds. Meanwhile, Barrett’s semi-automatic M107A1 .50 BMG solution continues to be operated by SOCOM and partner forces globally. Larger-caliber options such as the M107A1 also continue to be used for CT and vehicle interdiction operations, where snipers can disable mobile vehicles as well as conduct anti-materiel serials including breaching doorways from range, Progar explained. The system is capable of being fitted with the company’s own QDL suppressor, which provides the capacity to reduce noise levels from 180 to 150 decibels as well as minimize dust signature and concussion effects, increase muzzle velocity and accuracy, and reduce flash signatures. In 2013, Accuracy International USA discontinued its range of AW and AE sniper rifles to concentrate on a new range of bolt-action solutions in 2014 onward, designated AX.

area of operation remains critical to the operational effectiveness of a sniper team.

According to Accuracy International (AI) Sales Director Tom Irwin, main feature changes revolved around a “… quick-change barrel allowing for caliber changes in less than two minutes.” “Our main family is the AX Series, which also has a front rail with our Keyslot feature for adding accessories like night vision [and] laser designators,” Irwin highlighted. “The AX also has a folding stock, which folds to the right over the bolt handle hence reducing the width for carrying,” he continued, while explaining how the AT Series was also introduced as a life extension to the AW Series, also comprising a quick-change capability. Irwin described how the weapon’s caliber could be changed with the simple swap out of barrel, bolt carrier, and magazine. Available in .338 LM, .300 Winchester, and .300 WM calibers, the AXMC has an all-up weight of 15 pounds with a 27-inch barrel featuring a tactical muzzle brake. Measuring 1.25 meters (49.2 inches) in length when fully extended, the AXMC has the capacity to carry five rounds. The AX family has now been supplemented with a .50 BMG solution designated the AX50, which, according to Irwin, also features the same quick-change barrel capability. This latest addition to the Accuracy International USA inventory comprises a 26.5-pound weapon system when unloaded, with a 27-inch barrel.


MRAD Barrett is expecting to participate in SOCOM’s forthcoming ASR program with its MRAD multi-caliber sniper solution.

AXMC338 Accuracy International USA’s AXMC338 is also expected to play a part in the SOCOM ASR solicitation after re-focusing developments on bolt-action solutions.



Heckler & Koch’s G28 has been upgraded and selected for the U.S. Army’s CSASS to add to in-service M110 SASS weapons.

Measuring 1.4 meters (55.1 inches) in length when fully extended, the bolt-action weapon can be reduced to 1.1 meters (43.3 inches) using a foldable buttstock. The rifle is fitted with a five-round capacity magazine with two-position safety catch. “There is a high demand for bolt-action sniper rifles in all calibers,” Irwin said. “This is driven by the continuing threat of terrorism. The threat is ever-changing based on emerging new equipment and tactics, so as we look forward, we have to be ready to develop sniper rifles with different calibers and integrate electronics into the emerging platforms. “I see the benefit of a multi-caliber rifle not just in operations but in training,” Irwin continued. “With a multi-caliber rifle, training on a common platform can take place using lower-cost ammunition, like .308 versus .338 for example. In addition, a system can be set up for a particular operation without carrying several rifles. Barrel, bolt, and magazine changes are all that is required.” However, Irwin described to The Year in Special Operations how the future of the designated marksman or sharpshooter market would continue to witness a move toward more

semi-automatic capabilities, once more referencing changing threats across the COE where urban battles are becoming increasingly more regular. Examples include Heckler & Koch’s Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS), selected by the U.S. Army in April 2016 to supplement the M110 SASS model. The CSASS is an evolution of the company’s 7.62 mm Gewehr 28 (G28) Designated Marksman Rifle, of which a total of 3,643 units will be delivered to the Army. Upgrades of the CSASS over the legacy SASS cover multiple areas, ranging from enhanced reliability and accuracy through to reduced weight, length, and improved ergonomic features such as bipod, pistol grip, and buttstock. Director of International Sales at Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Matthew Fehmel, concurred, explaining: “We have seen demand for medium-range sniper weapons in semi-automatic with many of the same features that are in demand for assault rifle platforms. Although using larger calibers, these design features are very similar and show an opportunity for


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Colt to move into new markets with weapons that still fit our core capabilities. “A key example of this is the new Colt Semi-Automatic Sniper System, which employs the time-tested gas impingement operating system on a highly accurate and lightweight 7.62x51 mm platform. With a state-of-the-art Leupold scope and ergonomic furniture, this weapon is already gaining traction and attention in the medium sniper rifle market both domestically and internationally.” Fire Control Systems

However, no matter whether SOF select semi-automatic or bolt-action operating systems, the greatest progress across the market with respect to sniper effectiveness continues to be made in the integration of fire control systems. On March 31, 2017, the Department of Defense Ordnance Technology Consortium published its Request for Ordnance Technology Initiatives for FY 2018, calling for industry to develop an enhanced Sniper Fire Control System (SFCS) capable of providing operators with: “increased probability of hit; decreased time of engagement; minimize source of aiming errors; and reduced size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C).” According to the solicitation, a TRL-7 prototype system must weigh less than 4 pounds including optics, laser rangefinder, weapon orientation, and environmental sensors, as well as electronics and power for system operation including ballistic computational device, integrated display overlay, mounting adapters, and cables. “The SFCS prototype, as a system, can be mounted to M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) or M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle (ESR) via a MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny) rail,” the document reads. “The prototype shall have a direct view optic with continuous magnification from no greater than 6X to no less than 20X with boresight adjustable passive reticle that provides constant aspect ratio within the magnification. “The prototype shall have an integrated laser rangefinder with eye-safe wavelength and beam divergence of no greater than 0.3 milliradian; an integrated display overlay capable of projecting an active (displaced/disturbed) ballistic reticle in target space,” it continued, while demanding both long-range and medium-range variants. Examples include Elcan Optical Technologies’ Digital Fire Control System (DFCS), which was unveiled to the market at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) exhibition in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3, 2016. Comprising a laser rangefinder (LRF), ballistic calculator, digital micro-display with X1.8 continuous zoom, and disturbed reticle display, the DFCS measures 24 centimeters with an all-up weight of 2.8 pounds. Company officials explained how Elcan was considering a next-generation model providing operators with enhanced operating capability across more difficult environments, including cold weather and maritime domains. International Solutions

The international sniper system market remains buoyant, with multiple special operations units releasing requirements throughout 2016 and 2017 as well as cementing procurements to enhance existing force-multiplying capabilities of operators. German SOF have selected the G29 in .338 LM caliber for their next-generation capability in a EUR1.9 million deal with CG Haenel, while in Poland, SOF now have access to 150 Sako

TRG M10 bolt-action rifles in .338 LM (8.6 mm x 70 mm) caliber as part of a $7.8 million deal. SOF units including GROM will also receive a total of 50,000 ball and armor-piercing rounds. Based on Sako’s TRG-42, which is also available in .300 Winchester Magnum caliber, the M10 has a magazine capacity of 10 rounds. Weighing 12.8 pounds unloaded, the rifle measures 47 inches in length and has a maximum effective range of 800 meters. Variants of the weapon are currently in service with Finnish, Danish, and U.S. special operations forces. Sako beat out competition from Accuracy International, Barrett, and Voere, industry sources informed The Year in Special Operations. Elsewhere, the Indian army has released a solicitation for the acquisition of 5,000 bolt-action rifles, also in .338 LM caliber, with demand for a weapon system capable of adapting to extreme mountain, cold weather, jungle, and desert warfare. Requirements call for a lightweight sniper solution providing Indian army Para-SF and navy MARCOS operators with maximum mobility across the battlespace while providing the necessary lethality to successfully neutralize a variety of target types. Rising tensions in Eastern Europe have also triggered increased activity across the Baltic states as well as Russia, with the Lithuanian military announcing it had procured an undisclosed number of Accuracy International AXMC rifles chambered in both .338 LM and .308 WM calibers. Conversely, Russia’s Kalashnikov Group used September’s Army 2016 Military Technical Forum event near Moscow to unveil a series of sniper solutions aimed at enhancing the capabilities of Spetsnaz special purpose brigades. The SV-98M is a 7.62 mm x 54 mm bolt-action rifle, measuring 1.2 meters (47.2 inches) in length, with a 65-centimeter (25.5inch) barrel, and effective range of 1,000 meters, Kalashnikov Group sources confirmed. The rifle was exhibited at the event with an X10 IP69 Hyperon weapon sight with in-line image intensification (I2) sight. Defense sources have suggested to The Year in Special Operations how Spetsnaz procurement cells are currently evaluating the weapon system, which includes a bipod, adjustable buttstock, and 10-round magazine, for integration into its armory as a sniper option. The VSV-338 follows emerging trends for .338 caliber across NATO entities, with Kalashnikov claiming the rifle can accurately engage targets out to a range of 1,500 meters. Weighing 7.2 kilograms (15.9 pounds), the weapon system measures 1.1 meters (43.3 inches) in length and retains a magazine with five-round capacity. Finally, the company has also introduced a semi-automatic sniper solution in line with growing requirements for CT and counterinsurgency operations. The SVK, which features a short-stroke piston gas-operated system, can be chambered in 7.62 mm x 54 mm or 7.62 mm x 51 mm. Weighing just 5.9 kilograms (13 pounds), with a foldable buttstock, it offers special operations teams a lighter-weight solution for increased mobility across the battlefield. The weapon was shown at the Army 2016 forum featuring a suppressor, optical gunsight, and I2 in-line sight. The role of the sniper across the COE remains as relevant as ever, highlighted by the effort and investment paid to the training teams tasked with identifying personnel with the correct aptitude for such missions. This trend is unlikely to change as the future character of conflict continues to evolve toward a battlespace that will still require the force-multiplying effects of a sniper team. n


interview interview

COL. MARCUS S. EVANS 75th Ranger Regiment Commander BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

Col. Marcus S. Evans received his commission in the infantry through ROTC in 1994. His first assignment was with 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lewis, Washington, where he served as a rifle and reconnaissance platoon leader. Following his assignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Evans served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia, as a platoon leader and staff officer. Upon completion of the Infantry Officer Advance Course, Evans served in the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he commanded a rifle company. He then served with the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as the battalion assistant operations officer from April 2002 to June 2004. Evans attended the Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from July 2004 to June 2005, and after CGSC, he served at the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, as a battalion liaison officer, battalion operations officer, and battalion executive officer. In June 2008, Evans transferred to the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he served as the regimental operations officer. Evans commanded 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg from February 2010 to May 2011, and he subsequently commanded 3rd Ranger Battalion at Fort Benning from July 2011 to June 2013. Upon completion of the Naval War College in June 2014, Evans was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg from July 2014 to February 2015. He assumed command of the 75th Ranger Regiment June 25, 2015. Evans holds a bachelor’s of science degree from Tennessee Technological University. He also holds a master’s degree in business management from Webster University and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College. He has multiple operational deployments, including assignments in support of operations in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters. He has also earned the Kosovo Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Ranger Tab. 74


THE YEAR IN SPECIAL OPERATIONS: It’s the 75th anniversary of the 75th Ranger Regiment. What would surprise a World War II Ranger if he were looking at the regiment today? COL. MARCUS S. EVANS: A World War II Ranger would be surprised by the greatly expanded capabilities of the modern Ranger Regiment. Today, we have Rangers flying UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], Rangers conducting electronic warfare, and Rangers conducting human intelligence operations, all of which have evolved over the last 15 years or so. What has not changed is the quality of our people and our high standards. How different is the regiment today, in organization, composition, and outlook than what it was in World War II? The battalions of World War II were comprised of wartime volunteers for Ranger duty and also outfitted from

regular Army replacements. The six Ranger battalions and 5307th Composite Unit (Merrill’s Marauders) were never centralized under a single commander. Today’s Ranger Regiment is comprised of three Ranger Infantry Battalions, a Special Troops Battalion, and a Military Intelligence Battalion (Provisional). Each Rifle battalion has a company of support personnel as well as a company of enablers, including sections of military working dogs and technical surveillance. The 75th Ranger Regiment welcomed its first female soldier in 2017. How well is the force holding up under the strain of deployments through 16 years of continuous combat operations? The ability to maintain an aggressive operational tempo is nested with our Ranger Assessment and Selection Program 1 (RASP 1) for junior enlisted soldiers and RASP 2 for non-commissioned, warrant, and commissioned





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“Worldwide threats have continued to expand and evolve over the past couple of years, which has not afforded us additional time to train, beyond what we have historically been allocated.�

officers. Our Rangers remain four-time volunteers (U.S. Army, Basic Airborne Course, Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, and the U.S. Army Ranger Course.) We look for opportunities to professionally develop our Rangers in assignments that provide the right mix of experience and education with family life and balance. The regiment’s Health of the Force and Family priority optimizes the human, psychological, spiritual, and social performance of our Rangers, civilians, contractors, and their families through continuous education of available programs and services, and leader involvement in the professional and personal lives of our teammates. We maintain our Rangers with a holistic human performance program beginning in RASP 1 and 2 with the education of the specialists and resources available to help our Rangers train, grow, and recover. How tough are the Operations Tempos (OPTEMPOs) for the battalions now, and how do they shape up historically within the past 16 years? The OPTEMPO has been consistently high for the past 16 years. Battalions must train for known combat rotations each year, in addition to preparing for unknown contingencies, while remaining proficient on multiple vehicular and aerial insertion platforms. By cycling units in and out of combat and training periods, we have found a way to manage the high operational tempo of the regiment. How has the composition and organization of the regiment changed over the past 15 years? How have the battalions expanded and changed to meet new challenges? The Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB) was provisionally activated July 17, 2006, and officially activated Oct. 16, 2007, as a response to the demands of the war on terror and the changing nature of Ranger operations. The activation of RSTB provides the regiment and the U.S. Special Operations Command with increased operational capabilities to sustained combat operations.

The RSTB conducts command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions in support of the regiment and other special operations task forces in order to enable the execution of joint special operations anywhere in the world. Additionally, the RSTB provides qualified, trained, and ready Rangers in order to sustain the Ranger force. A Military Intelligence Battalion was provisionally activated May 22, 2017. The Regimental Military Intelligence Battalion (Provisional) provides multi-discipline, full-spectrum, worldwide, expeditionary and reach-back intelligence capabilities for the 75th Ranger Regiment enterprise. Each rifle battalion has a company of support personnel as well as a company of enablers, including sections of military working dogs and technical surveillance. To maintain continuity from year to year, we have appointed a civilian deputy commander for the regiment. We have also expanded Department of the Army civilian and contractor jobs within the regiment, mostly in technical fields. Have you been able to carry out more training, and a more complete range of training and exercises, over the past couple of years? Worldwide threats have continued to expand and evolve over the past couple of years, which has not afforded us additional time to train, beyond what we have historically been allocated. Before 9/11, the Ranger role was seen by most as being limited to conducting raids and seizing airfields. How has the Ranger mission set expanded, and in that, do you see something of a harking back to World War II, with the regiment working alongside its infantry brothers and performing a wider range of missions? Since 9/11, the 75th Ranger Regiment has shown its ability to independently conduct special operations missions, while also achieving greater interoperability with the joint special operations community and conventional forces. For the past several years, the regiment


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has maintained pressure on insurgent networks in Afghanistan through partnered operations. The regiment has an interoperability capacity with the conventional forces that allows us to conduct anything in support of an operation from special operations missions to infantryrelated tasks. This capacity has grown over the last four years as we continue to integrate into major training events with conventional forces at the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center. We have also developed the capability of training and partnering with host-nation special operations forces. In the charter that former U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno provided to the regiment, the regiment is tasked with continuing to “link our Army’s brigade combat teams and special operations forces by migrating its best leaders, training, equipment, and warrior ethos to the operational force in unified land operations while actively collaborating with the Army’s Centers of Excellence to further this end.” What programs have been put in place over the past few years to support the families? Last summer, we held the inaugural 75th Ranger Regiment Force and Family Symposium. This two-day event featured numerous guest trainers who spoke to an audience of senior Rangers and their spouses gathered from across the regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. Rangers and spouses who attended have endured upwards of 15 years of persistent conflict with an average of 42 months of deployed time in combat and away from home. Guest trainers conducted sessions addressing issues such as personal and marital resilience, psychological functions that impact relationships, and practical ways to strengthen the family in a digital age. The success of this inaugural event has generated plants for future iterations. Ranger chaplains continue to host world-class events for Ranger families, single Rangers, and spouses of deployed Rangers. In FY 2016, approximately 2,100 Rangers and families attended a relationship and life event led by a Ranger chaplain. Additionally, Ranger chaplains continue to provide confidential marriage, relationship, grief, and spiritual counseling for Rangers and families. Each regimental element has access to a Special Operations Behavioral Health Clinic for counseling and referral to other resources. In addition, every Ranger has access to a military family life consultant as an additional counseling resource.

What has endured over the past 75 years? What remains the same, no matter the type of conflict, new technologies, or changing politics? What remains the same is adherence to the Ranger standards required to train, fight, and win while maintaining good order and discipline. Standards evolve to meet the needs of our wartime mission, but strict adherence to those standards is the hallmark of the Ranger Regiment. We continue to attract and produce talented leaders for the U.S. Army, in addition to testing and developing new equipment and tactics for the conventional force. What new roles and missions has the regiment had to adapt to since 9/11? The biggest adaptation has been maintaining a standing, deployed O-6 headquarters with mission command of combat operations overseas. Additionally, maintaining the flexibility to adapt to the current operating environment has been the single greatest challenge the unit has faced. What are your greatest needs with respect to resources, whether time, financial, or equipment? The Army must maintain a position of advantage relative to any enemy that we face. Seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative remains the fundamental challenge. Our enemies have easy access to cost-effective equipment and technology that few militaries or militias could afford 15 years ago. The enemy’s equipment is not the problem. We must innovate to maintain a position of advantage through speed of synchronized action. The ability to make decisions quickly, disseminate information, move faster, and mass effects more quickly than the enemy will continue to win battles in the future. Synchronized action requires adherence to the principles of mission command. We focus our innovation efforts on the resources, technology, and equipment that enable mission command and synchronized action. Acquiring these resources at the right time, and for the right fight, will continue to challenge every formation in the Army. We have made advancements in every warfighting function and have evaluated (and are employing) the newest technologies available. We will continue to share the lessons the Ranger Regiment has learned during continuous combat operations over the last 15 years with the Total Army. n


interview interview

COMMAND SGT. MAJ. CRAIG A. BISHOP BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY Command Sgt. Maj. Craig Bishop enlisted in the Army in September 1992 from Sweetwater, Tennessee. Bishop's assignments include Company C, 3rd Battalion, 327th Infantry, Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Company C and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia; Company C, 5th Ranger Training Battalion, Dahlonega, Georgia; Company C, 3rd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia; Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia; and Regimental Special Troops Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Georgia. He has performed all NCO leadership duty positions from team leader to 1st Ranger Battalion Command Sergeant Major. Bishop assumed responsibility of the 75th Ranger Regiment Jan. 6, 2016. Bishop has completed all levels of the Noncommissioned Officer Education System (NCOES) including the USSOCOM Joint Special Operations Forces Senior Enlisted Academy. His additional schools include the U.S. Army Ranger Course, Basic Airborne Course, Jumpmaster, Pathfinder, Air Assault, Special Operations and Tactics, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Emergency Medical Technician-Basic. Bishop's awards and decorations include a Bronze Star for Valor, four Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, four Meritorious Service Medals, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal. 80

The Year in Special Operations: It’s the 75th anniversary of the 75th Ranger Regiment. What would a World War II Ranger be surprised at if he were looking at the regiment today? Command Sgt. Maj. Craig Bishop: Though the 75th Ranger Regiment has made significant advancements over the past 75 years, one thing has not changed, and that is they remain the most agile and best-trained soldiers in the world. One of the most significant changes that you can expect to see is the amount of assets and advanced technology Rangers possess, which enhances their already extensive training. The ease in which today’s Ranger leaders are able to manage and coordinate multiple assets to destroy the enemies of our nation across multiple geographical locations is unprecedented. How many years have you been with the regiment? What changes have you seen over that time? I have served in the regiment for more than 20 years. The regiment has led the Army in testing and evaluating equipment that in the end benefits the entire force. From lighter and more modular body armor to advanced weapons and optics, the regiment has remained innovative in creating solutions to answer the ever-changing operational environment. Aside from material solutions, the regiment has benefitted from the increased collaboration with all our interagency and multinational partners. The fusion of intelligence across many spectrums has facilitated our ability to track, destroy, and globally exploit our enemies. Does anything surprise you about the soldiers entering the 75th Ranger Regiment today? The regiment fills its ranks from four-time volunteers. They first volunteer to join the U.S. Army, the Basic Airborne Course, Ranger Assessment and Selection, and then the U.S. Army Ranger Course. What’s surprising about this is that they knowingly choose to serve their country at a time of war. This unit has remained at the forefront of the war effort since October 2001 and will continue to do so. The amount of selfless service demonstrated by these young Rangers speaks volumes to their motivation, resiliency, and dedication to serve. What more could a Ranger leader ask for? How do you balance training for today’s conflicts with the uncertain needs of tomorrow? It is clear that we are facing one of the biggest periods of uncertainty in our nation. The rise of non-state actors, globalization, and the rapidly changing operational environment threatens to destabilize nations throughout the world. In order to stay ahead of these issues, the regiment continues to train not only for our current fight, but anticipates potential problems over the horizon. In order to stay ahead of problems, we train, operate, and share critical information with our special operations forces partners, ensuring we maintain unity of effort. We do this through

“Understanding that humans are more important than hardware, we will continue to invest in what has made our regiment successful, and those are our Rangers.”

a vast network of liaison officers which are geographically dispersed throughout the world with the task to keep the regiment informed so that we may shape our training to meet future threats. What are the unique challenges of having the battalions spread to multiple locations? The regiment maintains a robust headquarters staff whose primary job is to execute our higher command’s guidance, our commander’s guidance, and facilitate the battalions in achieving the same. The geographical dispersion makes it a little harder to coordinate and resource training at times, but because of the advancements in technology, it is easy to minimize any impacts that could affect the battalions. Another aspect of being separated is the fact that the regiment rarely gets together to participate in unit building events. This only happens every two years during Ranger Rendezvous, where battalions partake in a series of team building competitions, celebrate our lineage, and pay honor to our Rangers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. How do you think the regiment will be different 10 years from today? Our technological capabilities will forever grow, making it that much easier to defeat our enemies. One thing remains certain: The enemy will continue to evolve at times, sharing many of the same advantages we benefit from. Understanding that humans are more important than hardware, we will continue to invest in what has made our regiment successful, and those are our Rangers. The human domain is where the regiment will continue to invest by continuing to build lasting relationships with other countries and solidifying our interoperability with interagency partners. Applying the whole-of-government approach will ensure the regiment continues to lead the way, bringing to bear everything this nation has to offer. n


Rangers from the Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB), 75th Ranger Regiment, on Fryar Drop Zone during military free fall operations to kick off 2015 Ranger Rendezvous. The RSTB was officially activated Oct. 16, 2007.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition provides the chance for USSOCOM force elements to train with partners in fieldcraft and marksmanship.




to its proud historical lineage over three quaru Intersaddition of a century, the U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment highlights a historical pillar in the fall of 1973, when Gen. Creighton Abrams, then Chief of Staff of the Army, recognized the need for a highly trained and mobile reaction force and directed the activation of two battalion-sized Ranger units. That direction led to Headquarters, Forces Command, issuing General Order 127, directing the activation of the 1st Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, with an effective date of Jan. 31, 1974. As outlined in regimental overviews, personnel selection for 1st Battalion continued from March through June 1974, as personnel assembled at Fort Benning, Georgia, where cadre training was conducted. On July 1, 1974, the battalion parachuted into Fort Stewart, Georgia, where the battalion was stationed until moving to nearby Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, in September 1978. Meanwhile, the 2nd Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry was activated at Fort Lewis, Washington, on Oct. 1, 1974, and declared worldwide deployable in December 1975. The Department of the Army ordered the activation of the 3rd Battalion following Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. On Oct. 3, 1984, at York Field (Fort Benning, Georgia), Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh presented the colors and activated the 75th Ranger Regimental Headquarters and the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Today the three rifle battalions (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) comprise three rifle companies, a headquarters and headquarters company, and a support company. Examples of unique systems and capabilities possessed by the battalions include the En Route Mission Command Capability, which is credited with revolutionizing Ranger situational awareness and mission planning in support of forcible entry operations and is now a program of record for the greater Army. In addition, the 75th Ranger Regiment has replaced the Emergency Medical Technician Basic program with an internally run Advanced Ranger First Responder program. The program will take one 11B Infantryman per squad and train him in advanced first responder skills, giving him a significant increase in medical skills applicable to the battlefield.


Rangers prepare for stress fire operations during Ranger Rendezvous at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 2015. Ranger Rendezvous is a unit tradition in which the entire Ranger Regiment gathers together to display its capabilities through Ranger demonstrations and events leading up to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s change of



Looking toward the future, the regiment continues to work closely with the Maneuver Center of Excellence and the greater special operations forces community to develop soldier systems that increase the lethality and effectiveness of all soldiers. Along with the rifle battalions, the 75th Regimental Special Troops Battalion (RSTB) was provisionally activated on July 17, 2006, and officially activated on Oct. 16, 2007, as a response to the demands of the war on terror and the changing nature of Ranger operations. The activation of the RSTB provides the Ranger Regiment and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) with increased operational capabilities for sustained combat operations.  The RSTB conducts command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions in support of the 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations task forces in order to enable the execution of joint special operations anywhere in the world. Additionally, the RSTB provides qualified, trained, and ready Rangers in order to sustain the Ranger force. The RSTB Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) includes the battalion headquarters and the staff, medical, maintenance, and rigger sections for the battalion. HHC not only supports the RSTB, but also the entire regiment. All medics (68W) attend the Pre-Special Operations Combat Medical Course (PSOCM) provided by the HHC Medical Section. PSOCM is the preparatory training for all medics before they attend the Special Operations Combat Medic Course. The Ranger Reconnaissance Company (RRC) provides worldwide reconnaissance and enhanced knowledge of the operational environment in support of the 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations units. The Ranger Communications Company (RCC) provides the regiment world-class command and control and communications in support of combat operations while meeting the additional communication requirements of other special operations task forces. The Military Intelligence Company (MICO) provides the 75th Ranger Regiment and the special operations command

the ability to conduct HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, and all source analysis operations in support of combat operations. The Ranger Selection & Training Company (RSTC) is the “gateway into the Regiment.” The programs of instructions (POI) within the RSTC include the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP 1 and 2), and Small Unit Ranger Tactics (SURT). RASP 1 assesses, trains, and identifies soldiers E-5 and below for service in the regiment. RASP 2 conducts the assessment and selection for soldiers E-6 and above. SURT prepares members of the regiment for successful completion of the United States Army Ranger School. Both in training and in combat, the RSTB provides continuous support to the three other Ranger battalions and the Regimental Headquarters. Additionally, the new Regimental Military Intelligence Battalion (Provisional) provides multi-discipline, full-spectrum, worldwide, expeditionary, and reach-back intelligence capabilities for the 75th Ranger Regiment enterprise. Designated for activation in provisional status on May 22, 2017, at Fort Benning, Georgia, the RMIB (P) institutionalizes and professionalizes the find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze (F3EA) targeting methodology required to counter combatant forces’ tactics, techniques, and methods. The RMIB (P) consists of two provisional companies, a Ranger Military Intelligence Company (RMIC) and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) Company, with a Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD). The RMIB (P) is composed of intelligence professionals from the human intelligence, all source analysis, geospatial and imagery analysis, and the UAS fields. CEMA is composed of intelligence and cyber professionals, including the electronic warfare, signals intelligence, technical surveillance, and cyber fields. In addition to the numerous MI and cyber career opportunities, the RMIB (P) offers unique opportunities for officers, warrant officers, and enlisted personnel across the human resources, communications, legal, logistics, medical, and chaplain fields. n


A Ranger leaps from an obstacle during training. The British Commando standing by seems to be dreading the coming impact with the ground.

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did not look like an American soldier. This man, walking u He up a street in Liverpool in 1942, was wearing a big potlike helmet and an olive-drab uniform. While none had yet landed in England, Peggy Carpenter knew what American soldiers looked like. She had a reference book that showed them wearing elegant little British-style saucer-like helmets, overseas caps, or the campaign hats that, in Britain, were associated with the Boy Scouts. What made this soldier appear even more alien was the black dagger carried in his boot-top. Any British Tommy doing the same on a Liverpool street could expect to be stopped by the police. The 18-year-old typist, working for a maritime insurer since her family had been bombed out of her native London, in the years to come was to see many people – men and women, black and white – wearing American uniforms. She even ended up marrying someone she met while he was wearing one. But she never saw another with the boot-top black dagger. It was only years later that her son (the present author) suggested that the soldier she had seen in 1942 had indeed been something then new and rare: a U.S. Army Ranger.


While the U.S. Ranger tradition originated with Roger’s Rangers in the French and Indian War, the first 1942 Rangers were organized in Northern Ireland. The first U.S. troops had landed there soon after Pearl Harbor, still wearing their prewar helmets and carrying prewar rifles. Since being driven from France in 1940, the British Army hit back at German forces on the coasts of Europe with the Commandos, a force of elite raiders that had captured the popular imagination. The British had Commando training facilities and much hard-earned experience to share with the U.S. Army. U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall received a proposal, written by Col. Lucian Truscott, to train U.S. Army personnel with the British, go on Commando operations, and then disperse them among U.S. Army divisions, providing a cadre of battle-experienced personnel. Truscott selected the name “Ranger” for these new battalions. Approval came within days. On June 7, 1942, the 1st Ranger Battalion was formed in Northern Ireland. Its 29 officers and 488 enlisted personnel were volunteers from the 34th Infantry – many


amphibious training. They wear the old World War I-era “Brodie” helmets but are armed with M1 Garands.

of them National Guardsmen – and 1st Armored Divisions. Its first commanding officer was the newly promoted Maj. William Orlando Darby. The only professional soldier in the original battalion, Darby was a West Pointer – Class of ’33 – and an artilleryman. He became the driving force behind the Rangers. The U.S. Army had long since forgotten its Ranger traditions, so Darby had to write on a clean sheet with no high-level guidance. He selected the 1st Ranger Battalion personnel from the thousands of volunteers, decided on the battalion’s organization and equipment, and determined how it would be trained. It would be about half the size of an infantry battalion, but with additional infantry weapons for intense rather than sustained combat.


“Something big is coming off and Rangers will be in the middle.”


Rangers come ashore from a small boat during


Rangers introduced to amphibious operations by the British, 1942. Training included simulated artillery fire.

Training started in Northern Ireland. Darby led the Rangers through the training. To ensure cohesion among volunteers from different units, Darby introduced the Ranger “buddy system,” demanding teamwork. He also envisioned the Rangers as a permanent unit rather than a provisional training force and more than a U.S. version of Britain’s Commandos. Private 1st Class (PFC) Thomas Sullivan, a radio operator, wrote in his diary, “Major Darby an impressive man – real soldier all the way.” Darby himself wrote, “I told the Ranger officers they would receive the same training as their men. Furthermore, the ranking officer present would be the first to tackle every new obstacle, no matter what its difficulty. I included myself in this rule.” At the end of June, the 1st Ranger Battalion received newissue U.S. helmets and M1 Garand rifles and deployed to the British Commando training center at Achnacarry Castle in the Scottish Highlands. FIRST COMBAT: THE DIEPPE RAID Sgt. Franklin “Zip” Koons of the 1st Rangers was reckoned to be the first U.S. Army soldier to fire a shot in anger in Europe. For his bravery in the Dieppe raid, he received the British Military Medal – the second-highest award for bravery – awarded him by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten.

While taking part in the intense training, the Rangers had an opportunity to go to war for real – the first U.S. Army ground forces to do so in Europe. Five officers and 44 enlisted Rangers, detached for a secret raid, started rehearsing amphibious operations with British Commandos. Darby and the Ranger command staff had been ordered to remain behind.


Rangers about to board a British LCA landing craft, to be lowered over the side of the assault transport off Arzew. They wear the U.S. flag shoulder insignia intended to deter the French from opening fire. Darby’s LCA stuck while being lowered,

Lt. Leonard F. Dirks, a former National Guard officer, was one of the Rangers attached to 3 Commando. “The training program emphasized,” he reported, “exercises over ground very similar to that which was to be covered in the actual raid. The first exercise was made during daylight hours on the Isle of Wight. Those that followed took place at night. … Training during the time we were not on exercises consisted of weapons training, cliff scaling, fieldcraft and some range work. Cliff scaling was done with the aid of scaling ladders.” The operation turned out to be the Dieppe raid on Aug. 19, 1942. The Rangers were split up between two British Army Commando battalions and the Canadian units that made up the main force of the raid. The operation encountered strong German defenses from the start, and Rangers became the first U.S. soldiers killed in action in Europe. Dirks reported that his landing craft carrying 3 Commando encountered enemy torpedo boats offshore and was “under fire from that time on. Our boat officer did not know his location because we had dispersed trying to duck the enemy fire. When we did get straightened around it was getting daylight. When we started ashore we were fired upon from coast guns and machine guns. We did not get ashore.” Those from 3 Commando that made it ashore were unable to take their objectives. The British Army’s 4 Commando, including its attached Rangers, made it ashore and was responsible for the only Allied successes that day, taking and destroying a German coast defense battery. Ranger Cpl. Franklin “Zip” Koons fired the first U.S. Army shots in anger in Europe as he joined a group of


Commando snipers suppressing the gunners. “I found a good spot for sniping,” Koons recalled. “It was over a manger, and I fired through a slit in a brick wall.” Koons received both British and U.S. decorations for his actions. Dieppe was a disaster. The Canadians suffered heavy losses to the German defenders and were unable to advance off the beaches. With six killed, seven wounded, and four captured, the Rangers’ first combat had proved costly. But the first ground combat by U.S. forces in Europe received much attention at home. For most of what was now known as “Darby’s Rangers,” the tough British Commando training continued, at Dundee. Speed marches honed dismounted mobility. The Rangers enjoyed being billeted on the local population in a way that would be not only


dumping the command radio set overboard.

Darby’s Rangers training featured extensive speed marching for all personnel, including Darby (in the middle in this photo). Arzew, 1942.


Rangers set up a Browning

“The shells came crashing down, their flaming bursts illuminating the area in eerie shadows. For two minutes the mortar bombardment continued, then the order was passed ‘prepare to assault.’”

M1919 .30-caliber light machine gun to secure one of the French gun positions they captured at Arzew.

illegal but unconstitutional back home, and taking streetcars to the rifle range. Completing British Commando training, the Rangers were issued with the British Fairbairn-Sykes Commando knife. Jet black – and often carried in the boot-top – these were designed to silently eliminate sentries. While the knife’s utility as a weapon may have been questionable, as a mark of a Commando-trained elite soldier, they served an important purpose. The Rangers also followed the Commando model in adopting their shoulder title scrolls – continued to this day and the forerunner of the Ranger tab – designed by one of the original volunteers. Darby, promoted to lieutenant colonel, had been planning raids on occupied Norway with the Commandos when he was


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Rangers on the hills around Arzew, the route that they used to outflank and take the Batterie Superiere, here being used for training.

informed that, in 1942, his battalion would have an important combat mission, this time under U.S. command. The Rangers embarked on assault transport ships for amphibious warfare training against Scottish islands. Sullivan wrote in his diary, “Something big is coming off and Rangers will be in the middle.”



Loaded aboard assault transports in Scotland, the Rangers were at sea before they learned their mission in Operation Torch, the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria. The Rangers would carry out night-time amphibious landings at Arzew, then take out two separated batteries of proGerman Vichy French coastal guns defending the eastern flank of their main naval base at Oran. The plan was to take the batteries from behind, in simultaneous attacks, before they could inflict casualties on Maj. Gen. Terry Allen’s

U.S. 1st Infantry Division, which would be making the main amphibious landing to secure Oran. The United States was hoping the French would be won over to the Free French cause and fight with the Allies. Instead of using an intensive naval or air bombardment that would inflict civilian casualties and damage needed port facilities, the U.S. plan stressed the use of special operations before the main force came ashore. In addition to the Rangers, a force of volunteer infantrymen from the 1st Armored Division would make a direct attack on Oran Harbor to surprise the defenses, sailing in on two up-armored British-manned former Coast Guard cutters. The Rangers were to demonstrate that they were not only raiders, like the Commandos. They would fight as a coup de main force, spearheading offensive action and seizing critical objectives long enough for heavier forces to arrive and relieve them before the enemy could react. Rangers studied models of the terrain where they would land and advance as they headed


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After the Rangers were sent into urban combat at St. Cloud, Darby added it to the


training program he set up at Arzew.

into the Mediterranean as part of what Sullivan described as a “Gigantic convoy – five lanes of transports and two of warships on the flanks as far as the eye can see. A magnificent sight.” In the pre-dawn darkness of Nov. 8, the Rangers landed at Arzew. British landing craft with two companies of Rangers under Capt. Herman Dammer, Darby’s executive officer who had worked closely with him to plan the operation, navigated into the entrance to the inner harbor of Arzew. Their objective: three French 75 mm coastal guns at Fort de la Pointe that covered the entrance to the harbor. The Rangers would have to penetrate the harbor itself to come ashore. Despite navigational errors in the dark, the landing craft came alongside a quay without opposition. At 0100, the

Rangers climbed over the seawall and cut through barbed wire obstacles. While Company B established a blocking position, Company A assaulted the fort from opposite directions. Within 15 minutes of landing, the now-disabled guns and 50 French prisoners were in their hands. Dammer called Darby on the voice radio: “I’ve captured my objective.” The rest of the battalion, in nine British LCA landing craft led by Darby, landed undetected at 0130 on a 100-yard strip of beach four miles northwest near Cap Carbon. Silently capturing French sentries and moving inland, they infiltrated through the Vichy beach defenses. Cpl. James Altieri and the other Rangers “marched for about two and a half miles up winding, tortuous draws then stopped at the base of a wide ravine.”


Maj. William O. Darby, commanding officer of the 1st Ranger Battalion, in Algeria, 1942. He used the motorcycle as his usual transportation around the battalion when not in combat. Note the M1903


Springfield in the motorcycle’s scabbard.


Darby’s objective was Batterie Superieur, four 105 mm guns and a blockhouse overlooking Arzew Harbor. When the Rangers were cutting through the battery’s barbed wire perimeter, the French spotted them and opened fire. Darby pulled back. The Ranger’s four 81 mm mortars opened fire. Altieri watched as “the shells came crashing down, their flaming bursts illuminating the area in eerie shadows. For two minutes the mortar bombardment continued, then the order was passed ‘prepare to assault.’”

No one in the prewar U.S. Army had given much thought to special operations, but Darby, building on the British experience and training infrastructure, was able to turn enthusiastic volunteers into an effective fighting battalion while showing high-level leaders (and a public hungry for heroes) that they provided unique capabilities.

The defenders, mistaking the mortar bursts for an air raid, abandoned the perimeter for shelters. At 0300 the Rangers assaulted the battery, taking the guns and another 300 prisoners. To signal “mission accomplished” to the ships offshore, Darby, his radio lost while his landing craft was being lowered from the ship, fired off green flares. After dawn, Darby asked for and received the surrender of the French garrison at Arzew’s Fort du Nord. The Rangers had carried out their mission with few casualties and had taken care to inflict as few as possible on the French, while the improvised force penetrating Oran Harbor, 20 miles to the west, was forced to surrender after suffering heavy casualties. It reflected not only the Rangers’ tough training that had created in a few months a crack battalion from a crowd of volunteers, but also Darby’s leadership and effective planning of the operation. He demonstrated that those that will have to execute an operation need to be the ones that plan it. Darby had been able to take the battalion’s Commando training and build on it to create a powerful offensive capability. FIGHTING IN ALGERIA

After Arzew had surrendered, the Rangers started to take more losses. Pro-Vichy French and Algerians continued to fight. Within hours after Arzew was taken, Ranger companies were used as infantry and sent, one at a time, to secure the town and reinforce the 1st Infantry Division in house-to-house fighting as it expanded its beachhead out from Oran. Company E was loaded onto a French troop train and sent by rail to take the town of La Macta, some five miles to the west. Company C was attached to an infantry battalion for house-to-house fighting in the town of St. Cloud, defended by 400 Vichy troops. Without artillery support due to collateral damage concerns, the Ranger company fought a hard battle, losing its commander and several other Rangers. Darby himself was appointed mayor of Arzew. In the days after the invasion, the Rangers supported mopping-up operations and guarded the port facilities and oil refinery. Separated from the British training infrastructure, Darby planned and carried out battalion-wide training, emphasizing amphibious operations.

The Rangers were to lead Operation Peashooter, a raid on the Italian-held island of Galita off Tunisia, destroying its radar installation and coastal guns. Darby and Dammer, as before, planned the operation. On Dec. 27, the Rangers boarded an attack transport for rehearsals and then set sail for Galita. On Jan. 2, they received the recall signal: operation cancelled. The Allied 1942 campaign to liberate Tunisia, planned to be a lightning advance, had instead become a bitter battle from hilltop to hilltop. The Allies were still far from their objectives. That would be the Rangers’ next battle. THE RANGER REBIRTH

The first year of the U.S. Army’s Rangers demonstrated the potential and pitfalls that they would have to deal with for the rest of the war and, indeed, for decades to come. No one in the prewar U.S. Army had given much thought to special operations, but Darby, building on the British experience and training infrastructure, was able to turn enthusiastic volunteers into an effective fighting battalion while showing high-level leaders (and a public hungry for heroes) that they provided unique capabilities. The Rangers had shared in the only success at Dieppe, provided by the British Commandos. Arzew showed what the Rangers could do when they were responsible for both planning and executing their operations, using surprise and maneuver rather than numbers and firepower. Rangers would plan many more operations than they would execute. The potential for misuse of the Rangers, however, was also apparent, as seen in their use to reinforce infantry battalions. The events of 1942 would set the direction for the successes – and disasters – the Rangers would encounter throughout the war. Many of the original Rangers would not be there to see the war’s end. 1942 saw the greatest expansion and most extensive change of any year in the history of the U.S. Army. Over its course, the 1918 helmets and bolt-action rifles that Peggy Carpenter had associated with American soldiers were swept aside by new helmets, new rifles, and a new type of soldier: the GI. The Rangers brought this new soldier and new equipment together in a new type of unit that would face the challenges of a global war. n


The 1st Ranger Battalion loads into LCAs for beach landing maneuvers near Naples, Italy, in preparation for the Anzio landing. Within two weeks of the landings, most of the battalion was lost.

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the decades after the Civil War, the U.S. Army saw little u Inneed for specialist Rangers. “Small wars” were left to the U.S. Marine Corps, while the Army prepared to fight the next “big war.” U.S. Army doctrine was largely shaped by French influence. The next war would be won by the marksmanship of riflemen, the firepower of massed artillery, and the mobility of horse cavalry. There simply was no interest within the U.S. military for unconventional warfare from 1865 until the start of World War II. However, World War II would provide a fertile venue for unconventional soldiers with their own ways of fighting, especially the Rangers, who had performed exceptionally well in their first battles. As Allied forces advanced from Algeria eastward into Tunisia, the Axis poured in reinforcements to protect Erwin Rommel’s precarious supply line. The Rangers were pressed into frontline service, attached to the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division (nicknamed “The Big Red One”). Using special operations forces as infantry is contrary to sound military doctrine, but for commanders there are never enough riflemen, and combat is always an emergency. In February 1943, inexperienced and poorly led American troops had been badly mauled in their first engagement against German panzer troops at Kasserine Pass, and the Rangers had been called upon to help hold the line.

Early in March, Maj. Gen. George S. Patton took command of the American forces in Tunisia. On March 18, 1943, Darby’s Ranger battalion occupied the desert oasis of El Guettar. A few days later, they scaled a cliff to raid a dug-in enemy position, taking hundreds of demoralized Italians prisoner. In the early hours of March 23, the veteran German 10th Panzer Division attacked with 50 tanks and two battalions of infantry in halftracks. In several days of bitter fighting, the Rangers held the heights, while some of their element joined U.S. Army infantry units on the plain below and helped to turn back the German attack. After the success of the 1st Ranger Battalion, Army leadership became more convinced of the usefulness of special operations forces. Elements of the 1st were split off to form the cores of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Ranger Battalions. The 4th Ranger Battalion was activated May 29, 1943, in Tunisia, and the 3rd Ranger Battalion on June 19, 1943, in Morocco. Their training was tough and often dangerous, with 1st Battalion Rangers training the 3rd and 4th Battalions as they themselves had been trained. In the United States, the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions were formed at Camp Forrest, Tennessee, activated in September 1943, and soon after shipped to England.


U.S. Army Rangers in a landing craft, prior to leaving England for the invasion


In Sicily and Italy, three Ranger battalions fought until the Anzio landings in January 1944 on the Italian coast south of Rome. The 1st and 4th Ranger Battalions hit the beach at Gela in Sicily, captured the town and coastal artillery batteries, and then held during two days of counterattacks. The 3rd Ranger Battalion captured Porto Empedocle, and took more than 700 prisoners. As Allied forces drove toward Palermo and Messina, the three Ranger battalions protected the flanks of the advancing forces. On Sept. 9, 1943, Rangers hit the beach at Salerno, and quickly took the high ground on the Sorrentino peninsula. But they were forced once again to hold objectives taken early in their amphibious assault, in this case for almost three weeks. Much too lightly armed for such a defense, and too few in number to hold a continuous line, the Rangers were forced to adopt a series of mutually supporting strongpoints, depending on naval gunfire, as they had at Gela, to hold off a series of fierce German counterattacks. Elements of Gen. Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army finally broke through to the beleaguered Rangers on Sept. 30.


By November 1943, Clark was stuck, his forces facing the Germans across the “Winter Line,” actually a series of three lines of entrenchments and fortifications taking advantage of the ideal defensive terrain of Italy’s mountains. Here, Clark threw the Rangers into the fight once again, attaching the battalions to existing divisions in the hope of making a breakthrough. Instead, the Rangers suffered heavy casualties in bitter fighting between November and December. The solution the Allies came up with to get past the Germans’ Winter Line was an amphibious assault on Anzio, which lay north of the German defensive lines and south of the ultimate goal of Rome. The landing was virtually unopposed, but Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, commander of VI Corps, failed to aggressively move inland, and the Germans soon contained the beachhead. Maj. Gen. Lucian Truscott, 3rd Infantry Division commander, hoped to drive a wedge in the German lines by having the 1st and 3rd Ranger Battalions infiltrate four miles through the lines to the town of Cisterna. The plan was for the Rangers to take the town in a surprise attack, following which the 3rd Division, along with the 4th Ranger Battalion, would launch a frontal assault to link up with the Rangers in Cisterna. On the night of Jan. 31, 1944, the Rangers jumped off. Unknown to them, while Allied intelligence believed the main German line was behind Cisterna, in fact the town was an assembly point for German


of France, early June 1944.

After a seven-hour battle, what was left of the two battalions finally surrendered to the Germans. Only seven Rangers of the 767 who had begun the mission made it back to Allied lines.

Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, June 6, 1944.

reinforcements. Instead of light forces, the Rangers were met short of the town by elements of the 715th Infantry Division and the Herman Goring Panzer Division, including at least 17 tanks. After a seven-hour battle, what was left of the two battalions finally surrendered to the Germans. Only seven Rangers of the 767 who had begun the mission made it back to Allied lines. Historians argue over whether the disaster was simply the result of faulty intelligence, or whether the presence of many inexperienced replacements in the ranks of Ranger units who had been kept in frontline combat for too long also contributed to the disaster. The surrender at Cisterna was the darkest day in Ranger history. The remnants of the three battalions were rotated home or became part of the 1st Special Service Force, providing a pool of combat-hardened veterans to the elite outfit.



The Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944) was the most carefully planned assault in history. Planners were particularly concerned about a cliff-top German artillery battery at Pointe du Hoc, where six 155 mm guns in concrete revetments were positioned to pour devastating fire onto two of the invasion beaches. The point was pounded from the air by heavy and medium bombers, leaving a cratered landscape, but reconnaissance could not confirm that the


1945, prepare for a patrol.

guns were knocked out. The 2nd Ranger Battalion drew the assignment of making sure that the guns were spiked. Dog, Easy, and Fox companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion were to scale Pointe du Hoc. On June 6, 1984, the 40th anniversary of Overlord, President Ronald Reagan spoke at the site, retelling the epic story: “The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms. Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.


These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.” In fact, the German guns had been pulled back inland and hidden under camouflage netting, where they were soon found by the Rangers and destroyed. In addition to their actions at Pointe du Hoc, Rangers were key in getting U.S. forces off of the killing ground of Omaha Beach. Able, Baker, and Charlie Companies of the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the entire 5th Ranger Battalion landed on Omaha Beach, along with the 1st Infantry Division and the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division. On Omaha Beach, surviving soldiers were pinned down on the shingle under machine gun, artillery, and mortar fire. It was on the eastern end of Omaha, where 29th Division soldiers were fighting for their lives, that the Rangers earned their motto. Here, Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, second in command of the 29th Division, called out, “Rangers, lead the way!” as he organized


Rangers in Rurberg, Germany, March 3,

“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Troops of the 5307th Composite Unit (Prov.) – Merrill’s Marauders – advance on a pillbox


with a flamethrower and rifles during a

an attack. Rangers led the way off the beach and found the way inland. Rangers later fought at Brest, the Huertgen Forest, and the Battle of the Bulge. Sadly, William O. Darby did not live to see final victory. On April 30, 1945, just a week before the Nazi surrender, he was killed in action by an enemy shell while leading the pursuit of retreating German forces in Northern Italy. He was 34 years old. But the European theater was hardly the only place in World War II where Rangers served.

demonstration near Haamshingyang, Burma.

Merrill’s Marauders

Early in the Pacific War, the Japanese invaded Burma, driving the British back into India and cutting the Burma Road, a


Men of C & E Companies, 6th Ranger Battalion, are shown advancing toward the Japanese prisoner of war camp at Cabanatuan, Luzon, the Philippines.


In August 1944, on their final mission against Myitkyina, the only all-weather airfield in the region, the Marauders suffered 272 killed, 955 wounded, and 980 evacuated for sickness. Merrill refused evacuation after a heart attack before falling ill with malaria. By the time Myitkyina was secured, fewer than 200 Marauders were left out of the original 2,750 who had marched into Burma six months before. Cabanatuan Rescue

As the war in the Pacific drew to a close, U.S. officials began receiving reports that the Japanese were massacring Allied prisoners of war (POWs) whenever Allied invasions were pending. On Dec. 14, 1944, at Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan, the Japanese herded 139 prisoners into trenches, poured gasoline over them, and burned them alive. Eleven survivors managed to escape. Intelligence sources reported that more than 500 starving POWs, including survivors of the Bataan death march, were


tenuous supply line that kept China – just barely – in the war. The rugged mountains and thick jungle of northern Burma were exceptionally difficult terrain for conventional warfare. Late in 1943, a secret Ranger unit was formed and began training in India for operations against the Japanese in Burma. The regiment-sized “5307th Composite Unit (Provisional)” was soon nicknamed Merrill’s Marauders, after its commander, Maj. Gen. Frank Merrill (1903-1955). A 1929 West Point graduate, Merrill earned an engineering degree from MIT and learned Japanese, serving as a military attaché in Tokyo and later as an intelligence officer. In February 1944, 2,750 Marauders, in three battalions, arrived in Burma and began an epic five-month, 1,000-mile trek behind Japanese lines. The unit included a transport company equipped with mules. The Marauders, usually outnumbered, always inflicted many more casualties than they suffered as they harassed Japanese lines of supply and communication and raided their rear areas.

Rangers and the POWs they rescued from Cabanatuan at the 92nd Evacuation Hospital in Guimba.

facing death at a prison camp near Cabanatuan on the Philippine island of Luzon. On Jan. 28, 1945, 121 picked troops of the 6th Ranger Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Henry Mucci, infiltrated 30 miles behind Japanese lines guided by about 80 Philippine guerrillas and Alamo Scouts. The most dangerous phase of the attack would be the final phase of the approach. The Japanese had cleared the land around the camp, and the Rangers would have to low crawl over a flat field during the only hour of full darkness before the moon rose. An Army P-61 “Black Widow” night fighter repeatedly buzzed the camp at very low altitude in order to distract the Japanese guards during the Rangers’ critical final approach over the open ground. The distraction succeeded beyond all expectations, and the Rangers surrounded the camp without being detected. The Rangers lost two killed and four wounded in taking the camp and defeating strong counterattacks. Japanese losses are uncertain; one estimate is 530 killed. Predictably, no Japanese prisoners were taken. It was that kind of war. Most of the 512 liberated prisoners (489 POWs and 33 civilians) were too sick and weak to march, so the Rangers hired dozens of native carts pulled by carabao (water buffalo) from local farmers. Hostile and suspicious communist guerrillas tried to interfere with the rescue, but Mucci, using diplomacy, bluff, and threats, managed to negotiate safe passage back to friendly lines. It was, at the time, the largest hostage rescue operation in history. “No incident of the campaign in the Philippines has given me such satisfaction as the release of the POWs at Cabanatuan,” said Gen. Douglas MacArthur. “The mission was brilliantly successful.”

“No incident of the campaign in the Philippines has given me such satisfaction as the release of the POWs at Cabanatuan,” said Gen. Douglas MacArthur. “The mission was brilliantly successful.”

Mucci was promoted to colonel and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The site of the raid, on land donated by the Philippine government, is today a memorial to the 2,656 Americans who died in the camp, maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Despite their record of success, the Rangers suffered the same fate as much of the U.S. military following World War II. Faced with radical postwar downsizing, the Army was not keen to keep its Ranger units because they had suffered such high casualty rates, losing excellent soldiers that generals would have preferred to keep as small-unit leaders for regular units. The Army continued training individual soldiers at the Ranger School, established in 1950 at Fort Benning, Georgia, who then returned to their original units to provide leadership and subject-matter expertise. n






U.S. Army disbanded its Ranger units at the u The end of World War II. Ranger companies were


re-created – briefly – for the conflict in Korea. Ranger training remained, setting standards in the field. In the Vietnam conflict, the Ranger title was given to long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) companies. When two Ranger battalions – the first since 1945 – were ordered formed in 1974, the return of the Rangers started in earnest. By the start of what was then known as the global war on terrorism in 2001, U.S. Army Rangers had had an effect on America’s conflicts far out of proportion to their limited numbers. They set the direction for how today’s Rangers train and fight.

2nd Ranger Company Rangers and their weapons, Korea 1951. Rangers in Korea, as in World War II, made extensive use of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) for dismounted firepower.



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Rangers in typical Korean terrain, Hill 675, Feb. 20, 1951.



North Korea’s invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950, soon hemmed U.S. and allied forces into the “Pusan Perimeter” in southeast Korea. The hard-pressed U.S. Army required specialized units to counter North Korean unconventional warfare (UW) threats and carry out reconnaissance on the enemy side of the front lines. The decision was made to re-establish the U.S. Army’s Rangers. The 8th Army Ranger Company was organized, from in-theater volunteers, in August 1950. It first went into action on Oct. 10, providing long-range patrols against retreating North Korean forces. But the Chinese intervention led to these Rangers, like their World War II participants, being committed to sustained combat when there were not enough trained infantrymen on the ground. On Nov. 25, in the Battle of Hill 205, 51 Rangers from this company, led by Lt. Ralph Puckett – who had taken command soon after graduating from West Point in 1950 – held off a much larger Chinese force. Puckett was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). The Army established a Ranger training center at Fort Benning, Georgia. A call for volunteers brought in serving personnel and returning World War II veterans for the intensive training, based on that of World War II Rangers. Six companies of Benning-trained Rangers deployed to Korea, including the 2nd Ranger Company, a unit of all-black volunteers in the last years of a segregated Army. Rather than being formed, like

their World War II predecessors, into independent battalions, the Ranger companies were attached to U.S. divisions – as had also been done in 1944-45 – for long-range reconnaissance patrols. Other Ranger companies served in Europe and in the United States. In Korea, the Rangers carried out successful raids at Changgo-ri and Changmal. The 1st Ranger Company also raided the headquarters of the North Korean 12th Infantry Division at Chipyong-ni. In March 1951, a 10-man Ranger team suffered heavy losses in a failed raid on rail communications in the Wonsan area. The 2nd and 4th Ranger companies jumped with the 187th Airborne Regiment near Munsan in March 1951. Reflecting the Army’s traditional opposition to “elite” units, a shortage of trained infantrymen, and the hardening of the front into positional warfare, the 8th Army Ranger Company disbanded in March 1951, followed by the remaining companies in August. Their personnel were used as replacements for infantry and airborne units in Korea. While Ranger units had again left the Army force structure, a Ranger program at the Infantry School at Fort Benning continued. In the years to come, many of the Army’s future leaders at all levels would attend the school to earn the coveted Ranger tabs. For extended periods in the 1950s and ’60s, the Army required Ranger school for all combat-arms Regular Army officers. Ranger-trained officers were envisioned as needed to lead surviving soldiers on a nuclear battlefield.


The Rangers’ high level of selectivity, intensive training, and the lure of earning Ranger tabs created strong unit cohesion and attracted highly motivated recruits.


The increased U.S. interest in counterinsurgency in the 1960s was reflected in Ranger training. As the U.S. commitment to South Vietnam escalated, Ranger-trained U.S. Army advisers created the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Ranger units. Using volunteer soldiers and intensive training, the Rangers became the most reliable ARVN force throughout the Vietnam War. The U.S. Army organized divisional LRRP companies in Vietnam, starting in 1966. These acquired information for their divisions and directed air strikes and artillery fire. The LRRPs were seen as a key element in the U.S. operational approach to impose unacceptable losses on battlefield enemies. They also took the offensive, setting up ambushes in areas the enemy thought secure, before being extracted by helicopter. In 1969, LRRP companies were designated as part of the 75th Infantry (Rangers). A total of 15 Ranger companies were formed for the LRRP mission, serving stateside and in Vietnam, where many saw intense combat, especially in the later years of the U.S. presence in South Vietnam when firepower – and the LRRPs that directed it – was emphasized rather than large-scale ground unit offensives. On Nov. 22, 1969, Staff Sgt. Robert Pruden of G Company, attached to the Americal Division, received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions in command of Ranger Team Oregon. As U.S. forces withdrew from South Vietnam, all but two U.S.-based Ranger companies were disbanded.

In January 1974, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Creighton Abrams ordered the organization of two Ranger battalions: the first battalion of the 75th Infantry (1/75th, the number itself derived from that of “Merrill’s Marauders” of World War II Burma fame), and a second Ranger battalion (2/75th) organized eight months later. For years, a U.S. Army Ranger meant an individual soldier that had earned the coveted Ranger tab through completing the intensive training. Now, there would be two full battalions of these same soldiers. Creating the new Rangers was not an easy or popular decision. The Army struggled to keep its units up to strength and adjust to being an all-volunteer force, and had already cut back its Special Forces. It was the height of the “hollow Army” era. There was widespread opposition in the Army leadership to forming new units. Trained and motivated soldiers were scarce.

Ranger LRRPs of Company K, 4th Infantry Division, call for helicopter pickup and put down a marker panel in Nha Trang province, Vietnam, Dec. 9, 1969.




The 1/75th Rangers brought their M151 jeeps armed with M60 machine guns into Grenada as soon as the airport was opened. The Ranger gun jeeps saw some of the heaviest fighting on Grenada in a Cuban ambush.

In Vietnam, a Ranger LRRP from L Company evacuates a

A company of the 1/75th returns to Fort

casualty during Operation Bushmaster, August 1971.

Stewart, Georgia, after Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989.

The Rangers’ mission was a return to that of World War II: “Rangers lead the way.” Abrams had directed the Rangers be “the most proficient light infantry battalion in the world.” Neither purely airborne, light infantry, raiders, nor LRRPs – though capable of all four missions – Rangers would use U.S. strategic mobility to be capable of global rapid strategic reaction, specializing in forcible entry. They would seize high-priority objectives of any type, but especially airfields or ports for the follow-on insertion of combined-arms forces. The return of the Rangers also coincided with the worldwide rise of terrorist violence, much of it state supported. The importance of a counterterrorist direct attack capability was shown by the Israeli raid on Entebbe airport in Uganda in 1976, which successfully freed terrorists’ hostages. Soon, the new Ranger battalions had succeeded in also “leading the way” in the rebound from the hollow Army era. The Rangers’ high level of selectivity, intensive training, and the lure of earning Ranger tabs created strong unit cohesion and attracted highly motivated recruits.

IRAN 1980

The Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81 brought the Rangers into planning for a rescue mission. After the U.S. embassy had been seized and diplomats held hostage by Iranian militants in November 1979, Rangers were proposed to spearhead a direct airborne assault on the Tehran embassy site. This plan was discarded in favor of a more elaborate rescue mission, involving multiple helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft forces inserting and evacuating a rescue force. Rangers provided a 13-man security detachment to cover the initial covert refueling of the helicopters in the Iranian desert. C Company of the 1/75th Rangers was standing by as a rapid reaction force to be parachuted into Tehran if the rescue turned into a pitched battle. During the Iran rescue mission of April 24-25, 1980, the Rangers successfully carried out their security duties at the airstrip designated Desert One. But poor organization and mechanical failures ended with a collision between aircraft on the ground, leading to a disastrous fire that consumed both aircraft and killed eight. While subsequent planning for a rescue


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Rangers of Task Force Ranger in front of Black Hawk Super Six-Six in Somalia.

included a Ranger two-battalion assault on an airfield, this capability was not required. The Iran raid’s failure led to the creation of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the first permanent joint-service special operations headquarters. Now the Rangers were not just an Army asset, but could be better integrated with other special operations forces.



The U.S. intervention on the Caribbean island of Grenada on Oct. 25, 1983, was the first time since World War II that the Rangers really did lead the way. When a coup by Marxists on Grenada turned violent, Washington feared the taking of U.S. hostages and the arrival of Cuban reinforcements. Rangers would spearhead a hastily planned U.S. military operation. The original plan was for both Ranger battalions to fly into Grenada, land at the international airport, and secure it for follow-on U.S. forces. En route, this was changed to a parachute assault. The Rangers made a combat jump, opposed by Cuban and Grenadan forces armed with anti-aircraft guns and armored personnel carriers. The fight for the airport, in the words of Lt. Col. Wesley Taylor, commanding officer of the

1/75th, “was at least as intense as any of the fights I was in in Vietnam. And I was two years over there.” Rangers hot-wired a bulldozer that had been used to block a runway and used it to clear away obstacles under fire. Air Force Lockheed AC-130 special operations gunships provided close air support. After overcoming strong resistance, the Rangers secured the airport and the 82nd Airborne Division was able to fly in. PANAMA 1989

In the wake of Grenada, there was a widespread realization that the problems seen there and in the Iran failure had not been resolved. This led to extensive Pentagon reforms, including the creation of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in 1987. In 1984, the Army added a third Ranger battalion (3/75th) and the Ranger regimental headquarters, something earlier Rangers had lacked, enabling enhanced mission-planning and operational capabilities. Additional funding in the 1980s enabled the Rangers to keep up a high level of training in the


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United States – including deployment to major training centers – and to exercises worldwide. The U.S. intervention in Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, intended to replace the kleptocratic regime of Manual Noriega before he could take hostages, relied heavily on Ranger forcible entry capabilities. This time there was time for planning and rehearsal. The complete Ranger regiment – all three battalions – made parachute air assaults to secure Torrijos-Tocumen International and Rio Hato airports. Fortunately, few of Panama’s defense forces were willing to fight for Noriega. Only a few pockets of resistance had to be mopped up by the Rangers; one was in a terminal men’s room at the international airport. Rangers prevailed in a close-range gun battle. One Ranger survived a close-range bullet only because he was wearing one of the new Kevlar® helmets. Ranger follow-on missions included heliborne operations to seize airstrips and raids to liberate prisoners and search for Noriega and his henchmen. In Panama, the Rangers had again led the way for a major success. The transition to a democratic Panamanian regime underlined the victory. For the Rangers, it marked their emergence as a SOCOM force, but also as one that had completed a long process of evolution in many areas. This included identifying and using weapons and equipment. The Rangers needed firepower that would not weigh them down for parachute assaults or rapid foot movement. This started with them bringing 90 mm recoilless rifles out of retirement in the 1970s and, in subsequent years, making their way through the arsenal, retaining what worked. Even the Rangers’ headgear evolved. Unit cohesion and the Ranger spirit – embodied in the Ranger Creed – never wavered.

On Oct. 3, 1993, with intelligence that Aideed subordinates would be meeting at a house in downtown Mogadishu, Task Force Ranger mounted its seventh raid from its base at Mogadishu International Airport. A multi-service force, including B Company (reinforced) of the 3/75th, was inserted into the Baraka Market area of Mogadishu on the helicopters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR) “Night Stalkers.” The raid was a success, but casualty evacuation and ground exfiltration of the raiders and their prisoners encountered heavy resistance from large numbers of Aideed supporters flooding into the area. First one, then another, U.S. helicopter was shot down. Attempts to rescue the helicopter crews led to savage fighting. Two Special Forces sergeants received posthumous Medals of Honor for their attempt to save the crew of a shot-down helicopter. With the aid of ground reinforcements – Rangers, U.S., and U.N. forces – it was the next day before the surviving raiders were able to fight their way back to the airport. The events of those two days of fighting, through the book and movie Black Hawk Down, have become familiar worldwide. While the battle had crippled Aideed’s forces, the U.S. casualties and television coverage of the two shot-down helicopters and the bodies of U.S. soldiers dragged through the streets by a mob led to Washington declaring that the hunt for Aideed was ended and that U.S. forces would withdraw. Even though a success, the raid had high costs in casualties as well as political and diplomatic terms.


HAITI 1994

Rangers were put on alert immediately after Saddam Hussein launched the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 and soon started planning and preparing for Operation Pacific Wind to liberate U.S. and international civilians seized in Kuwait and Iraq. Hussein was threatening to use them as “human shields.” Before the operation was launched, however, the Iraqis freed their hostages. One reinforced company of Rangers deployed to the region during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. This partially reflected the priorities of the coalition commander, U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who emphasized large combinedarms formations in operational planning while marginalizing special operations forces. The Rangers carried out a successful heliborne raid on Iraqi communications facilities on Feb. 26, 1991.

All three Ranger battalions and the regimental headquarters deployed for Operation Uphold Democracy, the U.S. military intervention intended to reverse Haiti’s military coup that had seized power from an elected government. The Rangers had planned to repeat their role in Grenada and Panama, seizing airfields that would then be used to fly in reinforcements from the 82nd Airborne Division. Rangers and 160th SOAR helicopters deployed off the coast of Haiti on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. On Sept. 19, 1994, with the Rangers in position to strike and transport aircraft already in the air, the Haitian military agreed to relinquish power. Operation Amber Star saw Ranger detachments deploy to the former Yugoslavia in 1995-1999, providing a covert reconnaissance capability.



By 1993, Somalia had become a “failed state.” A small United Nations (U.N.) force could not distribute the humanitarian relief provided to prevent widespread famine because powerful, competing warlords wanted to distribute the food aid to consolidate their own power. Col. Mohammed Farah Aideed, a former Somali army officer, was the most powerful warlord in the area of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. Hostilities between the U.N. and Aideed escalated. In August 1993, the United States deployed a joint special operations task force (JSOTF) to Mogadishu. Organized around a Ranger battalion, it was designated Task Force Ranger and became the central force in Operation Gothic Serpent, a coalition military effort seeking to capture Aideed. A series of raids targeted Aideed’s support infrastructure but failed to capture the warlord.

By 2001, the Rangers traded in their black berets, which they had used unofficially since the 1950s, for the desert tan berets originated by the British Special Air Service. In 2001, the Rangers were seen as a uniquely powerful force, providing a range of military options to the national command authority and SOCOM. Raiding, liberation missions, seizure missions of high-value individuals, and direct attack against a wide range of targets had all been repeatedly exercised. Even though the events of the next years were unexpected, the response to them would not have to be improvised. When, in 2001, the Rangers were one of the first units to be alerted to move out, they would be guided not only by their own operational planning and extensive training, but by decades of experience. n




the events of Sept. 11, 2001, brought terrorism home u Since to the United States, Rangers have lived a near-constant

A Ranger from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, on patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Feb. 26, 2011.



cycle of deployments and combat operations. Even as the U.S. role in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have wound down, Rangers remain part of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) worldwide commitments. For example, the 2/75th Ranger battalion based at Fort Lewis, Washington, completed its 19th battalion or company deployment since 2001 back in May 2015. Since then, new challenges have emerged that call for the Rangersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; capabilities. Service in the 75th Ranger Regiment is demanding. It requires a high level of skill and much difficult training, including a path to apply for Ranger training and earn the coveted Ranger tab, required of all Ranger officers and senior NCOs. That the regiment continues to attract quality recruits and retains trained Rangers for multiple deployments is a tribute to the level of their commitment and motivation. The Ranger missions since 2001 have been more intensive and sustained than anything envisioned in previous years.


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Rangers were among the first SOCOM assets to deploy after 9/11. Rangers had been involved in the 2000 planning for a raid to take out terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but it had not received approval from the military or political leadership. Now, things were going to be different. The 2000 planning had included a Ranger assault to capture what came to be named Objective Rhino, a runway built literally in the middle of nowhere – 130 kilometers (km) southwest of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan – so wealthy Arabs could fly in with private aircraft to live in luxury tents while hunting with falcons. The 2001 plan retained the taking of this airfield by a Ranger assault. Special operations helicopters from the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), the “Night Stalkers,” operating from an aircraft carrier, would fly in. They would refuel from Lockheed Martin MC-130H Combat Talon II aircraft, brought in once the perimeter was secure. Then, the helicopters would take off for another target. In 2001, the target was to have been bin Laden’s likely location and they would have been carrying raiders. In 2001, this was changed to the compound in Kandahar – codenamed Objective Gecko – belonging to bin Laden’s ally, Mullah Omar, leader of Afghanistan’s Taliban. With Pakistani cooperation, the inbound helicopters would refuel at Dalbandin airbase. They would insert the raiders at Objective Gecko, refuel at Objective Rhino, then leave Afghan airspace. Objectives Rhino and Gecko were raided on the night of Oct. 19, 2001. The raiders were inserted – in Night Stalker Boeing MH-47 helicopters – into an LZ (landing zone) remote from Objective Gecko, which was in a built-up area. The Rangers secured the LZ. A force of U.S. Army Delta Force, mounted on allterrain vehicles, hit the objective. Mullah Omar was not there. Taliban reinforcements responded to the raid, but the raiders, Rangers, and all their vehicles were picked up by the now-refueled MH-47s without additional casualties. Taking off in brownout conditions, an MH-47 flew through a stone wall, escaping minus its nose gear. Objective Rhino was to be taken by a parachute assault. A force of 199 Rangers from A and C companies of the 3/75th plus a command and control

element from regimental headquarters were accompanied by teams of specialists. The force took off in four Combat Talon II aircraft from Masirah airbase in Oman. Four minutes away from the drop zone (DZ), then-Lt. Col. Joe Votel, commanding officer of the 3/75th, led those onboard the aircraft in reciting the Ranger Creed. Objective Rhino and adjacent objectives were secured with minimal opposition. MC-130s flew in with refueling equipment for the helicopters returning from Objective Gecko and then, as the raiders (with prisoners and intelligence documents) withdrew from Objective Rhino, the Rangers collapsed their perimeter and flew out. While the Rangers suffered only two jump casualties at Objective Rhino, tragically the same night they suffered their first fatal casualties of what was then called the War on Terror. Two Rangers were killed and three injured when a helicopter crashed at Objective Honda near Jacobabad airbase in Pakistan, where Rangers had deployed to provide an extraction force in case the raiders had encountered unexpected opposition.

On the night of Oct. 19, 2001, 199 Rangers jumped into Objective Rhino from AFSOC MC-130s like this one.



U.S. Army Rangers taking the Haditha

The 1/75th Rangers brought their M151 jeeps armed with

High Dam in Iraq during Operation

M60 machineguns into Grenada as soon as the airport

Iraqi Freedom, April 1, 2003.

was opened. The Ranger gunjeeps saw some of the heaviest fighting on Grenada in a Cuban ambush.

U.S. Army Rangers stay alert during operations in Iraq. The Rangers are onboard a GMV-R, a variant of the GMV tailored to the Ranger’s specifications. Note the MK-19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher mounted on the vehicle.


4, 2002, a hard-fought action that ended the quick coalition victories in Afghanistan. IRAQ: OIF AND JESSICA LYNCH

Before Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) opened in 2003, planning included a Ranger direct assault on Baghdad International Airport, with a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division then flying in. This operation was not approved. Instead, Rangers advancing from Kuwait initially concentrated on seizing airstrips as helicopter forward operating bases. Vehicle-mounted Rangers took Objective Coyote, a desert


The Rangers continued to seize airstrips inside Afghanistan. On Nov. 13, Company B of the 3/75th made a combat jump into Objective Bastogne, an abandoned airstrip subsequently used by the Night Stalkers. The Rangers’ GMVs (ground mobility vehicles, stripped-down HMMWV light trucks), brought in by MH-47s, were used in a follow-up ground strike to take airstrips at Objectives Anzio and Bulge. Rangers backed up raids by other Task Force 11 forces throughout Afghanistan. A Ranger quick reaction force (QRF) from Company A of the 1/75th was inserted into “Roberts’ Ridge” to rescue hard-pressed U.S. forces at the height of the Battle of Takur Ghar during Operation Anaconda on March

The Rangers’ high level of selectivity, intensive training and the lure of earning Ranger tabs created strong unit cohesion and attracted highly motivated recruits.


What was called the “Ranger Surge” aimed to put as many Ranger platoons into hightempo operations as possible, working with other SOCOM forces to identify and strike critical targets: individuals, convoys, and supply caches, as well as providing critical intelligence and targeting. This effort was considered to be a major contributor to the success of the surge.

airstrip, on March 23. Another airstrip, Objective Roadrunner near Al Qaim, was taken in a parachute assault by C Company of the 3/75th. Moving across the desert, Rangers seized airstrips at Objectives Sidewinder North and Sidewinder South. In the west of Iraq, A Company of the 3/75th made a parachute assault on the Iraqi airbase at H-1 on March 27. Once sufficient airstrips were taken, the Rangers’ objectives then switched

Rangers on a night patrol in Iraq.

to high-value targets such as the Haditha Dam and a nearby biological warfare complex, taken and secured on April 1-9. In the opening days of OIF, none of all the many thousands of U.S. military personnel deployed to the conflict attracted as much attention back home as Pfc. Jessica Lynch. One of six soldiers taken prisoner in an Iraqi ambush, she had been badly injured as her truck was knocked out. It had taken a large-scale intelligence effort by the coalition – aided by friendly Iraqis – to determine her location: an Iraqi hospital in the city of Nasiriyah that was thought to also be the location of Saddam’s cousin, Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed “Chemical Ali” for his role in Iraqi chemical warfare attacks against Kurdish civilians. A raid was planned and organized in four hours. On April 2, the joint-service force, including a reinforced company-sized force from the 1/75th, was inserted in Marine Corps helicopters. The hospital was quickly secured and searched. Lynch was found alive. A Ranger doctor was soon at her bedside, preparing her for medical evacuation. “Chemical Ali” was nowhere to be found. Iraqis told the Rangers of a mass grave outside the hospital. Digging with their hands – they were not carrying entrenching tools – the Rangers exhumed nine bodies. They were put aboard the returning helicopters. On examination, the bodies were found to be those of U.S. soldiers that had been killed in the ambush. The raiders, on the ground for only 25 minutes, had carried out their mission without casualties.


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Maj. Gen. Clayton Hutmacher, deputy commanding general, United States Army Special Operations Command, and Lt. Col. Jay Bartholomees, commander,

With the collapse of the Iraqi military, the Ranger mission shifted to the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and high value targets (HVTs). These included Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his close associates, but soon was expanded to include those involved in an insurgency that was spreading with cross-border support.

2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, hang the Valorous Unit Award on the 2nd Ranger Battalion guidon for their actions in Afghanistan in support of an operation in November 2010, during an induction and award ceremony on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Sept. 11, 2015.



The requirements of OIF meant Ranger operations in Afghanistan were limited to one or more platoon-sized units throughout 2002-06. In June 2005, a Ranger QRF extracted the sole survivor of an ambushed SEAL team, an incident publicized in the book and movie Lone Survivor. By 2006, with the Afghan Taliban’s strength and crossborder support increasing, Ranger deployments to Afghanistan became larger and their combat operations became more frequent. Rangers carried out nighttime raids, inserted by helicopters or ground vehicles, to target Afghan insurgent infrastructure and leadership. On May 26, 2008, in a firefight in Paktia province, the leadership and heroism of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry of D Company of the 2/75th led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor. The “Afghanistan Surge” of 2009 brought the Rangers from Iraq back to Afghanistan in strength. A full battalion deployed to Task Force South, based in Kandahar. A comparable force

was headquartered at Khost under Task Force Central. What was called the “Ranger Surge” aimed to put as many Ranger platoons into high-tempo operations as possible, working with other SOCOM forces to identify and strike critical targets: individuals, convoys, and supply caches, as well as providing critical intelligence and targeting. This effort was considered to be a major contributor to the success of the surge. Not all the raids were successful. A raid to free American hostages on Sept. 7, 2016, missed them by hours. Ranger deployments continued even after the U.S. ground combat role ended in 2014. While Rangers do not have the same partnership building and training mission as other SOCOM components, they have still played an important role in providing U.S. allies with special operations capabilities. The Afghan National Army’s Commando units, while tracing their roots back to the 1960s, have been organized and trained to mirror the Rangers.


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A Ranger with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, provides overwatch security on an



The escalating conflict in Iraq starting in 2004 was matched by an increased SOCOM commitment. Rangers played a major role. Interdiction of the “ratlines” bringing in supplies and personnel from Syria was a major Ranger mission. As in Afghanistan, Rangers used both helicopters and armored vehicles for insertion, carrying out up to eight raids a night; 100 missions in a three-month deployment was standard at the height of the “Iraqi Surge” in 2007. Raids could be as small as a squad-sized operation or, more rarely, involve multiple companies. In addition, Ranger QRFs backed up raids that, on occasion, turned into pitched battles. In June 2008, Rangers raided the hideout of Abu Khalaf, second-in-command of al Qaeda in Iraq. As he was escaping, he was killed by a Ranger sniper. As the U.S. commitment wound down, starting in 2009, raiding operations were reduced. Iraqi special operations forces took over these operations. In April 2010, Rangers and Iraqi SOF mounted a raid in Tikrit that led to the death of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, then head of al Qaeda in Iraq. THE FUTURE

In March 2017, Rangers and a Marine artillery battery deployed to northern Syria as part of a 400-strong U.S. military force, the potential opening of a new commitment for

objective during a mission in Iraq, 2006.

the Rangers. Originally known for their forcible entry and raiding capabilities, year after year since 2001 Rangers have also engaged in sustained counterinsurgency combat. The regiment retains the three Ranger battalions it had in 2001, each reinforced with an additional company. A Special Troops Battalion with reconnaissance, communications, training, intelligence, and operations companies has also been formed. The Ranger Assessment and Selection Program (RASP) has been set up to ensure that deploying troops are ready for high-tempo combat operations. Rangers are a vital part of the SOCOM capabilities the national command authority relies upon. The threat of “hybrid warfare” was seen in the Russia seizure of the Crimea in 2014 and brought SOCOM attention back to Europe. In August 2016, SOCOM took the leading role in the counter-WMD mission. This has been a SOCOM “core activity” where the Rangers play a major role. A worldwide capability for reconnaissance or direct action against WMD delivery systems, weapons, or stockpiles – especially those where an air strike would potentially result in collateral damage – is to be among the many Ranger commitments for years to come. n


Col. Thomas Edward Lawrence in his iconic Arab robes.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command International Sniper Competition provides the chance for USSOCOM force elements to train with partners in fieldcraft and marksmanship.





nature of war changed a century ago. At the height u The of World War I, as massive battles of annihilation brought the armies of Europe to the brink of exhaustion, mobility was returned to the battlefield. The Germans demonstrated the use of infiltration tactics in conjunction with intensive artillery bombardment at the taking of Riga in 1917. The British and French made extensive use of tanks first introduced the year before. At Cambrai, in November 1917, massed British tanks broke through the German trenches, showing their potential to revolutionize the battlefield even though the terrain gained was lost to a German counterattack using infiltration tactics. These massive battles and momentous changes overshadowed another significant event: the emergence of modern special operations and the personnel who carry them out. The “special operators” appeared in 1917, building on the costly “learning curve” of three years adapting to the harsh realities of 20th century warfare. The special operations of 1917 primarily occured in the Middle East theaters of the war. The nature of the war there was more open to special operations than was the Western Front, with its continuous line of trenches from Switzerland to the North Sea. World War I in the Middle East was a war of envelopment and open flanks, while the Western Front was the Materialschlacht, a war of massed divisions and mass casualties. The war in the Middle East could not be fought the same way as the Western Front. There were never enough Allied troops available to overwhelm the Ottoman Empire through weight of numbers. There was no way the huge armies and massive artillery concentrations of the Western Front could be supplied in the Middle East, across deserts and maritime supply routes threatened by unrestricted submarine warfare. The Allies, then, had to do things differently if they were going to prevail against the Ottoman Empire, an opponent that had proven tough and resilient, capable of repulsing Allied offensives in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, and, most dramatically, the Gallipoli peninsula.

own mystique, fed by a press hungry for photogenic heroes to feed the new technology of the newsreels. He was not a regular soldier, but had been an archaeologist. He spoke Arabic and was familiar with Arab life and culture through his studies and prewar travels in the region. In 1917, however, Lawrence was neither primarily a scout, a spy, political operator, nor agitator – these had all been familiar in the history of war for centuries – but something new: a special warfare operator. He used his capabilities to grow and sustain the Arab Revolt in ways that resonated with that culture while retaining the confidence of the British high command. His success in special operations in 1917 and his writings about them have provided a model that still remains valuable today.


British Army Capt. Thomas Edward Lawrence has gone down in history as Lawrence of Arabia, a larger-than-life figure that has endured in the popular imagination through movies and his

Turks of the Ottoman infantry, 1917. While the ethnic Turkish soldiers remained tough fighters despite a tenuous supply line, many Arab conscripts were wavering.



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Arab cavalry were the main offensive force of the Arab Revolt.

In 1917, the Middle East was in a state of political turmoil. While many Arabs were pro-Ottoman, others chafed under their centuries-old colonial rule. The British realized that the Arabs could be potentially decisive if they were rallied to the Allied cause. Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca, was promised independence. British officers had been working with the Arabs since 1915. A veteran political officer and experienced Arabist, Capt. William Shakespear, had been killed in inter-Arab fighting in 1915. France also sent officers, including Arabic-speaking Algerians. Lawrence was sent to Sharif when he mustered some 1,000 irregulars. He was not to take command or train them as British auxiliary forces, as a military mission under Lt. Col. Pierce Joyce had already been dispatched. Their objectives included organizing and training an Arab army on the British model. Rather, Lawrence was to serve as an accelerant for what the Arabs increasingly perceived as a war of national liberation. His great success was to direct Arab military operations, leading to the taking of the Ottoman port of Aqaba (in present-day Jordan) in an attack from the desert on July 6, 1917. The fall of Aqaba, an Arab military victory against the Ottomans, raised support for the war among Arab populations. It also put the British in position to outflank the Turkish defensive lines, running inland from the Mediterranean at Gaza, and the Arabs in position to strike at the rail line supplying Ottoman forces along the Arabian Red Sea coast. Lawrence directed and planned (following orders from the British chain of command) but the Arabs executed their 1917 campaign. At the height of the Arab offensive against Ottoman lines of communication, in August-December 1917, they launched 50 attacks and inflicted considerable damage, including destroying 15 bridges. Hundreds of telegraph poles were destroyed, forcing the Ottomans to use couriers (ambushed by the Arabs) or wireless (intercepted and decrypted by the British). The Ottomans, their forces stretched thin, did not try to wage a counterinsurgency campaign, and instead just garrisoned the lines of communication and repaired the damage of the Arab attacks. After Aqaba, Lawrence’s high-level access to both British and Arab leadership – along with his undoubted charisma that was to turn him into a legendary figure – led to him overshadowing

the other British special operators enabling the Arab offensive. Capt. Henry Hornsby of the Royal Engineers was one of several demolition specialists. Lt. Col. Stewart Francis Newcombe was a Royal Engineers officer; he had been on archaeological expeditions with Lawrence prewar and was his commanding officer in 1915 as an intelligence officer in Cairo. Newcombe was one of a number of British officers who took part in attacks against Ottoman lines of communications. He was captured in November 1917 but subsequently escaped. Lawrence himself envisioned follow-on operations, including deep penetration raids into southern Syria, where the authoritarian Ottoman governor had imposed a repressive regime. Lawrence aimed to both strike the railroads and mobilize the Arab population and use them to flank the Ottoman position in Palestine. He had made a perilous long-range reconnaissance over the route in the weeks before the taking of Aqaba. But execution of his plan would have to wait for 1918. In 1917, Lawrence and a small group of other British officers had, by working with the Arabs, won a major battlefield success and enabled an insurgency. This has been a model for special operations forces of many nations ever since. LEACHMAN IN MESOPOTAMIA

British Army Lt. Col. Gerard Leachman, unlike Lawrence, was a professional soldier. Trained as an intelligence officer, he was a combat veteran of the Boer War. But he had spent the years before 1914 trekking across the Middle East and, even more than Lawrence, possessed excellent language and cultural skills. Leachman had played a vital part in the British campaign in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) as an intelligence officer and a political officer. He transitioned to a special operator in 1916-17 as he took on long-range reconnaissance missions, using tribal loyalties to mobilize Arabs he led against the Ottomans and their Arab allies. Rather than attack Ottoman communications, he tapped telegraph lines to collect intelligence. He spent much of 1917 based at Najaf, cooperating with the local sheikh, Farhad Bey, who provided fighting men. Leachman worked to keep the loyalty of the Shia population, which was concerned that a British victory would mean Sunni rule from Baghdad.


While small in numbers, units such as the one commanded by Erwin Rommel were instrumental in the Italian defeat at Caporetto in 1917.

Capt. George M. Goldsmith deployed to the Caucasus front in November 1917, ordered to organize local forces for a campaign similar to that of Lawrence. However, the collapse of the Russian army after the 1917 revolution resulted in an Ottoman advance, forcing him to use his supply of explosives on demolitions before evacuating. SPEARHEAD UNITS

1917 saw the increased use of specially trained and equipped units for the direct attack mission. This remains an important special operations capability, especially in forced-entry situations. But rather than targeting airfields, ports, or weapons stockpiles, in 1917, it meant creating a breach in enemy trench lines that follow-on forces could expand. These units had their origins in 1915, when Europe’s armies first started to look for a way to penetrate entrenched enemy defenses. Made up of motivated and trained volunteers, they were able to use tactics beyond those of line infantry units – infiltration, going around enemy strongpoints, especially those with machine guns. They were not expected to hold sectors of trenches, but between attacks were pulled out of the line for training. By 1917, there were specialized German Stosstruppen (thrust troops) and French battalions de choc (shock battalions) spearheading attacks and demonstrating tactical innovation and equipment – the Germans were the first to use flamethrowers and submachine guns – that could be adapted to line units.


Ottoman assault battalions, formed in 1917, are the direct predecessors of current Turkish special operations forces units. These were specialists for the direct attack mission. Italy emphasized their Arditi battalions. Close combat in trenches, with grenades and knives, was the Arditi specialty, compensating for Italy’s lack of heavy artillery and tanks. The Arditi were reinforced after Italy’s 1917 defeat at Caporetto (where small units of Stosstruppen were used effectively against larger Italian formations) as a way to revive their army’s offensive capabilities. Erwin Rommel was only a company commander in 1917, but at Caporetto, he did not have the massed firepower of the Western Front to destabilize Italian defenses, as he had earlier done against the Romanian army. Rather, he led a small force using tactics that emphasized what he later identified as relentless pursuit, surprise, protection through movement, speed of attack, and the demoralizing and destabilizing effects inflicted upon a numerically superior enemy. Demonstrating that a well-trained and -led force with effective tactics could take the offensive and succeed despite the defensive power of the machine gun and artillery shaped the tactics employed by future infantry and mechanized combined arms (especially by Rommel) as well as special operations. RAIDS AND RECONNAISSANCE

Raiding was widespread in 1917, especially on the Western Front. Trench raids could be held in daylight and by multibattalion forces, but were more commonly carried out at night by a small force from line battalions, usually with the objectives of taking prisoners for intelligence purposes, disrupting the enemy unit opposite them in the trenches, and keeping up an offensive



German Stosstruppen on the Italian front, 1917.

Lt. Italo Balbo, commander, Arditi Company of the Battalion "Pieve di Cadore," 7th Alpini Regiment, returning from a patrol. Balbo later gained fame as an air power advocate.

spirit even in quiet sectors. The first three U.S. Army infantrymen to be killed in action in the war, on the night of Nov. 2, 1917, were casualties of just such a trench raid, organized to welcome the Americans to their “quiet” sector of the Western Front. Reconnaissance missions by infantry and cavalry units were carried out much as they had been for centuries, even as other sources of intelligence were developed, such as air reconnaissance and signals intelligence. Scout platoons in infantry battalions were specialists in night patrolling in no man’s land between the trench lines. While cavalry patrols were non-survivable on the Western Front, covert observation posts were potentially valuable in static warfare. In 1916, the British had formed the Lovat Scout Sharpshooters from Highland gamekeepers and hunters. Originally intended as snipers, in 1917, they deployed nine specialist corps-level scout platoons. In the Middle East, in 1917, armies still relied on skilled scouts on horseback (or camel) to report back information on trafficability and the capacity of water holes to sustain large units, intelligence that could not be found out any other way. British cavalry and mounted brigades had 30-man scout troops. In November 1917, the Desert Mounted Corps formed a 300-strong scout force from its best riders. British and Australian scout cars had been in theater since 1915 and were increasingly used in late 1917. SPECIAL OPERATIONS AVIATION

Special operations aviation became operationally significant in 1917. The rapid improvement in airplane technology meant that they could now carry out missions that only a few years prior had been in the realm of science fiction.

Aviation support of Lawrence and the Arab Revolt linked the British to the Arab offensive against Ottoman communications. Sharif’s forces had received their first air capability in 1916: C Flight of 14 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps (RFC), based in the Hejaz (current Saudi Arabia). Air reconnaissance information had made it possible for the Arabs to bypass Turkish strongpoints and take Aqaba. Soon after, X Flight of 14 Squadron deployed from Egypt and started operations from there (and other desert landing grounds) with their two-seater B.E. 2Cs (later replaced by the more effective R.E. 8). Air communications allowed Lawrence to coordinate the Arab offensive with British headquarters in Egypt. Establishing and employing close cooperation using aircraft was one of many innovations that made Lawrence a modern special operator. On the Western Front, the primary mission of special operations aviation was the insertion of intelligence operatives. Starting in 1915, this was originally accomplished by landing behind enemy lines, but this mission soon shifted to the use of parachutes (which Allied pilots themselves would not get until after the war). In 1916, Britain’s Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) had sent on operations the SS40, a special operations stealth blimp. With a black hydrogen-filled envelope, it would climb to altitude and cut its muffled engine, silently floating over enemy lines on moonless nights, insert its agents, then restart its engine to return by an evasive route. The blimp did not work out. In its place, in 1917, Lt. Jack Woodhouse, RFC, a prewar motorcycle-racing champion, commanded a specialist flight carrying out insertion missions. By the end of the year, modified Bristol F.2B two-seat fighters were being used for the


T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) often traveled in the back seat of British F.2B fighters in 1917-18 to coordinate with the British

parachute drops. The arrival of the F.2B in the Middle East in 1917 allowed them to support special operations there. Larger aircraft provided more range and capability, and the Italians used their Caproni heavy bombers for these missions. NAVAL SPECIAL OPERATIONS

Seaborne raids and direct action attacks on coastal targets have taken place for centuries. In 1915, Royal Navy Lt. Guy Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Oyly-Hughes swam ashore from a surfaced British submarine to successfully plant demolition charges on a railroad bridge in Turkey. In the Middle East, intelligence agents were inserted and extracted by ship. But by 1917, submarines, mines, and


command. He continued the practice after the armistice, when this picture was taken.

aircraft made a traditional raid launched from surface warships hazardous. The need to attack German naval bases on the North Sea coast and Austro-Hungarian naval bases on the Adriatic led to planning for special operations. The Italians launched research and development programs to develop a way to attack warships in defended bases. Lt. Angelo Belloni enabled submarines to penetrate the boom defenses at

The sinking of the AustroHungarian battleship SMS Szent István on June 10, 1918, after being torpedoed by Italian navy Lt. Luigi Rizzo.

Pola with the aid of swimmers using wetsuits and respirators that he developed. The Grillo (Cricket) was a slow, quiet, electricpowered flat-bottomed boat armed with two torpedoes. Two hook-studded, engine-driven chains mounted on either side of the hull allowed the Grillo to approach boom defenses quietly and clamber over them. But neither approach was ready by the end of 1917. Instead, Italian navy Lt. Luigi Rizzo, on the night of Oct. 13-14, penetrated the defenses of Trieste in his MAS (motor torpedo boat). Two nights later, after Rizzo reported back he had found the base’s vulnerability, his commanding officer, Rear Adm. Paolo Thaon di Revel, made a personal command reconnaissance of Trieste’s boom defenses in a boat powered by a silent electric motor. On the night of Dec. 9-10, 1917, Rizzo led two MAS boats into Trieste and torpedoed and sank the Austro-Hungarian coastal defense ship Wien before escaping. 100 YEARS AGO

The emergence of special operations 100 years ago largely represented a bottom-up process of learning adaptation and innovation by fighting men – usually a mix of professionals and combat-experienced wartime amateurs – looking to accomplish their missions while avoiding more of the indecisive but bloody battles that had dominated the previous years of the war. These innovators were the forerunners not only of today’s special operators but modern infantry, intelligence, and civil affairs soldiers. No staff college had taught about the proper use of special operations and how it might be integrated into operational- and strategic-level planning. Tension between the objectives of the men at the sharp end – to win on the battlefield – and those of higher levels was always present. Lawrence rallied the Arabs to fight for self-determination at the same time high-level representatives of the British and French governments were deciding how best to divide up the Arabs between their respective empires.

Building on the results of 1917, 1918 saw an even more extensive use of special operations. Widespread use of tactics pioneered by the Stosstruppen enabled the Germans to launch powerful offensives that brought them close to battlefield victory. Lawrence’s expanded forces included wheeled armored vehicles and self-propelled artillery as well as Arab cavalry. Like Lawrence – whom he considered a publicity-hungry amateur too eager to lobby on behalf of Sunni Arabs – in 1918, Leachman traveled by air and also used wheeled armored fighting vehicles for reconnaissance and direct attack. “Leachman’s LAMBs” (light armor motor brigades) were a multinational force. Their intelligence officers included U.S. Army Capt. Kermit Roosevelt, a big-game hunter and son of the former president. At the war’s end, Leachman was responsible for restoring order in the bitterly divided city of Mosul. At sea, the British executed the largest and most dramatic special operation of the war, the raid on Zeebrugge, in April 1918. Rizzo and his MAS boats sank a second Austro-Hungarian capital ship, the battleship Szent István, in June 1918. When the war ended, the capabilities of special operations forces were forgotten. So too were many of the special operators. Lawrence, incensed at Britain’s betrayal of his Arab comrades, resigned his commission, rejoined as an enlisted man, and died in a motorcycle accident in 1935. Lawrence’s book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, is today recognized as a classic work. Leachman stayed on in Iraq. He was killed in an insurgent ambush in Fallujah in 1920. Rommel also wrote a book, translated into English as Infantry Attacks. The German commander in North Africa and Normandy in World War II, he committed suicide when accused of complicity in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Rizzo, though hailed as a national hero and nicknamed “The Sinker,” did not rise far under Italy’s fascist leadership (neither did his admiral). Many of the hard-won lessons of 1917 had to be learned again in World War II. n



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The Year in Special Operations 2017-2018  
The Year in Special Operations 2017-2018