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2018-2019 EDITION



Lt. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, AFSOC Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, MARSOC Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, NAVSPECWARCOM Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, USASOC

• Rep. James R. Langevin, D-R.I., House Armed Services Committee • Rear Adm. Laurent Isnard, French Special Operations Command

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HONOR. EDUCATE. INSPIRE. SERVE. The National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations will honor Americans serving at the “tip of the spear.” It will educate the American public about the importance of strategic intelligence and special operations to the preservation of freedom. It will inspire future generations of Americans to serve their country. The museum will be built in Northern Virginia that is home to major defense contractors and the intelligence community. It will immerse visitors with innovative and engaging exhibits. The museum’s distinctive design was inspired by the spearhead, a symbol used by the US intelligence and special operations communities since World War II. The spearhead continues to point the way forward. To learn more about this visionary endeavor and sponsorship opportunities, please visit, contact the OSS Society at, or stop by its booth (#1043).


Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students ruck through thick vegetation during Field Training Exercise Raider Spirit, May 1, 2017, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.



n his recent testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, the Hon. Owen West, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, observed, “As a nation, we face long-term competition against revisionist and revanchist powers

that are employing unconventional tactics used by rogue states, terrorists, and other non-state actors. Some may call this asymmetric warfare. But enemy tactics are only asymmetric if we respond with traditional deterrence and expenditure. The [National Defense Strategy] calls for a new era where we compete in what [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis calls ‘the contact layer’ – the daily clash of national will that occurs short of traditional armed conflict – where our special operations forces are today building relationships with allies and partners while reducing our enemies.” This edition of Special Operations Outlook looks at a number of ways that special operations forces are building those relationships while simultaneously reducing enemy quantities and capabilities. Across USSOCOM components, commanders and their representatives have been gracious and generous with their time, information, and perspectives in an effort to provide a feel for how their forces are performing their unique and diverse roles. This edition also marks the official publication name change from The Year in Special Operations to Special Operations Outlook. While the name has changed, our traditional in-depth coverage of special operations forces operations, technology, and history continues, but we’ve sought to add more. Along with the new name, this edition of Special Operations Outlook has also expanded coverage into new areas, ranging from special operations forces support to non-Department of Defense (DOD) governmental partners, to a look at specific international capabilities. In the latter case, this edition presents readers with a unique perspective on the operations of France’s Commandement des Opérations Spéciales (Special Operations Command). Not only has that command been deployed to Iraq in support of coalition operations against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) but also across vast stretches of Africa, with force components strategically positioned in Mali, Ivory Coast, Chad, and Burkina Faso. Looking toward the future, challenges remain for both U.S. SOF and their international partners. In his recent testimony, West acknowledged that the defense secretary has also directed the DOD to “Build a more lethal, innovative joint force, postured to execute multi-domain operations with a robust system of allies and partners.” “Our nation’s special operators, in many ways, already epitomize the lethal, agile force the secretary describes, but they must evolve to match the expanding capabilities of our adversaries,” he said. “From cyber mayhem to militia-enabled territorial expansion, our enemies and competitors have moved into the gaps. This means the Department of Defense must prioritize resource investments and press forward with business reforms to ensure our nation maintains the competitive edge in this fight.” Future editions of Special Operations Outlook will continue to explore both U.S. and international responses to these challenges. The Editors



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CONTENTS 10 USSOCOM: Year in Review Three Constants By Scott R. Gourley

18 AFSOC: Year in Review Interview: Lt. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb By Scott R. Gourley

26 MARSOC: Year in Review Interview: Lt. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III By J.R. Wilson

34 NAVSPECWARCOM: Year in Review Interview: Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command By Scott R. Gourley

42 USASOC: Year in Review Interview: Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo By Scott R. Gourley


An Ambassador’s Perspective By Scott R. Gourley

58 INTERNATIONAL SOF: Year in Review By Andrew White

66 INTERVIEW: Rear Adm. Laurent Isnard Commander, Commandement des Opérations Spéciales (COS) By Andrew White

An Ambassador’s Perspective

76 PSYOP TARGET: Joseph Kony By Scott R. Gourley




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Leading The Situational Awareness Revolution



As the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, U.S. Army, leads an extremely dynamic military organization with an evolving global posture. In fact, it could be argued that there are only three “constants” within the command: Win; Transform; and People.


Special Operations Outlook



U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Raider Regiment, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, await departure during Final Exercise (FINEX) Two as part of Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course (WTI) 2-17, near Yuma, Arizona, April 27, 2017.



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Left: East Coast-based Navy SEALs participate in a nighttime exercise during Exercise Trident 17, May 4, 2017, at the John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. Right: Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III, U.S. Army, speaks during a town hall forum with Secretary of Defense James Mattis.



mid-February testimony before the House Armed q During Services Committee Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Thomas reiterated those three constants in a message that provided a “snapshot” glimpse of how the command is proceeding in the nation’s current fights as well as USSOCOM plans and intentions for the future.

WIN In terms of the current fight, Thomas began by stating that, over the past year, USSOCOM’s priority effort has continued to be countering violent extremist organizations (CVEO). “Over the past 10 months, special operations forces [SOF] played an integral role as part of the joint force in the defeat of the physical caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS],” he explained. “In addition, we were able to play a key supporting role enabling the sovereign forces of the Philippines – resulting in the defeat of a declared ISIS province and the liberation of Marawi. Elsewhere, in coordination with allied and host-nation partners, SOF continued to confront ISIS and Al Qaeda [AQ] wherever they sought sanctuary, in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, the Trans-Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, and the Maghreb. Wherever ISIS and AQ aspired to develop and seek sanctuary, SOF targeted them and enabled partners to not only destroy them but also address the conditions that allowed these groups to thrive.” Elaborating on those successes, he used the posture update to describe SOF support to the global combatant commanders (GCC), “most often by, with, and through enabled partners,” resulting in the disruption and degradation of ISIS and AQ’s directed external operation capability, degradation of their revenue streams, disruption of foreign fighter facilitation, crippling of their warfighting ability, capturing hundreds of terabytes of ISIS’ and AQ’s information, and interruption or blocking of their media output. “Despite suffering significant battlefield losses, both ISIS and AQ remain potent in terms of ideology and the means to promulgate it, and determined to pursue their nihilistic objectives,” he warned. “We

will continue to face future challenges as these groups exploit the lack of partner capacity and under-governed areas.” Thomas said that USSOCOM will “remain focused on disrupting external attack capabilities, destroying or neutralizing AQ and ISIS safe havens, developing and enacting a long-term approach to defeat VEOs, and building partner capacity so host nations can achieve sustainable regionalized security. “SOF’s CVEO efforts range across GCC areas of responsibility and are an important component of an overarching whole-of-government approach to advance broader national security objectives to defend the homeland, our citizens, our allies and partners,” he said. “Transregional threats such as ISIS and AQ require the joint force to work with interagency and coalition partners to target financial, material, and personnel supply chains that facilitate these terrorist organizations. Securing and holding our gains also requires a focused, coordinated effort to empower local entities within and among the populations that terrorists exploit to degrade their message and ability to recruit. These important tasks cannot be done by SOF alone and require strong, well-financed interagency partners. Ultimately, we endeavor to reduce this global threat to the regional level, where partner forces are capable of conducting sustainable security operations.” Thomas added that today’s “increasingly competitive global environment,” has also witnessed SOF “standing with our European and Asian allies and partners, providing assurance and enhanced capabilities against aggressive hegemons which threaten their sovereignty.” In one representative example of the global environment faced by the command, he linked the SOF posture summary to the recently released National Defense Strategy (NDS), an unclassified version of which describes “an increasingly complex global security environment, characterized by overt challenges to the free and open international order and the re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition between nations.” Additionally, it states that the United States’ prosperity and security are “confronted by strategic competition by the ‘revisionist powers’ of China and Russia, ‘rogue regimes’ such as North Korea and Iran, which destabilize regions by pursuing weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological – or by sponsoring terrorism,” and notes that “rapid technological development lowers the bar to entry for non-state


actors, which exacerbates this increasingly dangerous operating environment.” Elaborating on what he described as “Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East, which stoke sectarianism tensions and set the conditions for VEOs to emerge and thrive,” he noted SOF’s engagement in countering this threat, pointing to USSOCOM support of United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) “through a variety of activities in order to degrade Iranian influence, discourage their destabilizing behavior, and disrupt their actions. In parallel, we also endeavor to assure Israel and regional Gulf partners through foreign internal defense, security force assistance, security cooperation, and other activities.” Summarizing these and other examples, the USSOCOM commander emphasized the unique capability of SOF to “effectively compete below the level of traditional armed conflict and across the spectrum of conflict as part of the joint force,” pointing to “a high demand for special operations-unique capabilities across the spectrum of conflict, from peaceful cooperation through competition short of armed conflict, up to and including large-scale combat operations.”

TRANSFORM A second constant within USSOCOM is recognition of the need to continue and potentially expand key transformation efforts already underway.


Special Operations Outlook

Thomas repeated the NDS call to “Sharpen our competitive edge, [which] will require creative approaches, resources, and disciplined execution,” explaining that USSOCOM will continue to transform its force and business practices in ways that will “increase lethality, build new partnerships, and keep pace with the dynamic strategic environment.” As examples of the new approaches being taken, he noted the extensive leveraging of commercial off the shelf (COTS) systems and focused research, development, testing and evaluation, as well as developmental investment in areas that include cyber; next-generation low-observable infiltration platforms; an airborne high-energy laser; automation; and machine learning. “We are major contributors to the ongoing Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence’s Project Maven initiative to automate the time-intensive process of recognizing and identifying the tremendous number of objects of interest within various full-motion video feeds,” he said. “Our investment in Project Maven helps us with the processing, exploitation, and dissemination of intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR], as does congressional support for SOF ISR capabilities through the ISR Transfer Fund appropriations in FY 2016 and FY 2017.” Thomas continued, “USSOCOM continues to embrace new and leading-edge networks, tools, and venues to reach the broadest markets and attract innovators in commercial industry and academia that offer solutions and capabilities for our research, development,


Above: The Afghan National Army Special Operations Command’s School of Excellence is responsible for the assessment and training of Afghan special operations soldiers that fill the ranks of Special Operations Kandaks, Special Forces Kandaks, Cobra Strike Kandaks, and the National Mission Brigade. There are currently two commando courses and a Cobra Strike Maneuver Course running simultaneously, with more than 2,000 soldiers receiving Afghanled special operations training. Left: NATO EC-725 Super Cougars receive fuel from a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II during a night mission over northwest Florida as part of Emerald Warrior, March 5, 2018. At Emerald Warrior, the largest joint and combined special operations exercise, U.S. Special Operations Command forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict. U.S. SOF support to global combatant commanders is often “by, with, and through” enabled partners.






Left: 82nd Airborne paratroopers escort Stryker vehicles during operation Swift Response in Torun, Poland, June 8, 2016. The Army was able to leverage USSOCOM’s Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicle procurement to save $5 million while supporting the 82nd’s needs. Below: Brent McLaughlin demonstrates a drone automated payload swap system from Endeavor Robotics and Asylon during the ThunderDrone Rodeo at the SOFWERX facility in Tampa, Florida, Oct. 31, 2017. ThunderDrone is a U.S. Special Operations Command initiative dedicated to drone prototyping, which focuses on exploring drone technologies through idea formation, testing, and demonstration.

and acquisition programs. Our SOFWERX initiative has a network of over 6,000 collaborators and contributors. SOFWERX provides a direct warfighter nomination process to identify emerging requirements. This process combines with “outside the wire” access for nontraditional technologists, entrepreneurs, and other individuals with innovative solutions to solve problems rapidly. This approach provided solutions ranging from the creative application and targeted rapid prototype modifications of COTS to the exploration of non-radio frequency communication techniques to enhance survivability in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Current efforts include exploring opportunities with 5G networks and unlicensed high-speed wireless communications, evaluating open-source software applications, and continuing ‘Thunder Drone’ activities, which focus on counterunmanned aerial systems [UAS] challenges and solutions as well as opportunities to enhance our offensive use of UAS, especially in coordination with machine learning-enabled capabilities.” USSOCOM is also working its transformation efforts with the other armed services, through activities like annual warfighter conferences. “We intend to sustain the momentum of these annual conferences through continued engagements that enhance joint teamwork and the warfighting capability of the joint force,” Thomas said. “For example, during the past year, Marine Corps Systems Command leveraged the USSOCOM Sensitive Site Exploitation Program to select the nextgeneration biometric identification device. This capability enables the verification of biometric signatures against the DOD [Department of Defense] authoritative database. Another great example is the 33 USSOCOM Light Tactical All-Terrain Vehicles (MRZRs) procured to support the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division combat evaluation to meet a Global Response Force operational gap resulting in a cost avoidance to the U.S. Army of $5 million. Furthermore, the U.S. Marine Corps’ Program Executive Office Land Systems has utilized the USSOCOM’s five-year General Services Administration Blanket Purchase Agreement contract to acquire their fleet of MRZRs. In all cases, USSOCOM worked closely with the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines, sharing all test data, internal air transportability certifications, airdrop certifications, and other information to facilitate the rapid acquisition of the MRZR by those services.” He went on to highlight a range of additional cooperative efforts in areas ranging from materiel to facilities. “As part of transforming, we seek to strengthen alliances and build stronger international partnerships,” he said. “International partners provide complementary and sometimes unique capabilities and forces to the fight. For over a decade, USSOCOM’s Sovereign Challenge program opened the doors to the military leaders of over 125 sovereign states via their defense and military service attachés assigned to Washington embassies. Over 1,700 Sovereign Challenge alumni returned home to positions of greater responsibility in their respective countries’ military forces and societies. Working through the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict [ASD SO/LIC] and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, we have negotiated formal agreements with 23 nations, who now


USSOCOM YEAR IN REVIEW A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan provides rear security as an Afghan Commando assault force raids a compound of interest during an operation in the Alingar district, Laghman province, Afghanistan, Feb. 18, 2018. As always, people remain USSOCOM’s most important asset.

have full-time representation on my staff. We have 20 Special Operations Liaison Officers assigned to U.S. embassies. This unparalleled international network translates into greater global collaboration and synchronization across both the U.S. and allied force. Foreign partner SOF played a significant role in the defeat of ISIS in support of USCENTCOM, and 25 allies and partners are providing SOF to ongoing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. These mutually beneficial partnerships are focused on improving international SOF capabilities and their ability to operate with us, which is USSOCOM’s responsibility under Title 10, Section 167. Additionally, we’ve used established bilateral agreements to reduce costs associated with sustaining forces worldwide, such as acquiring lifesaving freeze-dried plasma from our French allies.”


PEOPLE Acknowledging that the cited advances in technology, procurement, partnership, and authorities serve to enhance SOF, Thomas was quick to assert: “It doesn’t change the fact that people are the most important asset. Understanding and communicating across cultures and languages, building and maintaining effective networks of action, and working with partners to achieve common interests all demand the highest quality people with keen interpersonal skills. The creativity, initiative, and spirit of the people who comprise the special operations formation cannot be overstated. They are our greatest asset.” Quantifying the critical human resource, he pointed to 56,177 active duty, 7,402 reserve and guard component, and 6,623 civilian personnel who plan, enable, and conduct the entire range of special operations activities. Thomas reiterated that this human element is USSOCOM’s “most precious asset,” adding, “My most sacred responsibility is to take care of our people. To do that, we must continue to build resiliency and provide the best possible care for our service members and their families.” At the time of the posture statement, Thomas identified USSOCOM sustainment of a deployed force of approximately 8,300 personnel across 90 countries. Quantifying the operational tempo and personnel tempo, he stated, “The latest calculations from across special operations show that the vast majority of currently deployed special operations personnel are adhering to the Secretary of Defense directed goal of 1:2 deployment to dwell (D2D) for active forces and 1:5 for reserve forces. “Currently 12 percent of deployed special operations forces have a D2D of less than 1:2, and 3 percent of the force is currently deployed

below 1:1,” he said. “This represents a significant improvement over the last 10 years, but we still have further to go. The SOF component commanders are working to bring the entire force into compliance with the directed D2D goal.” Along with the D2D criteria, Thomas identified the importance of several additional people-focused efforts, ranging from the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) program to ongoing efforts to reduce the rate of suicides within the force, families, and contractor teammates. “USSOCOM has made tremendous progress reducing suicides,” he said, “but I’ll be blunt: We must do better. I’m working with the services and leading academics to refine the suicide prevention strategies, and we are addressing the underlying cognitive processes that lead to suicides. I am pleased to tell you over the past five years suicides have declined by 70 percent. I attribute this success to leaders at every level embracing behavioral health and care as being equally important as physical fitness. We are trending in the right direction, but remain keenly focused on suicide reduction.” He added, “In conjunction with the POTFF effort, I am greatly appreciative of Congress’s support by authorizing USSOCOM to have its Warrior Care Program; peer to the service programs, it is often heralded as the gold standard. When the resilience of our warriors and their families is severely challenged due to wounds, injury, or illness, our Warrior Care Program provides advocacy and care coordination through the recovery and rehabilitation process. The primary objective is to retain our highly skilled people and return them to their units. With the highest retention rate of any of the service programs, the Warrior Care Program ensures that USSOCOM is able to best capitalize on the immense investment of time and resources applied to your SOF, enhancing readiness.” Elaborating on force readiness, Thomas continued, “Readiness extends to ensuring special operations teammates operate in a safe and healthy military culture. Leaders across USSOCOM are committed to advancing a climate where sexist behaviors, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are not tolerated, condoned, or ignored. Commanders empower their people to take appropriate action to protect each other from sexual assault. It harms the force and prevents us from being the best.” He pointed to the results of a related command survey, noting, “I am pleased to report that USSOCOM is improving across many key areas, according to the survey. The data indicates that SOF continues to trend below the incident rates of the services when compared to the DOD, and we are seeing an increase in SOF using behavioral health services. The survey also showed broad consensus that SOF leaders hold personnel accountable who exhibit problematic behavior and demonstrate poor judgment. USSOCOM is a transparent and accountable command and I am encouraged that SOF people value the accountability, integrity, and honor deep within the core of the force.” Early in the posture statement testimony, Thomas offered one thought that serves as a key “bottom line” summation of USSOCOM’s continuing contributions to the nation: “Constituting approximately 2 percent of the Department of Defense (DOD) budget and 3 percent of manpower, I believe your special operations forces continue to provide exceptional return on investment.”



AFSOC INTERVIEW Lt. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb


Lt. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb is the commander, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Hurlburt Field, Florida. The Air Force component of U.S. Special Operations Command, AFSOC provides Air Force special operations forces for worldwide deployment and assignment to unified combatant commanders. The command has approximately 19,500 active-duty, Reserve, Air National Guard, and civilian professionals. Webb graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1984. He is a command pilot with more than 3,700 flying hours on the MH-53H/J/M, CV-22B, UH-1H/N, MC-130H, and MC-130P, including 117 combat hours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia. The general has commanded the 20th Special Operations Squadron, the 352nd Special Operations Group, the 1st Special Operations Wing, the 23rd Air Force, Special Operations Command Europe, and NATO Special Operations Headquarters. His staff assignments include duty at Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, at the Joint Special Operations Command, and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.


Special Operations Outlook



MC-130H Combat Talon II pilots conduct an air refueling mission as part of Emerald Warrior on March 5, 2018. At Emerald Warrior, the largest joint and combined special operations exercise, U.S. Special Operations Command forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict.








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Operations Outlook: Can you reflect on how the qSpecial AFSOC mission has evolved over the last 17 years of conflict? Lt. Gen. Marshall B. “Brad” Webb: Special operations’ unique capabilities are in high demand across the globe. For 17 years, AFSOC has been focused on Counter-Violent Extremist Organizations (CVEO) operations. This has accelerated the AFSOC operations tempo and has drawn our efforts towards the low end of the conflict spectrum.


Has that evolving mission been reflected in platform capabilities? For nearly three decades, AFSOC has effectively and decisively delivered specialized airpower around the globe, often at a moment’s notice. Our battlefield performance remains unmatched. However, the character of war continually evolves. AFSOC must remain agile and ready to prepare for the unpredictable. AFSOC must build full-spectrum readiness while ensuring that we are postured to “fight tonight.” We are invested in virtual, adaptive, and realistic training to build readiness beyond traditional means. Using virtual reality to integrate live training environments with simulators reduces training costs, lowers personnel tempo, and enables us to realistically exercise high-end mission sets. How do you see the mission evolving in the future? We realize these efforts are predominately long-term engagements in which cumulative tactical effects lead to long-term strategic impact. To make such engagements successful, AFSOC must lower the resource and opportunity costs of conducting persistent CVEO operations. We must drive down the cost of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED), and strike – especially in permissive environments. Conversely, AFSOC operations on the high end are predominately those that deliver strategic impact in a short amount of time. AFSOC must be capable and flexible in order to confront competitors across a range of potential conflict scenarios. We must develop a force that is more lethal and resilient in contested environments. We must be able to gain and maintain advantage in the information domain. Harmonizing our systems wherever possible will achieve

U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, prepare to board a U.S. Army CH-47F Chinook during a training mission in Afghanistan, March 15, 2018. Pararescuemen conduct training on combat, medical procedures, and search and rescue to hone their skills, providing the highest level of personnel recovery capabilities to commanders throughout the Combined Joint Operations Area-Afghanistan.

efficiencies of scale and interoperability savings along these lines of effort. Will those missions require new capabilities? To meet the challenges enumerated in the NDS [National Defense Strategy], AFSOC must cultivate a balanced force for high- and low-end conflict by investing in new capabilities while leveraging current capabilities in new, innovative ways. This strategy aims to balance and expand AFSOC relevance across the spectrum of conflict to deter, and if necessary defeat, adversaries in a dynamic and ever-changing security environment. AFSOC embraces the process of innovation from within our formation, striving towards a balance of incremental and transformational efforts that are cost-effective and that extend strategic purpose. What sorts of platforms/weapon systems do you envision as comprising the next-generation AFSOC aircraft fleet? AFSOC assiduously investigates new and unique ways to organize, train, and equip against strategic competitors. We promote [Air Force Chief of Staff] Gen. [David L.] Goldfein’s “current technology used in new ways” approach to rapid, cost-effective, and impactful innovation. AFSOC finds the way against America’s toughest enemies, dating back to daring infiltration missions against Nazi Germany’s “Fortress Europe” and the front lines of Imperial Japan. This ethos endured through the decades, and is still alive and well in your Air Commandos of today. Regardless of threats, AFSOC finds quick and lethal solutions, understanding the shifting geopolitical landscape and constantly adjusting our force presentation to maximize lethality and applicability for tomorrow’s fight.


U.S. Air Force CV-22 Ospreys land at Melrose Air Force Range, New Mexico, Feb. 26, 2018.

Maintaining a relevant force and fleet demands that we continually refine and modernize the force through programming priorities. By accelerating programs essential to retiring legacy aircraft, AFSOC can reinvest cost savings into future capabilities. For example, the MC-130J Talon III program provides adverse weather terrain following/terrain avoidance, radar threat avoidance/protection, and communication networking capabilities significantly more advanced than our current MC-130H Talon II fleet built in the 1980s. New radar frequency countermeasures technologies bring expanded capabilities, allowing digital upgrades that protect against emerging enemy threats without replacing complete systems. Airborne Mission Networking provides a suite of integrated situational awareness and communication tools providing the crew with a correlated common operating picture of the air and ground battlespace that does not currently exist in SOF mobility aircraft. PB-19 [Presidential Budget 2019] funding is critical to synchronize the Talon III design and testing, thus enabling a timely recapitalization of the Talon II fleet. Fielding of Talon III capabilities is critical to maintaining the relevance of our SOF C-130 specialized mobility fleet across all spectrums. Knowing we must innovate at the speed of relevancy, we are currently fielding our newest gunship using “plug and play” technology already evaluated in other AFSOC platforms. This allows for an expedited fielding time line, and more rapidly delivers the best lethality to our warfighters. Additionally, AFSOC is adjusting tactics, techniques, and


Special Operations Outlook

procedures, and adding low-cost modifications to current assets. These new combinations aim to produce cascading problems for America’s adversaries, creating strategic dilemmas and buying time for the joint force to act and react accordingly. The faster we can go from concept to the battlefield, the better. Other key emergent technologies at AFSOC include the gunship High Energy Laser, a non-kinetic weapon system employed to achieve highprecision lethal effects on targets with little to no acoustic signature and very low collateral damage. High energy lasers are a truly remarkable and innovative technology, one that is capable of dramatically shaping the battlefield to our advantage. Additional gunship advancements include the use of adverse weather engagement systems and tactical off-board sensing technologies. These systems enable our AC-130 gunship fleet to target, sense, and engage despite adverse weather conditions. Looking beyond the next ridgeline, we are interested in developments relating to Next Generation Vertical Take Off and Landing capabilities. We see this presenting a revolutionary leap in vertical-lift range and speed using advanced turbofan technology. Additionally, our Next Generation Manned ISR platform is going through requirement validation. We know this capability must be operable in a more contested threat environment than we’ve become accustomed to, and thus we’re looking for increases in endurance, range, speed, capacity, payload, and advanced defensive systems. Staying relevant requires persistence. Can you reflect on the importance of coalition partnerships to AFSOC operations? AFSOC stands with our Indo-Pacific, Middle Eastern, African, European, and hemispheric allies and partners, providing assurance and enhanced aviation capabilities against a subversive Russia and


an increasingly expansionist China. Ensuring readiness both home and abroad, AFSOC conducted 78 exercises and training events with partner nations in 2017, including stateside capstone exercises like our recently concluded Emerald Warrior. Overseas-based exercises, led by our OCONUS units and occasionally augmented with CONUS forces, play a critical role enabling Theater Special Operations Command (TSOC) and Global Combatant Command (GCC) regional campaign plans. Conducting bilateral and multilateral events with the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Republic of India, the Republic of Estonia, the United Kingdom, France, and others, our Air Commandos bolster the capabilities of partner nations, create pockets of containment, and ensure interoperability between American, allied, and partner forces. We welcome hosting members of this committee at any future exercises to see firsthand the value our Air Commandos deliver to allies, partners, and the nation. Our Combat Aviation Advisors (CAA) are the vanguard of AFSOC’s Irregular Warfare force. Specializing in aviation foreign internal defense (AvFID) operations, CAAs recently enhanced indigenous aviation operations in the Kingdom of Thailand, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Republic of Poland. Presidential Budget 2019 (PB-19) dramatically improves our AvFID capability by doubling our CAA capacity with 152 additional advisors, and by adding five AvFID armed ISR aircraft. CAA force growth ensures engagement with combatant commanders’ highest priority countries. As we work to build out the full CAA capability portfolio and bring more partner nations on board to share the security, we enthusiastically support the Air Force’s Light Attack Aircraft

Top: Four U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) execute a simultaneous overhead break June 22, 2017, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready to perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Above: An MC-130J Commando II, assigned to the 9th Special Operations Squadron, lands at Orogrande, New Mexico, in preparation for the U.S. Marine Corps’ High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launch during Exercise Emerald Warrior 18, March 5, 2018.

initiative. Using an economically feasible light attack platform would allow us to scale aviation training for our allies, expand procurement and maintenance efficiencies, and maximize opportunities to build partner capacity. Are you able to identify any recent activities that bring a special sense of pride to your organization? What defines AFSOC is not technology or platforms. Rather, we are defined by our people – active duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilians alike – and their relentless application of our ethos and strategic values balanced across the spectrum of conflict. Tomorrow’s fight is unknowable, but one thing is certain: It must be an integrated joint venture where our creative concepts will win out. AFSOC fervently believes a diverse formation lends itself to this end, and we develop all Air Commandos accordingly. In fact, AFSOC employs the skills of female


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aviators in combat operations, and has done so since 1994. The Air Force proudly promoted our first female Air Commando to the rank of brigadier general this year, and over 13 percent of our senior enlisted formation is female, a ratio that compares favorably to the rest of the Air Force. We have benefited from the expertise of female leadership at the squadron, group, and wing level for years, and will continue to do so into the future. Where are the greatest challenges of operating on a global basis? Humans, not hardware, allow us to accomplish our mission. Our Air Commandos, families, and relationships are our most valuable assets; but they are also our most vulnerable. Our nation calls upon us to provide specialized airpower, oftentimes at a moment’s notice. We proudly stand ready to answer our nation’s call. We understand the impact of this demanding and perilous mission. Therefore, the immediate and enduring resiliency of our force, family, and relationships is the critical foundation for everything we do. We consider this an essential task to maintain readiness of the AFSOC force. The readiness and relevance of our force is for naught if we neglect our physical, mental, spiritual, and social fitness. Utilizing USSOCOM’s Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) and the Air Force’s Comprehensive Airman Fitness programs, we ensure that our Air Commandos, including our brave gold star families, have access to every possible tool to achieve resiliency every day and we exploit every opportunity to encourage our airmen to use these tools. POTFF enables us to deliver human performance programs designed to meet the unique needs of our warfighters. It delivers psychological performance programs to improve our cognitive and behavioral performance. It integrates family resilience initiatives into social performance programs, enhancing serviceprovided programs. POTFF allows us to deliver spiritual performance programs to enhance core beliefs, values, awareness, relationships, and experiences. Our team is grateful for [the] resolute support of AFSOC, as the continued funding of USSOCOM’s POTFF program is vital to the long-term psychological, spiritual, social, and physical resiliency of the nation’s bravest warriors. After all, the invisible wounds of war can be just as debilitating as physical injuries. AFSOC is on a glide path to meet the Secretary of Defense’s goal of 1:2 deployment-to-dwell for the active force and 1:5 for reserve forces. Currently, 17 percent of deployed AFSOC personnel have a deployment-to-dwell of less than 1:2 and there are no individuals deployed below 1:1. To balance the insatiable global demand for specialized airpower, we are consistently working towards a

Left: A U.S. Air Force Pararescueman assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron participates in weapons training Feb. 21, 2018, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Right: Members of the 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron perform Forward Area Refueling Point (FARP)training on an MQ-9 Reaper at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, Feb. 13, 2018. The FARP team refueled the Reaper from an MC-130J Commando II of the 9th Special Operations Squadron.

maintainable deployment tempo for the long-term health of our force, while enhancing focus on recruiting, retention, and preservation of the force initiatives. Do you envision any changes in AFSOC organization or structure to better meet these future challenges? AFSOC is working with USSOCOM and Air Force Space Command to increase interoperability. As the Department of Defense’s lead component for the space warfighting domain, the Air Force aims to advance space-based technology to maintain superiority in the ultimate high ground. The joint force’s reliance on these space effects, such as GPS, ISR, and communications capabilities will grow exponentially, despite increased threats in the domain. We have adopted a resilient space enhancement strategy to ensure these capabilities are available for AFSOC missions throughout the conflict spectrum. Future employment opportunities include alternative beyond-line-of-sight options during operations and resilient positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) systems in denied environments. AFSOC heavily leverages both Air Force and USSOCOM research and development investments, but also tracks key Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, (DARPA), Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office, (SCO), and industry projects that align with our innovation focus. For example, we are partners with USSOCOM, AFRL, and industry for Project MAVEN. This Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence initiative leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to free precious human capital from laborintensive ISR categorization work. AFSOC leverages USSOCOM’s SOFWERX network to reach largely untapped non-traditional sources of innovation in the commercial markets. SOFWERX recently facilitated assessments for AFSOC of new systems and technologies, like reducing the size, weight, and power of the equipment carried by our Special Tactics operators. AFWERX is a similarly-scoped Air Force program that is relatively new, and is beginning to work other issues related to Special Tactics.




Special Operations Outlook




Marine Special Operations School Individual Training Course students fire an M240 medium machine gun during night-fire training April 13, 2017, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.


MARSOC YEAR IN REVIEW Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, visits students in the MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course at the multipurpose canine training facility aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 22, 2018.


for change of command in August, Maj. Gen. q AsCarlheE.prepares Mundy III reflected on his two years as commander of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and the legacy of change he is leaving behind. Key to it is the publication of “MARSOF 2030,” which details how MARSOC needs to evolve in the next decade to face a new set of threats and adversaries. (MARSOF – Marine Special Operations Forces – refers generically to the operational force; MARSOC is the Marine Corps’ service component to U.S. Special Operations Command [USSOCOM]; Raiders are what individual members of MARSOC are called since the formal deactivation of Marine Special Operations Battalions and reactivation of the Marine Raider Battalions that took place on June 19, 2015.) Key to MARSOC’s evolution is taking a hard, realistic view of the future and avoiding “fighting the last war.” “We are heavily invested in the current conflict, so our forces have an aggressive operations and deployment tempo. The challenge is having enough time and capacity – human resources – to be able to focus on getting ready for the next threat while dealing with the current,” he told Special Operations Outlook. “That’s the current impediment. “The key success is we were able to focus on the future and come up with a vision that will help us develop more specific innovation pathways or roadmaps to help implement that vision. There is a lot of hard work that needs to go into implementing a vision, but I think we’ve taken a huge step. We have just published the core document, so we are beginning the next step, which is to develop a deliberate implementation plan. From that, we will develop more specific pathways that will put flesh on the bone for each of the four pillars.” Mundy was referring to his four priority areas for MARSOC: • Provision of integrated full-spectrum special operations forces (SOF); • Capabilities integration between SOF and Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF); • Future force development; and • Preservation of the Force and Families. “Providing our force begins with the recruitment process and continues through our assessment, selection, and individual training

pipeline. We are focused on recruiting the best individuals from across the Marine Corps,” he told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities on April 11. “Our training is progressive. As individuals earn new special operations specialties, they are moved to teams or special skills training environments. The culminating exercise for Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOCs) and Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOTs) is Exercise Raven. MARSOC created Raven to assess and certify MSOCs and MSOTs for deployment. Held six times each year, the exercise emphasizes realistic decision-making for company and team commanders and provides a venue to practice the full planning, decision, execution, and assessment cycle. “This training continues until deployment and covers everything from individual skill sets to high-end, advanced, complex unit collective training. The training environments we create are dynamic. Not only do they prepare our Raiders for the current operational challenge, but they also evolve based on emerging threats and our expected participation in support of standing operational plans. Another benefit of the Raven exercise is its utility as a venue for integrating conventional Marine Corps resources into what is otherwise a SOF-centric exercise.” “Throughout our internal wargame series, four discrete concepts or themes consistently emerged. Each theme describes a distinct aspect of a vision for MARSOC, but at the same time each built upon the others, such that the four are interconnected and mutually supporting,” said Mundy. “Together, they provide a strong conceptual basis for a future MARSOC force that outpaces changes in the operating environment and remains a reliable force across warfighting and Title X functions.” Collectively, these themes have come together to form Mundy’s “four core pathways of innovation”: 1. MARSOF as a Connector – capturing MARSOC’s facility in building cohesive, task-organized teams to become the ideal integrator and synchronizer of U.S. capabilities with USSOCOM and partner-nation actions 2. Combined Arms for the Connected Arena – recognizing the need to “sense” and “make sense of” what is happening in diverse and multidimensional environments, using cyber and information domains as potential venues for conflict now and in the future and becoming as comfortable operating in those virtual domains as in the physical 3. The Cognitive Operator – touching all other pathways and priorities, the future “requires a SOF operator with an equal amount of brains to match brawn, foresight in addition to fortitude,” presiding over expanded capabilities that include influencing allies and partners; understanding complex problems; applying a broad set of national, theater, and interagency capabilities to those problems; and fighting as adeptly in the virtual space as the physical 4. Enterprise Level Agility – leveraging MARSOC’s small size as an advantage; having its own component headquarters, for example, allows the command to rapidly reorient to confront new challenges as they emerge, an organizational dexterity that can provide USSOCOM with an agile, adaptable force to meet unexpected or rapidly changing requirements The second priority is providing a bridge for routine capabilities integration with SOF and the deployed MAGTF to fully maximize the complementary capabilities of each formation, especially in light of near-peer/emerging competitors.


A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey takes off after Marine Special Operations School students infiltrate their objective during Field Training Exercise Raider Spirit, May 1, 2017, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. For the first time, U.S. Air Force special tactics airmen spent three months in Marine Special Operations Command’s initial Marine Raider training pipeline, representing efforts to build joint mind-sets across special operations forces.

“Given the threats present on contemporary battlefields and considering those we expect to face in the future, it has become increasingly important for SOF to be able to integrate ‘seamlessly’ with the conventional forces and vice versa,” he told lawmakers. “Conventional forces offer capabilities and a capacity that simply do not exist in our small formations. In today’s complex operating environment, the extent to which we, across the joint force, are able to leverage one another’s strengths, and thereby offset our vulnerabilities, could determine the difference between success and failure.” Capabilities MARSOC and its sister SOF service components partially rely on conventional forces to provide include cyber- and space-based capabilities, intelligence exploitation, mobility, fire support, logistics, and medical support, especially in scenarios involving high-intensity combat. “As the operating environment evolves and more complex threats emerge, MARSOC must adapt its force to meet these new challenges. Constant and deliberate innovation and evolution [are] critical to our success,” he testified. “Our concept for development is based on both a bottom-up-driven process that incorporates immediate battlefield feedback into our training curricula, equipment research, testing, [and] procurement, and a top-down approach that combines more


Special Operations Outlook

traditional capability acquisition processes with longer-term future concept and wargaming efforts.” He continued, “We have already taken steps to bring our vision to fruition with regard to capability development in particular technology areas. These include freeze-dried plasma, semi-autonomous seeing and sensing capability, organic precision fires, counter-UAS [unmanned aerial systems] rapid self-defense, unmanned cargo UAS and ground systems, rapid fusion of big data analytics and machine assisted learning, broadband tactical edge communications, and specialized insertion capabilities. As we research and improve our warfighting capabilities, we must keep in mind that our near-peer/emerging competitors are also making similar advances and investing in emerging technology. It is critical that we ensure the technological capabilities we opt for are able to operate, communicate, and self-heal in a signals-degraded environment.” The fourth priority – Preservation of the Force and Families [POTFF] – reflects what Mundy calls the “SOF Truth that people are more important than hardware.” MARSOC’s force and families program provides Raiders and their families with access to resources promoting personal resiliency to increase longevity in service. “Although listed as my fourth priority, preservation of the force and families is equally as important as the previous three priorities because people are at the heart of all we do. Currently, MARSOF special operators average 1 day overseas for every 1.9 days at home. Our capability specialists that enable communications, intelligence, air support [and] explosive ordnance disposal and our canine handlers vary by occupational specialty, but average between 1 to 1.7 and 1 to 1.2 days deployed as opposed to days spent at home station,” he told Special Operations Outlook.




Above: U.S. Marines and U.S. Air Force airmen fire Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifles during a foreign weapons familiarization class at Marine Special Operations School’s Individual Training Course, April 10, 2017, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Left: An HH-60H Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Firehawks of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 85 hovers above Marine Raiders as they winch a simulated casualty into the helicopter. Increasing the availability of aviation to MARSOC is one of Mundy’s goals for the command.

“Because of this high operational tempo, POTFF has become an integral tool for maintaining the overall health of our force through programs that are focused on improving human performance, providing resources for behavioral health, developing spiritual fitness, and offering other family-oriented opportunities that are designed to strengthen the family unit.” Mundy said the biggest event of the past year for MARSOC was winning approval of and beginning to move forward, in the Future Years Defense Program, with finally completing the build-out of the command after several years of falling short of its original proposed size. “In 2011, it was decided that 3,100 was the right number for MARSOC, so we were constrained, as was everyone else, by budget constraints and sequestration. We feel there were some artificial constraints, especially in our combat services support capacity, so the major event this year is we have been approved to grow,” he noted, adding they would start filling 368 frozen billets in October (the start of FY19) and hope to complete that build by 2022, “the vast majority of that within the first three years.” Mundy said there are a number of goals he hoped to complete – or at least make a strong start on – before his tour with MARSOC ends. Asked to identify the top three of those, he replied: “We are evaluating our deployment model. Our base unit is a Marine Special Operations Company, and we’re looking at what the optimum size of our deployment model should be. So I would like to make a decision on whether we remain at our company level or deploy as a battalion. “Putting the ‘A’ in MAGTF into MARSOC has not changed, and, while there has been no decision, I think there will be an effort at

the service level to consider increasing the availability of aviation for MARSOC. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are pursuing owning our own aircraft – we’re too small for that – but there may be ways to get direct support. We see several interim steps to get to that and think it’s feasible, so I’m now pushing it up to the ‘Big Corps.’ “A third effort is we now have the first three Stalker UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] systems, which is a demonstration of how quickly SOF can move. We got funding for 10 systems of that Group 2 platform and it is being deployed now; the remaining seven should be delivered by the end of this summer. We think the distributed small unit focus we have can take advantage of systems that are much smaller than an armed Predator. [For example], there are lots of different ground-mounted systems that could be employed. We’re pursuing it the same way we pursued Stalker last year, and I hope to see advances in that before I leave.” With its new special operations career path in place, MARSOC has a higher-than-usual retention rate, but still needs to recruit new special operators and support personnel to replace those who do transfer or retire and to fill new billets. The command has created three courses designed to do that and to expand knowledge about MARSOC to the Big Corps and other services. The MARSOC Combat Support Orientation Course (MCSOC) is specifically designed to attract existing Marines and expose them to some of the command’s critical enabler skill sets, such as explosive ordnance technician. Unlike critical skills operators and special operations officers and their “closed-loop” career track, the Special Operations Capability Specialists typically are with MARSOC for 60-month tours before either returning to the Marine Corps or getting out of the service. Mundy said a larger number of Marines





Left: Daniel Lloyd, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, prepares the unmanned air system Stalker XE for a flight during Exercise Steel Knight aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Nov. 28, 2017. MARSOC has moved rapidly to procure and deploy the Stalker XE. Below left: An IV-solution bag attached by a metal plate is carried by a Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle (JTARV) for transport from a simulated forward operating base to a Marine Special Operations Company in the field aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, July 7, 2017. The JTARV, which is in the developmental phase, is a lightweight autonomous vehicle that provides an aerial resupply capability for immediate support to operational units. It was being tested as a resupply platform for machine-gun sustainment training with a cargo unmanned logistics system during a tactical readiness exercise.

have signed up for each new iteration of MCSOC, a strong sign for the ranks of high-demand, specialized Marines on 60-month loan from the Corps. “We’ve also hired an individual to help us track those who are interested in coming in as support Marines. And we’re looking at taking some of our best practices from the formal [assessment] and selection for operators and using those in MCSOC as part of the recruiting and screening to help us ascertain if we have the right Marine and if that Marine thinks he or she is a good fit for MARSOC,” he told Special Operations Outlook. The other two courses – the Multi-Discipline Logistics Operations Course (MDLOC) and Multi-Discipline Intelligence Operators Course (MDIOC) – are open not only to all Marines, but also service members from sister service components. The goal there is to help identify problems and put solutions in place, improve exposure to MARSOC, and improve deployment interoperability. “The MDLOC has run three courses, each modified, and will formally transition into the regular training center after a fourth run. We will apply for it to have its own Marine occupational specialty,” he added. “MDIOC is going exceptionally well, preparing our intel Marines exceedingly well for the challenges they will face.” MARSOC’s recruitment efforts include women, under new Department of Defense (DOD) regulations opening all military billets to female warfighters. While there are 87 women in the command, “all of whom play critical roles and very important leadership staff positions,” none are special operators. “We have had three female Marines apply for assessment and selection, but none of those were selected. However, we have a few more who have applied, but have not yet gone through the assessment and selection process,” Mundy said. When asked what emerging technologies he felt are most important to pursue for MARSOC by 2030, Mundy quickly identified the growing evolution in the continuum from machine learning to adaptive to cognitive to artificial intelligence (AI).

“I’m enamored with machine learning and AI. We certainly see lots of special applications that are small, miniaturized for use in small capabilities. And also for analytics, to have machines take care of a lot of the mundane tasks and chores, especially when you don’t have that many people anyway. To get to a level of analysis much quicker, then have the higher level analysis done by a human, will advance the capabilities of our formations,” he said. “As we begin to think of other areas of the world, we need to be able to operate in environments where our reliance on communications, which has been nearly without failure in the past decade and a half, will be challenged. [We need] technologies that allow us to bring all the force we can apply against threats that can impede our ability to communicate.” Two other evolving technology areas of interest to MARSOC are wearable computing systems and ways to counter an adversary’s use of unmanned vehicle “swarms.” “The advances already have been far-reaching for wearable computing devices, but like every new piece of kit, you have to train to it, and that involves time to make sure they are used the right way. All these applications, in a way, are part of the Internet of Things, and we have to make sure we have dealt with any vulnerabilities they might present,” Mundy said. “We [MARSOC and SOCOM] are interested in defending against [unmanned] swarms. They represent lots of capability that is low cost-of-entry, and we’ve seen rather unsophisticated threats use it. SOCOM is especially interested in finding ways to defeat that, and we are following their lead. Right now, however, we are not pursuing a swarm capability of our own.” MARSOC is the youngest service component of SOCOM, the Marine Corps never having created a separate, specialized special ops command. It also is by far the smallest, comprising only 5 percent of SOCOM’s total personnel. Some have seen that as little more than a token gesture to SOCOM by the Marine Corps. However, MARSOC’s small size in many ways reflects that of the Big Corps, which is less than 15 percent of the total DOD active-duty force – and size has never been a measure of the value, utility, versatility, and rapid adaptability of the Marine Corps. “One of the primary parts of MARSOF 2030 is turning the idea that small is not necessarily a good thing on its head. As we wrote that document, we thought about how to use our size to SOCOM’s advantage, rapidly turning the whole organization to that end. So instead of thinking of us as a fungible capability like the rest of SOF, taking the 5 percent of SOCOM we represent and applying it to a specific problem,” Mundy said. “That’s our idea behind Enterprise Level Agility. I think we’ll move very deliberately to become that agile force that can be turned quickly to a specific problem and take a load off the SOCOM commander’s plate and help him regain a measure of operational flexibility. That’s where a smaller force could be very useful.”



NAVSPECWARCOM INTERVIEW Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY

Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski is a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1985. He completed a Master of Joint Campaign Planning and Strategy at Joint Advanced Warfighting School. Szymanski’s previous Naval Special Warfare and operational assignments include platoon and task unit commander at SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 2. He served as troop and squadron commander and as operations officer and deputy commanding officer at Naval Special Warfare Development Group. He commanded Special Boat Unit 26, SEAL Team 2, O6-level Joint Task Force in Afghanistan and Naval Special Warfare Group 2. He served as deputy commanding general sustainment to Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan/ NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan. Szymanski served as assistant commanding general to Joint Special Operations Command prior to assuming command of Naval Special Warfare Command. Szymanski’s previous staff assignments include officer community Manager for NSW and enlisted community manager for SEALs, Navy Divers, EOD Technicians and Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen. He served on the Joint Staff as the J3 deputy directorate for Special Operations as the Global War on Terror branch chief and as chief staff officer of Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell.


Special Operations Outlook



An East Coast Navy SEAL keeps a lookout during an exercise May 15, 2017, at Port Michoud, Louisiana, during Trident 2017. Trident 17 is Naval Special Warfare’s premier joint training event that encompasses several special operations forces and conventional military participants, as well as partner nations and partner agencies to create realistic, combined-effort scenarios for operational units.







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Operations Outlook: Can you talk a bit about NSW q Special support to the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the Navy’s Maritime Strategy? How is NSW support changing in light of a post-9/11 transitioning battlespace? Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski: The National Defense Strategy adeptly describes the environment and issues impacting national security and security around the globe. In the NDS, Secretary of Defense James Mattis charged DOD [the Department of Defense] with developing a more joint force structure while becoming more agile, lethal, and innovative. The Chief of Naval Operations, in turn, laid out the maritime responsibilities articulated in the NDS, focusing on increasing naval power through balancing capability and capacity with readiness and sustainment. As the maritime component to U.S. Special Operations Command and the special operations force of the U.S. Navy, Naval Special Warfare is aligned with and moving out to support these defense strategies. With a global presence operating in more than 35 countries on any given day, we provide significant and effective impacts. Networked with U.S. Navy and joint forces, other government agencies, allies, and foreign partners, we execute missions in support of USSOCOM [U.S. Special Operations Command], Navy, and fleet and geographic combatant commanders. We support achieving national objectives across a full range of diplomatic and operational environments. After 16 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we are focusing on our capabilities as the maritime component to Special Operations, exploring opportunities for increased integration and interoperability, and building capabilities and capacity with fleet, submarine, aviation, and cyber forces. For example, we recently collaborated with the Naval Postgraduate School to conduct a maritime, multi-threat experiment in Southern California. The exercise allowed us to explore realistic future scenarios including SOF (special operations forces) application and integration of unmanned systems in a multi-domain (sea, air, and land) environment. Teaming with the Navy, we learned a great deal collectively and advanced our way of thinking about NSW’s niche application of artificial intelligence (AI) and human-machine teaming in current and future operational environments.

U.S. Navy Sea, Air, and Land team members conduct military free fall operations flying aboard a U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130 Talon II flown by the 19th Special Operations Squadron during Trident 17 on Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 3, 2017.

We are also refining our capabilities that enable access to areas that may be denied to conventional forces. Modernizing our maritime mobility platforms is one such investment. In fact, our teaming with maritime industries has never been stronger. We have introduced three high-performance surface combatant craft into our fleet to serve across the spectrum of maritime operations. They include the Combatant Craft Assault, which replaced the NSW 11-meter rigid-hulled inflatable boat, the Combatant Craft Medium, which replaced the Mark V Special Operations Craft, and the new Combatant Craft Heavy. SOF undersea mobility provides a uniquely capable, clandestine means to access peer/near-peer locations. To that end, we are putting two new multi-mission sub-surface combatant craft into operations. And I am especially excited about the modernization of one of our dry deck shelters. We’re extending its length and remotely controlling its hatches so that we can reduce risk to our divers. My fundamental challenge is to man, train, and equip the force to be better positioned to support our nation’s defense needs while supporting the theaters’ operational requirements. Our efforts in innovation, force optimization, interoperability with the Navy along with initiatives supporting the long-term health of our people are game-changing priorities that will help drive us to become the force our nation needs in the future. How does/should NSW prepare for a reemergence of interstate strategic competition? The challenges facing U.S. forces today are numerous, and made more difficult by adversaries who have continuously been investing in their own militaries’ capabilities and their defense against U.S.




capabilities. Additionally, these interstate competitors today have more opportunity to invest in, and exploit, accelerating technologies at a pace matched with global industry that is no longer separated by America’s dominance in the technology sector. We will continue to hunt terrorists, disrupt networks, and face violent extremist organizations, while the battlefield expands and becomes more complex and chaotic. Today, our most pressing security concerns involve the aggressive, coercive, and disruptive actions of near-peer competitors and rogue regimes. This changing character of warfare -- exerting power by fighting below the level of armed conflict -- favors our adversaries to the point that they are gaining advantages that threaten America’s national security. The NDS addresses these challenges head on, making it clear that we will continue to face the threats of the last decade while developing counter-strategies for new or reemerging adversaries. The national guidance reprioritizing strategic adversaries truly allows us to break our existing paradigms and reinvigorate our innovation efforts well beyond just technology. We are relooking at all our capabilities, our structure, and our processes to achieve the goals set forth in the NDS and to ensure we can maintain our capability overmatch, avoid operational and technological surprise, and provide our nation with unique capabilities to its hardest security problems in new and future operating environments. Additionally, while NSW offers forward commanders a variety of options to employ against near-peer competitors, these options must be part of a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to the problem. Military actions need to be integrated into a joint, multilateral interagency campaign to effectively challenge our adversaries and any illegitimate expansion they may attempt to execute.


Special Operations Outlook


Above: Lt. Gen. Kenneth Tovo, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, participates in a simulated hot extraction by Naval Special Warfare Group 4’s Special Boat Team 22, located at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Right: Naval Special Warfare personnel train with autonomous drones to leverage battlespace superiority and buy down risk for the force.

In the past, you have mentioned the integration of new technologies into NSW. How do you view the contributions of AI, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR)? What about unmanned/robotic technologies? Great question. My first comment is to caution that innovation is not only about technology, but also about the disciplined process clarifying the problem statement, and then, through creative thought, identifying effective solutions or pathways to solutions to those redefined problems. In some cases, it is about the creative use of technologies in adaptive manners and our ability to effectively ideate, explore, experiment, and then rapidly assimilate the technology for our advantage. Additionally, the accelerating pace of global commercial development of technologies not only makes them available to us for our use, but also to our adversaries. At the headquarters, we are focused on our ability to rapidly understand the accelerating technology landscape and ideate on operational concepts for overmatch and vulnerabilities.




Above: U.S. Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) personnel emerge from the sea at twilight during a training exercise. Right: U.S. Navy SEAL team members conduct a maritime interdiction operation boarding a vessel to conduct search and seizure during Exercise Trident 17 on Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 10, 2017.

NSW has a truly unique culture where excellence is the expected norm and innovation is continuously pursued at all levels. Innovation is in our core values, our ethos and, quite frankly, in our DNA. As such, our highly creative force is constantly feeding the innovation of tactics, techniques, procedures, and utilization of technologies adapted to the battlefield. It is a culture that is the envy of even the most innovative corporations. Because innovation is in our DNA, we do not only focus on incremental or sustaining innovation, we have a team and processes to focus on our pursuit of “Big I” Innovation. That is the categorization of our innovation efforts focused on NSW’s strategy to develop future capabilities to disrupt the future battlefield across the spectrum of conflict, to ensure we are not disrupted by the adversary, and to provide unique and niche solutions to our nation’s hardest security problems. Our “Big I” efforts also include in-depth pursuit of applications of accelerating technology sectors to our existing capabilities to provide immediate exponential improvements of 10 times or greater to increase our mission effectiveness, reduce operational risk, increase readiness, and increase business efficiency. By harnessing and capitalizing on commercial investment in specific technology sectors, we are able to see those trends in development and application and then apply them to our operational imperatives and mission objectives to develop pathways for partnered development of dual-use technologies. Our efforts in artificial intelligence/machine learning (ML) and autonomy, augmented and virtual reality, and the application of Internet of Things are focused on hyper-enabling NSW-Joint SOF operations. This comes in many applications, one of which is autonomy of robots, drones, and undersea vehicles to conduct mission critical tasks both today and in more challenging operational environments of the future. Our operational imperatives of increasing precision

with certainty, reducing risk, and moving from a constrained footprint or scarcity model to an abundance model, drive some of our early investments in these sectors. In the backdrop, our SOF operator as the leader, mature decision-maker, and tactical expert requires an interface to effectively utilize the technology growing in complexity and autonomy. The hyper-enabled NSW team will be a human-machine team in many ways that we previously teamed with other capabilities such as the Combat K-9, but will be more complex. It will be saturated with data and intelligence and will require a greater understanding of how to increase the speed of decision making while decreasing the cognitive load on a leader under combat conditions. We see AI/ML as a significant path to autonomy of a suite of networked systems to enable battlespace awareness, increase capacity of a small SOF team, automate traditional operator/enabler functions, enable operations at a distance, and reduce the risk to our force. Our work in AR/VR has multiple fronts. First, we are focusing on our training, mission planning, and rehearsal simulation environment. Being able to replicate a training environment as many times as desired without overtaxing our high-demand, low-density assets has a significant rate of return. This is driving our way ahead for AR/VR in training for tasks involving Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Static Line Jump Master, etc. As our operator adoption of this technology

In some cases, it is about the creative use of technologies in adaptive manners and our ability to effectively ideate, explore, experiment, and then rapidly assimilate the technology for our advantage. 39



NAVSPECWARCOM YEAR IN REVIEW U.S. Navy SEAL team members conduct proof-of-concept development testing with an in-water reconnaissance drone during Exercise Trident 17 on Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 2, 2017.


in the training environment increases, it then increases the openness to adoption in the operational environment. We can see a future where the concept of telemedicine on the battlefield is enabled by the combat medic using augmented reality and reaching back to a combat surgeon for support and advice to conduct lifesaving actions. This future reality is also enabled through our pursuit of the NSW operator being a part of the Internet of Things with smart sensors, computing on the edge, and distributed and secure communications across the team. This future operational concept not only increases survivability of the team in extremis, but also provides a senior military leader with a more palatable risk matrix for conducting certain missions in future operating environments. NSW – and SOF writ large – plays a critical role in countering the approach of our adversaries who are opting to maneuver in the gray zone. Our laser focus on “Big I” is instrumental in support of USSOCOM and the Navy’s efforts to effectively project the future environment and develop advantage through deep creative thought, exploration, and experimentation. I am confident that if we can continue to lead in these kinds of innovations and stay ahead of our adversaries, we can compete and win short of conflict. Do you feel that NSW is “right-sized” to meet current operational needs? Can you talk about any potential changes you are considering to better position NSW for the third decade of this century? In light of the recent Comprehensive Review by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Strategic Review by the Secretary of the Navy, we are examining the NSW force structure. Acknowledging that manpower requirements have outpaced authorized and actual growth, we’ve spent the last year taking a hard look at how we can best use the resources we have to optimize the impacts we’re making on the battlefield. We’ve looked at how to redirect resources and merge assets to build depth and agility, meet transregional threats, and provide increased combat lethality to the Theater Special Operation Commands. Optimizing our force, similar to the realignment we underwent in the late ’90s, is paramount to meeting current operational demands and providing greater agility to meet future requirements. Our primary weapons system remains the operator. Therefore, we will continue to invest heavily in our personnel, whether it’s to train,

retain, or sustain them. Development of the Silver Strand Training Complex-South over the next decade is the single most important military construction effort impacting the current and future operational readiness of the NSW force. Once complete, the complex will consolidate the training requirements of today’s force, creating efficiencies and synergy of improved operational planning and readiness, but also allow our operators to spend more time with their families and communities. Preservation of the Force and Families [POTFF], our Human Performance Program, and our most important initiatives involving cognitive health are about keeping our warriors in the fight, extending their service life, and giving them a high-quality life post-service. For example, we are learning that long-term physical and psychological impacts may result in changes to one’s memory, attention, processing speed, problem-solving ability, visuospatial function, and impulse control, which can affect operational performance and mission accomplishment. Given that we are in the longest continuous stretch of armed conflict in our history, learning about the cognitive health of our force is a critical endeavor. We have initiated a Cognitive Surveillance Program that will be a more preemptive approach to intervention where cognitive impacts are indicated. More broadly, this initiative will seek to identify injuries earlier, track individual trends, and assist in developing comprehensive treatment plans to aid in the recovery of our service members. The end-state is to get NSW operators back into the fight while contributing to their long-term wellness. NSW continues to seek and offer best practices as we develop our cognitive health emphases. We rely on education, informed research efforts, and leadership support across the continuum of care to help mitigate the range of brain injuries and increase recovery rates for our members. Integrated with the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine [and Surgery] and the USSOCOM Care Coalition, our Preservation of the Force and Families Program supports our NSW team as a whole -- our service members and the families that serve alongside them. The programs that live under that umbrella – from human and mental performance to our family support services – aren’t simply words on paper. Those POTFF resources help me to take care of everyone on this team. I have a moral obligation to take care of our Gold Star and Surviving Families, too. Through our Gold Star and Surviving Family Program, we are fulfilling the promise to those parents, children, and siblings of “NSW for Life.” While benevolent organizations and programs help Gold Star families in a variety of ways, their support does not relieve NSW of its responsibility to ensure these families are cared for and their unique needs are addressed. Through regular communication, coordinating events, and providing support and resourcing assistance, NSW is ensuring our Gold Star families will always be taken care of and connected to us. Are there any other thoughts with which you’d like to leave our readers? Naval Special Warfare will continue to place priority on strengthening, equipping, and protecting our people and outpacing our enemies by employing new technologies and accelerating trends. We will refine and adapt to ensure Naval Special Warfare remains relevant and lethal, and when necessary, stands ready, willing, and able to engage in combat to fight and win decisively for many years to come.


A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, provides security as an assault force prepares to raid a compound of interest during an operation in the Alingar district, Laghman province, Afghanistan, Feb. 18, 2018. The purpose of this operation was to destroy the command and control element of the Taliban in the area and force the remaining forces out of the valley.


Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo was commissioned from the U.S. Military Academy into the infantry in 1983. After serving his initial tour with the 82nd Airborne Division, Tovo completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and transferred to Special Forces. He served as a Special Forces detachment, company, battalion, and group commander in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Tovo’s additional assignments included serving as a plans officer with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta and Joint Headquarters Center (NATO); aide-de-camp to the commander, Stabilization Force, Bosnia; chief of staff, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC); deputy commanding general, Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR); deputy commanding general, 1st Armored Division/U.S. Division Center, Iraq; commanding general, Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT); and commanding general, Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan and NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (CSTC-A/NTM-A). Most recently, Tovo served as the military deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida. Tovo’s operational assignments include the first Gulf War, refugee relief operations in Northern Iraq, noncombatant evacuation operations in Sierra Leone, peacekeeping operations in Bosnia on two occasions, five tours in Iraq, and one tour in Afghanistan. Operations Outlook: In a panel discussion at the October q Special 2017 AUSA Annual Meeting, you outlined how the men and women in Army special operations forces – ARSOF – provide strategic value to the nation through a unique set of capabilities. Can you talk a little about that strategic value? Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo: U.S. Army Special Operations Command [USASOC] provides the premier special operations forces [SOF] of choice for worldwide employment across the spectrum of conflict. We operate and fight as a joint force with operators and units serving as nodes in a global network. Each node contributes


Special Operations Outlook




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to greater SOF awareness of transregional trends, opportunities, or threats in support of joint force commanders, ambassadors, or other elements of the U.S. government. Our forces provide a suite of invaluable tools to the nation. ARSOF members deliver tactical, operational, and strategic value through what we call our four pillars of capability: an indigenous approach, precision targeting operations, developing understanding and wielding influence, and crisis response. Through these pillars, we offer strategic options that allow senior leaders to exploit emerging opportunities or to address a range of threats. Our soldiers are specifically selected and trained to endure the mental and physical rigors of operating in austere environments, bringing capabilities that are rapidly deployed, scalable, and have worldwide reach. Can you talk about the four complementary capability sets? What are they and how do they support national objectives? The four complementary capabilities – indigenous approach, precision targeting operations, developing understanding and wielding influence, and crisis response – are coupled with tailorable mission command nodes and scalable force packages that are low-signature and employ a small footprint. They are particularly suited for employment in politically sensitive environments. Indigenous approach. Our forces are comprised of Special Forces [SF], Psychological Operations [PSYOPS], Civil Affairs [CA], Army Rangers, and other special operations troops. Many of our personnel and formations are regionally aligned. They employ advanced language skills and a high level of cultural and regional expertise. We live among, train with, advise, and fight alongside people of foreign cultures. We achieve effects on an enemy or an environment by working through or with indigenous partners. We think this indigenous approach provides a low-cost, high-impact option. It is a different way to view challenges to regional stability, viewing them as problems to be solved by empowered populations living in the region, using core tasks such as foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, and advise, assist, and accompany activities. Precision targeting operations involve kinetic and non-kinetic direct action and counter-network activities enabled by SOF unique intelligence, targeting processes, and technology, to include ARSOF rotary-wing capabilities, armed unmanned aerial systems, and psychological operations. Precision targeting operations create precise physical and psychological effects and can be used to collapse human or physical networks through deliberate targeting of critical nodes. 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. These operations are executed by highly trained, rapidly deployable, and scalable ARSOF personnel and formations that are employed to buy time and space for other operations to gain traction, such as transforming indigenous mass into combat power. 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 the means to obtain early understanding of emerging local, regional, transregional threats, and/or where opportunities exist for advancing U.S. objectives. The SOF network provides capabilities needed to influence outcomes in all campaign phases and especially in conflict short of overt war. Engagement worldwide allows ARSOF to develop long-term partnernation relationships, and an advanced understanding of complex environments. Operating in culturally and politically complex 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,

Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo.

regionally aligned employment, provide the expertise necessary to understand complex environments and the ability to influence people and circumstances. Crisis response, provided through CONUS and OCONUS stationed alert forces and persistently deployed and dispersed units, provides national decision makers with agile, tailorable, and rapidly employable ARSOF formations necessary to respond to emergencies unilaterally or in concert with our network of partners. These forces provide options to rescue people under threat, to recover sensitive materials, to provide humanitarian relief, or to address other short notice contingencies. ARSOF crisis response capabilities leverage the SOF network and partner-nation relationships established before crisis occurs. Persistent engagement develops relationships and the advanced understanding needed in times of crisis for ARSOF to effectively employ unilateral capabilities and those created during partner-force development. Through ARSOF crisis response, a small number of operators can rapidly address emergencies in an effort to enable host-nation solutions to local or regional security challenges. ARSOF has evolved over the last 17 years of conflict. Do you see that evolution continuing into the next decade? After more than 16 years of war, the operational effectiveness of ARSOF remains high. We have acknowledged that the future operating environment will continue to evolve with highly adaptive state and non-state adversaries seeking to challenge the status quo and our national interests. USASOC has refocused our training priorities


to remain ready for the global counter-VEO [violent extremist orginization] mission, while also building and sustaining readiness for peer and near-peer threats, in both armed conflict and the competitive space short of war. Preventing or deterring hybrid conflict short of all-out war is demanding. It requires persistent forward engagement at points of vulnerability around the world. It requires soldiers to understand the political, cultural, and geographic complexities of austere operating environments and the unique challenges faced by our allies and partners. It also requires an advanced understanding of adversaries and how they are evolving in an effort to shift the competitive space to their advantage. In order to meet these requirements and to counter irregular and conventional warfare threats of the future, USASOC will continue to provide the nation with a portfolio of complementary capabilities enabled by institutional and operational agility. Can you talk a bit about how USASOC’s capabilities and approaches serve to complement conventional force capabilities? In 2015, USASOC initiated efforts to improve the way in which conventional forces and SOF elements function together in training and operating environments. These efforts continue and build upon successes achieved in past years and through combined training around the world, including integration at the three Combat Training Centers, at warfighter exercises, and in professional military education, to name a few. In recent years, the U.S. Army has fielded forces for advise and assist missions by assigning elements from within brigade combat teams [BCTs] to fill partner capacity-building requirements, a mission the


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Army has had for more than 40 years. There is a capability gap when it comes to dedicated forces trained and available to meet geographic combatant command [GCC] partner building capacity demands. The U.S. Army is moving to address this through the establishment of security force assistance brigades [SFAB]. The SFABs will provide dedicated force structure to institutionalize the Army’s commitment to SFA and to meet GCC SFA demands without deconstructing the BCTs or degrading readiness. ARSOF is positioned to enable SFAB success through training efforts like providing SF, CA, and PSYOP cadre to the MATA [Military Advisor Training Academy] course, running the SFA Foreign Weapons Course at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and other collaborative initiatives specifically designed to train conventional U.S. Army personnel. Have the evolving USASOC capabilities been reflected in new supporting platforms? USASOC is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the future operating environment. Our strategic framework is a time-phased approach and depicts our enduring mission responsibilities that extend across three time horizons, which include: ready the force and position them for the demands of the current operating environment; mature the force and advance ARSOF capabilities to meet mid-term demands; and invest in the future force by developing capabilities to meet challenges of the future operating environment. Regular assessments that include bottom-up feedback and top-down guidance will enable us to continually evaluate where we are and determine where we need to go.





Left: Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting .50-caliber weapons training during counter-ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria. Right: U.S. Army Rangers assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment assault an objective at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Feb. 21, 2018. Rangers spent 72 hours at JMRC as the culmination of winter warfare training with the German military.

Do you believe that USASOC is “right-sized” for current and projected operational tempos? If not, why not? ARSOF employs empowered soldiers and integrated units capable of delivering ARSOF cross-functional teams across the range of modern warfare challenges, and leverages adaptive and innovative institutional capabilities to provide the joint force an enduring competitive edge over our nation’s adversaries. Recently approved growth will help fill critical personnel gaps and will assist us in maintaining a sustainable readiness model, making USASOC formations even more capable of supporting combatant commander directed missions. How do you see the USASOC mission evolving in the future? USASOC’s enduring mission is to man, train, equip, educate, organize, sustain, and support all Army special operations forces. USASOC 2035 Strategy objectives call for the development of technology, training, and other solutions to address current and future capability

gaps. The future operating environment continues to evolve with highly adaptive state and non-state adversaries seeking to challenge the status quo of our national interests. The forms of conflict employed by adversaries in the future are expected to be hybrid in nature, blending conventional, irregular, and informational and cyber capabilities, and will more often challenge the stability of regions through indirect means. ARSOF will continue to play a key role in obtaining early understanding of emerging threats and in deploying a suite of capabilities to deter threats, control escalation of crises, and buy time and space for holistic solutions that call upon all elements of national power. Will those missions require new capabilities? We still have a number of initiatives in development that are related to personnel management, doctrine, training, and equipping. We will continue these initiatives as we take the next step to identify and obtain capabilities required by our formations in the future. Some specific capabilities we’re looking at include our next generation of rotary-wing aviation and unmanned aerial systems [UAS], counter-UAS, WMD tracking, mobility, and counterintegrated air defense systems. USASOC Strategy 2035 and the Campaign Plan that operationalizes it are designed to adapt to changing demands over time. Are you able to identify any recent activities that bring a special sense of pride to your organization? While there are numerous activities that bring a sense of pride, our indigenous approach capability is one in which our soldiers establish,







An Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service soldier practices tactical reloads for the M4 rifle as part of the CTS’ advanced training near Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 8, 2016. The CTS is Iraq’s elite counterterrorism force and has proven to be an effective fighting force against ISIS. This training was part of the overall Combined Joint Task ForceOperation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity mission to increase the capacity of partnered forces fighting ISIS.

develop, and advise partner forces. This is a deliberate effort that follows a methodology honed over the years of SOF capacity building in nations around the world. The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, or CTS, is a good example of successful partner forces. The CTS is a force established and developed by Army Special Forces in a capacity-building effort that started in 2003 and extends through today. The effort began with two battalions and grew into three Iraqi special operations brigades, a force generation institution, and a division-level command structure. Over years of engagement, Special Forces trainers established an initiative-based organizational culture in the CTS, driven by a will to win. The effort prepared the CTS to face ISIS and to transform their operating methodology to win against the new threat. CTS forces were originally built and trained for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency precision raids. The fight against ISIS required the CTS to transform into a combined arms maneuver force that employs indirect fires and armor in a synchronized manner. They successfully made the transformation and continue to refine their tactics, techniques, and procedures based on lessons they learn from each battle with ISIS.

Today, the CTS consists of about 10,000 Iraqi soldiers and stands as the Iraqi government’s force of choice to lead attacks to retake cities from ISIS. Cities liberated by the CTS include Tikrit, Haditha, Ramadi, Hit, and Fallujah, and CTS played a key role in the recent liberation of Mosul. Partner capacity building takes time. Quality forces that endure and succeed cannot be created quickly. This was one approach in which we saw great successes. Where are the greatest challenges of operating on a global basis? Some of the greatest challenges include a constrained future operating environment, characterized by peer, near-peer, and non-state competitors, technologically advanced threats, ubiquitous surveillance, artificial intelligence-enabled battle networks, globally scaled and interconnected information, and the increasing relevance of people and populations in competition and conflict. Any other takeaway messages you would care to share about ARSOF? ARSOF elements consistently fill more than 60 percent of all U.S. SOF deployments worldwide, deploying in more than 70 countries on any given day of the year, representing a force of approximately 33,000 and more than half of the nation’s SOF. In an era of uncertainty, ARSOF must continue to provide the nation with a portfolio of complementary capabilities to address future hybrid threats. ARSOF capabilities allow each of our soldiers to make and keep a promise to our nation – to protect the nation without fear, without fail, without equal.




U.S. REP. JAMES LANGEVIN Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, where he is the ranking member of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, and also serves on the Subcommittees on Seapower and Projection Forces and Tactical Air and Land Forces. As a supporter of the critical national security work done by Rhode Island’s defense industry, he has worked in committee to double production of the extraordinary Virginia-class submarines built in Quonset, meeting military needs and creating hundreds of new jobs. After fulfilling an eight-year term on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Langevin returned as a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, where he serves as a member of the Subcommittees on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications. Securing our nation’s technology infrastructure against cyber attack is a top priority for Langevin. As the co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, he led the way in raising awareness of cybersecurity issues in Congress and fostering dialogue and debate on the critical questions surrounding this topic. He co-chaired the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency, which made policy recommendations to President Barack Obama. Langevin has introduced the Personal Data Notification and Protection Act to ensure consumers are appropriately alerted when their sensitive information is compromised. To further improve cybersecurity, he has also introduced the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act, which aims to strengthen the country’s defenses against cyber threats and reflects concerns listed in the commission’s report, including the vulnerability of critical infrastructure. Recognized as a national and party leader on national security, health care and cybersecurity, Langevin has dedicated his many years of public service at the federal and state levels to the hard-working citizens of Rhode Island. Born April 22, 1964, Langevin is the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the age of 16, Langevin was injured while working with the Warwick Police Department in the Boy Scout Explorer program. A gun accidentally discharged and a bullet struck Langevin, leaving him paralyzed. The tremendous outpouring


Special Operations Outlook

U.S. Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I.

of support from his community inspired Langevin to give something back and enter public service. Langevin graduated from Rhode Island College and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He resides in Warwick, Rhode Island.




U.S. Rep. James Langevin questions senior military leaders during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, March 7, 2017.

Operations Outlook: The Trump administration q Special released a new National Defense Strategy (NDS) at the end of 2017, placing emphasis on the issue of near-peer threats China and Russia, and in fact calling such near-peer competition the primary threat facing the United States. Given that special operations in the years since Sept. 11 have primarily been involved with counterterrorism and anti-insurgency efforts, how do you see the naming of this new primary threat affecting Special Operations Command (SOCOM)?

U.S. Rep. James Langevin: Regardless of the type of threat, Special Operations Command will continue to play a key role in our national security. SOCOM has been and will continue to be heavily engaged in counterterrorism, but their expertise in the core special operations activities also helps reduce threats for combatant commanders across the spectrum of operations. Our special operations forces [SOF] are in more than 80 countries, working side by side with partners and allies to facilitate peaceful cooperation as well as combat operations. Our global security environment is only going to get more complex. For this reason, our special operations forces and their unique capabilities will continually need to answer the call.



Special operations has been traditionally considered “the tip of the spear,” a small but elite force. In the years since 9/11, SOCOM’s ranks have doubled, and the command’s budget request for next year asks for funding to add 1,000 more troops. Do we have to consider that the “special” missions that SOCOM has historically undertaken are the new norm? Or will the new emphasis on near-peer competitors see SOF pushed into the background as they were during much of the Cold War? Our special operations forces are growing as threats around the world evolve. Our adversaries do not want to get in a high-end conflict with the United States, and for good reason. But while nearpeer competitor challenges grow, we must remember SOF remains engaged in the counterterrorism fight and is still hard at work in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Africa. We must not lose sight of that. We must ensure that we are not overburdening the

SOF community and are caring for them and their families when they return home. What does the shift of focus to strategic competition with near peers, as outlined in the National Defense Strategy, mean for the partners and allies that have been a key part of SOCOM’s mission success as far as their tactics, techniques, manpower, methods, etc.? Our partners and allies remain one of our strategic advantages over our adversaries, and will remain a key asset in any future conflict. We could not operate as effectively around the world without our network of alliances, and we see that today in places like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where our allies and partners provide specific and reinforcing capabilities to ensure stability in all corners of the globe. In that same vein, how do we ensure that our relationships with partners and allies remain strong as Russia and China seek to undermine U.S. strength – not always overtly (i.e., militarily) but through economic or political or social means? How do we keep our partners on board and not swayed by subversive messaging? These challenges to U.S. strength and the strength of our alliances is not a military problem alone. While we must have a strong national


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U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin addresses attendees of the Navy-Private Sector Critical Infrastructure Wargame held at U.S. Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. The wargame brought together approximately 140 executives and information security officers from private industry across several sectors to share insights surrounding the impact on the U.S. Navy resulting from cyberrelated disruptions.



top military and civilian officials, as well as the intelligence community, have stated publicly that climate change is a direct threat to both national and global security, and with passage of last year’s NDAA, Congress has finally followed suit. I am disappointed that climate change was omitted from both the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, and I led a bipartisan coalition of members of Congress in writing to the president and the secretary of defense expressing our concern with the omission. However, regardless of its direct inclusion in the NSS/NDS, we cannot shift our focus on this critically important threat.

defense, we must also effectively use all diplomatic, economic, and informational elements of national power available to us. It is essential that we empower the State Department to carry out its essential functions, removing some of the burden on the Department of Defense and sending a strong message to any potential adversaries that there are no gaps in U.S. power projection.

The Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR) has taken the majority of the military’s focus since at least Sept. 11, 2001, though a pivot to the Pacific AOR has been discussed for a handful of years now. How much of that pivot has taken shape? How much more needs to happen, and how quickly? The current administration has not holistically retained the shift in focus towards the Pacific AOR the way the previous administration did. However, our special operations forces have remained focused on and operating in the Pacific region for years to assure allies, deter aggression, and address complex threats. While complex threats continue to arise out of CENTCOM that are worthy of our attention, it is critical we continue to address the very real threats emerging from the Pacific with speed, agility, and flexibility.

Psychological operations have been a component of our special operations forces for a long time. After seeing how social media was weaponized by the Russians during the recent election, does a strong cyber component also need to be a part of SOCOM or within each of its service component commands to defend our forces as well as offensively exploit the cyber domain? Or are our existing cyber commands sufficient to defend the nation? I have been studying cyber for over a decade now, and if I am certain of one thing, it is that any future conflict will contain an element of cyber. I am pleased that U.S. Cyber Command has moved quickly to ensure the Cyber Mission Force reaches FOC [full operational capability] ahead of schedule, and I look forward to the installation of a new commander and to CYBERCOM’s formal elevation to a unified combatant command, which will benefit both SOCOM as well as the entire Department of Defense. It is also critical we renew our focus on psychological and information operations, which are separate from cyber but also of vital focus as we work together to defend the nation. For some years now, SOF leadership has studied and discussed SOCOM’s role in the “gray zone” – an area of conflict lying between peace and outright war. Do you think our special operations forces are adequately trained and equipped for this highly dynamic area of operations, and do you see the gray zone continuing to change and expand? The “gray zone” will be an enduring challenge that our special operations forces are uniquely trained to address. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am committed to supporting programs that help us achieve superiority even in these nontraditional conflicts, particularly those related to training and equipping. Our SOF are the best in the world and are assigned some of the toughest missions out there, and I am continually impressed by our operators’ relentless pursuit of mission accomplishment. You successfully added language into the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calling climate change a security threat to the United States. Can you talk a bit about your rationale for that move? How do you feel about the omission of climate change as a security threat in the National Security Strategy (NSS) released in December 2017? It is a fact that the Earth’s climate is changing. As the effects of those changes start to manifest, it is critical that the Department of Defense be equipped to combat and mitigate them in order to provide for readiness and mission resiliency. The Pentagon’s

The SOCOM budget request for FY 2019 is its largest request ever made – $13.6 billion – but it cuts research and development funding for the second year in a row. While SOCOM has traditionally leveraged and depended upon the procurement budgets of their parent services, do the demands of today and tomorrow require a renewed emphasis on R&D tailored to SOF needs? As we prepare to confront different types of threats outlined in the National Defense Strategy, it is critical that we continue to invest in research and development as a whole. It is disappointing to see this decrease in R&D, as SOCOM must be able to provide the best innovative capabilities that take advantage of emerging paradigms like artificial intelligence. These investments in innovation would add capabilities to our arsenal to ensure our special operations forces have what they need, and enough of it, to ward off a near-peer challenge. But at the end of the day, we must remember that our service members are our most valuable asset. It is incumbent upon Congress, our national laboratories, the defense industrial base, and the Department of Defense to ensure we provide those service members the tools they need so that they are never sent into a fair fight.


ARSOF IN SUPPORT OF INTERAGENCY PARTNERS An Ambassador’s Perspective BY SCOTT R. GOURLEY special operations forces (ARSOF) provide strategic q Army value to the nation through a unique set of capabilities and


Special Operations Outlook

Ambassador Geoffrey R. Pyatt.

Europe of values and democracy – and Eurasia, and all the challenges that arise from the Eurasian landmass,” adding, “And, although these are two very different countries in terms of their national histories and where they are now, in both places I have benefited from an extremely close partnership with SOCEUR [Special Operations Command Europe].” Pyatt said that his experience as chief of mission had shown him “key attributes that the Special Forces bring which are useful to an ambassador and to a country team working overseas.” “The most important is agility/speed/flexibility; the capacity to respond, as Gen. Tovo described, to a quickly breaking conflict


approaches that serve to complement not only conventional force capabilities but also those of interagency partners. Outlining this role at the October 2017 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, offered, “I believe that, when mixed together appropriately – depending on the appropriate measure; depending on the requirements of the environment in a particular operational area – that we form a symbiotic whole between the conventional joint force, special operations forces, the interagency, and our partners and allies.” To illustrate that point, Tovo led a panel discussion titled “Army Special Operations Value to the Nation.” In addition to panelists from across the ARSOF community, the 2017 gathering featured participation by Ambassador [Hon.] Geoffrey R. Pyatt, United States ambassador to the Hellenic Republic, United States Embassy, Athens, Greece, and previously assigned as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine during a key period of Russian aggression. Pyatt used his own experiences in both ambassadorial roles to highlight interaction with the special operations community. “I start with a very simple idea,” he began, “that in a world of diffuse power and shifting threats, most of the challenges that I believe we are going to see to American national security interests in the years ahead are going to happen on the seam between diplomacy and hard power – in the gray areas. And in these gray area conflicts, my experience has been that the critical relationship is the relationship and the partnership between Special Forces and the State Department Foreign Service.” Pyatt pointed to “great commonality” between the organizational ethos of Special Forces and those of the Foreign Service, noting, “It was drilled into us from our very first tours that the most important word in that organizational title was ‘foreign,’ and [we share] the same commitment to cultural understanding, local knowledge, and persistent and repeated overseas deployments in order to acquire the relationships that we need to be effective overseas.” He noted that both of his ambassadorial assignments had taken place “in states/countries at the frontier between Europe – the



U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt discusses INIOHOS 18 with Lt. Col. Jeremy Renken, 492nd Fighter Squadron commander, during the exercise’s media day at Andravida Air Base, Greece, March 20, 2018.

or challenge,” he said. “The second is precision: the ability to be highly targeted in how we respond to a challenge. And the third, and critically important – and I have had a very positive experience with Special Forces in SOCEUR – on the question of chief of mission authority. “I think that the best U.S. government interagency decisionmaking forum that has been invented is the overseas country team,” he continued. “It’s where we bring knowledge together and [bring] the full capacity of the United States government to bear. And I’ve been very grateful for the strong ethos that I’ve found in working with SOCEUR in terms of working with chiefs of mission and ensuring thereby that we are all aligned in terms of operations and objectives.” Pyatt said that his experience in Ukraine involved three key elements of the partnership between Department of State and U.S. Special Forces. He explained, “The first was a fairly traditional train and equip mission, bringing Ukrainian Spetsnaz up to NATO special forces standards. This was actually a request that came directly from President [Petro] Poroshenko to then-Vice President [Joe] Biden in his very first day in office, at the inauguration. He said, ‘I’d like American help to develop “a real special forces.”’ But it was also highly customized, because it wasn’t taking a force from zero. It was taking an existing force and trying to reorient it into NATO organizational standards. The second pillar of our Special Forces program in Ukraine was an adviser requested by the Ukrainian CHOD [Chief of Defense] to help him to think about how to use this NATO model

of special forces in his larger campaign plan. Again, that was a specific request from the government that SOCEUR responded to very quickly. And then the third was our MIST [Military Information Support Team].” He characterized his experience in Ukraine as “particularly relevant,” adding, “If you look at the history of the Russian hybrid campaign in Ukraine going back to 2014, one of the defining aspects of it was the weaponization of information. “One of the things that has always stuck with me is that, when you look back on the GRU [Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate] and Russian special forces teams [that] came into Crimea and then came into [the] Donbass [area of Ukraine] in the spring and summer of 2014, one of the very first things they did was go to the local television stations, where they pulled out all of the [transmitter] racks and plugged in ready-to-go electronics decks that were preprogrammed to bring in Russian broadcasting,” he said. “That is a signal to us of how important that informational campaign was to the overall Russian approach to hybrid warfare. The MIST team was particularly useful in the Ukrainian context at the time because it helped you take what had been a highly insular Soviet traditional military – which wasn’t very good at messaging outward – and our military helped the Ukrainian military develop a messaging and informational campaign aimed both at their own forces but also at the local communities. It was done with sensitivity. It was done with great coordination with my embassy public affairs team.” He acknowledged a number of challenges, including an internal fear by some of his Department of State colleagues “who were worried about how we would manage the integration of the military effort with the traditional State Department informational effort. But in retrospect, it was highly effective and I think made an important and timely difference.”


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Above: Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Greece, discusses the process of shipping a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with Col. Clair A. Gill, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, and Spc. Brian McKee, a crew chief with 2-10 Assault Helicopter Battalion, during port operations in Thessaloniki, Greece. Right: Ambassador Pyatt delivers remarks at the Hellenic National Defense College, April 2, 2018.

His subsequent experience in Greece has been entirely different but equally significant in demonstrating the power of a combined team approach. “Greece, of course, is a very different country,” he explained. “It’s a long-standing NATO ally. But also it is a country that is facing a shifting security environment with challenges and increasingly geared toward things like migration, transnational terror groups, and maritime security. These are topics which are inherently interagency in nature – they cross stovepipes – and they require coordination, in the Greek case, for instance, between the military, the Coast Guard, and the police and border forces.” Pyatt said that the past two years had included “more than 30 Special Forces engagements” in this environment, stating, “The one thing I have taken from that experience in Greece is the great value of Special Forces as an influence multiplier, because of how these engagements have allowed us, the wider country team, to bring in all different elements of the Greek government, modeling interagency cooperation [and] fostering cooperation and trust in a way that pays dividends, both in terms of the effectiveness of our Greek allies when called upon but also in terms of developing a common understanding of threats and responses.” He continued, “As these special forces deployments have helped to sensitize our Greek allies to American threat perceptions and American models of interagency coordination, they have also provided a venue for us to learn, to hear from our Greek allies how they see the security environment and how they are dealing with these emerging challenges. These are programs with a very, very high return on investment – bang for the buck. They don’t cost a lot of money but they get a lot done. And the result with Greece is that we are now moving into new areas of cooperation that would have been difficult or even impossible to imagine just two or three years ago in terms of our military cooperation on a broad range of issues.”

He noted that the Greek programs “have also helped to foster jointness inside the Greek system, which is critically important, as we want Greece to be a strong ally in a part of the world that crosses multiple U.S. security challenges. You look to the eastern Mediterranean, the challenge of ISIS. You look to the Black Sea and the Balkans and the challenge of Russian malign influence. And you look to the southern Mediterranean and the challenge of ISIS and instability coming up from the Maghreb and Libya in particular. “This partnership is particularly lucrative in the Greek case because of the platform that we enjoy at Souda Bay, which is both an indispensable enabler of U.S. military operations in the eastern Mediterranean region but also a critical venue for our forces to work together and become better allies and better partners,” he said. Finishing his thoughts “where [he] started,” he summarized, “This is a critical partnership relationship between the State Department and our Special Forces. And I am extremely grateful, at least in my own experience, for the asset that Special Forces provides to the nation in the advancement of our foreign policy objectives. I know that our Greek allies are also extremely, extremely appreciative at the quality of the cooperation that we can build in the Special Forces domain.” Pyatt concluded, “In a world of asymmetric threats, the United States needs a flexible response. And that flexible response needs to bridge the world that I live in, of diplomacy, and the world that Gen. Tovo [and other special operations leaders] live in, of military response. And I think we’ve got a pretty good template for how we need to go forward together.”



INTERNATIONAL SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES Members of the Iraqi Special Forces provide security during a final air mobility operations exercise at Camp Taji, Iraq, Nov. 27, 2017. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve locations dedicated to training partner forces and enhancing their effectiveness on the battlefield. CJTF-OIR is the global coalition to defeat Daesh, or ISIS, in Iraq and Syria.


Special Operations Outlook



INTERNATIONAL SOF international special operaq Astionsthe forces (SOF) community gathers for its biennial meeting in Tampa, Florida, senior commanders continue to carefully analyze lessons learned from recent and ongoing operations while also keenly considering emerging requirements across an increasingly complex, contested, and congested battlespace. Much attention has been awarded to a coalition of international Special Operations Task Groups (SOTGs) tasked with the eradication of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh, in northern Iraq and Syria. Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, which includes force elements from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Norway, the U.K., and elsewhere, has remained heavily focused on military assistance (MA) operations in support of Iraqi and Kurdish SOF and special missions units (SMUs) tasked with conducting ground operations to retake strategic strongholds including Mosul and Raqqa. The U.S.-led coalition was tasked with the training, advising, and assisting of indigenous SOF and SMUs as well as limited accompaniment on the ground. It was within this latter area that international SOF teams found themselves heavily involved during the campaign, which included the direction of coalition air strikes on IS positions as well as processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data across the battlespace to assist indigenous forces.

MIDDLE EAST PARTNERING However, with the conclusion of major combat operations against IS following the capture of Rawah from IS in November 2017, the international coalition of SOTGs remains in a state of flux as politicians consider alternative deployments. Speaking to Special Operations Outlook for the final time before handing over command of the Danish Special Operations Command, Maj. Gen. Jørgen Høll explained how he was “assessing” the current situation of the national SOTG with regard to its deployment at Al Asad, close to the Iraq/Syria border. Høll confirmed Danish SOF remain active in the area, although he explained how its future – with regard to any deployment extension or withdrawal – would depend upon the outcome of Danish national elections. Similarly, the Canadian SOF Command (CANSOFCOM) continues to consider


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Iraqi SOF brigades, for example, which were so heavily employed by Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) to execute combat operations against IS, continue to be heavily influenced by U.S. SOF components despite the drawdown in kinetic missions. future options for the deployment of its SOTG to the Middle East, which has supported a train, advise, and assist mission with Kurdish Peshmerga SMUs. On Oct. 27, 2017, CANSOFCOM postponed the SOTG’s “noncombat” MA mission in northern Iraq ahead of a political review of its role in theater. The decision was explained during a public address by Chief of the Canadian Defense Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, in which he described how the SOTG had “paused” operations. However, Vance explained: “We’re not contained to the base. It’s not quite as dramatic as that. But we’re not advising and assisting any forces at this juncture. That’s what the special operations forces’ principal effort was supposed to be when we deployed. It’s been done superbly well up to this point in time, and now we are evaluating the situation.” Further light was shed on the status of the SOTG by Canadian National Defense spokesperson Dan Le Bouthillier, who explained in an official statement how future relations with “Iraqi security forces” would continue once a review process analyzing future priorities and tasks had been completed.

“In the interim, they will continue to monitor the situation and plan for the next potential phases of operational activity,” he said. Defense sources associated with CANSOFCOM also disclosed to Special Operations Outlook how any future employment of the SOTG in the Middle East would likely feature special reconnaissance (SR) operations in support of local partner-nation forces. An alternative course of action for the SOTG could also comprise the support of an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) task force, first deployed to Iraq on Nov. 17, 2017, with a main effort to neutralize unexploded ordnance left by IS groups, especially in large urban sprawls including Mosul and Raqqa. However, any potential drawdown in the footprint of international SOF elements in the Middle East will not dramatically affect outside influence on indigenous SOF components. Iraqi SOF brigades, for example, which were so heavily employed by Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) to execute combat operations against IS, continue to be heavily influenced by U.S. SOF components despite the drawdown in kinetic missions. Discussing the future of the Iraqi SOF brigades, Brig. Gen. James Glynn of the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve explained in a Department of Defense (DOD) briefing on Jan. 16, 2018, how they were seeking to upgrade their counterterrorism capabilities following recent emphasis on light infantry concepts of operations (CONOPS) and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) while encountering IS militants. Glynn explained how Iraqi SOF commanders were in the process of generating an action plan to “refurbish” force elements in order to prepare for “any emerging threats” in the future. “The CTS has an annual plan to keep themselves on track for what they think they need,” he said. “And, just like any of the challenges any of the coalition nations face, in terms of what their target is, their target’s driven by both what capabilities they need, how significant the threat is they face, and then, like the rest of us, what can they afford.” However, Glynn also stated: “They’re on a very good path to maintain their capabilities, and they are, without a doubt, a force that remains focused and dedicated towards the counterterrorism mission and ensuring that things like [IS] do not return to the lands, here, of Iraq.” Defense sources associated with Operation Inherent Resolve explained to Special Operations Outlook how Iraqi SOF were seeking to reacquaint themselves with more specialist counterterrorism capabilities that would better prepare them to contribute to the maintenance of a stable security situation in the country.

The Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (SOJTF-OIR) conducted a re-patching ceremony to replace the interim 1st Special Forces Group unit patch previously worn in Southwest Asia. The newly approved patch prominently features black and gold colors and a spear. Black represents activities performed under cover of darkness while gold represents excellence. The spearhead itself represents special operations forces as being “the tip of the spear.” SOJTF-OIR is the special operations command subordinate to the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). CJTF-OIR is the global coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.


A U.S. Naval Special Warfare operator observes a Ukrainian SOF operator on a weapons range in Ochakiv, Ukraine, during Exercise Sea Breeze 17, July 18, 2017. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine cohosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security within the region.

Sources explained how various courses of action could include further investment and development in special reconnaissance, hostage rescue, noncombatant evacuation, and close protection capabilities, although Glynn did describe how U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) would continue to support Iraqi SOF in relation to specialist skill sets including ISR as well as site sensitive exploitation (SSE) serials. Glynn concluded: “We will, at their request, continue to support them with those kinds of technical assistance. … Where some of our advice and assistance is focused now is on, after an operation, when there is information available on documents or on technical [devices like] a laptop, for example. “It’s much more a case of us providing some advice on how that can best be integrated into what they’re planning and the kind of assessments they’re making of what any organization [such as IS] may be trying to do,” he said.

NEAR-PEER THREATS Such mentoring and partnering of strategic allies remains a primary capability set for the international SOF community, particularly at a time when many global commands are concerned with countering emerging capabilities of so-called “near-peer” adversaries including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia. In Asia Pacific, partner-nation forces across the region continue to position themselves strategically to prepare for emerging situations with potential near-peer adversaries, including China and North Korea. Recent moves have included increased cooperation between Australia and Japan, which was cemented on Jan. 18, 2018, with the visit of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the home of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s Special Forces Group (SFG).


Special Operations Outlook

According to a joint statement published by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turnbull at the event, “deeper and broader defense cooperation” would enable “exercises, operations, capacity building, navy, army and air force visits, and further cooperation on defense equipment, science and technology” between the countries in 2018 and onward. Future collaboration is understood to include the participation of the SFG, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s Special Boarding Unit (SBU), and force elements from the Australian Special Operations Command, which includes the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and 1st/2nd Commando Regiments. The event came at a time when North Korea and China continued to flex their muscles across the region – a fact that was acknowledged in Japan’s defense plan for 2017, which described how SOF components must be prepared to deploy in order to counter North Korean attacks spearheaded by SOF or other guerrilla elements. Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) interests, however, extend beyond Asia Pacific, as illustrated by media reports emerging in November 2017 that suggested SOF elements were being considered for deployment to Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad, following ratification by the National People’s Congress. The Chinese ministry of national defense officially denied this during a late November 2017 press conference. Any such operation could see PLA SOF teams conducting counterinsurgency and counterterrorism missions against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in western Syria, although any troop presence has yet to be substantiated. Farther west, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) continues to extend its capabilities and influence on a global scale despite President Vladimir Putin’s pledge on Dec. 11, 2017, to withdraw the main force from operations in the Middle East, where they have been supporting al-Assad. However, Special Operations Outlook was informed that Russian “Spetsnaz” SOF elements were likely to remain in place to support the regime, which continues to be engaged in a civil war. On its European borders, Russian SOF continue to build up capabilities threatening neighboring state actors across the High North and Arctic Circle (namely Finland, Norway, Sweden, U.K., Canada, and the United States), as well as Ukraine and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), who fear aggression such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.




Russian SOF now benefit from a forward operating base on Alexandra Land (bestowed a visit in March 2017 from Putin himself), designed to support cold-weather operations and training exercises. Similarly, Spetsnaz units continue to support MOD exercises along borderlines with Baltic neighbors, as they are used as a show of force to Russia’s western neighbors. These emerging threats have forced increasing levels of cooperation between NATO partner-nation forces and the Baltic states as well as Ukraine and other Eastern European state actors, all of which continue to develop their own special operations capabilities. Ukraine’s special operations command, for example, continues to benefit from the stewardship of USSOCOM as well as other commands falling under the organizational umbrella of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ). Partners include Lithuanian Special Operations Forces (LITHSOF) and the Polish Special Operations Component Command. Referring to the start of cooperation with NSHQ elements, Maj. Gen. Ihor Lunyov, commander of Ukraine’s special operations command, explained to Special Operations Outlook how such collaboration continued to be extended.

“Advisory support provided by NSHQ is extremely important and valuable for us. We have already conducted a great number of workshops, both in Belgium and Ukraine, and besides, we have NSHQ’s permanent adviser – a Lithuanian SOF representative – inside the [Ukrainian] SOCOM,” he said. “Among the achievements of SOCOM and NSHQ cooperation, I would like to emphasize NSHQ’s significant support in SOF legislation development, training system enhancement, planning of comprehensive SOF support. All this comprises a time-consuming process,” he continued. “We are open to expanding the level of our international cooperation. Our units have gained and continue gaining an important and valuable experience of participation in combat operations. “However, we are not focused just on the experience of countering Russian aggression. The aim is to obtain the diversely trained SOF personnel. All from the listed above countries have their own experience of participation in the military operations,” Lunyov concluded. Such interoperability remains key to the international SOF community, not only in Eastern Europe but also on a global basis. Speaking to Special Operations Outlook, a spokesperson for LITHSOF explained how it had become “closely integrated and interconnected within a large network of various national institutions, organizations, NATO allies’ and partner-nations’ SOF, who now support the LITHSOF inside and outside the country.” “During a number of NRF [NATO Response Force] standby rotations and tours in Afghanistan, LITHSOF gained priceless friendships, experience, knowledge, and technological improvements, which currently are being employed for national defense and NATO purposes,” the spokesperson added.



Left: Danish special operations forces conduct contingency training in the Arctic Circle as tensions continue to rise regarding Russian SOF movements in the region. Below: Polish special operations forces conduct maritime counterterrorism training as commanders continue to build on relations with Eastern European neighbors.


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INTERNATIONAL SOF A U.S. Naval Special Warfare operator conducts tactical scenario training in Lithuania during Flaming Sword 17, May 10, 2017. Flaming Sword is an annual Lithuanian-led and -hosted SOF exercise that took place May 2-19, 2017. During the exercise, SOF trained on SOF/conventional force integration to include police, border guard, and other security forces.


Finally, the international SOF community is set to benefit from increased interoperability in the joint operational environment as it seeks to overcome hurdles associated with working with outside agencies. It was also described how LITHSOF continued to support a multinational training mission in Ukraine in order to “support the formation of a separate SOF branch fulfilling NATO requirements until 2020.” “Also, it is a unique opportunity to gain knowledge and experience from the Ukrainian armed forces about modern unconventional warfare,” the spokesperson added. Another example of such interoperability continues to be witnessed in the form of the annual Exercise Flaming Sword, which is organized and executed by LITHSOF with support from partner-nation forces from across Eastern Europe. “Every year, it is planned and organized as a comprehensive, interinstitutional, and interagency field training exercise throughout the territorial land, waters, air, and electronic space of Lithuania,” one exercise official from within LITHSOF told Special Operations Outlook. “The training audience of the exercise is linked with other national Lithuanian armed forces exercises, as well as other NATO and regional SOF exercises. Different national and international institutions, SOF units from various NATO allies’ and partners’ countries take part in this exercise every year,” the official concluded.

JOINT OPERATING ENVIRONMENT Finally, the international SOF community is set to benefit from increased interoperability in the joint operational environment

as it seeks to overcome hurdles associated with working with outside agencies. In Europe, a memorandum of understanding in support of the Belgian, Dutch, and Danish Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC) concept was expected to have been signed at the end of March 2018, signaling the next step in the establishment of a joint SOF headquarters capable of deploying six SOTGs and a single special operations air task group. C-SOCC SOTGs, SOF officials associated with the concept explained to Special Operations Outlook, will comprise force elements from Belgium’s Special Forces Group, Denmark’s Jaeger Corps and naval special warfare unit, and the Netherlands’ Korps Commandotroepen (KCT) and Maritime Special Operations Forces (MARSOF). A full operating capability is expected to be achieved by 2020, with consideration to bid for the C-SOCC to support the NRF at a later date. Elsewhere in the world, multiple state actors have initiated processes to establish their own national special operations commands to satisfy joint operational requirements. In Europe, the Netherlands continues to work up its own plans to establish such a command, comprising a centralized command structure for KCT and NL-MARSOF component commands. A task force was stood up in September 2017 to initiate the process, with an initial operating capability for the NL SOCOM expected to be achieved by the end of 2018, defense sources confirmed to Special Operations Outlook. The move also aims to establish a dedicated special operations air component for NL SOCOM, also capable of supporting the C-SOCC, service officials added. Romania is also undertaking a similar effort, with a SOF headquarters established on Jan.1, 2018, designed to strengthen army and navy special operations units in conventional and unconventional warfare. The unified headquarters will retain operational control of the army’s 6th Special Operations Brigade and Special Detachment of Protection and Intervention, as well as the Naval Group Special Operations Force. Details were disclosed by Maj. Gen. Marian Sima at the Global SOF Symposium in Bucharest on Sept. 27, 2017. Finally, the Venezuelan armed forces announced on Aug. 17, 2017, similar plans to establish a special operations command in order to maximize the operational effectiveness of joint operations with other government agencies. With a headquarters in Maracay, Aragua State, the command will retain the operational control of the army’s 107th and 509th Special Operations Battalions; Paratrooper Brigade’s Rapid Reaction Unit; navy’s Special Operations Command; and air force’s 10th, 15th, and 17th Special Operations Air Groups.

CONCLUSION The international SOF community remains in a healthy position, although unrelenting pursuits of excellence in the form of centralized command components, multinational training, and operational programs look set to increase capabilities yet further into the future. However, as near-peer adversarial capabilities continue to emerge and mature, much will depend upon the correct blend of doctrine, concepts of operation, and technology.



Special Operations Outlook


The 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine of France’s Commandement des Opérations Spéciales continues to be tasked with counterterrorism missions in an expeditionary capacity.




Commander, Commandement des Opérations Spéciales (COS) BY ANDREW WHITE

an operational footprint q With stretching from the Middle East through to northern and western Africa, French special operations forces (SOF) remain highly active across a contemporary operating environment. Most recently, French SOF have been deployed to Iraq in support of coalition operations against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) as well as across the vast expanses of Africa, with force components strategically positioned in Mali, Ivory Coast, Chad, and Burkina Faso. Across the Levant region, for example, the Commandement des Opérations Spéciales (Special Operations Command, or COS) “Hydra” Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) has conducted operations against IS with duties including the provision of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) support to indigenous SOF units. Specifically, this has included operations in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where French SOF followed up the Iraqi SOF ground offensive in 2016 with support in site sensitive exploitation, explosive ordnance disposal, and counterimprovised explosive device operations in complex urban areas. Concurrently, French SOF continue to support both national and international operations across Africa. Elsewhere in Africa, French SOF have deployed to the Ivory Coast in support of a wider military assistance (MA) strategy across the region while the COS also continues to support Operation Barkhane across the Sahel with ongoing deployments in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Tunisia, and Niger, as well as Jordan in the Mideast.


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“This struggle is part of an ongoing process designed to protect France’s national territory by stretching as far as we can from beyond our national borders to detain those who plan, recruit, and finance abject actions against our fellow citizens and question the moral values of our society.” Considering the future evolution of the COS to handle such threats, Isnard warned how the command must retain the capability to overcome an increase in threats ranging from information warfare and social destabilization through to the high-intensity conflict requiring the execution of operations in new and anti-access/area-denied (A2AD) environments at extended ranges. “In parallel, we will see certain state actors questioning traditional diplomatic tools (essentially developed and used by Western nations during the last century) for the regulation of inter-state disagreements. Nowadays, for certain countries, armed conflict is the first and natural means to dispute arbitration or to support their territorial or economic ambitions,” Isnard explained, while describing how such a shift could lead to a future of more symmetrical commitments for governments that might not require the exclusive attention of SOF but lead to the employment of a more global maneuver force with conventional units.

ORDER OF BATTLE COS Commander Rear Adm. Laurent Isnard remains acutely aware of emerging requirements arising out of a complex and contested operating environment.

According to Rear Adm. Laurent Isnard, the COS commander, the main effort of SOF units within his organization remains the fight against terrorism. Describing such a variable operating environment exclusively to Special Operations Outlook, Isnard explained: “Our special forces operate in several theaters of operation permanently and occasionally in others, either by directly participating in the neutralization of terrorists, or by training or advising local partners to allow them to take into account for themselves this threat. “This struggle is part of an ongoing process designed to protect France’s national territory by stretching as far as we can from beyond our national borders to detain those who plan, recruit, and finance abject actions against our fellow citizens and question the moral values of our society. “The COS is mainly responsible today for the fight against terrorism outside French borders. This war is bound to last. More than 15 years after the terrible 9/11 attacks that hit the American nation hard, the Al Qaeda threat still exists. IS, even with its territory taken over by the U.S.-led coalition, is entering a new form of combat closer to the clandestine operating procedures implemented by other terrorist groups. “Ultimately their eradication is inevitable. However, this threat should continue for several decades as whole families – men, women, and children – have been indoctrinated and fanaticized,” Isnard said.

Today, France’s COS comprises multiple combatant commands across the Ministry of Defense’s (MOD’s) three services. Components include the Army Special Forces Brigade; Air Special Forces Bureau (BFSA); and Maritime Force of Marines and Commandos (FORFUSCO). The Army Special Forces Brigade, which is co-located in Pau and Bayonne, comprises the 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine (1 RPIMa) and 13e Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes (13 RDP), which can be tasked with direct action and special reconnaissance missions respectively. Units are supported by the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment, which operates a variety of rotary-wing aircraft including the Eurocopter EC725 Caracal. Additionally, the COS retains links to the Intervention Group of the National Gendarmerie (GIGN), which supports counterterrorism tasks both at home and abroad. All Army SOF units are supported by the Special Operations Support Group (GAOS) and the Ares Training Centre in Pau. The BFSA features the Air Parachute Commando 10 (CPA 10) unit, which is supported with airborne assets from the 3/61 Poitou Transport Squadron and 1/67 Helicopter Unit, the latter of which was certified to support COS missions in December 2017 and onward. Finally, FORFUSCO is subdivided into multiple Marine Fusilier Companies and Marine Commando units, which can be tasked with the execution of the full spectrum of surface and sub-surface special operations. Marine Fusilier Companies, which are equipped to undertake direct action, special reconnaissance, and force protection missions, are supported by the Marine Fusilier Training School. Marine Commando units, which are headquartered in Lorient but spread geographically across France, provide multiple capabilities to



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Above: French special operations forces conduct a helicopter assault force (HAF) serial as they hone skill sets for counterterrorism missions. Right: Military freefall remains a critical insertion technique for French special operations forces, allowing aircraft to avoid air defense systems and allow small unit teams to accurately and covertly insert into target areas.

the COS. Jaubert and Trepel Commando Units, for example, specialize in counterterrorism and hostage rescue operations while Penfentenyo and Montfort Commando Units specialize in direct action and special reconnaissance. Finally, the Commando Hubert Unit specializes in sub-surface operations. Commando units are supported by the Kieffer Commando Unit, which is responsible for the operation of unmanned aerial systems for intelligence-gathering missions in the maritime environment.

EVOLUTION OF THE FORCE According to Isnard, the capability of the COS to adapt and overcome challenges across the battlespace will be achieved through a careful blend of personnel, partnerships, and technology. Discussing requirements expected of the modern and future SOF operator, Isnard described how physical and moral qualities would remain unchanged. However, he identified to Special Operations Outlook how the range of specialist skill sets held across the COS would need to be increased to include specific technological developments such as the widespread implementation of tactical unmanned aerial systems (UAS), as well as new areas of confrontation associated with the actions of cyber warfare. “This diversification of skills cannot be solved solely by increasing the strength of our organization, but probably by reviewing the priorities between the number of commandos to retain more traditional SOF duties and the numbers to be devoted to these new jobs. The challenge will be to maintain the special forces spirit and its model in terms of responsiveness, adaptability, and low logistic footprint while resolutely turning to the future,” Isnard said. As an example, he highlighted the role of officers serving across the headquarters, calling for an increase in their ability to work in “ad-hoc

coalitions” of SOF and conventional forces in order to integrate and coordinate commitments across a diverse mission set. “The flexibility of the command structures and the adaptability in the organization of the staff will represent significant challenges. In the future, the ever-evolving operating environment will create situations where strategic surprise will deny us any break or time in our reflection process,” he continued. With all these operational and training requirements in mind, the COS continues to evolve as a force in terms of both character and composition. On Jan. 11, 2018, French MOD officials described how the air force’s SOF Commando component – CPA 10 – would now accept the direct entry of civilian recruits into combat roles in order to optimize specialist skill sets from across the private sector including information technology, for example. But, as Isnard explained, the COS does not need to retain ownership of all its capabilities. Instead, he highlighted how the COS must rely more upon its “unique ability to integrate the actors and means necessary for operations as much as necessary, without necessarily being the owner.” “Developments in the operational environment require special forces to master more and more skills and know-how. The challenge will be to strike a balance between the acquisition and maintenance of our own skills and the possibility of using additional means from


FRENCH SOF conventional armies or specialized organizations of French and foreign origin,” he explained.

INTERNATIONAL SOF Meanwhile, Isnard described to Special Operations Outlook how the individual capabilities of the SOF operator must also be augmented with increasing levels in cooperation of both national and international partners. Such cooperation, he proclaimed, could take the form of exchanges in intelligence, joint operational commitments, or capacity building missions, as has been most recently demonstrated across the Middle East. “With the U.S. special forces, we approach all these areas with a level of trust in trade and sometimes integration in the field, which has become remarkable over time. We share a common culture of SOF employment patterns and this bilateral cooperation is by no means exclusive. We maintain, on a case-by-case basis, many bilateral cooperations, especially with our Western counterparts,” Isnard acknowledged. “Even if each of our countries needs to retain the capability to conduct operations in a discreet and unilateral way, we nevertheless retain the need to be able to share the financial and political cost of certain operational commitments. Cooperation cannot be decreed; it is cultivated over time,” he continued, while promoting

the strategic importance of the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ). Headquartered in Mons, Belgium, NSHQ feeds the international SOF community with a baseline in doctrine and the employment of materiel across a diverse operating environment, with multinational interoperability of forces a major focus area. “The NSHQ plays a vital role as a platform on which Western cooperation is built on a daily basis. This is why France will continue to get involved and support its projects,” Isnard added.

TECHNOLOGY However, no matter how capable the manpower and wider collaboration of the COS, force components continue to rely heavily upon legacy and next-generation technology types capable of providing personnel with the ability to retain tactical overmatch over near-peer adversaries. Addressing delegates at the Special Operations Forces Innovation Network Seminar (SOFINS) at Camp Souge, France on March 28, 2017, Isnard underlined the importance of access to intelligence across the battlespace, urging, “We are witnessing easier access to information and knowledge is being shared extremely fast. If we are late, it’s already being used by the enemy and we have to find a way to counter it. “This technology is here and being mastered by some people. We have to take advantage of that and gain some seconds on the enemy. We need some early warning to deal with them before they deal with us.” On Dec. 19, 2017, Isnard unveiled the COS procurement strategy to the government, which outlined some of the key technology enablers being pursued by the command.

Left: French special operations forces are supported by a variety of air components, including the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment, which operates the Eurocopter EC725 Caracal. Below: FORFUSCO teams rely upon the ECUME rigid hull inflatable boat to conduct maritime counterterrorism exercises with support from larger vessels from across the French navy.


Special Operations Outlook

FORFUSCO’s Jaubert Commando unit conducts special insertion/extraction drills as part of a maritime CT exercise.


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Demanding additional investment of €250 million through to 2025, the draft document called for the modernization of all mobility and insertion assets on the ground, on or under the sea, and in the air, including the upgrade of NH90 rotary-wing airframes to replace legacy Caracal helicopters; and PSM3G swimmer delivery vehicles to support the Commando Hubert Unit in sub-surface operations launched from the Barracuda submarine, which is expected to be accepted into service in 2019. It also demanded the need for a modernized large, wheeled tactical ground vehicle dedicated to SOF, a long-range reconnaissance patrol vehicle, and quads and buggies as well as armored vehicles for hard missions, particularly in urban special operations. Elsewhere, the document called for a medium-altitude, mediumendurance (MAME) UAS to support ISTAR missions, with Isnard describing how the selected airframe must have a minimum operating range of 100 kilometers and mission endurance of six hours or more. The decision to procure a dedicated MAME UAS to support the COS follows COS reliance on MQ-9 Reapers, which Isnard hailed a “game changer” across the current operating environment. Finally, the COS is demanding the procurement of a high frequency (HF) communications system to enable connectivity at reach, especially when operating in denied and infrastructure-less environments, as well as related C4ISTAR technologies to support operations in the urban and subterranean environment. Isnard explained, “Our operators are more and more involved in electronic warfare. It is already integrated on board our aircraft and speedboats. But we need to identify tunnels and understand what’s happening behind the wall. This gives us the edge today, but we need to go further. “We also need to develop connectivity, which is key. We are never alone on the battlefield, and we have to reconfigure fast, abandon heavy structures, and become plug-and-play like Apple computers. We have to connect our operator in the middle of desert with a transport plan, UASs, boats, and other Commando teams,” he explained.

Commando Hubert operators are set to receive upgrades in swimmer delivery vehicle technology to further enhance capabilities in special reconnaissance and underwater demolition missions.

Speaking to Special Operations Outlook, he continued, “Of all the applications that the new technologies offer us, two of them hold our particular attention: the use of artificial intelligence for the implementation and the exploitation of swarms of drones or sensors and the treatment of mega-data. “It will be necessary to know how to make the best use of these new capacities and to prepare as soon as possible an environment for them to operate in,” he added, while referring to requirement for legal frameworks for employment across the battlespace. “We need both to maintain the technological advantage over terrorist groups which are becoming more technology savvy and we must remember that the real strength of our Commando operators is the hardiness, responsiveness, and adaptability,” Isnard stated.

FUTURE Looking to the future and citing the motto of the COS – “Faire Autrement,” or “Do Otherwise” – Isnard called for his successor to devote time to understanding the “objectives and spirit of an operation.” “My advice to my successor would be to devote time to gain an in-depth understanding of the objectives and the context in which an operation fits. The COS motto means to act outside the box with audacity. This is not for sake of originality, but the need to provide ‘tailored’ solutions for difficult problems. It is therefore necessary to focus on the objective and shed the usual habits, concepts, and logic of a capability owner. “The mission is special not because it uses specialized forces but because it requires thinking, planning, and structures capable of imagination which are also adept in integrating various expertise. These skills are critical for complex operations while maintaining a strict level of confidentiality,” Isnard concluded.





Special Operations OUTLOOK

A student looks through a window of a music classroom during a choir rehearsal at St. Theresa Secondary School in Lira, Uganda, Feb. 23, 2009. In October 2002, regional instability forced the school’s students and faculty away from its current location in the village of Alanyi. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel force, attacked civilians and attempted to seize control of villages throughout northern Uganda.



the unique capabilities that y Among special operations forces provide

“So with that pressure, the administration, looking for a low-cost/ high-impact solution, established an Army Special Operations Command SOC-Forward in Central Africa to advise, assist, and accompany [local forces], and counter the Lord’s Resistance Army across the region.”


to the nation is the ability to project psychological operations (PSYOP) in support of other parallel operations. One example of this effort surfaced in October 2017, at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. Speaking on a panel of special operations representatives, Col. Bethany Aragon, commander of the U.S. Army’s 4th Military Information Support Group (Airborne), presented an overview of psychological operations conducted from 2011 to 2017 in support of Special Operations CommandForward in Central Africa. According to Aragon, the operations, which “employed understanding and influence, an indigenous approach, and also precision PSYOP targeting,” served to “render Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance

Army irrelevant and return a generation of stolen Ugandan children.” By way of background, Aragon offered that, over two decades, Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army had “abducted over 60,000 children, massacred tens of thousands of civilians, displaced 2 million people, and destabilized a region the size of California that covered four different countries: Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.” “At this time, we were in the midst of withdrawing out of Iraq,” she said. “There was the memory of Rwanda and the perception that the West had not responded to the genocide there effectively. We were on the verge of another presidential election and there was a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization [NGO] called Invisible Children that started a campaign, which went viral,

Former child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


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Because of the dense jungle covering much of the operational area, it was determined that the best means to access the “target audience” was through somewhat traditional radio, leaflet, and aerial loudspeaker operations.

called #kony2012. So with that pressure, the administration, looking for a low-cost/high-impact solution, established an Army Special Operations Command SOC-Forward in Central Africa to advise, assist, and accompany [local forces], and counter the Lord’s Resistance Army across the region.” The initial PSYOP element in support of that effort was a regional Military Information Support Operations (MISO) team that comprised four soldiers. Aragon said that the PSYOP effort began with “a defection series.” She explained, “In the beginning, we had broad target audiences. And, knowing that most of the Lord’s Resistance Army combatants have been the child soldiers who were abducted, assessed that they were more susceptible to defection.” Because of the dense jungle covering much of the operational area, it was determined that the best means to access the “target audience” was through somewhat traditional radio, leaflet, and aerial loudspeaker operations. “Another thing that happened in that time was the Ugandan government decided to offer amnesty to Lord’s Resistance Army combatants who did defect,” Aragon said. “So, for the defection to be successful, we had to make sure that when combatants defected, that they were treated fairly and that the amnesty was actually honored. So our regional MISO team worked closely with the partners in the indigenous approach, working with African Union’s regional task force and then also the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces. And there is something called DDR3, which is the disarm, demobilize, repatriate, re-integrate, and resettle process. And we worked with them specifically to make sure that our messaging conveyed that any defectors would be treated well and that it was safe for them to defect. And that was directly countering Joseph Kony’s counter-information or misinformation campaign [that] they would be not treated well.” Aragon said that the “indigenous approach” developed “a community of interests that included the Bureau of Conflict [and] Stabilization [Operations] in the State Department; there was a local NGO that we worked with – Pathways to Peace – that was led by actually a former child soldier who had been abducted in 2006 and was able to effectively defect on his own. And then we also partnered with a group called Invisible Children. And there were also local and cultural leaders that were part of this community of interest.” The community and processes eventually allowed the identification of key leaders within the Lord’s Resistance Army who might be prone to defection and who would then be able to inspire multiple defections. Aragon said that the first mass defection occurred in 2013, and consisted of 19 Lord’s Resistance Army combatants.

“Then we would debrief them, learn more information, and use them to help us create new products to continue to communicate to the rest of the combatants,” she added. She highlighted the notable defection of Michael Omono. “Michael Omono was actually Joseph Kony’s personal RTO [radio telephone operator],” she began. “And we found him through a connection and process that Pathways to Peace was able to use through family tracing. We located his uncle, his daughter, and his mother. And we were able to get messages from the three of them. We had a voice recording of his mother begging him to come home. We had pictures of his daughter and his uncle that we put on leaflets. Then we went back and figured out where he would be located and we targeted him.” She continued, “Envision yourself walking through dense jungle. You yourself – if you’re Michael Omono – were abducted. You’re working for a leader who absolutely at this point is clearly unhinged and also not inspired by the original motivations that many people joined the Lord’s Resistance Army for. So he’s susceptible. And then as he’s walking through the jungle he hears over an aerial loudspeaker his mother’s voice and her message begging him to come home. Then he sees leaflets that have his daughter’s picture begging him to come home, along with his uncle, who really raised him and was like a father to him. So in January of this year, he walked for two weeks to defect to the Central African Republic and turned himself in to the African Union Regional Task Force.” Because of his key role as a radio telephone operator, he also provided what Aragon characterized as “valuable intelligence” related to “exactly when their communication windows were and that they had special code language that they would use. So he gave us the key to that. And so it was monumental, really, in rapidly ending the Lord’s Resistance Army effectiveness in the area.” She said that the mission was closed out early in the summer of 2017, summarizing the results of the successful effort as: a 24 percent increase in Lord’s Resistance Army defections just within the year after the start of the process with the community of interest and precision targeting on the key leaders that were able to influence additional defections; five of six Lord’s Resistance Army leaders either killed in action or being tried by the international criminal courts; and a 95 percent reduction in civilians killed. “And then also, the Lord’s Resistance Army was rendered ineffective and taken down from a force of roughly 2,000 to less than 100,” she added. “So it was the most effective PSYOP campaign on the continent,” she said, offering, “As I consider the PSYOPS role in the future, in a multi-domain battle, against a near peer, what does readiness mean for us? We cannot wait until the deployments to find the Michael Omonos of the social network; find who their network is and who can influence them. We have to be doing that persistently if we are going to be ready and relevant in a multi-domain battle against a near peer going forward.”

“Our regional MISO team worked closely with the partners in the indigenous approach, working with African Union’s regional task force and then also the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces.” 79

“The OSS was an organization designed to do great things.”

An artist’s rendition of the exterior of the future National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations (NMISO).


Special Operations Outlook


– Adm. Eric T. Olson, USN (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Special Operations Command


SOCIETY Honoring the Legacy and Educating for the Future




that abolished it, the organization´s founder and only leader, Maj. Gen. William J. Donovan, was determined that the nation´s first intelligence and counter-espionage agency would not become forgotten history. Soon after its official demise, in a room in Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, Donovan founded the Veterans of OSS. In the 1990s, surviving OSS members were aging and their ranks were rapidly shrinking. Wanting the organization to outlast them, in 1997, Veterans of OSS was reconstituted into the OSS Society in order to carry on the legacy of the OSS, honor those who make noteworthy contributions through their service in the intelligence and special operations communities, and to educate and inspire future generations. In its mission statement, the society states that it honors “the historic accomplishments of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II – the first organized effort by the United States to implement a centralized system of strategic intelligence and the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] and U.S. Special Operations Command” and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. “It educates the American public regarding the continuing importance of strategic intelligence and special operations to the preservation of freedom.” Charles T. Pinck became president of the OSS Society in 2002 and has presided over a number of important achievements. “I think the proudest thing was the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal to the OSS,” he said. “It was a long-fought effort and our proudest accomplishment so far.”


Special Operations Outlook

“I think our greatest achievement will be when we open the National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations [NMISO]. We just signed a lease for an 80-acre site in Loudon County, Virginia, on which to build it.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress’ highest civilian honor. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, House sponsor of the bill, said the medal will ensure OSS veterans’ “heroic actions during one of our country´s most trying times will not be forgotten.” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said that with the awarding of the medal, “Congress has ensured that their courage of spirit and their love of country will long live on in our nation’s memory.” In a special ceremony at the Capitol on March 21, 2018, Speaker of the House the Honorable Paul Ryan presented the Congressional Gold Medal. The medal is now on permanent display in the Smithsonian Institution.


the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was terminated y When following President Harry S Truman’s executive order in 1947


Opposite: In a ceremony on March 21, 2018, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan presented the Congressional Gold Medal to the OSS. Left: The Congressional Gold Medal that was presented to the OSS. Below: An artist’s rendition of the interior of the future National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations (NMISO).

When the State Department began a redevelopment project on Navy Hill, across the street from the State Department building, Pinck learned that part of that redevelopment included the leveling of the three buildings on Observatory Hill that were the original headquarters of the OSS as well as the first headquarters of its successor, the CIA. “So obviously, the buildings had an important historical connection and we wanted them saved,” Pinck said. On Jan. 12, 2017, after years of hard work, Pinck said, “We had the buildings added to the National Register of Historic Places.” Looking forward, Pinck said, “I think our greatest achievement will be when we open the National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations [NMISO]. We just signed a lease for an 80-acre site in Loudon County, Virginia, on which to build it.” The project began about eight years ago. The society commissioned Lord Cultural Resources to develop a master plan for the complex that included concept, visitor experience, operational, staffing, and facility plans, as well as capital cost estimates and projections of attendance (approximately 100,000 per year for the first five years), operating revenue, and operating expenses. Honorary chairmen and members of the steering committee are former secretaries of defense Robert M. Gates and Leon E. Panetta and Adm. William H. McRaven, USN (Ret.) former commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). “Its purpose is threefold,” Pinck said. “First, to honor Americans serving at the tip of the spear; second, to educate the American public on the role intelligence and special operations have in the preservation of freedom; and finally, inspire future generations of Americans to serve their country. It´s a pretty high calling, but I think it´s something that’s achievable, and I think it is something people will want to support.” Curt Fentress of Fentress Architects was commissioned to design the museum and grounds. Fentress used as his inspiration for the





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Above: Adm. Eric Olson presenting The OSS Society’s Distinguished Service Award to Dr. Christian Lambertsen at the 2009 William J. Donovan Award Dinner. Right: Air Force Lt. Gen. Scott Howell, vice commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (left) and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Shane Gandy, 2017 Peter OrtizOSS Award recipient and operations officer for Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), at the William J. Donovan Award Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 21, 2017.

landscape the OSS speartip, calling it “A dramatic and iconic architectural gesture is a befitting salute to Gen. Donovan’s ’glorious amateurs.’” The 67,000-square-foot museum building features an escalating ribbed design that reflects the shape and beauty of the wing of the American bald eagle. It will contain a 4,000-square-foot lobby and flexible event space, 19,000 square feet of permanent exhibition space, an educational center equipped with flexible learning spaces, and a 200-seat multifunctional space suitable for a wide range of events. Just as the exterior is an homage to the OSS, so too is the interior design. It is inspired by the Paris Ritz Hotel’s Bar Hemingway. Hemingway’s son, John (known as “Jack”) was a member of the OSS, working with the resistance in the South of France. Hemingway himself briefly served as well, thanks to a “battlefield” appointment through a handwritten note in a village not far from Paris by OSS commander Col. David Bruce. In an escapade straight out of Hollywood, Bruce, Hemingway, and their motley group of resistance fighters dashed into the city along with the French Second Armored Division and American units, winding up at the Ritz Hotel, where they celebrated the liberation of Paris at the bar, drinking martinis. Displays will feature a wide range of interactive technologies, re-created “escape rooms,” and mission profiles that allow visitors to go “undercover” on a mission and experience, minus the danger, what it must have been like. And the displays will reveal that, as fascinating as the technology seen in James Bond films was, it is nothing compared to what was used in real life. The NMISO will be more than a traditional museum. Officials and educators from private industry, surrounding school districts, and Georgetown University are in the process of creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) syllabus that uses the museum´s resources and archives as case studies. In addition, it will offer educational programs and seminars tailored to the ever-changing needs of intelligence and special operations personnel as well as contractors that support those communities. Originally, only people who served in the OSS could be members of the OSS Society. Over time that changed. Pinck said that today membership is divided into several categories, beginning with “OSS

veterans, of which there are increasingly fewer, though we had about 20 show up at the latest awards ceremony. Another category is descendants of OSS veterans, and I am in that category. The bulk of our membership consists of people who served in intelligence or special operations, or in some component of our national security. For anyone else wishing to become a member, we have associate memberships available. Information for membership can be found on our website.” The OSS Society gives out a number of awards recognizing individuals who have made important contributions to the intelligence and special operations community. Awards are presented at a special black tie William J. Donovan Award ceremony held each year in Washington, D.C. The awards include the William J. Donovan Award®, presented “to an individual who has rendered distinguished service to the United States of America” and has “exemplified the distinguishing features that characterized General Donovan’s lifetime of public service.” The Hugh Montgomery Award ®, in honor of the late Hugh Montgomery, past chairman of the OSS Society, is ¨given to retired officers from the CIA in recognition for outstanding service.¨ The Peter Ortiz Award®, named after Marine Col. Peter Ortiz, the most decorated member of the OSS, is given to an outstanding activeduty member of SOCOM. The Virginia Hall Award®, named after OSS operator Virginia Hall, the only woman to receive the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II, honors women who have performed outstanding service in the intelligence or special operations communities. The John Waller Award®, named in honor of OSS historian John Waller, recognizes achievement in intelligence and SOCOM community scholarship. The Distinguished Service Award® is presented to OSS veterans and other individuals who have made significant contributions to operations or the OSS legacy. The OSS Society provides speakers to a wide variety of groups, is the publisher of The OSS Society Journal, and has established OSS memorials in the United States and Europe. It is a 501(c)(3) public charity. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. More information about the OSS Society is available on its website



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r. Michael G. Vickers is the latest individual to receive the William J. Donovan Award ® in recognition of his ¨distinguished service to the United States of America.” He began his long and distinguished career in the Army, serving as a sergeant in the Special Forces (Green Berets). He later became a CIA operations officer, participating in the invasion of Grenada, the U.S. government´s operational response to the Beirut bombings, and the covert effort to drive the Red Army out of Afghanistan. From 2007 to 2011, as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities, he was the ¨service¨ secretary for all special operations forces and had policy oversight of all of the Defense Department´s operational capabilities. He conceived and led the largest expansion of special operations forces in America´s history and oversaw several other major capability investments ranging from nextgeneration long-range strike to undersea warfare to deter future great power war. From 2011 to 2015, Vickers served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, exercising authority, direction, and control over the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Security Service, and the intelligence components of the military services and combatant commands. 1961 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1969 1970 1971 1974 1977 1979 1981 1982 1983 1983 1986 1991 1993 1995 2004 2005 2009 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017

The Honorable Allen W. Dulles The Honorable John J. McCloy Lt. Gen. William W. Quinn President Dwight D. Eisenhower The Earl Mountbatten of Burma The Honorable Everett McKinley Dirksen J. Russell Forgan The Astronauts of Apollo 11: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin The Honorable David K.E. Bruce The Honorable William J. Casey The Honorable Robert D. Murphy His Excellency Jacques Chaban-Delmas The Right Honorable Margaret Thatcher The Honorable John A. McCone The Honorable Richard Helms Sir William Stephenson President Ronald W. Reagan President George H.W. Bush Dr. Carl F. Eifler The Honorable William E. Colby The Honorable Ralph J. Bunche Judge William H. Webster Gen. David H. Petraeus, USA Adm. Eric T. Olson, USN (Ret.) The Honorable Robert M. Gates Adm. William H. McRaven, USN The Honorable Leon E. Panetta Ambassador Hugh Montgomery Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, USAF (Ret.) Dr. Michael G. Vickers

2017 William J. Donovan recipient Dr. Michael G. Vickers.

PETER ORTIZ AWARD® Presented to active-duty members of SOCOM 2015 CW5 Stephen Combs, USA 2016 CW4 Robert J. Hunt, USA 2017 CW4 David S. Gandy, USA

HUGH MONTGOMERY AWARD® Presented to retired CIA operations officers 2014 Jack Devine 2015 John D. Bennett 2016 David Cohen 2017 Joseph Wippl


2012 2013 2015 2015 2016 2016 2016 2017

Fisher Howe, special assistant to Gen. William Donovan Ambassador Charles Hostler, who served in the OSS’ Counterintelligence Branch (X-2) and went ashore on D-Day Frederick Mayer, the real “inglorious bastard” of OSS Operation GREENUP Col. William H. Pietsch Jr., USA (Ret.): Jedburgh Helias Doundoulakis Col. Frank A. Gleason, USA (Ret.) Caesar Daraio & Thomas Rossi (fought with the OSS Italian Operational Groups: “Donovan’s Devils”) John Billings, 885th Bombardment Group (Heavy) (Special) Bill Becker (“Carpetbagger, 801st/492nd Bombardment Group, the air arm of the OSS) Clement D. Dowler (fought with OSS Operational Group LOUISE)



Israel Weapon Industries’ compact, striker-fired Masada was developed in collaboration with Israel Defense Forces SOF.

Israel Weapon Industries’ compact, striker-fired Masada was developed in collaboration with Israel Defense Forces SOF.


Special Operations Outlook


tactical demands continue y Asto evolve across the modern battlespace, so too do the small arms requirements for special operations forces (SOF) seeking to maintain the competitive advantage over “near-peer” adversaries. In this contemporary operating environment (COE), special mission requirements range from demands for enhanced lethality and maneuverability – particularly relevant in urban environments where small unit teams can find themselves operating in confined and congested areas – through to increased situational awareness (SA) and command and control (C2), most of which can be achieved through improved signature management and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) technology. Hence the reason why the SOF community continues to consider a variety of technology upgrades, including alternative calibers and ammunition enhancements; increased proliferation of shorter barreled weapons; upgraded optical weapon sights; and 3-D-printed suppressors. Emerging requirements from the COE, NATO, and non-NATO entity partner nation forces (PNFs) continue to lead to uplifts in capability. Nearpeer adversaries, including Russia’s “Spetznaz” brigades and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army SOF units, are also upgrading and adapting.

Russian SOF, having been very active and effective operating in Syria over recent years, continue to receive upgrades in small arms capabilities, designed to provide operators with increased lethality, precision, and survivability on the battlefield. Examples of these upgrades include the adoption of next-generation AK-12 and AK-15 assault rifles, both manufactured by Russian original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Kalashnikov Group, as well as the 5.66 x 39mm APS underwater assault rifle designed to support maritime SOF elements. In addition, Kalashnikov Group showed various other weapons at the Army 2017 exhibition near Moscow in September 2017, designed to provide Spetsnaz operators with an expanding toolkit of small arms solutions to be adopted across a variable COE. Examples include the MA subcompact carbine, designed as a personal defense weapon (PDW) solution for close quarters battle in urban environments as well as clandestine surveillance/reconnaissance missions. This offering provided operators with a significant upgrade in PDW technology over a shortbarreled variant of the legacy AK-74 assault rifle. Designed to feature Russian standard 5.45 x 39mm ammunition, the MA sub-compact provides operators with a short-stroke piston, gas-operated weapon measuring a total of 75 centimeters in length and weighing 2.9 kilograms. Carrying a 30-round



CONFINED SPACE WEAPON Confined space weapon, includes LMT PDW weapon with suppressed barrel assembly. Overall weapon length of 24" 24”




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The Russian Federation has adopted the next-generation AK-15 (above) and the AK-12 (left) for its forces.

magazine, the weapon is capable of being fired in semi-automatic and automatic firing modes and can be fitted with a red dot sight for rapid target acquisition.

PERSONAL DEFENSE WEAPONS Responding to small arms improvements from near-peer adversaries, the international SOF community continues to upgrade its own inventories of small arms, particularly in regard to the development of PDW technology and proliferation of alternative calibers. Following the decision by Netherlands Maritime SOF (NL MARSOF) in July 2015 to procure a limited number of SiG Sauer MCX carbines in 300 Blackout (300 BLK or 7.62 x 35mm) – part of a wider evaluation considering alternative caliber types for increased lethality and reducing the burden on dismounted teams – U.S. Special Operations

A SiG Sauer MCX carbine. USSOCOM is following the lead of the Netherlands Maritime SOF in procuring the personal defense weapon (PDW) in 300 Blackout.

Command (USSOCOM) has followed a similar roadmap with its PDW program. This particular effort is aimed at providing operators with the capability to upgrade the in-service 5.56 x 45mm M4A1 carbine with the Close Quarter Barrel Receiver (which comprises a 10.3-inch barrel) with a 300 BLK conversion kit that, according to official program documents, must be capable of being achieved during “field conditions” in less than three minutes. USSOCOM’s decision to progress with an alternative caliber size over standard NATO 5.56 x 45mm cartridges (along with NL MARSOF and other PNFs) illustrates how the international SOF community is slowly gravitating toward the potential for a wholesale change in small arms ammunition in the future. With a very similar external casing of a standard NATO 5.56 x 45mm cartridge jacket, but shortened and married to a .30-caliber bullet rather than being necked down to .22 caliber, the 300 BLK is considered to be better suited for suppressed firing while also providing similar muzzle velocity to the M4A1 when fitted with a more conventional 14.5-inch barrel. With a similar overall length to the 5.56 X 45mm round, the 300 BLK can also fit into existing 5.56 magazines, and a relatively simple change of barrels allows many 5.56-chambered weapons to fire the 300 BLK. It is precisely these specifications that have promoted 300 BLK’s suitability across the special operations community, defense sources explained to Special Operations Outlook. Having first disclosed the requirement to the market on March 9, 2017, USSOCOM awarded SiG Sauer a contract on Feb. 1, 2018, worth an undisclosed sum, to supply a total of 10 PDW conversion kits to NSWC Crane Warfare Center, Indiana, ahead of an evaluation with a Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF). According to a statement from the U.S. Army Contracting Command, published on the Federal Business Opportunities website, SiG Sauer emerged as the only OEM to offer up a viable solution to the PDW requirement.


“SiG Sauer was the only company identified through market research that could provide the necessary … PDW Parts and Kits which met the Government’s requirements for a Commercial off the shelf conversion kit for the M4A1 to create a … PDW,” the statement reads. SiG Sauer’s conversion kit is based on its MCX Rattler carbine, which was first unveiled to the market at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas in January 2018. Discussing the conversion kit with Special Operations Outlook, USSOCOM sources explained how the upgrade could be achieved through a simple replacement of weapon stock and upper receiver, which includes a 5.5-inch barrel in a 300 BLK configuration, satisfying SOF requirements for a smaller form factor for increased maneuverability in confined spaces. Additional USSOCOM requirements called for a PDW comprising no more than 5.5 pounds in total weight, with weapon profile measuring no more than 26 inches in length, official documents confirmed. The 300 BLK conversion kit must also satisfy accuracy demands of 2 minutes of angle at a range of 100 yards. SiG Sauer was unable to comment on additional details. However, company officials confirmed that each conversion kit supplied to the NSWC Crane Warfare Center would


Special Operations Outlook

not only feature the MCX PDW 300 BLK upper receiver group, complete with 5.5-inch barrel, but also an MCX barrel in 5.56 x 45mm caliber; SiG Sauer’s SRD 7.62mm suppressor with handguard (to avoid damage to the supporting hand when operating the weapon); a variety of weapon stocks in folding, telescoped, and skeleton configurations; quick detachment sling adaptor; set of 10 magazines capable of housing 300 BLK ammunition; and optical weapon sights including the Wilcox Boss 300 BLK and SiG Sauer’s own Juliet X4 magnification sight. Each conversion kit will also be delivered with a polymer rifle case, capable of housing both 5.56 x 45mm and 300 BLK conversion kits. Speaking to Special Operations Outlook, one operator from an undisclosed NATO SOF unit in Europe described how such a conversion kit would allow teams to deploy to forward operating bases with a single rifle case featuring immediate accessibility to both 5.56 x 45mm and 300 BLK weapon systems. Upon receiving mission orders, an operator could then rapidly reconfigure his/her personal weapon system in accordance with designated rules of engagement or threat assessment, dependent upon lethality levels required. According to USSOCOM officials, deliveries of the 10 conversion kits will be completed by

the end of the first half of 2018, with a JATF conducting a follow-on evaluation program to assess its suitability for frontline service. Meanwhile, USSOCOM components are also considering additional “alternative” caliber types beyond 300 BLK in order to satisfy emerging operational requirements concerning the effectiveness of legacy ammunition armor penetration levels against near-peer adversaries. According to one SOF source, coalition special operations units operating 5.56 x 45mm-caliber carbines have yet to witness any significant problems with this particular ammunition type. “[5.56mm] is doing what it is supposed to do, but looking at the capability of our peers, it’s worrying,” the source warned. Elsewhere, undisclosed special operations users in the UK are also scheduled to receive initial deliveries of 300 BLK supersonic and subsonic ammunition as part of a Ministry of Defense (MOD) solicitation published on July 12, 2017. Deliveries are expected to begin in April 2019 ahead of an evaluation program, defense sources confirmed to Special Operations Outlook, with the first procurement tranche being relied upon for “operational and training ammunition.” Evaluation of 300 BLK ammunition will concentrate on battlefield and terminal effects; climatic and environmental characteristics; munition sensitivity; system and design safety; interoperability with other carbines; human factors; deployability; sustainment; and capability resiliency and reliability. The MOD was unable to provide Special Operations Outlook with additional details regarding the customer. Germany’s army special operations command (KSK) is also considering the procurement of MCX carbines in 300 BLK, with sources suggesting force elements had already received an undisclosed number of systems for evaluation. However, the wider proliferation of 300 BLK carbines across European SOF remains unlikely in the near future, with both German and Dutch SOF units selecting a next-generation carbine in 5.56 x 45mm caliber. In October 2017, for example, the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support agreed to an €11 million contract with Heckler & Koch to provide a total of


Left to right: A 300 AAC Blackout (BLK) round with a 125-grain plastic tip bullet; 300 BLK 125-grain match; 300 BLK 220-grain subsonic round; 5.56 x 45mm NATO round; and Russian 7.62 x 39mm round.

accessories, including modular foregrips for enhanced weapon handling. The SCAR-SC also retains the capability to house a suppressor for improved acoustic and physical signature management.


The SCAR-SC was specifically designed in response to emerging requirements from the SOF community.

1,745 5.56 x 45mm HK 416A7s to replace German SOF G36 carbines as part of the Sturmgewehr Spezialkräfte (SSK) program. Meanwhile, sources confirmed to Special Operations Outlook that force components from across USSOCOM continued to consider an additional series of alternative caliber types, ranging from 6.5mm and .260 Remington through to 6.8mm and .270 Winchester cartridges. USSOCOM is also closely monitoring progress in the U.S. Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) program, which is considering alternative lightweight ammunition and weapon systems to replace the 5.56mm x 45mm Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). Having published a Prototype Opportunity Notice (PON) on March 1, 2018, the Army is seeking to build a series of demonstrator weapons (Technology Readiness Level 6 or above) to participate in an extensive evaluation program designed to identify lethality, precision, and range effects of a light machine gun in the form factor of an assault rifle.


MANEUVERABILITY REQUIREMENTS Also seeking to exploit emerging requirements for increased maneuverability in confined battlespaces is Belgian company FN Herstal, which late in 2017 unveiled the latest variant in its Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle (SCAR) family. Revealed at the Milipol conference in Paris on Nov. 15, 2017, the SCAR Sub-Compact (SCAR-SC) PDW has been designed as a reduced form factor carbine for special operations teams, with availability in NATO standard 5.56 x 45mm caliber. The SCAR-SC, according to an official spokesperson for FN Herstal, was specifically designed in response to emerging requirements from the SOF community with “mobility and flexibility” in mind. Similar to other PDWs available in the market, the SCAR-SC has been designed to support urban operations as well as covert operations. The semi-automatic PDW measures 21 inches in length when fully retracted and 25.7 inches when extended with a telescopic stock. However, the weapon can also accommodate foldable and fixed stocks, dependent upon customer preference. The PDW comprises a total weight of 6.9 pounds when loaded and features a 7.5-inch barrel length. The SCAR-SC retains the same magazine capacity of the larger SCAR-Light carbine for 30-round magazines and includes a standard Picatinny-style 360-degree rail adaptor system for the attachment of tactical

Echoing operational requirements for PDWs, the use of handgun technology remains a critical component to the successful execution of any special operation, particularly relating to urban and subterranean warfare. However, unlike the PDW and assault rifle markets, the handgun is failing to witness any proliferation in alternative caliber developments beyond in-service 9 x 19mm; .40-caliber; and .45-caliber cartridges, defense sources explained to Special Operations Outlook. Instead, handgun upgrades continue to focus on the integration of tactical accessories as well as more modular designs allowing for the integration of personalized handgrips for improved ergonomic fit. USSOCOM continues to monitor deliveries of the Department of Defense’s new 9 x 19mm Modular Handgun System (MHS) to conventional units following the selection of SiG Sauer’s P320 in January 2017. Due to designate the handguns as the “M17” (full size) and “M18” (compact) toward the end of 2018, the U.S. Army continues to learn lessons during the fielding process, which started last year. The M17 will replace legacy M9 Beretta handguns while the M18 will replace SiG Sauer P228 systems, all weapons of which feature the same 9 x 19mm caliber. According to U.S. Army program officials, the development has seen the M17/18 suffer from problems when firing ball ammunition instead of special purpose ammunition. However, the handgun has successfully passed evaluation with hollow point ammunition during product verification tests. Responding to emerging requirements identified by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) SOF units across the COE, Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) has also launched a new handgun family aimed specifically at the SOF market. Speaking to Special Operations Outlook, company officials explained how the 9mm x 19mm and strikerinitiated Masada handgun would provide operators with an alternative to the in-service hammer-action Jericho handgun of the same caliber. Developed in collaboration with IDF SOF, the Masada was unveiled to the international market at the Defense and Security 2017 exhibition in Bangkok, with a company source explaining how the Masada


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featured “special emphasis” on operational safety and simplicity of maintenance, as well as a high level of ergonomics and ease of use. The Masada has been developed with reduced form factor in mind for operation in confined spaces, with IWI sources describing how IDF SOF operators are becoming more and more accustomed to conducting operations in subterranean environments. Hence the reason why the handgun measures 6.6 inches in length and has been designed with a glass-reinforced polymer frame to reduce its total weight to 650 grams. The Jericho handgun weighs approximately 720 grams in comparison. The handgun also features upgraded safety specifications, including a firing pin block safety and enhanced trigger reset with or without manual safety system. Designed for ambidextrous operations, the handgun also includes front and rear cocking serrations for optimal grip as well as a low barrel axis designed to reduce recoil, company officials added. IWI also confirmed that Masada would be made available in 9 x 19mm; .40-caliber, and .45-caliber configurations, dependent upon customer preference.


The Brevis III suppressor on a Heckler & Koch MP7 personal defense weapon.

SiG Sauer’s M17 (top) and M18 sidearms.

SUPPRESSORS Finally, suppressor technology continues to play a critical role in the small arms development of the SOF community. On Nov. 22, 2017, USSOCOM published details regarding the first live demonstration of its Thunderstorm Technology Demonstaration Program aimed at enhancing the combat effectiveness of SOF small unit teams operating across potentially hostile regions with “physical and electromagnetic environmental constraints.” Experimentation 18-1, which was completed by representatives from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command as well as the Applied Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University and Georgia Tech Research Institute, considered future technology upgrades regarding suppressed weapon systems. Defense sources associated with the program described to Special Operations Outlook how the classified demonstration had considered next-generation solutions designed to provide accurate fires with less noise and flash, reduced recoil, and reduced size and weight specifications. This, sources added, could contribute to greater signature management by operators, which could consequently generate more efficient SA and C2 understanding in a high-stress combat situation. Examples available to SOF customers include Delta P Design’s latest suppressor – Brevis III – which has been designed with “special operations input” for the Heckler & Koch 9 x 19mm MP7 PDW. This 3-D printed suppressor, manufactured by direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) of titanium, comprises a smaller form factor over legacy solutions, measuring 4.8 inches in length and 8.3 ounces in weight and thereby promoting increased maneuverability in confined areas.


CARRYING THE LOAD One Pack Manufacturer’s SOF Experience


operations requirements community. Other times, that niche just seems to find them. One example of the latter instance involves Mystery Ranch, the current manufacturer of a range of pack products used by special operations elements in the United States and several partner nations. “I was in my office at a company called Dana Design, where I was one of the two owners, and the designer, in 1989,” recalled Dana Gleason, principal/ designer at Mystery Ranch. “One day I got a phone call kicked up to me from customer service. When I picked up the phone, there was no ‘Hello.’ There was no ‘Hi, my name is.’ All there was was someone practically shouting, ‘How do I keep that paint on?’ Obviously I had to respond to this in some way. So after a moment, I just said, ‘You’re painting my babies???!!!’ And we started talking.” Gleason learned that the caller was from SEAL Team Two and working with unit elements in Alaska on mountain warfare techniques. “They had used military pack stuff, thrown it away, and then went for the best civilian backpack they could get,” Gleason explained. “We did a thing for high mountain in Alaska or the Himalayas at Dana Design called the Astralplane, which was a play on words, since our most popular pack at the time was called the Terraplane.” At the time, the pack was only produced in a bright red color, because high visibility was a desired trait in mountaineering. Moreover, the company had just changed the waterproof coating on those packs, transitioning from an older waterproofing product to a Teflon coating. “We were one of the first people to start working with DuPont on using Teflon as a water repellant for nylon materials,” Gleason said. “The trouble was that the SEALs had first gotten half a dozen packs from a shop called Alaska Mountaineering and Hiking up in Anchorage. They had spray painted them to get the red off and it worked great. They then got more packs. But the new ones had the Teflon on it, and the spray paint would just peel up and fall off. And hence the phone call.” Gleason said that over the course of a 45-minute phone call, he was convinced that the SEALs might possibly buy 25 packs if he could change the color and add a few design features. “So on the phone, I said that we would build you a special version in black, which was a tactical color at that time, and a little heavier material, with features like inside zippers. And one of the reasons I bought into it was because I came up with a halfway clever name for it: the Overkill pack. And over the course of the next decade, we sold over a thousand of them, mainly to SEALs but to other folk as well. Basically, it was simple: This guy seemed like a hardcore user. We like the people who use our gear the hardest. And it just came around to ‘let’s build what they need.’ That was our starting point,” he said.


Special Operations Outlook

Navy SEALs train in Alaska. Mystery Ranch has been making packs for special operations forces for nearly 30 years.


some cases, U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) industry y Inpartners work hard to identify and explore their niche within the special

“This guy seemed like a hardcore user. We like the people who use our gear the hardest. And it just came around to ‘let’s build what they need.’” Gleason’s second story didn’t have the same congenial feel. “Around 1995, about the time SOCOM first stood up as a joint operation, I got another phone call at Dana Design,” he said. “This time it was an Air Force major who said, ‘You know, you’ve got one of the favorite packs within what’s become SOCOM, and we need to get a pack that can be issued to everybody. And the pack needs to last for at least five years because of all our budget cutbacks.” He said that the major’s emphasis on five-year durability had been translated to what he termed “minor changes” in the pack design, beginning with a request that the entire pack be lined with a type of vinyl used in truck tarps. “And I say, ‘Truck tarps, huh? Well, that would certainly be kind of durable, I guess,” he said. “But most truck tarp material is 21 ounces per square yard. And the material we’re already making packs out of that is quite durable – and in most cases will last those five years – is 11 ounces a square yard. And he says, ‘Well, no. We need the really toughest thing we can get. And I’ve got a few other things.’ He had apparently used the pack and found the straps on the side a little short, maybe? So he wanted all of the straps to be 2 meters long. Yes, I’m holding my arms out wide – that long. And then, ‘Oh, and we also want to build a chair into the back of the pack.’ It turns out it was kind of something like we had helped develop called Crazy Greek Chair that was done by another company – a friend of mine. And I was adding up the weights for all these things in my head, and go, ‘This is going to be so crazy heavy that no one’s going to want to use it.’ And he responds, ‘These are tough guys. They’ll carry the load.’” Gleason said he thought about the design mandates over the weekend, and when the major called again on Monday, he responded, “Sir, I’m sorry, but I don’t feel that we have the pack for you.” “And he was very upset,” he added. “But he was dead set on his answer for








durability. You know, build it so that it’s so heavy you can’t lift it. And I regretfully – because he also told me I would never sell packs to the military again if I turned this down – said, ‘I just don’t think we have the right thing for you,’ and withdrew from the project.” He noted that the packs, which were built by another company, ended up with an empty weight of 23 pounds for the pack and assault pack, adding, “They bought a thousand of them for $900 apiece. But I don’t think more than a couple of hundred were ever issued. I’m quite proud of the fact that I declined to participate in that particular thing.” Although he had been told that he would never sell packs to the military again, Gleason said, “The SEALs just kept on ordering my Overkill packs. They didn’t care what they were being told to buy, nor did a whole lot of other people. So we kept on building it.” Dana Design was subsequently sold to a corporation that, Gleason said, wanted to stop producing packs in Montana and move production overseas. Coupled with other factors, the process led to Gleason’s establishment of Mystery Ranch and the start of production for a modified pack design around 2002. “We had done some improvements [to the Overkill pack] that are still contained within the packs I build now that made them adjustable for a really personal fit,” he said. “And so I talked to [the customer] and hit them with, ‘OK, we’ll build two versions: same bag on both but one version with the classic Dana Design frame that you guys loved, and one with my new stuff and some modifications making it much more adjustable. They took them out in the snow – this was in February – and basically told me after about 20 minutes, ‘Give us the new stuff.’” Gleason said that they built “close to a thousand” of the new pack designs, which were called the BDSB, which stood for Big D’s Special Blend. “And we went on from there, starting to do more work for more different units,” he added. “And along the way, we had some interesting adventures with some people down in the Dam Neck area [home of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group].” He said that company developments during this period included the creation of the NICE pack frame, explaining that the acronym came from “Nylinear Individual Carrying Equipment, which stood for the way we actually put together the stiffeners in the frame – using nylon and linear carbon fiber pieces. Besides, I have never shied away from making up words.” “Actually, it was called NICE Alice,” he added, “because we built it so that it was the same overall size as an Alice frame and anything that used an Alice frame could work with this. That and the fact that my firstborn daughter’s name was Alice.” Gleason said that the company has learned a great deal along the way by listening to their customers. “We are really good at putting a load on the human body. We’ve been doing it for the best climbers and skiers in the world for 20 years. But this was dealing with people with an entirely different set of problems – not that we truly realized that at the beginning. For a while, up through about 2005-2006, people in the military were going to the outdoor industry to get a better answer. And yeah, we did the packs we were doing with darker colors and camouflage, but really there were still a lot of drawbacks to how the load was laid out. How you would carry the load on the Appalachian Trail is absolutely different than how you need to carry the load when you need to maintain situational awareness, or when you need to be able to get stuff out of that pack fast while you are under fire.” Additionally, he observed that things designed to be carried on a human body were not always designed to be carried on a human body wearing body armor. And perhaps most significant was the realization that the designs had to be simple to use. “In the civilian outdoor world, a pack is a primary item and people will fool with them, and tease them, and adjust them like crazy,” he

A Navy SEAL wearing a Mystery Ranch pack.

said. “But if you’re an operator, you are putting most of your mind share into your weapon or your communications. If you have to fool around with a pack to make it work well, I think the traditional phrase is, ‘It sucks,’ as opposed to fooling around with it. So we realized that a pack has to work well when poorly fitted and used indifferently. And if it’s tweaked at all, if any attention is paid to fitting it, it will work even better.” He continued, “But here’s the thing. We may not be in the comfort business. But we are in the business of getting onto the target able to operate. And we reduce injuries. We reduce fatigue. Don’t tell anybody that it ends up being more comfortable, too. But we let you be more effective.” He said that a key to the company’s learning process was consistently asking, “What are you doing with this? “That’s how we started learning about body armor. That’s where we started getting into building gear to work with comm gear. That’s where we started getting into looking at how people do medicine and many other things. Nowadays, we do many specialized packs in addition to having competed on two different generations of the SPEAR pack projects for SOCOM – and having won entirely this time around. We do all three packs – assault, patrol, and recce – that they list as issue, although there are many other packs out there as well. “We listen to our users and we talk with them,” he said. “We’re very proud for what we get to do with the British SOF community. They’re a great and challenging group. We’ve also done quite a bit with CANSOF and Australia.” Gleason concluded, “I’m very proud of what we’re able to do for the people who are out there. And it’s given our lives within the Ranch far more meaning than when we were simply building sporting goods.”




Special Operations Outlook

STARTING FROM SCRATCH William J. Donovan and the Office of Strategic Services


“Strategy, without information upon which it can rely, is helpless. Likewise, information is useless unless it is intelligently directed to the strategic purpose.” – June 10, 1941 memo from William J. Donovan to President Franklin D. Roosevelt


1941, with a world aflame in war and America´s neutrality y Inbecoming increasingly tenuous, the thing President Franklin D. Roosevelt needed the most was the one thing he was getting the least: intelligence about the Axis’ capabilities, intents, and actions. The existing agencies responsible within the Army (G-2), Navy (Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI), the State Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had proved so inadequate and parochial that he had secretly created his own informal network in an attempt to keep himself abreast of the situation abroad. It wasn’t enough. He knew it, and he confessed that fact to his friend William J. Donovan, a member of that informal network, hoping the World War I veteran and lawyer’s vast experience might hold the answer. A few days later, Donovan handed the president his response. The memo was bold – breathtakingly so – and unprecedented. Donovan proposed that America, for the first time in the nation’s history, should have nothing less than an independent, fully functioning espionage agency like those in place with the combatants in Europe and Asia. Roosevelt agreed, but asked Donovan to take the job of establishing it. Donovan´s challenge was enormous. Not only would he have to start from scratch, it was arguable who would be his greater foe: the Axis or turf-guarding bureaucrats from America´s other intelligencegathering agencies. But, as he so often was able to do, in William Donovan, President Roosevelt found the right man. Roosevelt’s executive order dated July 11, 1941, created the office of the “Coordinator of Information” (COI), responsible for military

OSS Jedburghs prepare to be dropped into occupied Europe.


intelligence (gathered either independently or in partnership with existing agencies), covert operations, and propaganda. After the United States became a co-belligerent in December 1941, Roosevelt decided to separate the functions of propaganda and espionage. On June 13, 1942, with Executive Order 69, he abolished the COI and replaced it with two agencies: the Office of War Information (OWI) responsible for the former, and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) responsible for the latter. Donovan was named director of the OSS. Though all the military branches were playing catch-up with regard to war readiness, Donovan’s table of organization situation was unique. Unlike the military, which had a foundation and infrastructure upon which to build, Donovan’s agency literally began as a one-man operation that needed everything – from office space, typewriters, and pencils on up. By mid-1942, Donovan had accomplished the miracle of having an infrastructure in place that included training camps and schools with instructors and recruits, laboratories and plants working on everything needed for espionage, and a core of agents and operators in the field. According to the organization’s own booklet Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Organization and Functions, the OSS had two deputy directors, each leading several branches. Under the Deputy Director for Strategic Services Operations fell the Special Operations (SO) branch, which organized and supplied sabotage operations behind enemy lines; Morale Operations, which was responsible for subversion of enemy morale at home and at the front; the Maritime Unit, which would sabotage enemy shipping as well as provide transport for agent infiltrations and the supply of agents and underground groups; Special Projects,


Special Operations Outlook

which carried out missions of a specialized nature not falling under the jurisdiction of any other branch of SSO; the Field Experimental Unit, included in the SSO division for administration, but under direct control of Donovan; and the Operational Group, which organized and operated guerrilla forces in deep penetration operations. The Deputy Director for Intelligence Services led the Secret Intelligence (SI) branch, responsible for obtaining secret intelligence through espionage worldwide; X-2, responsible for counterespionage abroad as well as security functions in active theaters; Research and Analysis, which coordinated strategic, political, geographical, and economic intelligence from all sources and produced finished intelligence studies; Foreign Nationalities, which analyzed and reported on the “political temperature” of various nationality groups within the United States in reaction to political events abroad; and Censorship and Documents, with dual functions of securing censorship materials for the organization and monitoring enemy broadcasts for commercial, economic, and political intelligence, as well as researching and supplying personal documents required for undercover operations by other branches. With the country up to its neck in a global shooting war, Donovan chose to jump-start recruitment by reversing traditional training programs with the credo of hiring on the spot “anyone of great ability,” then “later on we’ll find out what they can do.” In other words, the criteria began with people already possessing the specialized skills the organization needed who then could be trained to agency standards. They became what Donovan called, in admiration, his ¨glorious amateurs.¨ At the high end of the spectrum were people listed in the Social Register (so many, in fact, that wags suggested that OSS actually stood for “Oh So Social”) and such individuals as labor lawyer Arthur Goldberg, Wall Street banker Junius S. Morgan III, historian Arthur Schlesinger, author Stephen Vincent Benét, professional baseball player Moe Berg, Academy Award-winning director John Ford, and actor Sterling Hayden. At the extreme other end were people with prison records: safe crackers, burglars, even Mafia members. And in between were civilians with a love of adventure, like Julia Child, then working in public relations, who would serve overseas in China and after the war would become a famous celebrity chef. Virginia Hall, known as “the Limping Lady” because she had a wooden lower left leg (which she named “Cuthbert”), was perhaps the OSS’ best female field agent. The daughter of a well-to-do family from Baltimore, she had a gift for languages and a love of adventure, and after graduating from college and studying in Europe, she began working as a clerk in the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. Transferred to Turkey, it was there that she suffered a hunting accident that caused her lower leg to be amputated and put an end to her dream of becoming a diplomat. She was in Paris when war broke out, and became a volunteer ambulance driver. A chance encounter with a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent while on a train to Spain following France´s defeat led her to London, where she was recruited by the SOE, who dispatched her to Lyon in unoccupied Vichy France. Thanks to America´s neutrality, she was initially able to openly work, using as a cover that of a newspaper reporter. When America entered the war, she went underground and operated clandestinely for another 14 months. She was so successful that she became the Gestapo’s top target in France; they called her “the most dangerous of all Allied spies.” Only after American troops landed in French North Africa and the Nazis


Maj. Gen. William J. “Wild Bill” Donovan, founder of the OSS, father of the CIA and American intelligence.


Les Marguerites Fleuriront ce Soir, a painting by Jeffrey W. Bass, depicts Virginia Hall as an SOE agent. After fleeing France one step ahead of the Germans, Hall joined the OSS and returned to the occupied country as an agent.


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occupied the rest of France did she leave, making a dangerous trek over the Pyrenees mountains into Spain on foot, a grueling experience because of her wooden leg. Once back in London, she learned of the OSS and offered her services to the new agency, along with a request to return to France. Despite her notoriety and an all-out effort by the Gestapo, she was never captured. In addition to her radio dispatches, she trained resistance fighters, and her team was responsible for numerous acts of sabotage following D-day, including the killing of at least 150 German soldiers and the capturing of 500 more. Donovan personally decorated her with the Distinguished Service Cross, making her the first civilian woman to be so honored. She

Donovan (center) with members of the Operational Groups at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, which served as an OSS training facility.

joined the CIA in 1951, working as an intelligence analyst. She retired in 1966, and died on July 8, 1982, aged 76. Even the military, as distrustful as it was, found Donovan’s organization to be a useful dumping ground for its misfits and other members whose initiative sat uncomfortably with commanders. One example of the latter was Charles Parkin, Jr., who had served as a lieutenant and demolitions expert in the Army during World War I. Upon America´s entry into World War II, he reenlisted. His transfer occurred during training at the Army´s Engineering School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. National Guard units were assigned

An even more extraordinary individual was Peter J. Ortiz, one of almost 300 Marines to serve in the OSS. At war’s end, he was the most highly decorated member of the OSS, having earned two Navy Crosses, the Legion of Merit with “V” device, and two Purple Hearts, among other decorations. 105


Maj. Peter J. Ortiz, center, wearing sunglasses and his Marine Corps uniform and decorations, inspects members of the French maquis near Albertville, France, Aug. 7, 1944.

security duty over bridges in the area. Noting how lax they were in their duty, he decided one night to shake things up. Despite an admonition from his commanding officer to leave well enough alone, Parkin went ahead with his unauthorized exercise to “blow up” a bridge. That evening, he took half of his platoon in assault boats up the Occoquan River to a railroad bridge. Rain was falling, and to further distract the guards, Parkin walked up and chatted with the National Guardsmen, who saw nothing unusual in an Army lieutenant visiting them. After a few minutes he left, his men having set their dummy charges. The next day he wrote a report of his action and rationale for it. The report rocketed up the ladder to the base commander,

The son of an American mother and French-Spanish father, Ortiz´s military career began at age 19 with enlistment in the French Foreign Legion in 1932. Discharged in 1937 with the rank of sergeant and having received the Croix de Guerre with two palms as well as other decorations from the French government, he went to Hollywood and became a technical adviser on war films. When France entered the war in 1939, he reenlisted in the Foreign Legion and was commissioned a lieutenant. Captured in 1940, he eventually escaped his POW camp and returned to the United States. He attempted to enlist in the Army Air Corps, but, impatient with bureaucratic delays, volunteered for the Marines, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant. Because of his language skills and experience in French North Africa, he was promoted to captain and transferred to Algiers, officially as assistant naval attaché and Marine Corps observer. That was a cover, for in reality, he was now a member of the

There he doffed his coat, aimed his pistol at the astonished German officers, and ordered them to drink toasts to Roosevelt and the Marine Corps before backing his way out the door. who was horrified at the prospect of a public relations disaster in which the Army was “fighting” the National Guard. Next thing he knew, Parkin found himself transferred to COI, where he became a demolitions instructor. He later served in the China-Burma-India Theater with the OSS. He retired from the Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. An even more extraordinary individual was Peter J. Ortiz, one of almost 300 Marines to serve in the OSS. At war’s end, he was the most highly decorated member of the OSS, having earned two Navy Crosses, the Legion of Merit with “V” device, and two Purple Hearts, among other decorations. His exploits during the war combined aspects of actor Errol Flynn, fellow Marine Chesty Puller, and fictional spy James Bond.


Special Operations Outlook

OSS. Ortiz participated in the Tunisian campaign, fighting in the Battle of Kasserine Pass and conducting several deep penetration reconnaissance missions. Severely wounded in the last of these, he was airlifted back to Washington, D.C. During his recovery, he wrote a report of his experiences in North Africa that landed on Donovan´s desk. After reading it, Donovan wrote across the top of the first page, “Very interesting, please re-employ this man as soon as possible.” Upon recovery, he received Jedburgh training, and in January 1944, together with his team, was parachuted into the Haute-Savoie department in the French Alps in Operation Union, to assess, supply, and train maquis resistance units and help evacuate downed Allied pilots and aircrews.


Christian Lambertsen models his invention, the Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit (LARU) Mark I, in 1940. It was the first underwater rebreather device allowing a diver to move about without producing breathing bubbles that could be seen on the water’s surface.


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Wearing his Marine Corps uniform and all his medals (notable for his numerous French decorations) in part to boost maquis morale, he led them on numerous sabotage missions, gaining a reputation for derring-do along the way. His most spectacular incident was something straight out of Hollywood, and has been retold in several different versions. As the story goes, a group of German officers were at a village bar drinking and cursing Ortiz, President Roosevelt, the Marine Corps, the Allies, and other enemies. Unknown to them, Ortiz was at a nearby table dressed in mufti. He paid his bill, returned to his safe house, changed into his uniform, holstered his pistol, put on his trench coat, and returned to the bar. There he doffed his coat, aimed his pistol at the astonished German officers, and ordered them to drink toasts to Roosevelt and the Marine Corps before backing his way out the door. Ortiz was captured in August 1944 during his second Jedburgh mission. With the remnants of his six-man team surrounded in the village of Centron by a far larger German unit, and knowing the village would be destroyed and its citizens killed in reprisal if the house to house fighting continued, Ortiz negotiated a surrender with the German commander. He remained a POW for the rest of the war. Discharged in 1946, he served in the Marine Corps Reserve until 1955, promoted to colonel on the retired list. After the war, Ortiz returned to Hollywood and acted in several movies, including some directed by fellow OSS member John Ford. Two movies loosely based on his life were released: 13 Rue Madeline (1947) starring James Cagney, and Operation Secret (1952) starring Cornel Wilde. He died on May 16, 1988, aged 74, and was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Instructors were just as colorful, none more so than Capt. (later Lt. Col.) William Ewart Fairbairn of the British Army. A self-taught expert in unconventional hand-to-hand combat that he learned while a police officer in Shanghai fighting organized crime and street thugs, it was there he invented, with Eric Anthony Sykes, the Fairbairn-Sykes stiletto used by British commandos, the OSS, and other special operations units to this day. For armed combat training, Fairbairn created a “house of horrors,” a building with darkened rooms that contained confusing sounds, flashing lights, and pop-up targets. A trainee had to race through

The OSS also operated extensively in the Pacific theater. OSS Deer Team in 1945. Pictured are Lt. Réne Défourneaux (standing, second from left), Viet Minh leader Ho Chi Minh (standing, third from left), team leader Maj. Allison Thomas (center), Vo Nguyen Giap (in suit), Henry Prunier, and Paul Hoagland, far right. Kneeling at left are Lawrence Vogt and Aaron Squires.

the course firing at the targets. Trainees were graded on their firing accuracy. Donovan tapped the chemist and inventor Stanley P. Lovell, whom he called his ¨Professor Moriarity,¨ to make the countless tricks of the trade his operators would need. Everything from exotic firearms to cameras, radios, and explosives – you name it – came from the fertile minds of he and his geniuses in his Office of Scientific Research and Development. They included such things as “Aunt Jemima,” an explosive “flour” that could be shaped and cooked to resemble baked goods, “mule turds,” explosives that resembled the ubiquitous droppings that littered the roads and landscape of North Africa, and the “Stinger,” a 3-inch pen that was a single-shot .22-caliber firearm. On the non-deadly, psychological warfare side was an embarrassing weapon called “Who? Me?” It was a toothpastesized tube filled with a chemical that smelled like a particularly odious bowel movement. Distributed to children in Japaneseoccupied China, Lovell later said, ¨When a Japanese officer, preferably of high rank, came walking down a crowded sidewalk, little Chinese boys and girls would slip up behind him and squirt a shot of ´Who? Me?´ at his trouser seat ... it cost the Japanese a world of face.¨ Christian Lambertsen came to OSS attention thanks to his groundbreaking experiments with underwater breathing devices. In April 1942, while still in medical school, he gave a demonstration of his Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit II to representatives from the Navy, SOE, and the OSS. The Navy passed on it, but SOE and OSS liked what they saw. Upon graduation in 1943, the OSS commissioned him a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps and assigned him to its Maritime Unit to refine his prototype and create doctrine. Teams using his respirator were deployed in all the theaters where the OSS operated, with Lambertsen going to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to




he OSS Society honors the historic accomplishments 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 Donovan said its personnel performed some of the bravest acts of World War II. He described them as “glorious amateurs.�

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Aaron Bank, an OSS Operational Group leader who went on to found U.S. Army Special Forces.

oversee use of his device and refine doctrine. Discharged in 1946 with the rank of major, Lambertsen would go on to have a distinguished medical career. In 2000, the U.S. Navy SEALs honored him with the accolade “Father of U.S. Combat Swimming.” In 2009, he received the OSS Society´s Distinguished Service Award. He died on Feb. 11, 2011, at the age of 93. Of all the operations conducted by the OSS, none was as spectacular, or more politically fraught, than the one codenamed Operation Sunrise, the surrender of all German forces in Italy. Allen Dulles was OSS station chief in Switzerland, based in its capital, Bern. Switzerland had become a magnet for international espionage on both sides thanks to its strategic location; a situation tolerated by Swiss authorities so long as activity remained covert. From his arrival in Switzerland in late 1942, Dulles would periodically receive peace feelers regarding German surrender. These feelers increased after the Allied landings in France in 1944. In almost every case, Dulles discounted them for one reason or another. But shortly after the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, he received a feeler reportedly from a member of senior military leadership in Germany regarding an offer to surrender all German forces in Italy. Cautiously convinced it was bona fide, Dulles knew he had to proceed with extreme caution because of Soviet Union suspicions of its Western allies.

Leader of the proposed Operation Iron Cross to capture or kill Adolf Hitler, Bank found that he was in command of a unit without a mission when Hitler stayed in Berlin and committed suicide in his bunker.

After months of delicate negotiations almost derailed by the Soviet Union, whose leadership bitterly accused the United States and Great Britain of seeking a separate peace with Germany amongst other charges, the surrender document was signed on April 29, 1945, effective on May 2; it ended the war in Italy five days before Germany´s capitulation. Among those in the Operational Groups (OGs) during the final days of the war in Europe was Aaron Bank. Leader of the proposed Operation Iron Cross to capture or kill Adolf Hitler, Bank found that he was in command of a unit without a mission when Hitler stayed in Berlin and committed suicide in his bunker. It had been thought that Hitler would flee to the “Alpine Redoubt” on the German/Austrian border, where German leadership reportedly planned to make a last stand. With the European war over, Bank was inserted into what was then Indochina to operate with Ho Chi Minh, who was fighting the Japanese in a guerrilla war. Considerably impressed with Ho and his obvious popularity, Bank recommended to headquarters that Ho be allowed to form a coalition government. He was ignored. Bank would later push for the creation of an Army special operations unit modeled on the OSS OGs. He is known today as the father of U.S. Army Special Forces, and was the first commander of 10th Special Forces Group, itself formed in part by OSS veterans. Ironically, Special Forces would become famous through their early operations during the Vietnam War, fighting Ho Chi Minh. As World War II entered its final months, Donovan began looking at the likely postwar landscape, and he did not like what he was seeing. Though at that moment an ally, the Communist Soviet Union was politically and philosophically at the opposite pole from the Western democracies, and he knew it was only a matter of time before the United States and the Soviet Union would be opposing each other on the world stage. He began laying the groundwork with Roosevelt beginning with an April 4 memo outlining his plans for a postwar intelligence agency. Roosevelt ordered it circulated to the State, War, and Navy departments and other agencies for comment. The beginning of the end of that dream came on April 12, 1945, when Roosevelt, in ill health, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. His successor, Harry Truman, did not share Roosevelt´s love for cloakand-dagger, and of the 12 agencies on the list to receive the April 4 memo, all but one, the Foreign Economic Administration, had either shot it down or offered no comment. Donovan´s first meeting with Truman came on May 14, a little more than a month after Truman became president, and it was a disaster. Though the handwriting was on the wall, the OSS lingered on for months because it was the only agency that had documents and staff needed by the American delegation for the war crimes trials in Nuremberg. Finally, on Thursday, Sept. 20, 1945, President Truman signed the executive order abolishing the OSS and dividing its functions between the War and State departments. Though Donovan´s OSS did not survive the war, his ideas did. Along with the U.S. Army’s Special Forces’ OSS heritage, the U.S. Navy’s SEAL teams descended in part from the OSS Maritime Unit. Lessons learned in the heat of battle were also used in creating the OSS successor as an intelligence agency. On Sept. 18, 1947, Truman authorized the CIA, almost two years to the day after he had disbanded the OSS. Men who cut their teeth in the OSS – Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, William Colby, and Bill Casey – would go on to run the agency, along with other members of the fellowship of “glorious amateurs.”



Special Operations Outlook


“HMS Vindictive at Zeebrugge, 23 April 1918,” by Charles de Lacy, depicts HMS Vindictive’s assault on the mole at Zeebrugge, with Marines and sailors surging up the steep ramps onto the fire-swept mole and the ferryboat Daffodil pushing Vindictive against the current to keep it alongside.






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1917, Britain was in danger of defeat. Germany’s U-boats y In(submarines) were choking seaborne commerce. In April 1917


alone, 169 British merchant ships were sunk, as were a quarter of all merchant ships sailing from British ports that month, and outrage at Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare caused the United States to enter what was then called the Great War. But it would be months before the U.S. Army and Marine Corps could be in action in France and Belgium. Britain had to overcome the U-boats. This was a slow and costly battle, using merchant ship convoys, more capable aircraft and warships – British and American – and new technology weapons (such as the depth charge) and sensors (the hydrophone, the original passive sonar). The most potentially decisive anti U-boat approach was “attack at source”: striking at the U-boat bases, which were heavily defended with minefields, coast artillery batteries, antiaircraft guns, and reinforced concrete submarine pens. The main U-boat bases in Germany were beyond striking range. Those at Zeebrugge and Ostend in German-occupied Belgium appeared to be potential targets. U-boats, shuttling between the Above: The raiding force included volunteers from the British Grand Fleet and the 4th Battalion, Royal Marines Light Infantry. These are the Royal Marines and sailors from just one dreadnought that volunteered for an unspecified hazardous mission that proved to be the Zeebrugge-Ostend raids. Right: A contemporary sketch map of the Zeebrugge raid, April 23, 1918, showing the locations of the mole, the canal exit, and the locations of the British warships and blockships involved.


Above: Two Royal Navy motor launches alongside the battlescarred mole at Zeebrugge after the armistice. Motor launches, many with Canadian crews, played a major role in the raids. Left: Iris (right) and Daffodil, the two ferryboats that went alongside the mole in support of Vindictive. They somehow survived the intense German fire.

ports using Belgium’s inland canals, penetrated British minefields that protected the cross-Channel lines of communication 30 times a month. German destroyers and torpedo boats based there were in position to raid British shipping. These bases were to have been the target of a British infantry division making an amphibious landing on the Belgian coast, in support of the 1917 summer offensive. But the British, reluctant to carry out a major amphibious operation after being defeated by the Turks at Gallipoli in 1915, cancelled the operation. Instead, Royal Navy monitors bombarded the two bases. British aircraft attacked them. The U.S. Navy, a supporter of “attack at source,” organized a Marine Corps air wing to join these attacks, but it would take months to become operational.


Special Operations Outlook

In January 1918, Royal Navy Vice Adm. Roger Keyes took command at Dover. An aggressive commander, even though he lacked familiarity with special operations or the Belgian coast, his plan was to “strike at the root of the evil by attempting to block the sea-exits” at the two bases, sinking obsolete concrete-filled warships with skeleton crews and a few guns – blockships – in the channels and sealing the U-boats and destroyers in harbor. To prevent German coast defenses from sinking the blockships as they approached at Zeebrugge, the modified obsolete cruiser HMS Vindictive would carry the 4th Battalion Royal Marines and sailors to launch an amphibious assault against coast artillery positions on the mole, a mile-long projecting sea wall around the entrance to the harbor and canal, connected to the mainland by a viaduct, which would have to be destroyed to prevent German reinforcements reaching the battle. Keyes’ plan relied heavily on extensive smokescreens to block German coastal guns from sinking either the blockships or the mole assault force. Keyes wrote that he “was given an absolutely free hand, not only to make my own plans for the blocking of Zeebrugge and Ostend, but to select all the people who carried them out.” Keyes’ complex plans were hastily drawn up and had many potential points of operational failure. Intelligence to support the planning was limited, in part because of the need for strict operational security. The Royal Navy of 1918 had no preexisting special operations forces. Both the amphibious assault force and ships’ crews were volunteers. Selected fleet-wide for an undisclosed hazardous mission,



they including Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders. Each part of the raiding force trained and rehearsed separately, starting in January 1918. Keyes planned two complex, simultaneous direct attacks involving some 150 vessels, including escorts. Two heavily armored monitors with 15-inch guns, HMS Erebus and Terror, would provide naval gunfire support. Coastal motorboats – predecessors of the World War II motor torpedo boats – and motor launches would attack defenses, rescue blockship crews, and put down smokescreens. The force was ready at the end of March. British forces were hard pressed on the battlefields of the Western Front by the German spring offensives. There was a great need for a dramatic operation to boost morale. On April 11, wind, weather, moon, and tide conditions all favorable, the force set sail, under conditions of wireless silence, for the Belgian coast. Strong fighter escort prevented German air reconnaissance. Keyes was in command, aboard the destroyer HMS Warwick. When the wind shifted unexpectedly, making the all-important smokescreens impossible, Keyes felt he had no choice but to send a recall signal. The force sailed again on April 13. Unfavorable winds, soon after leaving port, again forced a recall. Keyes was afraid that the aborted raids had alerted the Germans (they had). He could not keep the force in readiness until the next month’s moonless nights. He requested permission to attack as soon as winds and tides permitted, even in bright moonlight.


THE RAID GOES IN The force sailed for the third time on the evening of April 22. By midnight, the wind still stood fair. The raid would take place on April 23, St. George’s Day, the patron saint of England. Keyes signaled the force by shrouded blinker light, “St. George for England.” Capt. Alfred Carpenter, commanding Vindictive, signaled back, “May we give the dragon’s tail a damned good twist.”

Zeebrugge was planned and executed with only a limited understanding of what effective special operations – including direct attack – require to be successful. This time, the coastal motorboats were able to put down their thick smokescreen. This and the engine noise – the Germans had sophisticated sound detection equipment – alerted the defenses, already at high readiness. German coast artillery was locked and loaded when, just before midnight, Vindictive emerged from the smokescreen 200 yards from the most heavily defended section of the mole. Carpenter wrote, “the noise was terrific and the flashes of the mole guns seemed to be within arm’s length. Of course it was, to all intents and purposes, impossible for the mole guns to miss their target. They literally poured projectiles into us. In about five minutes we had reached the mole, but not before the ship had suffered a great amount of damage to both material and personnel.” Vindictive’s surviving Marines and sailors were supposed to surge up gangways and ramps onto the mole and take the German gun positions. These had been shot to pieces by machine-gun fire from concrete emplacements. Most of the gunners aboard Vindictive were already casualties. Those that remained shot it out with the German guns. This gave Royal Marine Sgt. Harry Wright and his comrades of the assault force a chance. “Up the ramp we dashed, carrying our ladders and ropes, passing our dead and wounded lying everywhere and the big gaps made in the ship’s decks by shellfire. Finally we crossed the two remaining gangways, which were only just hanging together, and jumped onto the concrete wall, only to find it swept

HMS Vindictive steaming toward Zeebrugge, April 22, 1918. This image shows the full extent of the modifications for storming the mole, including the multiple brows and ramps, the splinter mat-armored foretop, the highest point of the ship (with machine guns and quickfiring cannons). Forward of that is the conning tower (where Capt. Alfred Carpenter was) and forward of that was a mount for a large flamethrower (another is aft). These were put out of action by German shellfire before they could be used. Smoke from only the after stack shows that the forward boilers have been secured.



Maj. Gen. George S. Patton shown during maneuvers in the Desert Training Center he established in the Colorado Desert of California. Patton lived in similar Spartan conditions to his soldiers during the months he commanded the training center. Sand clogged weapons and blew into food, water and food were rationed, and soldiers grew used to marches with full packs in 120 degree heat as they prepared to fight the Axis in North Africa.



Classic weapons and equipment, “brilliant mistakes” and “might have beens” of history, personality profiles of the famous and infamous, and regular series on World War II, the Civil War, and other military anniversaries. DMN presents the unusual, unknown, untold and uncelebrated moments in military history.


Above: HMS Vindictive after Zeebrugge, showing the damage inflicted by the German coast defenses as well as the modifications such as the brows. The fenders were to prevent damage when alongside the mole. Right: HMS Vindictive after Zeebrugge, showing her funnels riddled with machine-gun fire from the German defenses on the mole.

by machine-gun fire. Our casualties were so great before the landing that of a platoon of 45 men only 12 landed.” Vindictive had landed against the mole 300 yards – all swept by machine guns and offering little cover – farther away from the coastal guns than planned. The tide was pushing Vindictive farther out of position. Two commandeered Liverpool ferry boats – Daffodil and Iris – had followed Vindictive to the mole and somehow survived the coast artillery’s fire. Daffodil pushed the cruiser alongside the mole, against the tide. Iris tried to land its Royal Marine reinforcements onto Vindictive. The German guns, pounding the Vindictive, had not seen the obsolete British submarine C3. Running on the surface, it rammed the viaduct’s supports. It had been packed with 5 tons of explosives. Its skeleton crew set the delay fuse. Under heavy fire, they took to a small boat. The viaduct exploded in an orange blossoming of flame. Leading Seaman William Cleaver wrote, “the boat rocked and swayed as though possessed. Flames shot up to a tremendous height. In their glare was visible a great break in the mole.” HMS Thetis, Intrepid, and Iphigenia, the three blockships, emerged from the smokescreen. Their mission: to run through German gunfire to the mouth of the canal where it emptied into Zeebrugge harbor. Under heavy fire, Thetis’ screws caught in a harbor defense net. Prevented from turning broadside across the channel, Thetis grounded on a sandbank. Intrepid, turning broadside to block the channel, discovered it to be broader than the blockship was long. Iphigenia got closer to the canal lock gates, but had not been ordered


Capt. Alfred Carpenter, who volunteered to command HMS Vindictive in the raid, earned one of the 11 Victoria Crosses awarded to participants in the raid. He had no experience with special operations or with the waters of the Belgian coast.

to ram them. The crews, escaping in small boats, were picked up by motor launches. On the mole, Marines and sailors had been fighting a savage closequarters battle. On Vindictive, Carpenter experienced “the terrific noise, the darkness, the bursting of shell and the hail of machine-gun fire.” He sounded the recall signal. Carrying their wounded with them, the survivors made a fighting withdrawal to Vindictive and the two ferryboats, all somehow still afloat. The destroyer HMS North Star, covering the withdrawal, closed in, firing guns and torpedoes. It was hit repeatedly by the coast guns and started to sink. Some 150 minutes after the first shots were fired, the Zeebrugge raid was over. Keyes received bad news from Ostend. The two blockships, HMS Sirius and Brilliant, had been scuttled without reaching their planned locations; the plan had not provided navigators familiar with Ostend harbor for the volunteer crews. German resistance there had been less intense; Ostend had no equivalent of the heavily fortified mole and did not require an assault to suppress the defenses. The small German coastal U-boats and torpedo boats could use the lateral inland canals and the unblocked Ostend exit to go to sea.

Despite the loss of more than 600 men killed, wounded, and missing – German casualties had been light – Keyes was committed to using what remained of the raiding force to close Ostend, even though the element of surprise was obviously lost. Twice more, Keyes and the force went back to Ostend. On the second attempt, on the night of May 11-12, Vindictive, hastily patched together as a blockship, was scuttled in the channel of Ostend harbor. But a single blockship was not enough to block it. A third attempt, planned for June, was cancelled. The boost to Allied morale from Zeebrugge was considerable. Winston Churchill – then Britain’s Minister of Munitions – wrote that it “may well rank as the finest feat of arms in the Great War.” The heroism of those involved had been astounding. Eleven of the raiders – including Carpenter – received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valor, more than in any other comparable-sized action in the war. The Germans immediately set about repairing the damage, using dredgers to remove obstacles and create new channels. British naval bombardments and air attacks on the ports inflicted more damage and hindered repair efforts. The raid never completely blocked U-boat operations from Zeebrugge and Ostend. But the canal linking the two ports was effectively closed to larger U-boats and destroyers for 50 of the 70 days following the raid, by which time the British had been able to reinforce the defenses of the Straits of Dover. The Belgian U-boat bases remained operational until the last weeks of the war, with the victorious Allied armies advancing and the German navy, its morale collapsing, starting to mutiny.

1918’S LESSONS The motivation and courage of those who carried out the Zeebrugge raid proved not to be a substitute for flaws in the improvised planning, intelligence preparation of the battlespace, and the training and rehearsal leading up to it. Tremendous heroism did not prevent heavy


Special Operations Outlook

losses and did not yield decisive results. In the years that followed, the British – especially the Royal Navy – turned away from special operations. This proved to be a costly decision when, in 1940, Britain, standing alone against Nazi Germany, had to hastily re-create a special operations capability. Zeebrugge provided a model for direct attack special operations such as the 1942 raid on the French port of St. Nazaire. Similarly, the small combatants – coastal motorboats and motor launches – that had played a major role in the raid were not part of the post-1918 Royal Navy. Again, they had to re-create this force when World War II loomed. A century later, Zeebrugge’s lessons are valuable to today’s special operations forces. The direct attack mission remains a core special operations competency in all domains – land, air, and sea. Direct attack is seen as vital for countering the weapons of mass




Above: An aerial photograph showing the aftermath of the Zeebrugge raid. British blockships lie from left to right: HMS Intrepid, HMS Iphigenia , and, farthest out, HMS Thetis.

destruction that in the hands of state and non-state threats present a greater existential threat than the Kaiser’s U-boats did in 1917. Similarly, potentially powerful morale effects remain an important consideration in planning and executing special operations. The German navy’s successful defense of Zeebrugge and effective repair efforts did not prevent that service’s mutinies following within months. Zeebrugge demonstrated that a special operations capability cannot be improvised. The hasty planning by Keyes and his staff – experienced naval officers but with no special operations experience – suffered from the need to maintain a high level of operational security. Planning and training alike were carried out in the dark, reflecting the limited intelligence support available. In addition, they didn’t understand the difficulty of what they were asking the raiders to do under heavy fire. The all-important intelligence and targeting, especially the capability to identify where the raiders might do the most damage and how the Germans might be able to mitigate the damage, was lacking. The raiders themselves had been excluded from the planning process. They had been unable to socialize or refine Keyes’ plan. The raid’s dependence on smokescreens, the vulnerability of the

unarmored landing gangways and ramps and the unprotected personnel on Vindictive, the choice of blockships and the locations where they were to sink: All these proved on the night to be costly – yet avoidable – flaws in the planning. The raiders, brave and motivated, lacked either special operations experience or even training in defeating fortified machine guns using the fire-and-movement tactics that the British Army had evolved on the Western Front. Zeebrugge could have provided cautionary lessons to those that planned the Son Tay raid in 1970 or the Iran hostage raid in 1980. These raids were also both carried out by improvised – though highquality – forces. The overall leaders were not experienced in special operations. Intelligence that could have made a difference between failure and success was not made available to the raiders or planners. Operational security considerations limited the raids’ training and coordination. At too many points in the plan, something failing could doom the entire mission. Multiple “moving parts” in a high-friction environment result in a high-risk operation. Zeebrugge was planned and executed with only a limited understanding of what effective special operations – including direct attack – require to be successful. But the spirit and courage of those who carried out the raid, as well as the impact on morale that these qualities achieved, remain as important to today’s professional special operations forces as they were to the hastily improvised force of volunteers that attacked Ostend and Zeebrugge on April 23, 1918.




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Special Operations Outlook 2018-2019  
Special Operations Outlook 2018-2019