Keeping It Real.
It looks easier than it is. Just try it at home.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division compete in the Team Assault Course Competition during the division’s “All American Week.”
Seventeen teams from across the division negotiated nine obstacles in a race against the clock to determine the fastest team. All American Week celebrates the past, present and future of the storied unit. Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant York, was a member of the All American Division back in 1918 before it became the Army’s first Airborne division in 1942.
The 82nd made combat jumps in Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Holland during World War II.
To see more photos of this challenge, click here.
SOCOM’s ISR Roadmap.
TAMPA, Florida — U.S. commando forces have a virtual “chemical dependence” on air assets for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data, and U.S. Special Operations Command wants to kick the habit, says SOCOM’s intel capabilities and requirements chief.
U.S. Air Force Colonel Matthew Atkins says 80 percent of SOCOM’s ISR comes from air assets, both manned and unmanned. “This is where our spending and our resource investment has been,” Atkins told a briefing at a special operations conference Wednesday (May 20) on SOCOM’s ISR Road Map.
The ISR roadmap calls for sustaining existing large and expensive ISR air assets like the Air Force MQ-9 Reaper or the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle — both of them unmanned aircraft — while investing in newer, simpler aircraft. The roadmap makes “one thing abundantly clear,” according to Atkins. “We need to reduce our reliance on airborne platforms,” he said, adding that airborne ISR “is not always available and is often the most costly” way to gather intelligence.
So SOCOM will be putting considerable energy into exploring and expanding ground-based and maritime-based ISR, “because that’s where we see the most cost benefit analysis,” Atkins said. Space and cyber-based capabilities will also be studied to enhance special ops missions and to deliver precision intelligence.
The command will need technological help from industry to solve the data transport problem. And because SOCOM will be relying increasingly on partner militaries, it will require ISR platforms to be affordable and employable by partners, with the intelligence sharing components “essentially baked in” to facilitate cooperation.
Atkins said SOCOM is seeing a tremendous demand from partner nations to teach — not only ISR acquisition — but how to use the information in what SOCOM calls foreign internal defense — training foreign militaries how to defend their territory and people themselves and rely less on U.S. assistance.
“A lot of these countries know how to fly the Scan Eagles (a small drone) and other things that they buy, but they don’t necessarily know how to use them” to process information and turn that information into useable intelligence, Atkins told a standing room only audience during the 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference sponsored by TAMPA-headquartered SOCOM and the National Defense Industrial Association. The conference ended today (May 21).
Rating the Raiders.
TAMPA, Florida — The Delta Force team that killed a key Islamic State leader in a raid into Syria last week also recovered a “treasure trove” of information about the violent extremist group, the president’s top intelligence adviser said Wednesday night (May 20).
James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence saluted the special operations forces (SOF) that killed Abu Sayyaf, captured his wife and freed a young Iraqi woman reportedly being held as a slave by the couple. According to press and government accounts, the raid’s aim was to capture Sayyaf, described as the chief financial officer of IS, but a gun battle broke out and he and about a dozen IS fighters were killed.
“They collected, what appears to me to be a treasure trove of valuable intelligence,” Clapper told attendees at a black tie awards dinner at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC). I congratulate and salute you,” Clapper told the SOF members in the audience, “it was well done.” Clapper noted that the raiders “got in and got out and no one from our side got hurt.”
Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general (three star) and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, among other intel community posts, said the raid’s success illustrated the cooperation that now exists between the SOF community and the intelligence community.
He recalled the intelligence bonanza reaped by SOF when they raided a Pakistani compound in May 2011 and killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. The Navy SEALs that took out bin Laden stayed in the house long enough to collect books and papers as well as files from his computers. “I was blown away when I saw — not only by what was picked up but the care with which it was picked up,” Clapper said. He called the materials taken from bin Laden’s compound “invaluable in our fight against al Qaeda.”
Delta Force did exactly the same thing in Syria, Clapper said, noting that papers and other documents have given the intelligence community insight into ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), the Defense Department’s preferred term for the brutal extremist group.
Clapper said his staff has just released “a sizable tranche” of documents seized from the bin Laden raid, including what he termed bin Laden’s book shelf: a list of commercially available and public domain books found in the terrorist leader’s home. The documents were posted on ODNI’s unclassified public website.
“Those who want to see him as a super villain are going to be a little disappointed,” Clapper said. He read Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” But about half of the 38 English language books on bin Laden’s bookshelf included books about conspiracy theories and the Illuminati and Free Masons.
Preparing for New Challenges.
TAMPA, Florida — Battling pirates off the Horn of Africa, violent extremist groups across Africa and the Middle East, transnational crime organizations in Latin America and rogue states in Europe and Asia doesn’t begin to address all the threats facing America in the 21st century, says the head of U.S. Special Operations Command — known as SOCOM.
“SOCOM is looking beyond our current conflicts, in order to gain an understanding of the evolving strategic environment,” says Army General Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s commander. SOCOM’s success in that dynamic environment “hangs on this priority,” Votel stressed.
To that end, Votel told the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa on Tuesday (May 19) that SOCOM analysts were keeping tabs on worldwide technical progress, demographic changes and economic trends to avoid strategic surprise.
Votel, himself an Army Ranger, oversees training and equipping policies for U.S. commando units in all of the armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Considering the many threat issues and the effect of the congressional budget- trimming strategy, known as sequestration, Votel said SOCOM needs to invest in equipment interoperability and integrate with “our international partners,” of which there are nearly 60.
Even if SOCOM continues to avoid the budget ax, cuts to the conventional forces could hurt the command’s abilities to perform its missions because SOCOM relies heavily on the services to supply transportation and logistical support among other things.
…in a Complex World.
TAMPA, Florida — Few events could better illustrate the theme — Winning in a Complex World — of a special operations forces industry conference opening today than the good news/bad news coming the Middle East last week.
On Friday (May 15) U.S. Army Delta Force commandos killed a key leader of the Islamic State group in a daring helicopter raid inside war torn Syria. About a dozen Islamic State fighters were killed in the brief but intense firefight. No U.S. forces were killed or injured although at least one helicopter was riddled with bullets.
Two days later (May 17) word came that Islamic State fighters had captured Ramadi, seizing a large cache of weapons in the capital of Iraq’s largest province just 60 miles west of Baghdad — despite U.S. air strikes and other support.
The United States is being challenged on a number of fronts around the world from violent extremist organizations across Africa and the Middle East to transnational narcotics cartels corrupting governments in Latin America and West Africa.
Russia and China are flexing their muscles and bullying their neighbors. And there are still the challenges posed by North Korea, Iran and Afghanistan.
And on the front line of these and other hotspots around the world are U.S. special Operations Forces (SOF) tasked with training partner nation militaries, keeping tabs on threatening groups, rescuing hostages and killing or capturing terrorists.
In Tampa this week, leaders of U.S. Special Operations Command USSOCOM) — which oversees the training and equipping of Green Berets, Navy Seals, Marine Raiders, Air Commandos and other SOF units, will be explaining their needs — and their funding constraints — to industry. At that same time, hundreds of manufacturers and vendors at the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference will be showing the equipment, technologies and services they believe will help SOCOM complete its varied missions. Your 4GWAR editor is here to listen to both groups.
Human Need, Human Support.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Gomez-Hickman holds a young earthquake victim before loading her into an ambulance at a medical triage area at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal. U.S. Joint Task Force 505, along with other multinational forces and humanitarian relief organizations, is providing aid after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal April 25. U.S. Pacific Command sent JTF 505, at Nepal’s request, to provide unique assistance capabilities — including helicopter search and rescue and mobile emergency medical facilities. (Click on the photo to enlarge the image).
A Marine Corps UH-1Y “Huey“ helicopter from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 went missing May 12 near Charikot, Nepal, while conducting humanitarian assistance. Six Marines and two Nepalese service members were aboard the aircraft, which crashed in the rugged terrain. Wreckage was spotted by Nepalese troops Friday and it is not believed there are any survivors of the accident, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Marines, airmen, soldiers and sailors have been providing search and rescue, logistical, medical, communications and transportation support to the shattered area along with U.S. AID and State department workers and civilian urban search and rescue teams from California and Virginia. For more details on this humanitarian relief effort, click here.
No Drone Zone.
The Federal Aviation Administration has a message for hobbyists and commercial unmanned aircraft vehicle operators: keep your drones 15 miles away from the Nation’s Capital — or else.
The FAA announced this week (May 13) a public outreach campaign for the region around Washington, D.C. The purpose of the campaign is to reinforce the message that the city itself, and communities within a 15-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, are a “No Drone Zone.”
In short, if you come to Washington as a tourist, photographer or UAV enthusiast, the message is clear: “Leave Your Drone Home.” Don’t even think about taking video or still photos of the White House, Capitol Hill or the Pentagon with your camera attached to a quadcopter or other mini unmanned aircraft.
Rules put in place after the 9/11 attacks establish “national defense airspace” over the D.C. area and limit aircraft operations – including unmanned aircraft – to those with an FAA and Transportation Security Administration authorization. Violators may face stiff fines and criminal penalties.
The effort includes furnishing outreach materials to other federal, state and local partners around the National Capital Region. The agency wants to ensure residents and tourists all understand that flying an unmanned aircraft in this area for any purpose is against the law.
The ban took an urgent turn earlier this year when a government employee, flying a small quadcopter for fun late at night on the Washington Mall, accidentally crashed into a tree on the South lawn of the White House. No one was hurt but the inability of the Secret Service to track such a small intruder raised questions about White House security.
Just a day after the announcement, a 39-year-old California man was arrested and charged with violating the no drones zone. He and his UAV were seized when Secret Service officers saw a man flying a small, remote-controlled aircraft over Lafayette Park north of the White House.