SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SO/LIC Conference, Yemen Raid,SOF Risks

February 12, 2017 at 10:43 pm Leave a comment

Special Ops Conference.

Riverine command boats GUNEX

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michelle L. Turner)

The annual Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium opens Monday in Bethesda, Maryland, tackling issues ranging from the acquisition and training needs of special operations forces (SOF) to budget challenges and the demand for cooperation and  information sharing with partner nations.

The four-day conference — sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) — will also address the widening challenge of creating a networked, connected and unified force of SOF, as well as U.S. and international law enforcement and intelligence organizations.

Speakers will include Army General Raymond Thomas, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and James Geurts, the civilian head of acquisition at SOCOM. [More on the conference at the bottom of this post.]

Yemen Raid.

A Navy SEAL was killed in a raid on an al Qaeda base in Yemen late last month. The Defense Department identified the slain sailor as Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, of Peoria, Illinois. He died January 29 from wounds sustained in the raid. He was assigned to an East Coast based Special Warfare unit, which most news organizations have identified as SEAL Team 6. map-yemen

The raid sparked controversy in both the United States and the Middle East.

A “chain of mishaps and misjudgments,” according to the New York Times, plunged the elite commandos into a ferocious 50-minute firefight that also left three other servicemen  wounded and forced the raiders to destroy a U.S. V-22 Osprey, when the $75 million tilt-rotor aircraft was unable to take off after making a hard landing during the fire fight. There are allegations — which the Pentagon acknowledged on February 1 as most likely correct — that the mission also killed several civilians, including some children, the Times reported.

Yemeni officials were unhappy about the raid and civilian casualties but they told the Reuters news agency that permission had not been withdrawn for the United States to carry out special ops ground missions. But they made clear their “reservations” about the latest operation, according to the Voice of America website. A statement by the Yemeni embassy in Washington, VoA added, said the government “stresses that it has not suspended any programs with regards to counterterrorism operations in Yemen with the United States Government.”

The White House called the raid, the first authorized by the Trump administration, a success. But Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged that conclusion, telling NBC:  “When you lose a $75 million airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost, I don’t believe you can call it a success.”

But White House spokesman Sean Spicer defended the operation, calling it “absolutely a success,” VoA reported. “I think anybody who undermines the success of that raid, owes an apology and disservice to the life of Chief Owens,” Spicer said, referring to the Navy SEAL who died.

Earlier, Spicer said it was “hard to ever call something a complete success when you have the loss of life, or people injured.  But I think when you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in America and against our people and our institutions, and probably throughout the world in terms of what some of these individuals could have done, I think it is a successful operation by all standards.”

SOF Deaths.

The  casualty rate for highly skilled and experienced special operators, like Chief Owens, has been on the rise as the United States relies more and more on elite forces.

In the past year — for the first time — according to a New York Times report (via the Seattle Times), special-operations troops have died in greater numbers than conventional troops. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan SOF made up only a fraction of the dead. That they now fill nearly the whole casualty list, the report continues, shows how the Pentagon, hesitant to put conventional troops on the ground, has come to depend almost entirely on small groups of elite warriors.

Meanwhile, Navy SEALS and other elite units are quietly battling a frightening rise in parachute deaths, according to a Military Times investigation.

Between 2011 and 2016, 11 special operators have died in high altitude, free fall training jumps. That is a 60 percent increase over the previous five-year period, according to 13 years’ worth or records analyzed by Military Times.

Southern Strike 17

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride.)

More SO/LIC

The four-day conference is being held at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. All the commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations commands will take part in a panel discussion on the strategic and operational implications caused by the necessity to conduct coalition and inter-agency operations.

Another panel discussion on law enforcement special mission units will include representatives from several Department of Homeland Security units, including Customs and Border Protection, the Secret Service, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard.

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Entry filed under: Afghanistan, Air Force, amphibious warfare, Army, Counter Terrorism, Homeland Security, Iraq, Marine Corps, National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, Navy, Skills and Training, Special Operations, Technology, U.S. Navy, Unconventional Warfare, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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