Posts tagged ‘Special Operations Command’

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: SOCOM Seeks Small Counter-Drone Tool; Russia Says it Killed Drone with Laser; Marines Want More Reapers

DEFENSE: Updates with Russian Drone-Killer Laser Claim.

Special Ops Counter Drone Needs.

U.S. special operations forces are looking for a small device that can neutralize drone threats by land, air and sea.

Special Operations Command’s program office for counterproliferation has been focusing on finding a smaller technology package that can jam radio frequencies, to thwart roadside bombs — and counter unmanned aircraft system (UAS) attacks, Defense News, reports from the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida earlier this week (May 16-19).

Early counter-drone technology experimentation 2018. Marines test Drone Killer Technology during Urban Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2018 (ANTX-18) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Rhita Daniel)

While the current focus is on aerial threats, the counter-UAS program office is looking for ground and maritime counter-drone options as well.

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) oversees Navy SEALS, Army Green Berets, Marine Raiders among other elite units, including the acquisition and development of specialized platforms and technologies.

The counter-UAS office is looking for next-generation, multimission electronic countermeasure gear that is both portable and operable from fixed expeditionary sites. The Marine Corps and SOCOM have an existing system called Modi, made by the Sierra Nevada Corporation and used by the Army and Marines. The current dismounted system weighs 40 pounds.

The next-gen version needs to hit unmanned threat across the land, sea and air domains — and be more portable. The office may select a system by fiscal 2024 and begin production in fiscal 2025.

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Russia Claims It’s Using Counter-Drone Laser 

Russia says it is using a new generation of powerful lasers in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow’s secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms.

Little is known about the new laser. Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned one in 2018 called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.

Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow May 18 that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) above Earth, Reuters reported.

He said there were already more powerful systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on May 17 which he said had burned up a drone 5 km (31 miles) away within five seconds.

“If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target – thermal destruction, they burn up,” Borisov told Russian state television, according to Reuters.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.” He said the weapon was called “Zadira.”

U.S. defense authorities and military experts say Moscow’s claim about the new laser has not been substantiated. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has mocked the claim, according to the Washington Post.

A retired Australian army major general, Mick Ryan, who has been studying the Russian invasion, told the Post that weapons like Zadira could take down reconnaissance drones or Ukrainian artillery. It could also be used to blind Ukrainian soldiers, a tactic that is banned under international convention, he added.

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Marines Want More Reapers.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps’ commandant says the service will expand its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones to meet growing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs, your 4GWAR editor wrote for the SEAPOWER magazine website.

“We’re going to move from three squadrons right now to perhaps double that,” General David Berger told an audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition. “And the reason why is the need for organic ISR.”

The Marine Corps’ first MQ-9A completed 10,000 flight hours in support of Marine Corps Forces, Central Command operations on March 31, 2021. (Photo U.S. Marine Corps).

The MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft can stay aloft for more than 26 hours, attain air speeds of 220 knots and can operate to an altitude of 45,000 feet. Manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., the Reaper has a 3,850-pound payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar.

Berger said that ISR needs were increasingly critical for Marine Corps units, large and small. “So absolutely, we’re going to expand in Group 5, large-scale, big-wing, medium-altitude, long-endurance, uncrewed aircraft. That’s so we can have, for the naval force, persistent organic ISR access from the MEF [Marine Expeditionary Force] level on down to the squad level,” he said.

May 19, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPS: Medal of Honor for Green Beret; Niger Ambush Heroes Recognized

Medal of Honor.

Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony

Medal of Honor recipient Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams is inducted into the Hall of Heroes by Defense Secetary Mark T. Esper at the Pentagon on October. 31, 2019. (Defense Department photo by Marine Corps Corporal Marcos A. Alvarado)

Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Matthew O. Williams has been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award of valor, for his combat actions in the Shok Valley of Afghanistan in  2008.

At the time of the battle, Williams — then a sergeant — was a a weapons sergeant with Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3336, of Special Operations Task Force 11. On April 6, 2008, the ODA was on a mission to capture or kill high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley, Nuristan Province.

Williams was part of an assault element — several American soldiers and a larger Afghan commando force — inserted by helicopter. As they were moving up a mountain toward their objective, they were engaged by intense enemy machine guns, snipers and rocket-propelled grenades.

Williams heard that the lead element had sustained several casualties and was in danger of being overrun. He immediately gathered the commandos around him while braving intense enemy fire and led a counterattack across a 100-meter long valley of ice-covered boulders and a fast-moving, ice-cold, waist-deep river.

During the course of a six-hour battle, Williams rescued other members of the assault element and evacuated numerous casualties while continuously exposing himself to insurgent fire.

Williams is the second Medal of Honor recipient from this engagement. He joins former Staff Sergeant Ron Shurer II,  a medical sergeant with ODA 3336, who received the top valor award on October 1, 2018.

Like Williams, Shurer, battled his way across icy terrain under heavy enemy fire to reach the pinned down lead element.  For the next five and a half hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Overall, Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.

Originally, Williams was awarded the Silver Star medal, the third-highest decoration for valor in combat. The Army reviewed and upgraded the award to the Medal of Honor for gallantry and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.

Medal Of Honor Ceremony

Williams was joined by Ronald J. Shurer II after Williams’ Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House on October 30, 2019. (Defense Department photo)

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Nigerien Heroes.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) awarded six medals to Nigerien soldiers who fought alongside Army Special Forces in a 2017 ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo that claimed the lives of four Green Berets and four Nigerien soldiers.

Army General Richard Clarke, the SOCOM commander, presented the awards in Niamey, Niger’s capital, along with the U.S. Ambassador Eric Whitaker, to four surviving soldiers, and family members of two others who were killed, Army Times reported.

MAP-Niger

(Map of Niger: CIA World Fact Book)

The honors included two Bronze Star medals, one Army Commendation Medal and three Army Achievement medals. The four surviving Nigeriens who received awards were Corporal Moustapha Kakalé, Soldier 2nd Class Ibrahim Assoumane, Soldier 2nd Class Abdou Kane and Soldier 2nd Class Kamel Issoufou Oumar.

Family members representing Adjutant Chief Soumana Bagué and Soldier 2nd Class Abdoul Rachid Yarima received posthumous awards and condolences from Clarke and Whitaker, according to embassy officials.

The four Americans killed in the attack were: Sergeant First Class Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright and Sergeant LaDavid Johnson.

Sergeant LaDavid Johnson and Staff Sergeant Wright were awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumously for bravery. Johnson and Black received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor posthumously. Other members of the 11-man Special Operations team also received commendations.

However, Army Times noted, the mission and the Defense Department report on the fatal ambush remain controversial.  A lack of air support or persistent overhead surveillance aircraft worsened the disaster near the Niger-Mali border when the U.S. troops and their Nigerien partners were ambushed by an Islamic-State aligned force three times their size.

EII-bajXkAY_3TH

U.S. Army General Richard Clarke, head of Special Operations Command, pins a medal on one of six Nigerien soldiers decorated for bravery in a 2017 terrorist ambush that left four of their comrades and four U.S. Green Berets dead. (Photo: U.S. Embassy Niamey via Twitter) 

The investigation, conducted by U.S. Africa Command, identified “individual, organizational, and institutional failures and deficiencies that contributed to the tragic events of 4 October 2017,” but it concluded “no single failure or deficiency was the sole reason for the events” on that day.

 

 

November 8, 2019 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Deadly Year for Green Berets; McRaven on Afghanistan; New Brazil Commando Unit

Every Single One.

Every single active-duty Special Forces Group has lost at least one soldier in Afghanistan or Syria this year, the Task & Purpose website reports.

Green Berets 2012 graduates

Special Forces Qualification Course graduates in 2012 wearing their green berets for the first time. (U.S. Army photo by Dave Chace, Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School)

A total of 12 members of the Army special operations forces community have died in 2019. All but one of those soldiers were killed in combat. The most recent special operators to fall are: Sergeant 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 1st Special Forces Group, on September 16; Sergeant 1st Class Dustin B. Ard, also of the 1st Special Forces Group, on August 29; and Master Sergeants Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa and Jose J. Gonzalez, both of the 7th Special Forces Group and killed in the same action on August 21. All four soldiers were mortally wounded during combat operations with Afghan Army troops.

Ten of the 17 U.S. troops killed so far this year in Afghanistan were Army special operators. Eight of the fallen were Green Berets. Another was attached to the 10th Special Forces Group and one other was a Ranger, according to Task & Purpose.

“Green Beret teams are embedded with the Afghan commandos, which is doing the lion’s share of the fighting on the ground – that’s why they’re taking the lion’s share of the casualties,” Representative Michael Waltz (R-Florida) — a retired Special Forces officer —  told Task & Purpose. For a list of the Special Operations soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Syria this year, click here.

More than 2,400 U.S. service personnel have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to topple the Taliban, which sheltered bin Laden.

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Ex-Top U.S. Commando on Afghanistan.

William_McRaven_commander_of_the_US_Special_Operations_Command

Admiral William McRaven speaks to Special Operations commanders in January 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Williams)

The former head of U.S. Special Operations Command ― who oversaw the mission that took out Osama Bin Laden ― believes U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is far from over. “I’ve said we have to accept the fact — I think we do — that we’re going to be there for a very long time,” retired Navy Admiral William McRaven told an audience at the New America Special Operations Forces Policy Forum in Washington September 19.

McRaven, a Navy SEAL who headed SOCOM from 2011 to 2014, said it was a mistake to sit down with the Taliban, the Military Times reported. “I do believe that if we negotiate some sort of settlement with the Taliban, and that settlement involves the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan,” he said, “it won’t be six months or a year before all of the blood and treasure we have put into Afghanistan will have been reversed because the Taliban will come back in and do what the Taliban do.”

The Taliban and U.S. diplomats reportedly had reached an interim peace agreement this summer after nine rounds of peace talks in the Gulf State of Qatar. However, the deal fell apart just before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks when President Trump canceled a secret meeting with Taliban officials at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

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New Brazilian Commando Unit.

Brazil’s Navy plans to create its own maritime special operations command, to be designated as the Comando Naval de Operações Especiais (CoNavOpEsp), according to the Jane’s 360 website.

Brazil special ops-Forças_especiais,_Comandos_(26712384805)

Brazil’s Army has had special ops troops, Comando de Operações Especiais, (C Op Esp) since 2003.

The organization will be based in Rio de Janeiro under a rear admiral as part of the Naval Operations Command (ComOpNav). The plan calls for CoNavOpEsp — under a single command structure — to unify the direction and co-ordination of special operations missions, Jane’s reported.

Among the missions the existing Army commando unit, Comando de Operações Especiais, is tasked with: Direct action, airfield seizure, special reconnaissance, airborne and air assault operations, and personnel recovery.

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U.S., Estonian Commandos Train in Vertical Insertion.

Air Commandos with the U.S. Air Force 352nd Special Operations Wing, trained with Estonian and other U.S. special operations forces near Amari, Estonia, in early September. A NATO member since 2004, Estonia, like other Baltic nations once occupied by the Soviet Union, has been under pressure from Russia. A massive series of cyber attacks that paralyzed Estonia in 2007 was believed to be the work of Moscow, although the accusation was never proven.

From September 3 though September 9, the Estonian and U.S. commandos conducted a multitude of air operations out of an Air Force Special Operation Command CV-22 Osprey.  The tilt rotor aircraft is the Air Force’s premier Special Cops vertical lift assault platform. “Ospreys and their crews are capable of the full spectrum of SOF [Special Operations Forces] missions in all phases of conflict. They conduct the infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces throughout the European theater,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel Clay Freeman, commander of the 352nd Special Ops Wing.

Estonian Fast roping Osprey.jpg

An Estonian Special Operations Forces operator fast ropes out the back of a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey on a similar training mission in 2017.   (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Matt Britton)

U.S. and Estonian troops spent the week focused on three mission objectives: Familiarization with the Fast Rope Insertion and Extraction System (FRIES) ;  casualty evacuation; and rapidly loading and off-loading a tactical vehicle from the aircraft.

During the FRIES training, U.S. and Estonia personnel practiced fast-roping from twilight and into the night. That new capability will allow forces to be inserted into small or confined areas were normal aircraft landings are impractical.

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More Training for USAF First Female Ranger.

Back in August, U.S. Air Force 1st Lieutenant Chelsey Hibsch made history by becoming the first female in the U.S. Air Force to graduate from the tough Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Ranger tab pinned

Air Force First Lieutenant Chelsey Hibsch, of the 821st Contingency Response Squadron, has her  Ranger tab pinned on after graduating from the U.S. Army Ranger School August 30, 2019, at Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army photo John Tongret)

Hibsch, a security forces officer assigned to the 821st Contingency Response Squadron (CRS) at Travis Air Force Base in California,  will be back with her unit training for short-notice disaster response and combat zone airfield preparation worldwide, the website Military.com reported.

The 821st CRS is part of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, whose highly specialized personnel are trained to deploy quickly in order to open airfields or establish, expand, sustain and coordinate air mobility operations for wartime tasks or disaster relief.

Lt. Chelsey Hibsch Army Ranger tab.

Then-2nd Lieutenant Chelsey Hibsch, speaking at a Women’s History Month luncheon at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on March 26. (U.S. Air Force photo by Machiko Arita)

Hibsch, a former enlisted airman from Attica, New York, was in the process of transitioning to the 621st from a previous assignment in the Indo-Pacific region when she was selected for Ranger School — a challenging, two-month-long course. Competing in the Ranger Assessment Course at Camp Bullis, Texas prompted her to enroll in Army Ranger School.

After then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted a ban on women serving in ground combat roles in 2013, the Army opened the Ranger School to female applicants two years later. Two female West Point graduates, Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver, were the first women to earn the coveted Ranger tab (shoulder patch). Now more than a dozen service women have completed Ranger school.

September 25, 2019 at 10:36 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPS: Green Beret Killed; Combat Controller Honored; SOCOM Brain Trauma Concerns

Veteran Green Beret Killed.

A highly decorated Army Special Forces sergeant major, on his seventh combat deployment, died July 13 from injuries sustained during combat operations in Afghanistan, according to the website Task & Purpose.

The Pentagon identified the slain Green Beret as 40-year-old Sergeant Major James G. Sartor, a member of 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Green Beret Sgt Maj

Special Forces Sergeant Major James G.  Sartor, was killed July 13, 2019 in Afghanistan. (Army Special Operations Command photo)

Sartor, of Teague, Texas, was killed by enemy small arms fire in Faryab Province, Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

“He led his soldiers from the front and his presence will be terribly missed,” Colonel  Brian Rauen, commander of the 10th Special Forces Group (SFG) said in a statement.

Sartor joined the Army in June 2001 and was assigned as an infantryman with the 3rd Infantry Division. He deployed to Iraq in 2002. After passing his Special Forces qualification Sartor joined the 10th SFG in 2005. He deployed to Iraq as a Green Beret in 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010. He later deployed to Afghanistan in 2017 and 2019, according to U.S. Special Operations Command.

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Silver Star for Combat Controller.

An Air Force combat air traffic controller has been awarded the Silver Star medal for his heroic, quick action during an intense, 2018 green-on-blue insider attack in Afghanistan.

Technical Sergeant Michael Perolio with the 350th Special Warfare Training Squadron, quickly took charge and rallied his teammates after an ambush erupted in a village in Nangarhar province on January 11, 2018.

He swiftly organized fields of fire, called in airstrikes and rendered aid to his wounded comrades — all while repeatedly exposing himself to heavy machine-gun fire — as he hurried his team out of the kill zone and back to their camp, according to Air Force Times.

Perolio was the Joint Terminal Attack Controller for a team of Army Green Berets with Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 0221. The Green berets were partnered with the Afghan 8th Special Operations Kandak Commandos in Mohmand valley in Nangarhar’s Achin district.

“Perolio saved my life and the lives of several of my guys,” said Army Captain William Clark, the ground force commander for the team, who was severely wounded in the ambush, Air Force Times reported. The five-man team — Perolio, Clark and another Green Beret and two Afghans, an interpreter and a militia commander — were leaving a meeting with what they thought was a friendly village elder when heavy machine gun fire raked their unarmored all-terrain vehicle. The Green Beret captain and both Afghans were shot. The militia commander did not survive.

Perolio took command, organized a defense, called in an air strike and radioed back to base to be ready for incoming casualties before roaring out of the kill zone and making the normally 25-minute drive over rough terrain back to base in 15 minutes

Combat controllers are specially trained, FAA-certified air traffic controllers who parachute or helicopter into enemy territory with ground troops to coordinate close air support, establish assault zones or airfields and supply fire control and reconnaissance. They are also among the first on the ground at the scene of natural disasters, like the 2010 Haitian earthquake,  to guide in relief flights when normal air traffic is disrupted.

combat controllers

In addition to being expert divers, rock climbers, snowmobile and motocross riders, Air Force Special Operators are also expert parachutists. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For more information about Air Force Special Operations assignments, click here.

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SOCOM Brain Trauma Study.

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is studying how brain trauma injuries during the 17-year war on terror is affecting elite U.S. troops like Navy SEALS and Army Rangers.

Joint SF team participate in exercise Emerald Warrior 2018

Special operations forces move out of an Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft in 2018, at Melrose Training Range, New Mexico. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

SOCOM, which oversees the training and equipping of special operations troops in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, is examining whether trauma suffered by special operators — including brain fatigue and abnormalities in the visual cortex — affect the ability of special operations forces to make snap decisions in the field, according to the Middle East news site Al-Monitor.

The program includes an eight-year neurological testing effort by Army Special Operations Command, supported by the National Football League and the University of North Carolina, to establish a baseline for treating mild traumatic brain injuries, according to military officials and documents reviewed by Al-Monitor.

July 25, 2019 at 11:56 pm 2 comments

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

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.

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

SHAKO: Elite U.S.-Canadian World War II Unit Honored by Congress

The Devil’s Brigade.

First Special Service Force patch

First Special Service Force patch

The U.S. Congress has bestowed a gold medal — the highest civilian award it can bestow — to a combined U.S.-Canadian military unit that fought under some of the toughest conditions in World War II — and paved the way of today’s Green Berets and other special operations forces.

The First Special Service Force — consisting of 900 American soldiers and 900 Canadians — was activated in July 1942, and after deployments to the Aleutians against the Japanese and Italy and Southern France to fight the Germans, was disbanded at the end of 1944.

But in that short space of time, this elite unit captured 30,000 prisoners and earned five U.S. campaign stars and eight Canadian battle honors, according to the Associated Press.

The all volunteer 1,800-man brigade — called the “Black Devils” or “Devil’s Brigade” because they attacked the Germans stealthily at night with faces blackened by boot polish as camouflage — was made up of forest rangers, lumberjacks, ranchers, farmers and  other types of outdoorsmen.

The First Special Service Force troops, nicknamed "Black Devils"  by the Nazis, being briefed before a night patrol at Anzio, Italy, in 1944

The First Special Service Force troops, nicknamed “Black Devils” by the Nazis, being briefed before a night patrol at Anzio, Italy, in 1944

At Fort Harrison, Montana they trained in stealth tactics, hand-to-hand combat, skiing, rock climbing, demolition, amphibious and mountain warfare. Their exploits inspired a book by historian Robert H. Adleman and Colonel George Walton, a member of the brigade, as well as a 1968 movie starring William Holden and Cliff Robertson.

There were only 42 surviving members of the FSSF present for the February 3) Capitol Hill ceremony presided over by John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Few of the Devil’s Brigade are with us today.  The current average age of members of the unit is 92, noted CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In fact, one of their number, Al Wilson, 90, of Flamborough, Ontario, died the day before ceremony after a bout with pneumonia.

In addition to Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, the ceremony was attended by Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs, Erin O’Toole and Army General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command — which oversees Army Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Raiders and other U.S. commando groups.

“They were indeed, the elite forces of their time and thus the pioneers of our two nations’ special operations forces,” said Votel.

Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate present a Congressional Gold Medal to members of the First Special Service Force. From left to right: Speaker John Boehner; Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs, Erin O’Toole;  Eugene Gutierrez, Jr.;  Charles W. Mann; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; and General Joseph Votel. -- (Official Photo by Caleb Smith)

Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate present a Congressional Gold Medal to members of the First Special Service Force.
From left to right: House Speaker John Boehner; Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs, Erin O’Toole; American FSSF vet Eugene Gutierrez, Jr.; Canadian FSSF vet Charles W. Mann; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; and General Joseph Votel.

(Official Photo by Caleb Smith)

.west point cadets.pdfSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

February 4, 2015 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS/TECHNOLOGY: Special Ops Command’s Pursuit of ‘Iron Man’ Suit

Future Trooper

Revision Military's Prowler Human Augmentation System, which distributes a soldier's combat load, is among the technologies USSOCOM is studying for its ballistic protection suit project. (Photo courtesy Revision Military.

Revision Military’s Prowler Human Augmentation System, which distributes a soldier’s combat load, is among the technologies USSOCOM is studying for its ballistic protection suit project.
(Photo courtesy Revision Military.

Your 4GWAR editor’s story on U.S. Special Operations Command’s quest to develop a light weight armored suit that will help commandos and other assault  troops run faster, longer and carry heavy loads without excessive fatigue is in the latest issue (November 17) of Aviation Week & Space Technology’s Defense Technology International edition:

It will not enable users to fly like “Iron Man” does in the movies, but planners of a ballistic protective suit for special operations want it to do almost everything else the superhero’s iconic outfit does.

The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) will provide ballistic protection with lightweight armor, along with sensors to monitor a wearer’s vital signs. Some developers believe it could also supply emergency oxygen and control bleeding if the operator is wounded.

To read more of this story, visit AVIATION WEEK (subscription required). Below is another view of one of the technologies being studied by USSOCOM for the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS).

Last month’s Defense Technology International edition is on line, you can see it here. That issue includes two stories by your 4GWAR editor on the U.S. Army’s efforts to shift to a regionally aligned force and SOCOM’s search for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability using very small drones.

Other topics in the October 13 issue range from Saab’s new M4 recoilless rifle; how Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine is driving another neighbor, Poland, to start buying more defense hardware like helicopters and missiles; air and ground robotics developments by British, U.S. and Israeli companies; and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s work on protecting ground vehicles from attack.

Photo courtesy of Revision Military

Photo courtesy of Revision Military

November 15, 2014 at 6:13 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Afghanistan Still Job No. 1, TALOS Suit a Priority

UPDATES: To restore photos, links, tags; also fixes name of Talos suit to Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit.

SOCOM Commander

WASHINGTON — The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) says Afghanistan continues to be the most important operational region for his people even as Western forces begin a scheduled troop drawdown after more than a dozen years of war.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau)

“Afghanistan is, and will remain, my Number One war fighting priority,” Admiral William McRaven told a defense industry symposium in Washington Tuesday (February 10).

U.S. and coalition allies are slated to end their combat role in Afghanistan by year’s end and troubled negotiations between Washington and the Afghan government over how many – if any – U.S. troops remain in country are still up in the air.

But no matter how many special ops troops remain in Afghanistan, “our future military-to-military engagement with the Afghans will remain vital in the region,” McRaven told the opening session of the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict Symposium sponsored by the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA).

McRaven stressed that Spec Ops’ role will be largely one of training and advising Afghan National Security Forces, which took the lead for security across the country in June.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver suits up in a futuristic combat uniform with a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit-like look at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show.  (U.S. Army photo)

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Oliver suits up in a futuristic combat uniform with a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit-like look at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show.
(U.S. Army photo)

On other issues, McRaven said he is very bullish on the Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit (TALOS) project to create a ballistic protective suit for special operators, which has been likened to the metal suit of comic book superhero, Iron Man. “If we do TALOS right, it will provide a huge comparative advantage over our enemies and give our warriors the protection they need,” McRaven said. He envisions an “X-Prize” type competition to engage industry in developing a protective combat suit. He’d like to offer as much as a $10 million prize to the competition winner and is working with Pentagon leadership to get the authority for spending that much.

Already 56 corporations, 16 government agencies, 13 universities and 10 national labs are involved in the product. McRaven said three prototype suits without a power system will be delivered to SOCOM in June to begin testing. The goal is to develop a deployable combat suit in August 2018, he said. The SOCOM commander acknowledged that providing such a high technology suit with an independent power source is “the biggest stumbling block to having an independent suit that a person can wear.”

He said SOCOM is planning a “Monster Garage-type” event in the future to attract “local garage tinkerers” and have them collaborate with professional engineers, designers and craftsmen to build components for TALOS and “potentially even a complete suit.”

McRaven said solving the problems of powering the suit “will have greater applications across the SOF (Special Operations Forces) enterprise.”

To see a video of an industry demonstration day in Tampa, Florida last August, click here.

February 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm Leave a comment


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