Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’
An Army jumpmaster gives a one-minute time warning from the troop door of a C-27 Spartan tactical transport aircraft during airborne operations over the St. Mere-Eglise drop zone, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The soldiers are assigned to the 112th Signal Battalion, 528th Special Operations Sustainment Brigade, Airborne.
To see more photos of this exercise, click here.
Back in August we wrote about two female soldiers who were the first women to graduate from the Army’s grueling Ranger course. At the same time, we noted that Army Captain Kristen Griest and 1st Lieutenant Shaye Haver could not apply for a job with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. The elite unit has a separate selection process, which wasn’t open to women.
Well, on Thursday (December 3) that all changed.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that he is opening all jobs in U.S. combat units from the infantry to Special Operations Forces to all “who can meet operationally relevant and gender neutral standards.” That policy change will open all jobs to female soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen — including positions in elite units like the Army Rangers and Navy SEALS — if they meet physical and other standards.
Carter’s decision caps of trend that began in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he was dropping a longtime ban on women serving directly in ground combat units. Since then the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps launched studies of the potential impact of gender integrated combat units. “Both the Army and Marine Corps studies found that women participating in ground combat training sustained injuries in higher rates than men, particularly in occupational fields requiring load-bearing,” said Carter’s guidance memorandum on implementing the change.
The Marine Corps was the only service to seek exemptions from the rule change, asking to continue excluding women from certain combat jobs. But that idea was strongly criticized by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who has authority over the Marine Corps. And Carter’s decision negated the Marines request for exemptions. The top Marine officer who sought the exemptions was General Joseph Dunford, who is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the Washington Post. Dunford did not attend the Pentagon press conference where Carter revealed and explained the new policy. But in a statement issued by his office, the Post reported, Dunford said. “In the wake of the Secretary’s decision, my responsibility is to ensure his decision is properly implemented. Moving forward my focus is to lead the full integration of women in a manner that maintains our joint warfighting capability, ensures the health and welfare of our people, and optimizes how we leverage talent across the Joint Force.”
The services and Special Operations Command have until January 1 to submit their final, detailed implementation plans to Pentagon officials. They are all required to begin executing their individual plans no later than April 1, 2016.
Expeditionary Targeting Force.
The Obama administration is sending more Special Operations Forces (SOF) to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional hearing Tuesday (December 1) that the Pentagon was deploying “a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces and put “even more pressure” on the leadership of the so-called Islamic State — also known as ISIS and ISIL (for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).
Eventually, Carter said, special operators will be able to “conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”
Carter did not detail how many SOF troops would be sent to the region or where they would be deployed. But Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to several news organizations, said this new force was expected to be based in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq. The number of SOF operators could be between 150 and 200, it was reported by USA Today, the Washington Post and Reuters.
President Obama has already sent 3,500 troops to Iraq and the surrounding region to advise and support — but not fight alongside — Iraqis, Kurds and moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. In October Obama authorized the deployment of 50 special ops troops to advise and train Arab and Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters in Syria.
Before that, Obama was — and remains — reluctant to commit U.S. ground forces to fight ISIS, preferring to rely on U.S. led airstrikes on ISIS targets in support of Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians fighting the Islamist terror organization, which has captured chunks of Iraq and Syria.
Carter told the House Armed Services Committee the the air campaign has intensified against ISIS’s main revenue stream: oil exports. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also at the hearing, said the air attacks had disrupted 43 percent of ISIS oil production. But under sometimes testy questioning, Dunford conceded that “we have not contained” ISIS.
“We are at war,” Carter told the hearing, adding that he meant “this is a serious business … it has that kind of gravity.” ISIS has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jetliner over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board, and a string of attacks in Paris last month that left 130 dead.
Carter said the new SOF presence in Iraq will raise uncertainty among ISIS leaders. “It puts everybody on notice in Syria. You don’t know at night who’s coming through the window,” he added.
Gunmen Seize Hotel.
A hotel in the northwest African nation of Mali is under siege today after gunmen stormed the building in Mali’s capital city, killing at least three people and taking more than 100 hostages.
While many hotel guests and workers have been evacuated from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, 138 guests and hotel staff are believed trapped inside, according to the BBC.
The hotel has been surrounded by Malian and French troops. A U.S. defense official in Washington said about 25 U.S. military personnel were in Bamako at the time of the incident, and were helping to move civilians to safety, Reuters reported.
France said it was dispatching 50 elite counter-terrorism officers to Bamako immediately. Paris has troops in Mali helping to fight Islamists, but they are based in the desert city of Gao, 950 kilometers away, according to Reuters.
According to news reports, the gunmen arrived at the hotel in a truck bearing diplomatic license plates and started shooting when a guard tried to check their identification.
Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was attending a regional conference in neighboring Chad and has cut short his trip and is reported heading back to his country.
The gunmen’s motivation and affiliation is unknown although some people who escaped the hotel said some of the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”
Mali, a former French colony, has ben wracked by a military coup and an uprising by separatist Tuareg tribesmen since 2012. The coup was sparked by young officers’ frustration with the government’s inept handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the country’s northern deserts. The ensuing chaos prompted the Tuaregs to sweep over more than half the country, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. Radical Islamists linked to al Qaeda hijacked the rebellion, turning it into a Muslim extremist campaign that imposed harsh sharia law and destroyed shrines and tombs deemed idolatrous.
France launched a military intervention in early 2013 at the request of the Bamako government. Together with troops from neighboring African nations, they rolled the rebels back and have been providing security — along with U.N. peacekeepers, now numbering 12,000, ever since.
French, Turkish, Chinese and Indian nationals were among the guests at the hotel, which is popular with United Nations personnel, businessmen and airline flight crews.
Northern Mali remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year, including the capital. In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako that is popular with foreigners, killing five people, according to the Associated Press.
About 1,000 French troops remain in the country. The Netherlands also has troops working with the UN mission in Mali. According to the Dutch defense ministry, some 450 Dutch military personnel are taking part in the mission along with four Apache and three Chinook helicopters. Most of the Dutch force is based in Gao, but there are a few officers at the U.N. mission headquarters in Bamako, AP reported.
Golden Light/Green Beret.
The exercise emphasizes air-to-air, air-to-ground and special forces training opportunities.
To see some photos of the Air National Guard’s participation in this exercise, click here.
(We feel it is important to note the term Special Forces, refers to the U.S. Army unit known as the Green Berets. When speaking in general of specially trained, elite small units, the term special operations forces should be used. Special operations forces — under the direction of Special Operations Command — includes units like Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, Delta Force operators, Marine Raiders, special aircraft crews in the Army and Air Force, as well as several specialist Air Force positions such as combat (air traffic) controllers and para rescue jumpers.)
Two Big Conferences.
But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.
UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE
The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.
It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
For more information, click here.
The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).
ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”
We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.
Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.
It Ain’t Over Yet.
President Barack Obama announced Thursday (October 15) that U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan will not be going down anytime soon.
Obama said the policy shift is necessary because Afghan security forces aren’t ready to defend their country by themselves while the Taliban insurgency is on the rise again, especially in rural areas.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is sending 300 U.S. service members to the west African nation of Cameroon to conduct drone surveillance of the violent extremist group Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of people in the region.
Flanked by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Vice President Joe Biden at a short White House briefing, Obama announced the current force strength level of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will continue through 2016. In 2017, U.S. forces in Afghanistan will shrink to 5,500 — still far more than the embassy protection force previously envisioned by administration planners.
Those 5,500 troops, to be based in a few locations around the country — including Bagram, Jalalabad in the east, and Kandahar in the south. They
will continue their current two-part mission of training Afghan forces and counterterrorism operations, Obama said. The advising and training will have a special emphasis on Afghanistan’s elite counterterrorism forces, according to the Washington Post. “The United States would also maintain a significant counterterrorism capability of drones and Special Operations forces to strike al Qaeda and other militants who may be plotting attacks against the United States,” the Post said.
“Afghanistan is a key piece in the network of counter terrorism partnerships we need from South Asia to Africa to deal more broadly with terrorist threats quickly and prevent attacks against our homeland,” Obama said. The so called Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) has emerged as a threat in Afghanistan and Boko Haram leaders have pledged allegiance to the extremely violent group, which wants to establish a Islamic caliphate through out the Middle East and Africa. It already controls large areas of Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. troops going to Cameroon were invited by that country’s government as part of a larger international effort to stop the spread of violent extremists in West Africa, a U.S. defense official told the Voice of America news site.
The need for international action has become “more urgent as Boko Haram and other organizations ramped up their violent activities,” the official added.
The violent extremist group has been active in northern Cameroon, which is across the border from its home base of northeastern Nigeria.
In a letter to Congress Wednesday (October 14), Obama said 90 military personnel had already deployed to Cameroon ahead of the arrival of additional troops “to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region”.
“The total number of U.S. military personnel to be deployed to Cameroon is anticipated to be up to approximately 300,” Obama said, according to the Al Jazeera website. “These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed,” Obama said.