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Archive for the ‘Forces Focus’ Category

US Army Rapid Equipping Force Update

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

Although yesterday was Rapid Equipping Force Director, Colonel Lanier Ward’s last day on the job, he invited members of the defense press to visit the organization and learn about their latest activities.

For those of you unfamiliar, this Army unit was stood up in 2002. The REF reports directly to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, providing rapid material solutions to Soldiers for urgent combat requirements by harnessing current and emerging technologies.

The organization has met challenges as diverse as improving force protection, providing ISR in austere locations, improving operational energy sources and enhancing communications. The REF maintains a forward presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait and routinely coordinates with forces deployed globally.

COL Ward started out talking about the term “Rapid”. Lots of new organizations are being formed within DoD and are being referred to as “Rapid”. The REF has been doing it for quite some time now and seem to have the process down. However, COL Ward reminded us that although they work with all of the Army Service Component Commands, the REF’s focus is fairly narrow; specifically on small unit solutions. He related “we are about the now, and buy the Army time.”

Although they’ve downsized about one-third in recent years, the organization remains robust. It is currently 140 personnel including 30 military and 21 Department of the Army Civilians. The rest of the REF’s strength comes from a dedicated contractor force.

When asked how the REF differs from a PM shop, COL Ward replied “I’m an operator; I came in here without a clue how acquisition works. I look at everything through the prism of how Operations work.” He went on, “I’m more operationally focused, because I’m about the now.” While he might be a stranger to the Acquisition process, COL Ward and his predecessors understand Operations. Consequently, they’ve been given authority by the Army’s G3/5/7 to validate requirements from the field.

Unfortunately, with that Operations background comes some misperception from those outside the organization. One misunderstanding COL Ward wanted to address is that the REF is not strictly Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) focused. Instead, they rely heavily upon Government Off The Shelf (GOTS), which they may employ in new ways, or are not yet ready for full fielding, due to funding. This tactic leverages money that’s already been spent, but also provides feedback on developmental systems, leading to improvements based on operational use. The reality is that the REF goes where the solutions are. They partner with Industry, Academia, and Government entities to provide innovative solutions to urgent needs.

One of the REF’s biggest successes is the Expeditionary Lab which offers design and limited production capability in a deployed environment. The ExLab is equipped with design software, 3D printers and other limited metal bending capability. A Soldier can show up at the ExLab, identify a problem, and the REF team designs and produces prototype solutions right there on site. Currently, one ExLab is operational in Afghanistan, while the other is mothballed in Kuwait. When asked why one was out of service, COL Ward replied, “It works best when it has the Soldier footprint around it.” Based on the situation in Iraq, they closed that one, at least for now.

The REF focuses on capability gaps. Any Soldier can submit a 10-liner, which is a message used to identify a capability gap. The REF follows up with the submitter’s chain of command to ensure the requirement is valid and not a case of a Soldier trying to get some shiny new kit he saw on SSD. The majority of 10-liners focus on Force Protection, Intelligence and Movement and Maneuver. Naturally, the vast majority originate from the CENTCOM AOR. Although they come from all levels of command, COL Ward said that he had denied a 10-liner from a Division commander. “I can’t fix all of the Army’s shortfalls.”

The REF’s military personnel include Outreach & Assessment NCOs. We met with three of them, SFC Rahamane Cisse, SFC Mark Walker Jr., and SSG Duryea Williams who walked is through several C-UAS and EW technologies. At home station, they conduct assessments of candidate technologies and in the field, they work with their deployed customers to provide required capabilities.

The REF uses Burnoff events to evaluate commercial capabilities for certain problem sets. “We see if your dog can hunt. If it can, maybe I’ve got a solution I can give to Soldiers,” stated COL Ward. Additionally, the REF provides the safety confirmation. In some cases, that safety confirmation will include cautions that the material must be used within certain parameters. That’s another reason they keep up with the capability for up to two years, to ensure information like that is passed from one deployed unit, to the next.

Counter-UAS is a major focus, answering Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statements from Iraq, to offer the best, readily available capabilities. However, these are interim steps, not final solutions. COL Ward doesn’t look at pieces of gear as his “items” the way a traditional PM would mentioning “we field, not equip.” Sometimes they have to remind industry. He said, “We’ve had to go back and spank companies on occasion,” after they’ve sold something to the REF and then advertised they are providing the Army’s solution.

The REF is linked in very tight with JIDO on the C-UAS front. COL Ward told us that they are good at looking at emerging capabilities, “We don’t do anything alone. We don’t have the capacity and I’d be fooling myself.”

While the UAS threat continues to evolve, the REF continues to work on solutions. For instance, their efforts have evolved from just dismounted small tactical units to providing input to support FOBs. The concept of “defense in depth” requires multiple capabilities to counter the various UAS threats. There isn’t just one UAS, meaning there must be multiple counters. They are also working with other agencies as part of a greater whole. For example, PM C-RAM is office of primary responsibility to support all of C-UAS for CENTCOM. Despite their extensive work, COL Ward sees an eventual end to the REF’s C-UAS efforts.

REF is also working with the Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office on the Electronic Warfare problem set. Their initial EW capability deliverable was a manpack system based on GOTS equipment such as C-IED equipment, with some system integration and capability enhancement. Not only does it offer an immediate capability, it also informs future requirements. They are now taking it one step further by increasing capability with the EW Tactical Vehicle capability which required additional, off-site system integration. They’ll hold a mobile EW event in March.


RCO looks at problems from one to five years out, while the REF is much closer, at zero to two years. In fact, REF’s goal is to put a capability into the Soldier’s hand within 180 days. Their two year window is because units rotate. The REF prepares units due to rotate so they can fall in on equipment they’ve already fielded.

Partnering with the Asymmetric Warfare Group, REF is also looking at a Subterranean capability which was most recently evaluated in Indiana. However, they initially went to nearby Quantico to work with the FBI, leveraging lessons learned from law enforcement. Specifically, they’ve evaluated command and control, breaching, power generation, and self-contained breathing apparatus. However, they haven’t fielded any equipment. Instead, they’ve got a menu of capabilities they can provide to the warfighter in the event they are needed.

They recently assisted in fielding equipment for 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade including comms and fire support. COL Ward expects to help this new unit out even more. For instance, they’ve been looking at a tethered ISR capability for use by SFAB and others. One solution is a tethered copter which answers the need for extended duration.

The REF isn’t going away. It is very relevant. The REF is a modular organization within TRADOC, working on Army problems. Focusing on the now, REF has become an enduring capability, unlike similar, ad-hoc organizations stood up during previous conflicts which were disbanded after a short period of time. In fact, COL Ward related that the REF is finally going to move out of the trailers they started in 16 years ago. As a permanent part of the Army, it’s about time they move to a permanent home.

Army Developing Expeditionary Cyber-Electromagnetic Teams to Support Tactical Commanders

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — U.S. Army Cyber Command is deploying Expeditionary Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities Teams to support tactical commanders at National Training Center rotations, and the CEMA operations have tried to replicate real-world operations support through the cyberspace domain.

Sgt. Camille Coffey, a cyber operations specialist from the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), from Fort Gordon, Ga., provided offensive cyber operations as part of the Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) Support to Corps and Below (CSCB) program during the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, National Training Center Rotation 18-03, Jan. 18 – 24, 2018. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Mr. Steven P Stover (INSCOM))

CEMA is an Army initiative designed to provide tactical commanders with integrated cyberspace operations, Department of Defense Information Network operations, Electronic Attack, Electronic Protection, Electronic Warfare Support, Spectrum Management Operations, Intelligence, and Information Operations support/effects.

According to Maj. Wayne Sanders, the ARCYBER CEMA Support to Corps and Below chief, success for the brigade combat team in the cyberspace domain begins at the D-180 planning conference — 180 days before the unit’s NTC rotation.

Spc. Victorious Fuqua (at the computer), and Staff Sgt. Isaias Laureano, both cyber operations specialists from the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), from Fort Gordon, Ga., provided offensive cyber operations, while Spc. Mark Osterholt pulled security, during the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, National Training Center Rotation 18-03, Jan. 18 – 24, 2018. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Mr. Steven P Stover (INSCOM))

“The biggest thing for the D-180 are the key leader engagements,” said Sanders. “[At those conferences] we can inform the brigade commander about what types of CEMA support we can provide to help him shape conditions for his battle to be able to close with and destroy the enemy.”

Sanders said while he doesn’t foresee BCTs executing their own cyberspace operations organically, he does expect the commander and the staff to have an initial understanding of the CEMA environment and to provide their higher headquarters with a cyber effects request form. He said that if the brigade plans for an expeditionary CEMA capability to be brought out to support their operations correctly “then we can provide that for them.”

“If you’re looking at this from a real-world perspective, if they identify that they are going somewhere in the world — somewhere they would need additional capacity that they may not have coverage for — they can submit that through a CERF, as a request for forces,” said Sanders. “And the beauty of the Expeditionary CEMA Teams is their scalability and reach back.”

Sgt. Camille Coffey (at the antenna), and Spc. Victorious Fuqua, both cyber operations specialists from the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), from Fort Gordon, Ga., provided offensive cyber operations as part of the Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) Support to Corps and Below (CSCB) program during the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, National Training Center Rotation 18-03, Jan. 18 – 24, 2018. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Mr. Steven P Stover (INSCOM))

Sanders explained the ECT concept originated from the Chief of Staff of the Army, who directed the Cyber Support to Corps and Below Pilot in 2015. The pilot tasked ARCYBER to assess the best package of equipment, capability, authorities and personnel to support a BCT.

“That’s why, out of the DOTMLPF-P (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities and Policy) came the need for a force that provides the authorities, the senior and master level expeditionary cyber operators, and a quick turn cyber development capability, that doesn’t exist right now in the Army,” said Sanders. “It provides infrastructure support personnel that can provide the same thing as having people on the ground.”

Sgt. Maj. Jesse Potter, the operations sergeant major for the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber), said that although this is the ninth rotation since 2015, it has been an iterative process to best replicate real-world operations, and more is being learned each time a rotation is conducted.

“We’ve learned that we were a very large logistical burden to the rotational training units. We learned our lessons about the CEMA capability that we can provide to a rotational training unit, and at the same time we were reducing the logistical requirement to provide that capability,” said Potter.

“Eventually, we concluded that an expeditionary mindset, based on the commander’s request for cyber effects, is best fitted with a plug and play capability,” he continued. “Meaning, we need to identify the personnel that fit those requirements, ensure the teams are self-sufficient with a reach back capability to reduce the logistical footprint, in both a flyaway kit, light capability, to a more robust sustained operation, whether in a peer or near-peer environment, permissive or non-permissive environment.”

Potter also said another area ARCYBER is looking at was CEMA support at the division and corps levels. “What’s missing, what’s next, are the division and corps level exercises,” he said. “Enabling the education of the commanders [is] through the institutional arm of the Army, which is primarily the mission of the Cyber Center of Excellence. That is what the CCoE is working toward –incorporating CEMA into all aspects of the PME (Professional Military Education).”

“And then for the higher level exercises, just like we’ve done for the NTC rotations, how does the staff enable cyber based effects that supports the commander’s objectives, and what can they gain from having the cyberspace capability that they currently don’t have?” Potter continued. “Because at the same time, that education will benefit the brigade combat teams.”

Furthermore, ARCYBER is not just looking at the development of the ECT structure and incorporating that support at the division and corps levels — the command is also determining the organizational structure to command and control those ECTs.

“Regarding the ECT structure…you have individuals, put together as a team, predominantly from four separate organizations across three MACOMs (Major Commands) — ARCYBER, Intelligence and Security Command, and the Cyber Center of Excellence,” said Potter. “Moving to an organizational structure whereby the ECTs are part of a larger unit as the force structure solution means we no longer have an organization that’s made up of a hodgepodge of people, further exasperating the issues that we have with the rotational training unit.”

Potter and Sanders said that’s where they are now. Organic ECTs, all assigned to the same unit, and subordinate to ARCYBER will provide the Army with an expeditionary CEMA capability.

ARCYBER used the lessons learned from the past nine NTC rotations to determine the optimized force structure they are proposing to the Army to stand up an organization with all those separate elements that were under different commands, to fall under one command with CEMA capabilities tailored to meet the tactical commander’s objectives.

By Mr. Steven P Stover (INSCOM)

US Army Releases Beret and Insignia for 1st SFAB

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Late last year, images appeared online showing a beret, unit Shoulder Sleeve Insignia and Combat Advisor Tab for the US Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. The 1st SFAB is the first of six planned advisor units which will assist friendly armed forces.


The original beret color (above) was intended to be Olive but came across more green than intended, which caused some consternation among the Army’s Special Forces due to their unique Rifle Green Beret, awarded by President John F Kennedy over 60 years ago. Additionally, the unit patch used in arrowhead design like the SF SSI and the Combat Advisor tab seemed a little too close to the coveted Special Forces tab.

Consequently, the Army’s chief of staff, GEN Milley, clarified the beret color as a Brown shade and sent them back to the drawing board for some refinement. Earlier, today the Army released the new beret color, Distinctive Unit Insignia (commonly known as a unit crest), SSI and tab.

Beret with Flash and DUI


SSI and Advisor Tab


It is now more similar to the Vietnam-era Military Assistance Command Vietnam SSI than the original SFAB patch and tab, seen below.




“GSG 9 The special operations unit of the Federal Police: Germany’s spearhead in the fight against terrorism”

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

My friend Dr Jan-Phillipp Weisswange has teamed up with Sören Sünkler to present the new book, “GSG 9. The special operations unit of the Federal Police – Germany’s spearhead in the fight against terrorism”, available from k-isom.com.


The photographs are excellent and the book includes English text, so don’t shy away because of language concerns.


He offered me this description of the book:

Producing an illustrated volume aimed at introducing today’s GSG 9 to a wider public is undoubtedly among the highpoints in any specialized journalist’s career. It has been an honour and a pleasure to turn this project into reality. On 16th October 2017, Sören Sünkler (my publisher, producer and co-author) and me have had the great honour to presenting the very first copy of our book “GSG 9. The special operations unit of the Federal Police – Germany’s spearhead in the fight against terrorism” to the unit’s commander, Colonel Jerome Fuchs. Now the book is available on the market finally!

The core task of GSG 9 is the fight against terrorism and other forms of serious and violent crime. In performing this mission, protecting human lives has always been GSG 9’s utmost priority.
Ever since its foundation in 1972, this has been its raison d’être – around the clock and around the world.

Throughout its 45-year history, continuity and change have been GSG 9’s constant companions. Founded on 26 September 1972 as “Grenzschutzgruppe 9”, or Border Guard Group 9, of the former Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS), or Federal Border Guard, it is one of the world’s oldest police special operations units. Following the transformation and renaming of the BGS to the Bundespolizei, or Federal Police, in July 2005, GSG 9 was the only unit to retain its traditional nomenclature. Since then, the special operations unit has been officially known as “GSG 9 der Bundespolizei”.

Evolving “modi operandi” and the emergence of new threats as well as the ever-changing global political situation have confronted the GSG 9 with fresh challenges right from the start – challenges which GSG 9 has invariably met with matchless resolve.

Featuring 208 pages, the lavishly illustrated book offers a unique look at today’s GSG 9, the ultramodern special operations unit of the German Federal Police, and its 45-year history. Short texts in German as well as in English language provide further information about GSG 9’s tasks, organization, selection and training, operational units, special skills, missions, national and multinational cooperation, weapons and equipment as well as history.

I was fortunate to meet with Jan-Phillipp at Milipol where he presented me with a copy.


The first edition of the book is strictly limited to 2.000 copies for the public book trade. When ordering (bestellung@k-isom.com), a number between 1001 and 3000 can be chosen and will be delivered if still available. I already have number 1776.

Jan-Phillipp Weisswange and Sören Sünkler: GSG 9. The special operations unit of the Federal Police – Germany’s spearhead in the fight against terrorism. Nuremberg/Germany 1/2017: S.Ka-Verlag. ISBN: 978-3-9815795-4-3. 208 pages, Hardcover. Price: 49,00 € plus shipping. Contact: bestellung@k-isom.com

SOCOMD Australia Recruiting Video

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

It’s not often that we get to share things like this. Australia is one of America’s closest partners and their military is world class, but few hold a candle to the capabilities of SOCOMD Australia.

If this doesn’t get your blood pumping…you’re dead.

Osprey Elite 220 – European Counter-Terrorist Units 1972-2017

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

I’ve collected Osprey books for over 30 years. They remain some of my best historical reference material, in particular because of the excellent artist plates in each volume.

One of their latest releases is “Elite 220: European Counter-Terrorist Units 1972-2017” which examines the evolution and growth of both Mil and LE organizations devoted specifically with the CT mission.


At only 64-pages, the volume doesn’t go into great detail but it does offer the highlights. Beginning with 1972’s tragedy at the Olympic Village in Munich, author Leigh Neville then examines how the threat has changed. Next, he discusses technical innovations such as the use of specialized vehicles and then he delves into the units themselves. By country, Neville basic order of battle and highlights specific operations. These are accompanied by photographs as well as some top notch work by illustrator Adam Hook.


The artist plates are very well researched. Take for instance the image above which showcases (l-r) British 22 SAS, French GIGN and London Metropolitan Police SCO19. The image is so up-to-date with 2017 that it has the GIGN member in Arc’teryx coveralls, a recent acquisition of that team’s kit bag.

Not only do I highly recommend the Osprey series, but in particular those works by Leigh Neville. His dedication to accuracy is admirable.

Via Amazon, www.amazon.com/European-Counter-Terrorist-Units-1972-2017-Elite.

1st SFAB Responds To Concerns Over Adoption Of Green Beret And ‘Legion’ Nickname

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017


Last week, photos of an Olive Drab beret intended for wear by the US Army’s newly minted 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade surfaced. They set off an internet firestorm that has culminated with the unit issuing this statement on Facebook.


It says:

The 1st SFAB has great respect for U.S. Army Special Forces, their many accomplishments and their singularly distinguished history. We also respect the concerns associated with the heraldry of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.

The 1st SFAB is not a Special Forces organization. We are a conventional force purposefully built to partner with other conventional forces. SFABs will support Army readiness by allowing brigade combat teams to focus on building their readiness for large scale contingencies instead of on the train, advise and assist missions.

In accordance with Army guidance, we will select a new unit name. The Army has also decided the SFABs will wear a Brown Infantry Beret like those worn by many armies. Our new name and photos of the beret will be published once the final decisions are approved.

Thank you for your support as we establish the identity and culture of the #1SFAB.

U.S. Army U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) XVIII Airborne Corps

The Olive Green color of the 1st SFAB’s new beret was a bit too close for comfort for the US Army Special Forces, who were awarded the Green Beret by a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Kennedy, well over 50 years ago.


While the shades of Green are different, the President didn’t say “Rifle Green” Beret and the issue item has a tendency to fade to a much lighter shade over time. It’s always been referred to simply as a ‘Green Beret’. What’s more, popular culture refers to SF by that term thanks to a popular song and book turned movie. ‘Green Beret’ is part of the national lexicon.


When the Olive Drab beret was combined with an arrowhead-shaped Shoulder Sleeve Insignia complete with tab ala SF and USASOC as well as the self-appointed nickname of “The Legion” (the actual nickname for the 5th SFG(A)), it all added up to appear that Big Green was attempting to steal SF’s lineage for this new unit. To make matters worse, the 1st SFAB was stood up to conduct a mission long accomplished by SF. The similarities were uncanny, even to the most reasonable observor.


In protest, numerous articles were written, memes were created, and supporters of the SF heritage even created a petition.

On Monday, Army Chief of Staff, GEN Mark Milley, himself SF qualified and a veteran of 5th Group, responded to concerns in a phone interview with Army Times.

Bottom line, GEN Milley has taken responsibility for the situation, explained that it was unintentional and directed the 1st SFAB to find a new nickname. Finally, he referred to the beret as an Olive Brown color, patterned after a British Army Beret but acknowldeged that the shade may appear Green. Based on the 1st SFAB’s statement, it looks like they’ll be adopting a much richer Infantry Brown.

Although not common knowledge, there was a move to adopt a Brown Beret for the US Army in the late 1990s. Then Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, was the lead on the initiative, but when he was relieved from his duty position and court martialled, the project was stopped.

Instead, in 2000, former CSA Shinseki awarded the Black Beret worn for decades by the 75th Ranger Regt, to the Army as a standard headgear, and issued the Tan Beret to the Rangers instead, complete with a contrived backstory. Soldier and Rangers alike still grumble over that fiasco.

At least this time the Army leadership has reacted before it is too late. Unfortunately, it took the collective voice of the internet to point it out rather than realizing it was a poorly hatched plan from the beginning.

Forces Focus – 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Nicknamed “The Legion”, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade is one of the US Army’s newest units. Although it’s the first unit of its kind, the Army envisions standing up six of these Brigades. The 1sts SFAB’s subordinate units include TF 1-28, 1-38 CAV, 6-51 IN, 3-52 IN, 1-76 FA, 815 EN and 92 BSB. Unit members have been very busy conducting training for their new mission which is outlined below.

Mission Statement

On order, 1SFAB deploys in support of a Combatant Commander, integrates with foreign partner forces, assists and advises local security operations to build partner security capacity and capability and achieve regional security in support of US National Interests.


A Brigade of Professional Combat Advisors- Specially Selected, Specially Trained, and Specially Equipped – that represent the ultimate commitment by our Nation to our Security Partners; dedicated to making our Partners better in order to achieve regional security.

Above is their Shoulder Sleeve Insignia, although many unit members have been seen still wearing their former unit patches. The “Advise Assist” tab sums up this unit’s mssion. Seems like I’ve heard that somewhere before, though, along with that nickname. Not only are they seen as the day-to-day experts combatant commanders need to train, advise and assist our partners overseas, but they can serve also as a standing chain of command for rapidly expanding the Army.

Below, you can see SSG Justin Seeley, 3rd Battalion, 52nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, launching a RQ-11B Raven unmanned aircraft system, but they’ve also conducted Small Arms, Convoy and medical training.

(US Army photo by SPC Noelle E. Wiehe, 50th Public Affairs Detachment, 3rd Infantry Division public affairs)

Additionally, candidates for the unit must pass a selection and Advisor Academy as well as SERE training. SFAB candidates must also score an 85 of better on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery becuase the Army plans on offering language training for unit personnnel. However, unit members are eligible for a $5,000 Assignment Incentive Bonus.