Tactical Tailor

Archive for the ‘SOF’ Category

Green Berets Complete Dive Requalification

Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — In the uncertainty of the Pacific Ocean, combat divers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) successfully completed their annual dive requalification exercise on Oct. 10 – 27, 2023.

With overcast skies, fast winds and cold waters, the combat diving teams planned and executed multiple maritime operations, enhancing their effectiveness in various tactics and procedures.

“We want to familiarize our divers [old and new] with different team tactics and procedures as well as exposing the team in a progression and operational glide path,” said a team captain. “We test ourselves in more advanced and punishing conditions such as intense surf, cold water, low visibility and an overall more demanding environment.”

During the 17-day training period, the two combat diving teams initiated their preparation by acquainting themselves with the Zodiac, a boat used within special operations, and diving equipment. This familiarization helps combat divers develop confidence and comfort with their equipment.

The teams then carried out a series of exercises focused on extensive swimming, beach landing techniques, infiltration, extraction, navigation at depths reaching up to 120 feet beneath the water’s surface and long-distance navigation. Some of these operations were conducted in daylight and under the cover of night.

By being proficient in these skills, combat divers can use their abilities as a method of infiltration to access target points in real life operations.

“For us [combat divers], diving is an ability and a skill to apply on unconventional warfare settings, which is our expertise as Green Berets,” said one of the team sergeants. “It makes Green Berets calmer and more lethal underwater and even more in any real-world situations.”

The divers also had the opportunity to work alongside the U.S. Navy, performing long range movement. This tactic is used to infiltrate target points within the intercoastal or coastal waters.

The teams also took advantage of practicing with a landing craft air cushion, or LCAC. The LCAC is a type of hovercraft used to carry out smaller boats for longer distances in more demanding conditions to complete this exercise.

“We are always looking to do joint exercises with other U.S. military branches and even with partner allies,” said a team captain. “Today, we had the opportunity to work with the U.S. Navy in this operation and it was a success.”

Lt. Col. Matthew Mesko, 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG (A) commander, emphasized the importance of mastering different operation domains as the special operations command finds new ways of mitigating operational strategic threats in the maritime domain.

Green Berets defy the belief that they excel only on land; they excel in maritime environments too, proving their expertise in any conditions.

“Our teams here are practicing their mastery in waterborne infiltration methods, improving their lethality across all kinds of domains,” said Mesko. “10th SFG (A) has a proud track record of presenting the best maritime dive capabilities. These gentlemen right here work hard to foster and cultivate that reputation within the country and with our allies.”

An old saying tells that water is unforgiving, however, these elite warriors operate silently and unseen in both, the shadowy depths of the water, and the unpredictable demanding surface. They represent a unique and highly specialized branch of the U.S. Army and the Special Forces Operations Command.

Photos and Story by SGT Luis Solorio

Photos by SSG Isaih Vega

USSOCOM Science and Technology Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 24.4 Release 1 Pre-Release

Friday, November 24th, 2023

The USSOCOM Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program will soon be accepting submissions for the following technology areas of interest:

SOCOM244-001: Small Unmanned Ground Robotic Systems
SOCOM244-002: Thermal Reflex Sight

The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program stimulates a partnership of ideas and technologies between innovative SBCs and non-profit Research Institutions. By providing awards to SBCs for cooperative R/R&D efforts with Research Institutions, the SBIR and STTR programs assist the U.S. small business and research communities by supporting the commercialization of innovative technologies.

On 28 November, SOFWERX will host a virtual Q&A session for the area of interest. RSVP to the Q&A session on the event webpage.

Submissions Open 05 December 2023.


Developing the Next Generation of Air Force Special Warfare Cadet Programs

Tuesday, November 21st, 2023

By Headquarters Air Force A3 Air Force Special Warfare Directorate

Air Force Special Warfare (AFSPECWAR) continues to refine its academic year and summer programs to help AFROTC and USAFA cadets prepare to be Special Tactics Officers (STOs), Tactical Air Control Party Officers (TACPOs), and Combat Rescue Officers (CROs).

Now in year three, USAFA’s formalized “Special Warfare Club” (SWC) academic year materials benefit two areas — first, they are available for AFROTC Detachments to download and develop or refine their own SWC; second, they are used in the 2, two-week Special Warfare Orientation Courses (SWOC) official summer programs.

The information and exposure will help cadets prepare physically and mentally prior to attending a selection for Special Warfare, called Phase II.  The 19Z Special Warfare Officers (STO/TACPO/CRO) are the only officer specialties which require successful selection at a pre-commissioning screener to begin their respective training pipelines, according to Col. John M. Graver, individual mobilization augmentee to the director of AF/A3S Air Force Special Warfare.

“With no previous experience, many cadets do poorly, negatively impacting unit readiness. Now, we provide them a safe introduction to the events and evaluation criteria,” said Graver. “Without a formalized method to prepare, cadets have proven to develop unsafe habits.”

Currently, filling commissioning slots for the 19Z AFSC is a challenge shared by both AFROTC and USAFA.

“We want cadets to be successful. Our program includes over 30 academic and physical lesson plans, risk management, and templates to organize their SWCs, along with opportunities to learn from contracted coaches, thereby mitigating risk for Detachment commanders,” added Graver.

The last SWOC was held in June and July 2023 at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. where 80 AFROTC and USAFA cadets participated; with more than 20 cadets-in-charge and over 20 uniformed and civilian staff from USAFA, AFROTC, MAJCOMs, and Air Force and Army flying units assisting with the training.

SWOC involves over 40 events to prepare cadets for the “Phase II” pre-commissioning screener. These included land and water fitness sessions, troop leading procedures, small unit tactics, decision making, as well as planning and executing global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery missions.

Additionally, AFROTC cadets can participate in AFRS-led Special Warfare AFROTC Weekend (SWAW) events, which are conducted 8-10 times throughout the academic year at various detachments hosting these weekend events around the country.

“We want to provide interested cadets as many opportunities as possible to prepare,” said Maj. Eric Atchison, Air Force Recruiting Service. “Between these SWAW events, the 2-week SWOC opportunities in the summer, and an increased number of Special Warfare Clubs at Detachments, we can prepare as many cadets as possible to succeed as leaders in the Special Warfare community. It’s an extremely challenging and rewarding career like no other, and we are looking for the right young men and women who have what it takes to succeed, no matter the odds.”

AFROTC detachments with interest in developing or refining their cadet Special Warfare Club should expect to receive another message this fall on these opportunities, and may reach out to Maj. Atchison for additional information at [email protected]

USSOCOM’s Wishlist of Advancement of Technologies Focuses on Hyper Enabled Operator

Monday, November 20th, 2023

USSOCOM has updated the Broad Agency Announcement for the exquisite capabilities it is interested in.

To set the stage for why SOF needs new capabilities they’ve explained the world they operate in.

SOF operations will occur across all domains to include space and cyber and will be in the forefront of the United States efforts confronting an emerging reality where our opponent possesses potential for overmatching capabilities. The new “normal” for SOF will be to operate in communication contested environments, under threat of targeting by high?end military capabilities, including Weapons of Mass Destruction, and where ubiquitous surveillance is routine, and information is weaponized. The FOE is a world of “Convergence”: the point where the gap between non?state and state actor capabilities diminishes and the threat to force and mission success increases significantly.

The macro focus of SOF’s capability portfolio continues to remain on effect in all domains: terrestrial, maritime, air, space, human and cyber.

Ultimately, that means the human, individually or in small units. This reflects the first SOF Truth, “Humans are more important than hardware.” However, they are applying an unwritten corollary which seeks to find the technologies which make the human operator more effective. For example, mobility systems to get the operator where he needs to be, or surveillance systems to offer a more complete understanding of the operational environment.

Consequently, SOCOM Science & Technology refers in this document to the Hyper Enabled Operator (HEO) who is empowered by technologies and information systems that accelerate tactical decision making by increasing situational awareness, reducing cognitive workload, and simplifying mission? appropriate information sharing. Much of what they desire will be considered disruptive

S&T seeks white papers in the areas of Next Generation Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Networking and Data Management, Human Interface, Next Generation Effects, and Next Generation Mobility and Signature Management to build the HEO.

This BAA will sub-divide each technology focus area into two parts (disruptive technologies and SOF enhancements). This list is long and detailed and worth a look.

It’s important to note that this is a long-term process. Unless amended, this opportunity will remain as an open?ended announcement from the date of posting through 31 December 2025. White papers may be submitted at any time during this 5?year period subject to the submission process.

Due to SOCOM’s interest in unique capabilities and their smaller size compared to the military services, this is a great way for small companies to get a toehold into DoD and offer some great new capabilities to the pointy end of the spear.

The BAA with the list of technologies and how to submit is located at sam.gov.

MARSOC Multi-Purpose Canine Handlers Conduct Desert Training

Wednesday, November 15th, 2023

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Instructors with Marine Forces Special Operations Command recently hosted the final phase of training for prospective Marines working toward becoming multi-purpose canine handlers for the command, Oct. 1-20, 2023.

The course, which is also used as continuing education training for senior MPCs and handlers, encompasses all aspects of requisite skills that a special operations capability specialist needs to be successful while attached to a Marine Special Operations Company. Everything from tactical movements to engaging enemy combatants is done with the canines right by the side of their handlers.

The portion of the course known as the desert package culminates all of the training the handlers and canines had been through while also shifting the environment to one that is unfamiliar.

“We have individually done all of the things we are being asked to do here,” said a student handler. “The change in environment, to something you just won’t see in North Carolina, challenges us to put it all together and really make sure we understand our dog and their personality.”

MPCs and handlers within MARSOC have a high bar to achieve. In addition to being the only special operations component that uses subject matter experts in canine handling to work on the teams, the canines themselves have more asked of them than normal.

“MARSOC really sets itself apart because we train to proficiency in all three facets of canine work,” said a senior MPC handler. “all of our dogs are capable of apprehension, or bites, explosive detection, and tracking, requiring a higher level of training”

To be able to accommodate the heightened requirements for the MPCs, the handlers are trained differently as well.

“Our handlers are not just handlers, they are trained to be trainers,” an MPC handler added. “There is a level of knowledge that goes beyond just working with the dog. Our handlers are capable of going to a partner nation and training their dogs and handlers to proficiency as well.”

Upon successful completion of the training pipeline, both students and canines are fully certified to be a working MPC team. Those teams then continue preparations to join a company and eventually deploy alongside critical skills operators and special operations officers on a team.

The multi-purpose canine handler pipeline is open to those within the 5800 military police occupational field. Interested Marines should reach out to a MARSOC recruiter to learn more about the opportunity.

Story by Cpl Henry Rodriguez II 

Marine Forces, Special Operations Command

“You Have Arrived”: 1st Special Operations Command and the Birth of Modern ARSOF

Friday, November 10th, 2023

1st SOCOM distinctive unit insignia (Photo Credit: U.S Army)

On August 7, 1984, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Lutz stood beside his wife Joyce in the shadow of the Special Forces Soldier statue, known to most as “Bronze Bruce,” and fought back tears while the 24th Infantry Division band played “Auld Lang Syne.” Fifteen minutes earlier, Lutz had passed the colors of the U.S. Army 1st Special Operations Command (1st SOCOM), which he had commanded since its founding two years earlier, to Maj. Gen. Leroy N. Suddath, Jr.

1st SOCOM shoulder sleeve insignia (Photo Credit: U.S Army)

Opposite the incoming and outgoing commanders stood a formation representing the Army Special Forces (SF), Rangers, Psychological Operations (PSYOP), and Civil Affairs (CA) units that came under the command of 1st SOCOM upon its provisional establishment on October 1, 1982, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (known as Fort Liberty since 2023). Prior to that, no single command and control headquarters existed for all Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) units. Since then, the Army has not lacked one, with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) filling that role since December 1989.

“A Rocky Road”

General Robert W. Sennewald presided over the change of command ceremony, as the commander of 1st SOCOM’s higher headquarters, the U.S. Army Forces Command. In his remarks, he noted the rocky road that 1st SOCOM had travelled to get to where it was in August 1984. Without elaborating on the specific obstacles overcome by 1st SOCOM, Sennewald’s comments likely resonated with the Vietnam-era ARSOF leaders in attendance, including Lutz. After great sacrifice and exceptional valor in Vietnam, many ARSOF units endured force reductions and resourcing shortages in the aftermath of that war. By the late 1970s, ARSOF was reeling from years of neglect.

After leaving 1st SOCOM in August 1984, Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Lutz served as Chief of the Joint United States Military Aid Group to Greece. Here his pictured (second from right) briefing U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz (far right) at Hellenikon Air Base, Greece. (Photo Credit: NARA)

From his position as the Commander, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Center for Military Assistance, Lutz had played a significant role in revitalizing ARSOF, and Army Special Forces, in particular. Under his leadership, the Center produced an Army-directed Special Operations Forces Mission Area Analysis that prescribed some of the most impactful changes to ARSOF in the 1980s, including the establishment of 1st SOCOM. Sennewald testified to Lutz’s impact, saying, “Our national leadership made a commitment to develop your capabilities, and General Lutz has been instrumental in bringing this commitment to reality.”

With a mission to prepare, provide, and sustain active-duty Army SF, PSYOP, CA, and Ranger units, 1st SOCOM was the first headquarters to exercise both administrative and operational control of the full spectrum of ARSOF. On Lutz’s watch, the command had fought a brief war on the Caribbean Island of Grenada (Operation URGENT FURY) and deployed mobile training teams to sixty-five countries, including such hotspots as El Salvador, Honduras, and Lebanon.

Maj. Gen. Leroy N. Suddath, Jr. (left) and Col. John N. Dailey (right) are pictured here at the October 1986 activation ceremony for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group at Fort Campbell Kentucky (Image Credit: U.S. Army). (Photo Credit: U.S Army)

Under the leadership of Lutz and his successor, Maj. Gen. Suddath, 1st SOCOM continued to revitalize and expand ARSOF, reversing some of the post-Vietnam cuts and adding new capabilities. In 1984 alone, the command oversaw the reactivation of 1st Special Forces Group (SFG) and the addition of a Ranger Regimental headquarters and the 3rd Ranger Battalion. Early the following year, the Army transferred Task Force-160, a dedicated ARSOF Aviation unit, from the 101st Airborne Division to 1st SOCOM. This unit was reorganized into the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (SOAG) in October 1986. 1st SOCOM also added two dedicated ARSOF Support units that year.

By 1987, when 1st SOCOM became the Army component of the newly established U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), its major subordinate units were the 75th Ranger Regiment; the 1st, 5th, 7th, and 10th Special Forces Groups; the 4th PSYOP Group; the 96th CA Battalion; the 528th Support Battalion; the 112th Signal Battalion; and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group.

Toward a MACOM

In 1988, Suddath passed command to Maj. Gen. James A. Guest, an SF veteran of the Vietnam War who had previously commanded the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and 5th SFG. Under Guest’s leadership, 1st SOCOM successfully advocated for the establishment of a Major Command (MACOM) for ARSOF. On December 1, 1989, the Army activated USASOC, under the command of Lt. Gen. Gary E. Luck, as the Army’s sixteenth MACOM.

Concurrently, 1st SOCOM became a major subordinate command of USASOC, responsible for all active-duty ARSOF, alongside the short-lived U.S. Army Reserve Special Operations Command taking command of all U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) and Army National Guard (ARNG) SOF units. Guest continued serving as 1st SOCOM commander through this transition period, during which the command rapidly deployed large contingents in support of Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama and Operation DESERT SHIELD in Saudi Arabia.

On November 27, 1990, 1st SOCOM was redesignated as the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (USASFC) and assigned the mission of equipping, training, and validating all Army Special Forces, including two ARNG and two USAR SF Groups. This arrangement persisted until 2014, when USASFC merged with active-duty PSYOP, CA, and ARSOF Support units to form the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), a division-level ARSOF headquarters under USASOC that commands and controls five active-duty and two ARNG SF groups, two PSYOP groups, a CA brigade, and a Sustainment brigade.

“You have arrived.”

It is difficult to see how organizations such as USASOC and 1st Special Forces Command would exist, had it not been for forward-thinking leaders like Joseph Lutz, Leroy Suddath, and James Guest. These three were the only commanders of 1st SOCOM, the first modern ARSOF headquarters.

Despite the long and sometimes rocky road back from the post-Vietnam doldrums, General Sennewald saw only positives in August 1984. “Today,” he said, “I am firmly convinced that road is part of history. If the words ‘you have arrived’ have meaning to anyone, they should have special meaning to the soldiers of 1st SOCOM.”

In the intervening four decades, ARSOF has continued to prove its value to the nation in myriad ways and innumerable places, in conflicts big and small, always striving to live up to the motto first adopted by 1st SOCOM in 1982: Sine Pari, meaning “Without Equal.” In his parting comments, Lutz expressed a sentiment shared by ARSOF leaders ever since when he said, “I want to thank General Sennewald and our Army for allowing me the privilege to command the greatest soldiers in the world.”

By Christopher E. Howard

Brownells Continues Support for Special Operations Wounded Warriors

Wednesday, November 8th, 2023

GRINNELL, Iowa (November 6, 2023) – Brownells is honoring Veterans Day all week by donating a percentage of sales to Special Operations Wounded Warriors, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping wounded veterans of the Special Operations community.

Starting Monday, November 6, and lasting through Friday November 12, Brownells will track purchases at Brownells.com and give 4% of those sales to SOWW.

As part of the Veterans Day week event, Brownells will release a special discount code SOWW25 for $25 off of $250 purchase at Brownells.com.

SOWW works to provide therapeutic outdoor experiences to wounded SOCOM veterans, as well as other types of professional therapy and assistance to veterans and their spouses and families.

The SOWW Board of Directors accept no salaries and SOWW maximizes its ability to directly support veterans and their families in every way it can.

GAO Report Reminds Us It’s Time To Worry About SOF Language Capabilities Again

Monday, November 6th, 2023

The issue of poor foreign language capability among SOF operators, particularly US Army Special Forces, rolls around about once a decade, usually flip flopping with the lack of racial diversity within SOF.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report entitled, “Special Operations Forces: Enhanced Training, Analysis, and Monitoring Could Improve Foreign Language Proficiency.”

No kidding, even the title belies what any amateur detective could tell you. What’s amazing is that if it’s so obvious, why isn’t it being done? I mean they sound like simple, measured responses to any training deficiency. As is generally the case, the situation is more complicated than you’d expect.

The GAO found that for the last several years, SOCOM did not meet its language proficiency goals. This has long been a challenge within Army SF which has relied on its language capability to interact with foreign forces, both government as well as civilian.

About 20 years ago, the Marine Corps got into the SOF game with the formation of Det 1. Basing itself off of traditional Marine capabilities, it had a serious special reconnaissance and direct action bent and it was really good at it. But SOF is political and Det 1 was an experiment. There was no interest in yet another SR/DA unit in the mix. The only way the Marines could get a permanent component within USSOCOM was to agree to pick up some of the Foreign Internal Defense missions traditionally accomplished by Army SF who were themselves concentrating on SR and DA missions during the GWOT. The Marines set up what was known as the Foreign Military Training Unit.

For the Marines, this new mission meant cultural and language proficiency. Initially, the Marine Corps embraced the mission, but today, MARSOC looks much different and has settled back to mission sets it is more comfortable with. Regardless, they’ve retained language capability for their Critical Skills Operators and MARSOC is where SOCOM finds its lowest language capabilities, joining Special Forces’ long struggle with the issue.

Both the Army and Marine components of SOCOM know there’s an issue and are trying some things out. For instance, a few months ago, Army students with 2nd Special Warfare Training Group participated in a language trading course hosted by Marine Raiders. The experience included instructors from the SWCS course. It’s a step in the right direction.

I’d hazard a guess, having served as a linguist in the command, that SOCOM has never met its language proficiency goals. Much of the problem is that on top of the many mission essential tasks an operator must maintain proficiency in, the command as well as the operator’s parent service dumps loads of HR-focused annual training requirements. There aren’t enough days in a year to do it all. The GAO report acknowledges that there are competing training requirements.

However, based on this chart, you’ve got to wonder why Army SOF personnel are getting three times the amount of training of SOF Marines. Sure, they’re both facing lots of required training, but culturally, the Army side seems to pay more attention to the capability. Regardless, they are both falling woefully short of the minimum 80 hours of foreign language training per year.

One of the GAO’s findings is that commanders aren’t being held accountable for unit members not attending language proficiency training. Less than half of SOF personnel attend the training, so the question is, “Why?” Tracking the issue might help, but commanders are already being tracked for many other training requirements there isn’t enough time in the calendar to fulfill.

To me it seems like a cultural issue. If they want effective language capabilities then they are going to have to demand it at the unit level and that falls on commanders, at all levels.

The average SFOD-A or 12 man A-Team commander is a Captain who gets about 24 months of command time. For the vast majority of Special Forces officers that is his only action guy time. Consequently, he is going to hope for an operational deployment and fill as much of the rest of his command time with training on the more exciting aspects of his mission letter, like weapons training, infil skills, and so on. For most, the last thing he is going to want to do is spend a couple of months with his team in language immersion training. Now, put the Warrant Officer in charge for a while and he’s going to insist on it, particularly if it’s down range somewhere and away from the flagpole. While the Captain is focusing on the Officer Efficiency Reports which are going to make or break his career, the Team Technician and the Team Sergeant are looking at the long view and the investment in personal and well as team capabilities. I can only imagine that MARSOC faces similar challenges.

Historically, when SF teams have needed language capabilities they relied on one or two of their guys who are either native speakers or are just good at picking up languages to carry the weight. During the GWOT, teams were assigned interpreters or ‘Terps because so many teams were regionally focused on other areas and their trained languages were all but useless in the Middle East. This latter circumstance helped further erode focus on inherent language capabilities both within SOF as well as associated enabling intelligence specialities.

This leads to another major challenge, the breadth of language requirements within the command.

Based on 2020 requirements for required languages and associated proficiency levels (level 1 for basic survival to level 3 for professional proficiency), the Theater Special Operations Commands within the Geographical Combatant Commands identified 80 foreign languages.

Generally, the armed services want to limit their language programs to those which it has a likelihood to encounter operationally. It’s just easier to manage.

Note this report lists the command’s language requirements. While the intelligence community holds its actual linguist requirements close to the chest, it’s well known that the low density requirements exist because of SOF requirements. For example, I was a French and Haitian-Creole linguist. Those duty positions were unique within SOF, whereas Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic linguists are found across DoD.

As you can imagine, the management aspects of this enterprise, consisting of 80 languages with linguists in five components is rather daunting. What’s more, it’s rare that you’ll have the right linguists at the right place, at the right time due to the enormity of the mission set and the limited number of SOF personnel. Such a situation led to the use of local interpreters discussed earlier.

It’s no wonder USSOCOM is investing in Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning capabilities to assist with language translation challenges. However, these technologies may be able to also assist with training, particularly in low denisty languages which are more difficult to arrange training for.

It should be mentioned that both Naval Special Warfare Command and Air Force Special Operations Command suspended their command language programs making the Army and Marine components the focus of this report. Neither of those commands did any better in maintaining proficient linguists when they had programs.

However, all of the SOF components continue to have assigned linguists whether or not they have a command language program. They are generally a mixture of operations and intelligence personnel. Intelligence language programs may be managed separately due to occupational specialty requirements.

On a final note, this report focuses solely on the capability of 18-series, PSYOPS, and Civil Affairs personnel on the Army side and Critical Skills Operators for MARSOC. It does not include the assigned linguists within the intelligence community assigned to these units even though some of my examples stem from my experience as a Crypto-Linguist with 3rd Special Forces Group in the 90s and observations as an intelligence officer assigned to Air Force and Joint SOF units later in my career.

There’s no easy answer here, but it starts at the unit level. If they focus on languages and regional cultural skills, they will develop them. Another training status slide at MacDill isn’t going to improve the outcome.

You can read the full report here.