Monday, October 14, 2019

Master Sgt. Matthew Williams, 3rd SFG(A), to receive the Medal of Honor

President Donald J. Trump will award the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry to Master Sgt. Matthew Williams, United States Army, on October 30, 2019.

Master Sgt. Matthew Williams will receive the Medal of Honor for distinguishing himself by an act of gallantry and intrepidly above and beyond the call of duty on April 6, 2008, while serving as a Weapons Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3336, Special Operations Task Force-33, in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM. His complete disregard for his own safety and concern for the safety of his teammates ensured the survival of four critically wounded Soldiers and prevented the lead element of the assault force from being overrun by the enemy. Sergeant Williams' actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself. Combined Joint Special Operations Task-Force-Afghanistan, Operation Command Central, and the United States Army.

Personal Background:

Master Sgt. Matthew Williams is native of Boerne, Texas, and graduated from Angelo State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. Driven to serve, Master Sgt. Williams enlisted into the Army under the18X Special Forces enlistment program in September 2005. After completing Infantry One Station Unit Training (OSUT), Williams attended Basic Airborne Training at Fort Benning, GA. Williams then attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection in 2006 and was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course. In 2007, Williams graduated as a weapons sergeant from the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Throughout his career, Williams deployed multiple times in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and Operation JUNIPER SHIELD, serving in numerous positions, including weapons sergeant, Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd SFG (A); senior weapons sergeant, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd SFG (A); senior instructor/writer, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group; senior weapons sergeant, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion 3rd SFG (A) and operations sergeant, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion 3rd SFG (A).

His military training and education includes Infantry School; Basic Airborne School; Special Operations Command Jumpmaster Course; Basic Leader Course; Advanced Leader Course; Senior Leader Course; Master Leader Course; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape; Special Forces Qualification Course; the Defense Language Institute's French Course; Special Forces Advanced Urban Combat Course; Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance Target Exploitation Course; Basic instructor Training and Small Group Instructor Training.

Williams' awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and four Loops, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral "4," Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral "3", Valorous Unit Award, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge, and Special Forces Tab.

The Medal of Honor:

The Medal of Honor is awarded by the President, in the name of Congress, to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty while, engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

There must be no margin of doubt or possibility of error in awarding this honor. To justify this decoration, the deed performed must have been one of personal bravery and self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades, and must have involved risk of life.

Article from Army.Mil

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Army Recruiting, by the numbers

The Army reached its goal of recruiting 68,000 active duty soldiers in fiscal year 2019, with roughly half belonging to 10 military occupational specialties and more than 34 percent of the entire recruiting pool destined for combat arms. The other roughly 65 percent of the incoming recruits are headed for non-combat roles.

The 2019 recruiting goal was itself a slowdown from the roughly 70,000 recruited last year — when the service was actually aiming to recruit 76,500 but missed the mark. But massive numbers like those don’t tell the full story when trying to determine how well staffed the Army is in critical areas. There were many jobs at the start of the fourth quarter that were struggling with manning levels, including cyber roles and explosive ordnance disposal techs, according to numbers obtained by Army Times from a source familiar with personnel issues and dated to July 10.

The largest career field the Army recruited for was, unsurprisingly, the 11X series, which includes regular and indirect-fire infantry. The total number of recruits heading into those roles was more than 13,000. That career field was followed by 68W, or combat medics, at roughly 3,000 recruits. The numbers begin to break down much quicker after those two jobs, which make up about one quarter of the entire recruiting goal when combined.



Army guidance pushes its leaders to maintain 100 percent of authorized strength across all brigade combat teams, a baseline that is difficult to sustain during a good economy that can simultaneously curtail new recruits and lure away soldiers who would otherwise remain. In spreadsheets obtained by Army Times, the service’s fourth-quarter fiscal-year shortages show that the large recruiting target numbers don’t necessarily show the full picture.

Army officials said the numbers shown in the spreadsheets are not an accurate reflection of the force’s manning levels, but officials also declined to provide more specific explanations. The numbers could have also changed since being compiled in July. “The Army continuously evaluates its current strength with future projections to establish both precision recruiting and retention incentives, and options to address shortages,” Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Robin Ochoa said, pointing to the most recent selective retention bonus update that raised the maximum bonus soldiers can earn through re-enlistment to $81,000.

Though the service would not comment or elaborate on the numbers Army Times obtained, the data set lines up with the massive enlistment and reclassification bonuses being doled out to troops in certain career fields and, in the case of cyber jobs, a congressional report. The numbers also provide insight into career fields that are difficult to fill out, because of tough requirements for recruits, long training pipelines, high failure rates or all three.

EOD techs

The spreadsheet shows that entry-level Army EOD technicians up to the rank of E-4 were manned at only 44 percent of authorized levels as of July, with a projected manning level of about 51 percent by October. EOD techs at the rank of E-5 stood at 79 percent manning levels in July and EOD techs at the rank of E-6 stood at only 57 percent, with almost no projected improvement by the October mark, according to the spreadsheet.

As with all the figures provided in this article, the Army did not confirm its manning levels or offer different numbers that could be referenced instead. However, the service is now offering large incentives for EOD techs. Retraining into the 89D EOD tech career field, for instance, can earn top-level tier 10 bonuses if a soldier is a private first class or specialist, so long as the soldier makes it through the schoolhouse.

The Army also recently authorized the EOD career field an aesthetic change that could help recruitment — full-time wear of their EOD brassards. “EOD relies substantially on in-service recruitment to ensure the Army maintains a sustainable capability to mitigate explosive ordnance threats," Greg Mueller, an Army Training and Doctrine Command spokesman, previously said in a statement on the uniform change. “The brassard serves to aid Army EOD in-service recruitment since it generates questions about its significance and provides an opening for the recruiter to discuss qualifications and EOD career options.”

Cyber and signals

The Army’s multi-domain operations push hinges greatly on the service’s ability to recruit and staff jobs in the cyber and space domains. The numbers obtained by Army Times show a range of cyber career fields experiencing manning shortfalls.

The 17C cyber operations specialist job was one of the largest on the spreadsheet Army Times obtained, with nearly 300 soldiers authorized up to the rank of E-4. However those ranks were only manned at 54 percent in July and were expected to only climb to about 68 percent by October, according to the spreadsheet.

Cyber operations specialists with the right additional skills could earn tier 10 bonuses, the highest selective retention bonus tier, if they re-enlist to work with a cyber protection brigade or the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade. Non-location dependent cyber operations specialists still qualify for tier 9 bonuses, the second highest tier, indicating a continuing need for the troops.

The Army’s 17E electronic warfare specialist career field was also facing shortages, according to the spreadsheets. At the rank of E-5, the service was short more than 150 troops and manned at roughly 23 percent with very little projected growth by October, the spreadsheets show.

The 25D cyber network defender job also appeared to be struggling. At the rank of E-6, the career had a manning rate of about 34 percent and, again, very little growth projected, according to the spreadsheets. At the rank of E-7, the manning rate was 51 percent and not projected to grow. The E-8 rank looked considerably better, with a manning level of about 75 percent, but it was projected to drop to roughly 70 percent by October.

Retraining into the 35P cryptologic linguist career field also qualifies a soldier for tier 10 bonuses. This job requires soldiers to attend the Defense Language Institute, a grueling academic program with a high failure rate. The number of soldiers in the cryptologic linguist MOS appeared particularly low. Up to the rank of E-4, the career field was manned at 23 percent in July and expected to reach about 25 percent by October, according to the spreadsheet. For those at the rank of E-5, the shortage sheet showed the job as manned at 74 percent with a drop to 69 percent by the end of the year.

An August congressional report by the Government Accountability Office details how two new Army cyber warfare units are seriously undermanned, the 915th Cyber Warfare Support Battalion and a recently activated Intelligence, Cyber, Electronic Warfare, and Space unit. “For example, the Army activated a cyber battalion in December 2018, and as of March 2019, this unit was understaffed by more than 80 percent,” the GAO report reads.

Combat medics and infantry

The Army’s 68W MOS was manned at about 72 percent in July and expected to reach about 77 by October, according to the spreadsheets. Though, the service’s recruitment of about 3,000 combat medics this fiscal year could have helped put a dent in that projection. The Army was pushing hard throughout the spring and summer to recruit new infantrymen, as well, offering massive enlistment bonuses that topped out at $40,000 for new recruits and up to $41,000 for soldiers who reclassify.

Similarly, Army Times previously reported that the service was short more than 5,000 junior enlisted infantrymen at the start of the fourth quarter, with the 11B career field alone manned at roughly 79 percent of its goal early in the final quarter of the fiscal year. To what extent these figures are of significance depends on a range of factors. For one thing, EOD training is known to have a high failure rate for candidates and the training pipeline is relatively long. Even if the Army was able to close the gap on the recruitment numbers, there’s no guarantee how many trainees will graduate the EOD course.

Cyber career fields are also notoriously difficult for the Defense Department at large to staff. Tech-savvy individuals are highly sought after in the civilian sector, making competition difficult. Infantrymen, by contrast, aren’t typically as difficult to produce in high numbers, but retaining experienced 11Bs after their first enlistment can be challenging. The Army would not say how, if at all, the numbers for these career fields impact readiness for the service in the long term. “The Army assesses personnel strength on a continual basis to efficiently prioritize manning across the force," service spokeswoman Ochoa said. "This process ensures a consistent state of readiness. Alternatively, shortages impact recruiting and retention efforts, which comprise overall accessions. Readiness requires a high-quality force comprised of the right people with the right talents, and we remain committed to our structured process that positively sustains our Army team.”

Article from the Army Times

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

5th Special Forces Group - The Legion

The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) derives its lineage from two units of World War II fame --The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the First Special Service Force ("The Devils Brigade"). The OSS was formed in 1941 to collect intelligence and wage secret operations behind enemy lines. Small teams of OSS operatives parachuted behind enemy lines in both Europe and Asia to lead partisans against the Axis Forces. From these guerrilla operations came the nucleus of men and techniques that would form the Special Forces Regiment.

The First Special Service Forces was a combined Canadian-American Force constituted July 5, 1942, in the Army of the United States as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 1st Special Service Force. The Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 1st Special Service Force was first activated and trained at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. The Force participated in the Italian Campaign and saw additional action in Southern France. The Force was disbanded in Menton, France on Feb. 6, 1945. The unit was reconstituted in the regular Army on April 15, 1960, designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment.

On Sept. 21, 1961 at Fort Bragg, N.C., the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was officially activated. Just one year later, elements of the 5th Special Forces Group began serving temporary duty tours in the Republic of Vietnam. Full deployment of the Group was completed in February 1965. Units from within the Group deployed from its operational base at Nha Trang to the four military regions of South Vietnam. Operational detachments established and manned camps at 254 different locations to train and lead indigenous forces of the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups, and regular units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam. The 5th SFG (A) also formed specialized units that conducted special reconnaissance and direct action missions.

Despite being one of the smallest units engaged in the Vietnam conflict, the Group’s colors fly 20 campaign streamers. Soldiers from the Group are among the most highly decorated warriors in the history of our nation. Sixteen Medals of Honor were awarded (eight posthumously). The Group is awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Army) Vietnam 1966 to 1968, The Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) Vietnam 1968; Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Vietnam 1964; and Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, 1st Class, Vietnam 1968 to 1970. On March 5, 1971, the colors of the 5th SFG (A) were returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., by a 94-man contingent led by then Col. (Maj. Gen. Retired) Michael D. Healy, thereby terminating their official Vietnam service.

The 5th SFG (A) remained at Fort Bragg until June 10, 1988, when the Group colors were cased at a ceremony marking its departure from Fort Bragg. Subsequently, the colors were officially uncased at its new home at Fort Campbell.

The 5th SFG (A) added to its rich combat history during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In August 1990, the Group was called upon to conduct operations in Southwest Asia in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. During this crisis, elements of 5th Group, comprising 106 special operations teams, performed a myriad of missions that spanned the scope of operations: supporting coalition warfare; conducting foreign internal defense missions with Saudi Arabian Land Forces, performing special reconnaissance, border surveillance, direct action, combat search and rescue missions; and advising and assisting a pan-Arab force larger than six U.S. divisions, and conducting civil military operations training and liaison with the Kuwaitis. In the words of the CENTCOM Commander, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, "Special Forces were the eyes and ears on the ground." A new chapter in coalition warfare was written while new military relationships were forged which continue their importance today. On June 11, 1993, the Valorous Unit Award was presented to the 5th SFG (A) for service during Operation Desert Storm from Jan. 17, 1991 to Feb. 28, 1991."

In August 1992, four months prior to the deployment of any other U.S. forces, 5th SFG (A) conducted operations in the country of Somalia. Soldiers of the Group deployed in support of U.S. and United Nations Forces and conducted unconventional warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance and coalition support.

Throughout the 1990s, 5th Group elements conducted missions in Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. Soldiers from the Group also executed contingency operations and training missions throughout Northeast Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Central Asia.

Within hours of the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, Soldiers from 5th SFG (A) were being deployed in support of the Global War on Terror. Together with indigenous forces, the Group succeeded in ending Taliban rule in Afghanistan, enabling the Afghan people to choose their own destiny while denying terrorist organizations of their primary base of support. The Group received two Presidential Unit Citations in recognition of its service in Afghanistan. The 5th SFG (A) has also played a key role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to unconventional warfare and direct action missions conducted throughout Iraq, the Group has trained Iraqi military and security forces to enable them to carry on the fight against extremism on behalf of the long-suffering Iraqi populace.

As requirements related to the Global War on Terror continued to increase, U.S. Special Operations Command received authorization to add one Special Forces Battalion to each of its active duty Special Forces Groups. U.S. Army Special Operations Command issued Permanent Order 193-7 on July 12, 2006, directing 5th Group to prepare for activation of a 4th Battalion. The Group formed an activation cell on June 4, 2007. Over the next year, a very small number of Officers, a strong cadre of NCOs, and a contingent of new Special Forces and Support Soldiers came together to build the foundation for this new organization. The new Battalion was activated on Aug. 8, 2008.

Today, 5th SFG (A) teams are deploying throughout Southwest Asia and Africa and the Soldiers continue to live the Special Forces motto--"To Liberate the Oppressed."

Article from Military.com

Thursday, September 19, 2019

SFC Jeremy Griffin, 1st Special Forces Group - RIP

A Special Forces soldier, SFC Jeremy Griffin, was killed on Monday, September 16, 2019 in Afghanistan. He died of wound from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations in Wardak province, Afghanistan. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 1st special Forces Group based at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington.

Jeremy Griffin was born in Cristobal, Panama in December 1978. He enlisted into the U.S. Army in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2009 with the 82nd Airborne Division. He had also served with the 7th Special Forces Group. After attending and graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2014 as a Special Forces Communication Sergeant he was assigned to 1st SFGA.

He graduated from the Basic, Advanced, and Senior Leader Courses; U.S. Army Basic and Advanced Airborne Schools; Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, Basic Korean Course; Ranger School; Basic and Advanced Military Free Fall Parachutist Course; Military Freefall Advanced Tactical Infiltration Course; Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack Controller Course; Special Forces Intelligence Sergeants Course; and Special Forces Qualification Course.

Griffin’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal; Army Commendation Medal (1 Oak Leaf Cluster); Army Achievement Medal (3 OLC); Army Good Conduct Medal (fifth award); National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal (3 Campaign Stars); Iraq Campaign Medal (2 Campaign Stars); Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Korea Defense Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (Numeral 3); Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Army Marksmanship Qualification Badge (Expert); Parachutist Badge; Master Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge; Combat Infantry Badge; Combat Action Badge; Ranger and Army Special Forces Tabs. SFC Jeremy Griffin was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart. He was 41 years old.

“The loss of Sgt. 1st Class Griffin is felt across the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Family and the entire Special Forces community. He was a warrior – an accomplished, respected and loved Special Forces Soldier that will never be forgotten. We ask that you keep his Family and teammates in your thoughts and prayers.” - Colonel Owen G. Ray, commander, 1st Special Forces Group.

Article from SOF News

Monday, September 16, 2019

SSG David Bellavia MOH and Speech

SSG David G. Bellavia earnd his Medal of Honor while serving as a member of Company A, Task Force 2-2, 1st Infantry Division fighting in Fallujah, Iraq under Operation Phantom Fury. Read his MOH citation then watch the 22 minute video which gets really good at the 6 minute mark.

Medal of Honor Citation:

Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on November 10, 2004, while serving as squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq.

While clearing a house, a squad from Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s platoon became trapped within a room by intense enemy fire coming from a fortified position under the stairs leading to the second floor. Recognizing the immediate severity of the situation, and with disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Bellavia retrieved an automatic weapon and entered the doorway of the house to engage the insurgents.

With enemy rounds impacting around him, Staff Sergeant Bellavia fired at the enemy position at a cyclic rate, providing covering fire that allowed the squad to break contact and exit the house.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle was brought forward to suppress the enemy; however, due to high walls surrounding the house, it could not fire directly at the enemy position. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then re-entered the house and again came under intense enemy fire. He observed an enemy insurgent preparing to launch a rocket-propelled grenade at his platoon. Recognizing the grave danger the grenade posed to his fellow soldiers, Staff Sergeant Bellavia assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to a different part of the house.

Staff Sergeant Bellavia, realizing he had an un-cleared, darkened room to his back, moved to clear it. As he entered, an insurgent came down the stairs firing at him. Simultaneously, the previously wounded insurgent reemerged and engaged Staff Sergeant Bellavia. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, entering further into the darkened room, returned fire and eliminated both insurgents. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then received enemy fire from another insurgent emerging from a closet in the darkened room.

Exchanging gunfire, Staff Sergeant Bellavia pursued the enemy up the stairs and eliminated him. Now on the second floor, Staff Sergeant Bellavia moved to a door that opened onto the roof. At this point, a fifth insurgent leapt from the third floor roof onto the second floor roof. Staff Sergeant Bellavia engaged the insurgent through a window, wounding him in the back and legs, and caused him to fall off the roof.

Acting on instinct to save the members of his platoon from an imminent threat, Staff Sergeant Bellavia ultimately cleared an entire enemy-filled house, destroyed four insurgents, and badly wounded a fifth. Staff Sergeant Bellavia's bravery, complete disregard for his own safety, and unselfish and courageous actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

After the Service:

Bellavia was Vice Chairman and co-founder of Vets for Freedom and is currently the President of EMPact America, an American energy resiliency organization based in Elma, New York. He published a memoir, House to House: An Epic Memoir of War, co-written with John R. Bruning., recognized as one of the top five best Iraq War memoirs. Bellavia has signed an agreement with a film producer to make his memoir into a major motion picture.

He has unsuccessfully run for Congressional office several times in highly liberal New York but contnues to be highly sought after appearances at veterans events and for speeches.

Watch the video below to see one of the most amazing speeches you will ever hear:

Monday, September 9, 2019

Passing the Paramilitary Torch from the CIA to Special Operations Command

In the shadowy realm of international competition that falls below the threshold of traditional conflict, the United States continues to struggle to match near-peer competitors like Russia and China. The Russian-led paramilitary invasion of eastern Ukraine that began in mid-2014 has thus far prevented successive U.S.-backed Ukrainian governments from fully consolidating power or joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In Syria, Russian private paramilitary companies have been crucial in propping up the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Over the last decade, China has built artificial islands and deployed paramilitary naval units to secure its illegal claim to the international waterways of the South China Sea – all without firing a single shot. These examples involved the use of paramilitary activities by America’s adversaries, a form of conflict to which the U.S. government has historically responded with the CIA. In this context, paramilitary activities involve the use of non-conventional or proxy forces to conduct sabotage, ambushes, or other low-visibility combat operations to undermine and contribute to the defeat of an adversary. Photo at right: U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers with Hamid Karzai during their unconventional warfare campaign that toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, 2001

The CIA’s primacy in matters of paramilitary activities is well-established through existing Congressional legislation and presidential executive orders. However, today the United States faces serious threats from near-peer state adversaries, terrorist groups, and other sub-state actors that should lead its leaders to rethink its organizational and operational approaches to paramilitary activities to optimize both its capabilities and capacity to meet these threats. The U.S. Defense Department, specifically its subordinate U.S. Special Operations Command, is the organization best prepared to assume leadership of the U.S. government’s paramilitary efforts that are critical to supporting its national interests.

One of the major recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report, delivered in 2004, was that the Defense Department should assume primary responsibility for U.S. government paramilitary activities from the CIA. That commission found that the CIA “relied on operatives without the requisite military training,” resulting in unsatisfactory results. Additionally, the report advised that the United States “cannot afford to build two separate capabilities for carrying out secret military operations, secretly operating standoff missiles, and secretly training foreign military or paramilitary forces.” In response, the Defense Department contracted a study that ultimately determined in 2005 that assuming control of paramilitary operations was inadvisable at that time given the Defense Department’s lack of internal capability, discomfort with existing legal strictures on Title 50 authorities, and concern over potentially increased Congressional oversight that would come with responsibility for paramilitary activities. In the twelve years since that study delivered its findings and recommendations, the Defense Department has developed its own clandestine intelligence and operational paramilitary capabilities. It is now the appropriate time to reassess and appropriately re-task the Department of Defense’s own U.S. Special Operations Command with primary responsibility for paramilitary activities. Historically, the CIA has a very poor track record of success in organizing and leading paramilitary campaigns, often relying on military special operations support. Other forms of covert action include propaganda to undermine confidence in or adherence to hostile governments and political action designed to support domestic parties in opposition to U.S. adversaries. Only a small number of the declassified CIA-led paramilitary campaigns between 1948 and 2001 were deemed “successful”, though propaganda and political covert actions fared better. While the bravery of CIA paramilitary operatives should be lauded and honored, the American people must be ensured that their paramilitary capabilities are better organized to best defend their interests in the future.

Capability

From a capabilities standpoint, U.S. Special Operations Command demonstrates comparable and, in some cases, superior capabilities of immediate applicability to paramilitary activities. Unbeknownst to many is the fact that U.S. Special Operations Command is already trained, equipped, and enabled to execute paramilitary operations. A core mission of U.S. Special Operations Command is “unconventional warfare”, which the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2016 defines as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary or guerrilla force in a denied area." Of critical importance, the Defense Department Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines a “guerrilla force” as “a group of irregular, predominantly indigenous personnel organized along military lines to conduct military and paramilitary operations in enemy-held, hostile, or denied territory.” Assuming primary responsibility for paramilitary activities will not place additional strain on U.S. Special Operations Command as all of the components of paramilitary operations are already “part and parcel” of their core mission. While the entirety of U.S. Special Operations Command is tasked to conduct unconventional warfare, much of that capability resides in a subordinate element - U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Within this element, the Office of Special Warfare serves as the focal point for U.S. government-sponsored unconventional warfare.

U.S. Special Operations Command regularly demonstrates its ability to conduct “operational preparation of the environment” activities to support counterterrorism and unconventional warfare that seemingly only differ from paramilitary activities in the authorities under which they are executed. Whereas paramilitary activities is conducted under Title 50 of U.S. Code (USC), Operational Preparation of the Environment and other military activities are executed under Title 10 USC. More practically speaking, the CIA conducts paramilitary activities with the intention to effect some sort of fundamental change against a foreign target without the U.S. government’s role ever being clearly evident, while the Defense Department conducts Operational Preparation of the Environment ostensibly in support of traditional military activities that might reasonably demonstrate a U.S. government role at some point. However, the Defense Department now arguably characterizes activities that could easily be described as paramilitary activities as Operational Preparation of the Environment “where the slightest nexus of a theoretical, distant military operation might one day exist.” Consolidation of the covert paramilitary responsibility with existing Operational Preparation of the Environment requirements would not create so much of an additional burden on U.S. Special Operations Command as it would reduce duplication of capability at both the CIA and Defense Department.

To many even within the U.S. government, most of U.S. Special Operations Command’s Operational Preparation of the Environment activities are already virtually indistinguishable from the CIA’s paramilitary activities, as they employ many of the same methodologies to establish and manage human and physical infrastructure in semi-permissive and denied areas to support U.S. strategic objectives. Further highlighting this confused perception, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has previously argued that, “in categorizing its clandestine activities, the Defense Department frequently labels them as ‘Operational Preparation of the Environment’ to distinguish particular operations as traditional military activities and not as intelligence functions. The committee observes, though, that overuse of the term has made the distinction all but meaningless.” Shifting primacy of responsibility for paramilitary activities from the CIA to U.S. Special Operations Command and consolidating it with the existing Operational Preparation of the Environment mission would serve the dual purpose of maximizing the effectiveness of paramilitary capabilities while also potentially addressing the growing tensions related to the oversight disparity between paramilitary and clandestine activities.

Many naysayers of this proposal will argue that only the CIA has the means to safeguard the secrecy of such paramilitary activity and accomplish the mission with discrete U.S. government presence. This argument is less compelling given the CIA’s demonstrably poor track record in keeping U.S. government participation in paramilitary operations discrete, from the “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba in 1961 to the recent paramilitary operation revealed in the Middle East. By comparison, U.S. Special Operations Command already has forces deployed around the world, accomplishing sensitive missions that largely go unnoticed. Additionally, the Defense Department already executes Special Access Programs that are waived and unacknowledged. Much like CIA paramilitary operations conducted under Presidential Findings, waived and unacknowledged Special Access Programs are “considered to be so sensitive that they are exempt from standard reporting requirements to the Congress” and are only briefed to highly-cleared members of the relevant Congressional committees. The Defense Department already has a well-established track record of ensuring the confidentiality of incredibly sensitive programs, requirements with which the CIA has shown some difficulty.

Capacity

Not surprisingly, the CIA has always relied extensively on Defense Department special operations forces to support its paramilitary activities ever since the National Security Act of 1947 first created the CIA. Every paramilitary operation from Tibet (1953-1972) to the modern era saw large numbers of the Defense Department special operations service members employed by the CIA using its authorities to execute the mission. While the CIA’s actual end strength of paramilitary skills officers is classified, most open-source estimates place its numbers at no more than a couple hundred exemplary Americans whose attentions are split between overseas assignments and headquarters duty at Langley. By comparison, U.S. Special Operations Command has nearly 70,000 total personnel assigned, of which the command already has 13,000 deployed around the world at any given time. As previously discussed, the Office of Special Warfare coordinates the unconventional warfare capabilities of five battalions’ (over 2,000 soldiers) worth of the U.S.’s finest practitioners of the paramilitary arts in support of every geographic combatant command (Africa, Europe, Central and South America, North America, Middle East, and Pacific). These numbers do not account for the tens of thousands of special operations members in other units trained in unconventional warfare. By outright assuming responsibility for all U.S. paramilitary operations, U.S. Special Operations Command will be able to leverage its full capacity to conduct the preparatory undertakings for and execution of successful paramilitary activities, thereby increasing options for U.S. policymakers. Clearly, U.S. Special Operations Command now has a much greater capacity to fulfill current and future paramilitary requirements that will only continue to grow in scale.

Moreover, CIA recruits many of its paramilitary operatives directly from U.S. Special Operations Command, thanks largely to the previously discussed and well-established operational relationship between the CIA and Defense Department special operations forces. Most national security experts believe that there is no way that the U.S. government could even come close to meeting its current capacity needs for paramilitary activities without U.S. Special Operations Command support. As the evolving global security environment will clearly require additional paramilitary capacity, the CIA will find itself further unable to meet those requirements through its own internal mechanisms and become more reliant on U.S. Special Operations Command. As such, transferring primary responsibility for paramilitary activities from the CIA to Defense Department would simply be a recognition that the majority interest in and capacity for paramilitary activities resides in the Defense Department. In turn, U.S. Special Operations Command, with its larger personnel reserves and budgetary appropriations, will provide the U.S. government and American people with a more robust and efficient paramilitary activities capacity when and where it is most needed.

Legality and Oversight

Legally speaking, the Defense Department possesses both the legislative and executive authorities and permissions to assume primary responsibility for paramilitary activities consistent with the recommendations of this article. Legislatively, the National Security Act of 1947, 1991 Intelligence Authorization Act, and Title 50 of USC all previously designated the CIA as the office of primary responsibility for paramilitary activities. However, the Secretary of Defense also possesses Title 50 authorities which are regularly applied to support paramilitary activities and other intelligence activities. President Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order 12333, which President George W. Bush amended with Executive Order 13470, similarly reinforced CIA primacy for paramilitary activities. However, Executive Order 13470 importantly established a specific exceptions for transferring that responsibility to other agencies. The language of Executive Order 13470 clearly states that the President may direct other agencies to lead paramilitary efforts if he or she “determines that another agency is more likely to achieve a particular objective.” Given the arguments previously presented in this article, it is clear that the Defense Department is now the most appropriate agency to lead U.S. government paramilitary activities efforts moving forward.

The consolidation within the Defense Department of covert paramilitary activities and unconventional warfare efforts will ensure better oversight, as all such activities would then require Presidential Findings and the associated reporting to all of the interested Congressional committees. This approach will resolve a long-standing tension between the Congressional defense committees related to the oversight of covert and clandestine activities. The recommendation to consolidate paramilitary activities in the Defense Department previously met resistance from both the Pentagon and CIA for very different reasons that both stemmed from bureaucratic interests. In the case of the Defense Department, there was reluctance to delve deeper into Title 50 missions that brought additional approval and oversight requirements. For the CIA, the prospect of ceding a very important, and suddenly prestigious, mission was also very unattractive. These perspectives resistant to the transfer of paramilitary activity responsibility to the Defense Department appear rooted in arguments that, while maybe valid when the 2005 Defense Department study presented its finding, are no longer the case. What has not changed are the reasons for the 9/11 Commission’s original findings: that CIA has consistently faltered in its execution of paramilitary operations and that the country can ill afford to fund two identical capabilities at the CIA and Defense Department. It is high time to consolidate paramilitary activities at the Defense Department.

To affect the seamless transfer of primacy for paramilitary activities responsibility from the CIA to Defense Department, there are several recommendations that can and should be implemented. The Executive Branch should draft and issue an executive order amending Executive Order 12333 further to transfer primary responsibility for planning and conducting paramilitary activities from the CIA to the Defense Department. Consistent with the existing Executive Order 13470 language, paramilitary activities will still require a Presidential Finding and reserve for the President the authority to designate other agencies to lead paramilitary activities if the conditions warrant. As paramilitary activities already require coordination through the National Security Council and interagency cooperation, this process will remain under the new construct. Except now, the Defense Department will brief the properly-cleared members of the National Security Council and Congressional defense and intelligence committees. The CIA will remain a critical supporting agency for paramilitary activities, but will respond to Defense Department direction on such campaigns.

Congress, for its part, would need to pass the requisite legislation to enable the Defense Department to assume this responsibility through appropriate reorganization, appropriations, and oversight mechanisms. Currently, Title 10 of USC does not specify paramilitary activities as a primary mission for U.S. Special Operations Command, which will require an amendment to Title 10, the invocation of Title 50 by the Secretary of Defense, or the creation of an entirely new legislative authority for U.S. Special Operations Command to exercise its authority as lead department for paramilitary activities. The next NDAA should direct U.S. Special Operations Command, through the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, to reorganize to facilitate paramilitary activities within the Defense Department. This reorganization might be affected through amendment of the existing reorganization requirements levied in Section 922 of the FY17 NDAA. Section 922 previously directed this office to assume “service-like” responsibility for U.S. Special Operations Command.

Next, the appropriations committees should explore additional funding lines to allow U.S. Special Operations Command to assume its new paramilitary activities leadership role and draft required legislative language into the next NDAA. An amendment to Section 1202 of the FY18 NDAA, which authorized funding for “the irregular warfare tools and resources required to impede the progress of near peer advances in the competitive space short of war”, would provide a good starting point from which to expand U.S. Special Operations Command’s paramilitary capabilities. Unfortunately, this line of effort was only funded for $10 million dollars in the FY18 NDAA, far beneath the amount needed given the scale of the challenge posed by these competitors. A considerable increase in funding under Section 1202 would enable U.S. Special Operations Command personnel, who are already on the front lines alongside our international allies and partners in the “shadow war” against China, Russia, and Iran, to better counter these competitors’ destabilizing activities in the South China Sea, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Conclusions

Perhaps the most important change that will be required for U.S. Special Operations Command to assume full responsibility for U.S. government-sponsored paramilitary activities will be one of mindset. After almost two decades of mostly overt and highly kinetic counterterrorism activities conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, an argument has been made that U.S. Special Operations Command, as an organization, lacks the mindset necessary for successfully executing irregular activities under politically sensitive conditions. In recognition of this criticism, U.S. Army Special Operations Command established its Office of Special Warfare, organized battalions of troops specifically trained to conduct unconventional warfare, and is assuming its role as U.S. Special Operations Command’s focal point for related activities. Similarly, U.S. Special Operations Command’s Joint Special Operations University, which is based at the command’s headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base, now offers a myriad of courses for U.S. Special Operations Command operators, support personnel, and senior leaders that address these shortcomings. The Joint Special Operations University’s most applicable offering, “Special Operations Forces Sensitive Activities in the Contemporary Operational Environment” (previously called “Covert Action and Special Operations Forces Sensitive Activities”), provides instruction that “explores covert action and sensitive military activities as important options for national security practitioners and decision makers”.

The American people deserve the most effective, efficient, and robust paramilitary capabilities that the nation can muster, and the U.S. government should compel the CIA and Defense Department to execute this recommended restructuring. Close collaboration, coordination, and synchronization of efforts will reinforce the importance of interagency integration and demonstrate the wisdom of this undertaking. This logical effort will, ultimately, better enable the U.S. government to fulfill its most sacred duty to the American people – protecting their vital national interests and way of life from those adversaries and competitors who would endeavor to do them harm.

This article was written by Douglas Livermore who works as a contracted government advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, while also serving as a Special Forces officer in the U.S. Army National Guard. In addition to multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, Doug led special operations elements during contingency operations around the world. He holds a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program and a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The views expressed in his articles are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

Article from the Small Wars Journal, 2 September 2019

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

President Trump Signs executive order to eliminate federal student loan debt for disabled vets

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday a new plan to relieve disabled veterans totally of federal student loan debt. "The debt of disabled veterans will be entirely erased," Trump said during his prepared remarks at the American Veterans 75th National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. "In a few moments, I will sign a memorandum directing the Department of Education to eliminate every penny of federal student loan debt owed by American veterans who are completely and permanently disabled."

About half of the roughly 50,000 disabled veterans who are qualified to have their federal student loan debt forgiven have received the benefit because of an application process that has proven burdensome, the administration said. The memo directs the government to develop an "expedited" process, which the Department of Education said would mean loans are forgiven unless veterans opt out.

Trump addressed a large crowd of veterans at the event, saying, "You fought courageously for your country, and now we’re fighting courageously for you." He also vowed to eliminate "every penny" of an average of $30,000 in federal student loan debt for each of about 25,000 disabled veterans. At the conclusion of his address, the president stayed on stage to sign the executive order in front of the crowd, flanked by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, among others. “That's hundreds of millions of dollars in student debt held by our severely wounded warriors. It's gone forever,” Trump said.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

14th Annual John McLaughlin - Special Forces Association Chapter IX Golf Tournament

On September 14th 2019, our organization will host the 14th annual John McLaughlin Memorial Golf Tournament in memory of a great Special Forces Soldier and request your support. This is one of the Chapter's major fund raising events of the year allowing Chapter IX to provide a number of returns to the El Paso community and our military personal in the form of scholarships, hail and farewell dinners, care packets, and family support to the troops deploying to and returning from combat areas, food baskets to needy families in the El Paso area during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the Special Olympics, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Wounded Warrior Program to name a few.

The event is scheduled for Saturday September 14th 2019 at Underwood Golf Course.

Schedule:
Registration from 0630-0745 AM
Shotgun start at 0800 AM
Includes Breakfast and Lunch
Free Hotdogs and drinks on the course
Mulligans $10 ea or 3 for $20 (Max 3 per player)
Grand Prize Hole in One Contest $20,000
Prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd Place Teams
Door Prizes
Closest to the Pin on all Par 3
Longest Drive
Goodie Bag
Raffle
Putting Contest

Player Information:

4 person Team $400
Individual Registration $100

Sponsor Participation:

Major Sponsor $5,000
Shirt Sponsor $3,000
Lunch Sponsor $1,000
Team Sponsor $400
Hole Sponsor $100

Major Sponsor receives a 3’x6’ banner with your organization’s logo and SFA Chapter IX logo. You will also receive a free team slot for four of your designated players.

Shirt sponsor will have their company logo along with the SFA Chapter logo on all golf polo’s for players.

Lunch Sponsor will be recognized the day of the tournament and receives a professionally designed signs, which will be displayed prominently at the clubhouse.

Team Sponsor will be recognized the day of the tournament and receives a professionally designed sign, which will be displayed prominently at tee boxes.

Hole Sponsor receives a professionally designed sign displayed prominently at a tee box.

Payments can be made at: https://squareup.com/market/sfa-chapter-9 or mailed to: SFA Chapter 9, PO Box 16212 El Paso TX, 79906. Make payments out to: SFA Chapter 9

Sponsors or others are welcome to donate products that would be used for: goodie bags, door prizes, gift certificates, etc. Gift Donations for raffles or door prizes will be recognized on tournament publications. Higher value donations will also be recognized by a sign placed at tee boxes.

If you have any questions, please contact Ike Camacho @ 915-591-1560, Gus Gonzalez @ 915-701-9013 or Al Hobbs @ 915-309-0276.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Two Green Berets killed in Afghanistan

The Army has identified two Special Forces soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, as the casualties in the country hit the highest level in five years. Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, were killed during combat operations in Faryab province, located in the far northwest of Afghanistan along the border with Turkmenistan.

Both soldiers were assigned to 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. They were posthumously promoted to master sergeant. “It was an honor having them serve within the ranks of 7th SFG (A). They were a part of our family, and will not be forgotten,” said Col. John W. Sannes, 7th Group commander, in a statement. “Our priority is to now provide the best possible care to the families of our fallen warriors,” Sannes added. “We ask that you keep their families and teammates in your thoughts and prayers.”

Gonzalez, a native of La Puente, California, first arrived at 7th Group’s 1st Battalion in 2014. DeLeon-Figueroa was a native of Chicopee, Massachusetts, who had served more than 13 years in the Army and deployed six times during his career. He deployed as an infantryman to Iraq in 2008, and to Afghanistan in 2010. As a Green Beret, he deployed to South America in 2015 and 2018, and to Afghanistan in 2018 and 2019.

DeLeon-Figueroa completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Group, in 2014 — first as a Special Forces communications sergeant, or 18E, and then as a Special Forces operations and intelligence sergeant, or 18F. DeLeon-Figueroa’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with valor device, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with one Campaign Star and the NATO Medal.

During his career, DeLeon-Figueroa was a recipient of the Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge, Parachutist Badge and Air Assault Badge.

The two Green Beret deaths bring the number of U.S. troops killed in action this year to 14, according to Defense Department figures. Another 85 U.S. service members have been wounded so far this year. Another Green Beret was killed by small arms fire in Faryab in July. The last two U.S. deaths in Afghanistan were paratroopers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who were killed in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province, in a suspected insider attack in late July.

This year has been the deadliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the mission to the country scaled down in 2015 and changed names from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. The previous highest annual death toll for U.S. troops since the new mission began was reached last year with 13 troops killed. In 2014, roughly 40 U.S. troops were killed.

The latest deaths come on the same day that the Taliban and U.S. diplomats reportedly resumed peace negotiations in Qatar. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met one-on-one with the Taliban’s lead negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, according to the Associated Press.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Marine Raider Killed in Iraq - RIP Gunnery Sergeant Koppenhafer

A Marine Raider was killed Saturday 10 August 2019 by enemy small arms fire while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. Gunnery Sgt. Scott Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colo., died Aug. 10 in an incident that is still under investigation, according to a Pentagon announcement. Koppenhafer was assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, part of the Marine Forces Special Operations Command out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.

According to a separate statement released Saturday by U.S. Central Command, an unnamed service member was killed during an Iraqi Security Force mission in Ninewah Province, Iraq, while advising and accompanying the ISF during a planned operation. That statement came out before the Pentagon released Koppenhafer’s name.

The following is the text of the Pentagon statement on Aug. 11: The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Gunnery Sergeant Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos, Colorado, died August 10, 2019, after being engaged by enemy small arms fire while conducting combat operations. This incident is under investigation. Koppenhafer was assigned to the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, Marine Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Lucien Conein, Legendary OSS, Special Forces and CIA Officer - Forgotten by the USASOC History Office?

The USASOC History Office caused quite a stir in the US Special Forces and Intelligence community with its eyebrow-raising article about OSS influence on Special Forces, published in Veritas in 2018. Troy Sacquety, author of this article, concluded that “a grossly disproportionate share of the pioneering influence” was incorrectly attributed to the OSS veterans who joined early Special Forces. Sacquety also noted - in no uncertain terms - that this erroneous conferment was the result of “disinformation and exaggeration by the active force and veteran associations”.

Sacquety’s research methodology was simple: by-name comparisons between the list of OSS personnel, against the rosters of personnel assigned between 1952 and 1954 to the SF Department at the Psychological Warfare Center and School (PWCS), the 10th Special Forces Group (SFG); officers assigned to the 77th SFG; and 99 SF-trained personnel sent to serve in Korea. The data revealed that only fourteen former OSS members were part of the early Special Forces (SF). Sacquety subsequently remarks that “the total number of former OSS veterans in SF was less than one percent of the total of 1,169 SF soldiers”.

David S. Maxwell, a retired US Army Special Forces Colonel, responded in Small Wars Journal by noting that rather than only assess the numbers of OSS members in early SF, USASOC History Office would “do a great service by reminding readers that today’s SF assessment and selection, organization (especially the ODA), training, doctrine, and most important the foundational mission of SF, unconventional warfare, are directly related to and descended from the OSS”. Maxwell was also right in remarking that USASOC History Office undermined its own argument by emphasizing that the five former OSS instructors (identified in the Veritas’ article), were the ones “who provided the most influence from their OSS experiences on the developing force”. Finally, Maxwell adds that there were at least fifteen - not fourteen - former OSS who served in SF from 1952 to 1954: USASOC History Office's list failed to include Robert McDowell, who served with the OSS in Yugoslavia.

One could argue about Sacquety’s conclusion whether OSS influence on SF is exaggerated or not, his quantitative analysis of the number of OSS veterans in early SF is interesting. However, what exactly constitutes “early SF”? Why did Sacquety’s limit the time period to 1952-1954? What if he had included 1955, 1956, or the late fifties - when SF was still in its “pioneering” phase? Would this have led to different research findings? The answer is “yes”.

One example of an OSS veteran who joined SF in 1956 - and is thus not included in the Veritas’ article - is the legendary CIA officer Lucien Conein (see photo at right). When Conein passed in 1998, major newspapers, worldwide, devoted obituaries. The Washington Post even included a photo of Conein - wearing a beret with an SF flash. Who was this Conein and what was his contribution to early SF?

Lucien Emile Conein was born on 29 November 1919 in Paris. He grew up in Kansas city, having been sent there at age five by his widowed mother to be raised by his World War I-bride aunt. He joined the U.S. army in 1939 but transferred to the French army - Conein had retained his French citizenship - at the outbreak of WW2. After the fall of France, he returned to the US and became part of the 143rd Field Artillery Regiment. In the spring and summer of 1943, Conein went through Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning. In October that year, he volunteered for service with the OSS. Conein became a Jedburgh officer and was parachuted in occupied France in the late summer of 1944. After VE-Day, Conein was sent to French Indochina by the OSS and fought with guerrillas against Japanese forces.

In 1946 and 1947, Conein served in several (counter-)intelligence units but was eventually transferred to the CIA in 1948. Conein retained his military rank and position as a cover. In the early fifties, Conein was assigned to the Saigon Military Mission, which was headed by the renowned CIA officer Edward Lansdale - another former OSS officer. Among other things, Conein formed stay-behind groups that were to become operational when the Viet Minh would take over. In 1955, Conein returned stateside and served briefly in Washington. On 6 November 1956, the CIA officer was suddenly transferred to the 77th Special Forces, where he would stay until May 1959.

How did Conein, as a fulltime CIA officer, suddenly wind up with the 77th Special Forces Group? Conein himself clarified:

“I had been on detail to the OSS and the SSU, CIG [sic], and CIA since 1943, and there it was 1956. I had not had troop duty in the proper sense, so the Army informed me that if I wanted to get promoted from a major that I had to go back to school and I had to go and take troop duty. So in typical Army fashion they wanted me to get away from everything that has to do with the CIA or anything like a special operations or anything like that. I’ll be darned. My orders came up, I had to go to down and take the advanced course at Fort Benning, which I had not taken. Then I was assigned to the 77th Special Forces Group. I said “What?”. They got me out of what I’m doing so that I wouldn’t do this anymore and do strictly military and here I’m going to play hide the weinie with troops with green beanies on their heads”.

According to the Veritas’ article ‘Training the Trainers’ (2009) Conein was one of four senior officers who was recruited by SF in the second half of the fifties “to get the 77th SFG up to the standard”. Experienced officers were needed because the Special Forces “could not perform their primary wartime mission”. Conein, together with his new colleagues, was to “add impetus to a soon to be established accelerated training program”.

Major Conein soon acted as project officer of the Basic Free Fall Parachuting Course and became the first officer in charge of Military Free Fall training within the Special Warfare Center. In 1958, Conein became Commanding Officer of Detachment FC-2. Later that year, he commanded Detachment FC-1. Conein’s last duty in Fort Bragg was Assistant Group Executive Officer for HQ Company 77th Special Forces Group. Later, Conein returned to Vietnam for the CIA - now in the rank of lieutenant colonel - and was appointed by Henry Cabot Lodge (President Kennedy's ambassador to Vietnam) as liaison with the generals that plotted the coup against President Ngo Dinh Diem. Conein retired from the CIA in 1968 and ended his career with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The above has shown that Lucien Conein - former OSS officer - was a senior figure within early SF. His contribution to SF should not have been overlooked by USASOC History Office. When OSS veterans such as Conein and McDowell have been omitted by USASOC History Office, the following question arises: who else is not included? Let’s hope this article “adds impetus” to a more thorough analysis of former OSS personnel that served with the Special Forces.

This article was written by Jelle Hooiveld, who is a PhD Candidate of Military History at Leiden University (The Netherlands), a Security & Intelligence Lecturer/Adviser, and the author of two books about Dutch Jedburgh teams.

Posted on the Small Wars Journal

Friday, August 2, 2019

Military Suicides Reach Highest Rate Since Record-Keeping Began After 9/11

While suicide remains a rare event among U.S. troops, 325 active-duty members died by suicide in 2018, the highest number since the Defense Department began collecting the data in 2001 and exceeding a record set in 2012. According to a report released this week by the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, 139 active-duty soldiers, 68 sailors, 60 airmen and 58 Marines died by suicide last year, 40 more service members than the previous year.

The figure is higher than the sum of deaths reported by the individual services in January -- the result of continued death investigations -- and tragically exceeds the previous record of 321 in 2012. For three of the services, the numbers represent an increase over the previous year. The Army in 2017 saw 114 deaths by suicide, the Navy, 65, and the Marine Corps, 43. Only the Air Force saw a decline in suicide from the previous year. In 2017, it had 63.

Earlier this year, Defense Department officials said the rates of suicide, which provide a more accurate understanding of the occurrence among the military population, are "devastating and unacceptable and not going in the desired direction." "My colleagues and I know that every single life lost is a tragedy and each one has a deeply personal story. With each death, we know there are families and often children with shattered lives," Elizabeth Van Winkle, Director of the DoD’s Office of Force Resiliency, told members of Congress during a joint hearing on veterans and military suicide May 21.

The military deaths reflect a national trend. In the U.S. the suicide rate has increased by 33% since 1999, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 10 to 34 years old.

The Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments have collaborated on efforts to reduce suicide in the ranks and among veterans, who die by suicide at an average rate of 20 a day. The Defense Department is preparing to issue a comprehensive report on military suicides this summer, and the two departments are gearing up for a joint conference on suicide, scheduled to be held in Nashville this August.

An analysis of Defense Department suicides in 2017 published this year found that roughly half of those who completed suicide that year had a known mental health condition and half had contact with the military health system within 90 days of their deaths. Most were male (95%) and white (81%) and more than half had a history of deployment (57%).

According to the report, the suicide rate in 2017 among active duty troops was 21.9 deaths per 100,000 members, a slight uptick from the 2016 rate of 21.5 per 100,000, but not considered a "statistically significant" increase. The age-adjusted civilian rate, which includes American civilians and service members, is 17.4 deaths per 100,000.

The year-end figures for 2018 showed a drop in suicides in the Reserve component, from 226 in 2017 to 216 in 2018. There were two more deaths among National Guard members in 2018 from the previous year, 135 up from 133. The National Guard continues to have the highest rate of suicide among components, at 29.1 suicides per 100,000 people.

In addition to publishing the data for 2018, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office released information on the number of suicides by military personnel in the first quarter of 2019. From January through March, 90 active duty service members died by suicide, including 30 soldiers, 20 sailors, 26 airmen and 14 Marines. In the same time frame in 2018, 81 service members died by suicide: 36 soldiers, 23 sailors, 9 airmen and 13 Marines.

Van Winkle said each loss “reverberates beyond the unit, beyond the commander and beyond the service” and the Defense Department and services remain committed to the well-being of service members. “We must meet that sacred obligation because we need each and every woman and man who bravely signs up to fight for this nation,” she said.

The Coast Guard, which is in the Department of Homeland Security, does not publish its suicide data and has not provided the information despite multiple requests from Military.com. An unverified list posted online by a Coast Guard veteran who walks to support suicide awareness and prevention said at least four Coast Guard men and women died by suicide in 2018.

Article from Military Times

Monday, July 29, 2019

'Last Out’ brings one Green Beret’s war stories to the stage

It can be difficult for veterans to make their friends and family fully understand what they went through while deployed. A new stage play is trying to help bridge that comprehension gap. “Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret” is currently on a 20-city national tour, including three shows this Memorial Day Weekend on May 24-25 at Northern Virginia Community College’s campus in Annandale, Va. The play follows Master Sgt. Danny Patton on a journey back through his life after he is mortally wounded.

“It seems like all the stories these days are about the first stand,” said Scott Mann, the show’s playwright, star and a Green Beret veteran. “You usually don’t hear the stories about the last out … and that’s what this play is really about, the universal story of the ‘long war.’”

The show features four military-affiliated actors playing 13 different characters who reveal more and more about Danny’s experiences before and after he became a Green Beret. All the proceeds it earns go to The Heroes Journey, a nonprofit founded by Mann and his wife Monty dedicated to giving veterans the confidence and tools to tell their own stories.

In “Last Out,” audiences get to see both Danny’s civilian life and relive the traumatic experiences he went through as a Green Beret while he is trapped in a no-man’s land between his fire base in Afghanistan and his family’s living room back home.

“It’s representative of the purgatory so many warriors are in,” Mann said. “When you’re at home you’re wishing you’re at combat, and when you’re at combat you’re wishing you’re at home.”

There are only four actors in the whole show, including Mann, who spent 18 of his 23 years in the Army as a Green Beret; Bryan Bachman, a former Army paratrooper; Leonard Bruce, also a former Green Beret; and Ame Livingston, the play’s director and a military family member.

Green Berets are like “a modern-day Lawrence of Arabia,” as Mann put it, in that their main job is to parachute behind enemy lines and work with indigenous people to help them stand up to their oppressors. He did that all over the world during his time as a Green Beret in places like Ecuador, Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Peru and Panama. He helped create a program, called the Afghan Local Police/Village Stability Operations, designed to teach Afghans to create a local bulwark against the Taliban. And he published “Game Changers,” a book about how this and similar programs can be made to work.

Mann joined the Army in 1996, but was profoundly affected by 9/11 after his best friend Cliff Patterson was killed in the attack on the Pentagon. It led him down a dark path both during and after his service. Storytelling helped Mann reconnect with himself and the world, and he hopes to do the same for others with “Last Out.”

He said he wrote this show both to “inform civilians” about the horrors service members endured while at war and “heal veterans” through validating their experiences in the form of live theater. Mann said that he loves bringing together audiences full of civilians, active-duty personnel, veterans, Gold Star families and more. “Everyone in that room feels like they’ve gone to war with Master Sgt. Danny Patton,” he said.

He is also particularly pleased with the way his show portrays military families, which he believes is another victory for theatrical military representation. “You really get an honest look at what this life is like trying to get through deployment after deployment,” he said.

What he’s most proud of, though, are the veterans who have told him they feel seen after watching “Last Out” and the sister of a Green Beret who told him that she learned more about her brother’s military-induced trauma in 85 minutes than she did in five years of him trying to explain it to her. “Whether you’ve served in the military or not, it will really help you better understand the impact of war,” Mann said.



Article from the Military Times

Monday, July 22, 2019

Green Berets are busy in China’s backyard

The United States wants to be the preferred military partner for the countries surrounding China, and the Army’s 1st Special Forces Group has been working that angle for decades. But this year has seen new lines of effort. From deploying a response team to Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday bombings, to kickstarting a new Mongolian trainer force, to training with Philippine troops to retake islands from a peer adversary in the South China Sea, 1st Group has been busy. “The fundamentals remain the same,” Col. Owen Ray, commander of 1st Group, said at the Pentagon Wednesday. “Long-standing relations are what endure. Those are what give us a comparative advantage against near-peer competitors.”

Failing to establish good military-to-military relations with partner nations has downstream effects as the Pentagon begins competing with China in the region, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Curran, 1st Group’s senior enlisted leader. “After the coup in Thailand we severed a significant amount of mil-to-mil engagement, which is to be expected,” Curran said. “But in that space, in that vacuum of time, we lost a lot of traction.”

Curran said he’s been rotating in and out of Asia for 20 years. One Thai military officer he grew close to in that time and who now leads an elite counter-terrorism force has often come to the United States for training, including attending Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “[He’s] very pro-American,” Curran said. “His subordinate captains, who he’s bringing up and who he’s going to carry with him through the hierarchy of the Thai military, had no desire to come to the United States.” “They want to go train in Russia and China,” Curran added. “That’s one of the impacts we notice at the ground level.”

Authoritarian upswings and regional politics can make it difficult to justify to Congress and the American public why the Pentagon is working with certain countries’ security forces. But keeping those programs running through turbulent times, or at least doubling down when it’s feasible to restart them, can yield benefits in the long run.

Return on investment

Many of the gains from partner force training missions take years to surface in a tangible way that lawmakers can point to as evidence of money well-spent. Around 2001, 1st Group soldiers began training Philippine Rangers who would eventually form the Light Reaction Regiment, the Philippine Army’s premier counter-terrorism and special mission unit.

That force saw early action in the mid-2000s against the Abu Sayyaf terror group on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Later on, they proved pivotal in the campaign to uproot the Islamic State during the 2017 Battle of Marawi. “We work with these guys — very small footprint, very low political cost, very low financial cost — over a period of time, and then we get a result like Marawi," Curran said. “They were able to take the lead, no U.S. forces got involved and they countered ISIS in a strategic location we care a lot about in great power competition.”

Green Berets are no longer teaching Philippine special operators how to shoot, Curran noted. The training has turned to command and control, running a battlefield and complex operations, such as the island seizure training that one 1st Group company conducted with Philippine forces in their northwestern region of Luzon this April. “You have incursions by China into Philippine economic zones, getting after their fishing, pressing on the Spratly [islands],” Ray said. “It was in that larger geostrategic context ... that the Philippine armed forces wanted to train a forced entry, take back sovereign terrain scenario."

Exercises like that help alleviate the need for immediate U.S. support in the event of a crisis. After all, American forces suffer under the “tyranny of distance” when looking to operate far from home in the Indo-Pacom theater, Ray said.

Today, though, the information space also presents new challenges for the U.S. military as it works to send the right messages to would-be allies. “The things we are more cognizant of are in the information environment,” Ray said. “It’s a spot where in special operations we have not engaged at the level that we can to demonstrate that we’re the preferred partners in some of the areas we get into.”

Sri Lanka response team

One example of sending the right message came after the Easter Sunday bombings that took more than 250 lives in Sri Lanka on April 21. An Army special operations team was on the ground less than 24 hours after being requested by the U.S. ambassador to the country. The team’s goal was to reach into the “information environment" and find “civil vulnerabilities” to assist U.S. diplomats and Sri Lankan officials in ensuring the situation wouldn’t "cascade into more violence,” Ray said.

Sri Lanka has a very small Islamic population, but also a turbulent history of violence between the Buddhist majority and some fringe Hindu groups. There was serious concern in the aftermath of the bombings, which were claimed by ISIS and targeted Christian worshipers, that there would be retaliation against the Muslim community, creating another cycle of violence.

The U.S. team that was brought in consisted of psychological operations, civil affairs and Special Forces soldiers, according to Maj. Rich Hutton, a civil affairs officer, who responded with the team. “As the reporting came out and we learned more about where the bombers came from and the communities that existed, we looked at our projects and ways we could better target some of the humanitarian assistance work we do with our partners at USAID," Hutton said. Much of their time was spent highlighting grievances among communities that were at risk of potentially flaring up. Those recommendations were then taken by the U.S. embassy staff for long-term outreach projects with Sri Lankan officials.

Mongolia gets cashflow

One initiative that took off this year involved the Mongolian armed forces. Mongolian officials approached the U.S. military for help starting a mobile training team to prepare its forces for United Nations peacekeeping missions. “Mongolia is a very remote country, so they bring all their forces in to train them up,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Lake, a 1st Group senior weapons sergeant who spent the past six months training Mongolian troops. “So what they want to do is have a mobile training team that can go around to countryside areas, far-flung areas and train their forces to be prepared for these missions," Lake added.

The effort has been ongoing for the last two years, but it received a major boon with the allocation of $23.8 million this year. The money was divied out under Section 333, a budgetary authority that funds the training of partner forces that will eventually participate in activities like international coalitions and counter-terrorism. “Obviously they’re in a really geostrategic location,” Ray said. “They’ve asked for our help and it’s a place where we absolutely are adamant to strengthen.” “We’re creating that partnership because we’ve had limited engagement with them in the past,” Lake added. “So these relationships we’re building in this unit they want to create will continue on in the future.”

ISIS’ foreign fighters head home

Amid the backdrop of a rising China, the lingering threat of Islamic terrorism continues to dot the Asia Pacific region. The defeat of ISIS’ physical caliphate in the Middle East has analysts worried that the group’s many foreign fighters will return to their home countries and begin wreaking havoc. “There’s always a threat that you have to monitor and watch," Ray said. “Whether its returning foreign fighters or any increase in terrorism in Southeast Asia.”

ISIS’ defeat at Marawi by Philippine security forces showed what maintaining long-term relationships with allied militaries can accomplish in the face of such threats. Continued training opportunities through exercises like Balikatan, Cobra Gold and Rim of the Pacific helps teach partner forces to do the heavy lifting when terror groups and other threats flare up in the region. But as it stands, the Islamic terror threat in the Indo-Pacom theater appears contained, according to the 1st Group commander. “I think we’re well-postured with the right partners for them to have the capacity to deal with some of these and keep it at a regional, internal issue and not a transnational issue,” Ray said.

Article from the Army Times

Monday, July 15, 2019

Green Beret Sergeant Major KIA in Afghanistan

Sgt. Maj. James G. “Ryan” Sartor, 40, a Special Forces company sergeant major, died Saturday during combat operations in Faryab province, Afghanistan, the Army announced Sunday. Sartor was assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He died from injuries from enemy small arms fire, according to a Defense Department release. He joined the Army in June 2001 and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division as an infantryman. After he completed the Special Forces Qualification Course, Sartor was assigned to 10th SFG (A) in 2005.

Sartor had deployed numerous times, according to a release from U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He first deployed to Iraq as an infantryman in 2002. As a Green Beret, he was deployed in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 with 2nd Battalion, 10th Group. He also deployed with the 10th to Afghanistan in 2017 and 2019. “We’re incredibly saddened to learn of Sgt. Maj. James ‘Ryan’ Sartor’s passing in Afghanistan. Ryan was a beloved warrior who epitomized the quiet professional," said Col. Brian R. Rauen, commander of 10th Group. “He led his soldiers from the front and his presence will be terribly missed.”

Sartor’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Award, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Valorous Unit Award with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster and National Defense Service Medal, among others. He has been posthumously awarded the Purple Heart medal and Bronze Star medal. Sartor also earned the Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge and Special Operations Diver Badge.

RIP Warrior! Thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Article from the Army Times