Category Archives: SF History and Lore

SF: Playing Hurt

SF Recruiting Poster pick it upOne of the things we’ve mentioned before about SF is that we are either bred to Never Quit, trained to Never Quit, or selected because we congenitally Never Quit.

The “why” is, as you can imagine, a matter of dispute to scientists, and of no more than casual interest to us. It’s just a fact of SF life. We are pretty deficient in the genetics, metaphysics, and epistemiology of surrender.

We actually have a course where we teach guys how, if through some screwup you wind up in the enemy’s hands, you can continue to take the war to him from what he mistakenly thinks is hopeless confinement. The course is based on the experiences of real-life SF soldiers like Nick Rowe and Jon Cavaiaini (and, to be fair, men from our sister services, and the experiences of others in history — ally and enemy) who did just that while in the jug in wars gone by. (There’s actually more than one course, but everybody does at least one these days).

Part of Never Quit is Playing Hurt. Sports coaches, players, and fans know what that is. It’s real rare to see an SF guy with a major valor award and no Purple Heart. (It happens. We know of one guy who got 10 Silver Stars and never got tagged, and probably could have had 20 if another part of SF wasn’t We Suck at Paperwork). You’re only at 100% on the first day of Game Season and the enemy, the weather, the conditions, and the mission start attriting you right away.

Over the years we’ve known some legendary guys who played hurt, and won.

The Guys Who Had to Cheat Their Way In

SF PatchLike every other thing out there, SF has entrance standards; before you can go and probably flunk SF Assessment & Selection and on, if you pass, to the SF Qualification Course, you need to tick a number of boxes. Some of these are germane to mission performance: you have to have a working cardiovascular system and decent, or repairable anyway, eyesight. Others are more marginal: is it a big deal if an SF guy has red/green color blindness, which about one in ten males have in some form? Experience says “no,” but the standards say, “yeah.”

Likewise, there’s a limit for corrected and uncorrected vision. (Now that surgery can fix nearsightedness, that’s less of a problem). But we couldn’t pass an honest vision test, back in the day. (So? We arranged a dishonest one. The statute of limitations has run out by now).

Of course, these standards are just one more way in which All of Life is an IQ Test, and yes, guys cheat their way past them. They memorize the order of all the tiles in the color-blindness test book, for example. We knew a guy, Art, who did that. And we learned that there’s a benefit to having a color-blind man on the team: he can see through camouflage better than people whose visual systems have a more normal frequency response curve.

The Guys Who Had to Cheat to Stay In

CrestThen there are the guys who were in, and had some major medical malfunction that was disqualifying.

Chris got news you’d never expect. He ate healthy, didn’t smoke (although he did dip), and was an avid runner and hiker who kept himself trim. And the doctors told him: he had diabetes.

That’s a career-ender right there. But it didn’t. An entire team and later, an entire company, and the battalion and group medical officers, helped him cover it up.

Andy had something that was a bit harder to cover up: a massive heart attack. But we did.

And then there was our own problem, yeah, apart from the vision thing. There was the fact that one leg didn’t really work after an unfortunate parachute jump. Yet we hung on for six more years, despite having an ankle that doesn’t exactly bend.

We’re reminded of an old SF maxim:

If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.

And its corollary:

If you get caught, you’re tryin’ too hard.


Now What Happens?

What happens to guys like Chris and Andy and Art when they get ready to retire? That’s a problem. Because they kept their problems out of their military medical records, they can’t get help from the VA.

Fortunately, that doesn’t leave them materially worse off than anyone else.

And doubly fortunately, there’s a nonprofit that helps special operators who hid their stuff through their time in service, to claim a disability. We have no direct connection to OASIS, but we hear good things about ‘em. If you are a former SOF guy who lied, cheated and stole to stay in Group /on the Teams / in an operational Squadron, they can walk you through doing the necessary stuff to get your paperwork straight.

Active SF and Guard SF — RAND Arroyo Study.

The RAND corporation is a Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation (FFRDC), a nonprofit originally sponsored by the Air Force to do big-forebrain thinking about strategic warfare. It was the original “think tank” and the prototype of many FFRDCs that have materially advanced US defense policy. The Army, not wanting to be neglected, sponsored a RAND sub-center called the Arroyo Center, which does the same kind of think-tanking, but on ground forces issues.

Recently, the Arroyo Center conducted an Army-sponsored study on the Reserve Component Special Forces and their relation to and best employment relative to active-duty SF elements. This hit us right where we live; your humble author spent significant time on active duty (in 10th SFG(A)), in the Clinton-disbanded USAR SF (11th SFG(A)), and in the National Guard SF (20th SFG(A)). Each unit had good people and a unique mix of pros and cons both for unit members and for Army planners who would use the unit, and it was crystal clear that some of these pros and cons alike stemmed from the active vs. reserve-component divide. Thus, we were extremely interested in seeing what RAND’s researchers had to say. This report was completed in 2012 by a team of  John E. “Jed” Peters, Brian Shannon and Matthew E. Boyer, but has only been subject to a lot of discussion in the community this year.

Technical Report–National Guard Special Forces (RAND, 2012).pdf

This had to happen sooner or later, and we’re glad it did — someone noticed that the guard units and active units were different. The active guys have noticed this and assume that it means the guard units were worse, but in actuality, they’re just different, which means that employment decisions ought well to take those differences into consideration.

There are some small differences in the organization of Guard and Active SF units, mostly flowing from the fact that recent changes to the active force structure haven’t been replicated in the Guard.

ARNG groups have general support companies while the AC groups have general support battalions, the AC groups have special troops battalions that the ARNG groups do not, and the AC groups have four-company battalions while the ARNG groups have three-company battalions. They state that these organizational differences interfere with one-for-one interchangeability and the smooth rotation of units through the deployment cycle.

The Active Army works around that, mostly, by using the building blocks that are the same (ODA, ODB/Company, FOB/BN). The one time a Guard officer commanded a major CJSOTF was a thorough success, but the officer and the unit faced a whispering campaign (for example, a Unit Citation for the element was sidetracked and not awarded). Active officers are extremely jealous of command slots and would prefer to use Guard SF soldiers as individual or small unit plus-ups or replacements.

The authors note that SF’s historic flexibility has resulted in the past in the creation of provisional or mission-limited task units which did not survive beyond the length of their intended mission. These include specific task elements (TF Ivory Coast, the Son Tay Raiders), and more durable elements, such as MAC-V SOG and the Greek projects (Delta, Sigma, Omega) of the Vietnam War.

They note that some states do assign their SF elements state missions, and some do not. (The state they mention as not assigning a state mission to their SF company may be Massachusetts). For example, 20th Group soldiers in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi have been instrumental in hurricane relief in their states, along with their states’ other National Guard units.

Locations of Guard SF Units

Who’s Where. Note that Roanoke Rapids is not in VA, but where the map shows it is, in North Carolina.


There’s a lot of commuters to Guard SF units. In our last company (a unit of 84 men), we drew men from at least 12 states. We also had a real problem with our battalion and group being located 1,400 miles away — we were, at best, out of sight, out of mind, and at worst, ripped off.

20th SF soldier-family locations

20th SF soldier-family locations

For example, we found that the Alabama boys tended to retain our slice of new equipment. In one case, they held some SOPMOD II components before a deployment, and only issued it to us after we got back. We don’t think there was anything nefarious happening here (the AL guys were and are great guys), just the effects of propinquity. Not everybody agreed, as the RANDistas noted:

In some instances, these arrangements have prompted feelings of favoritism and unfair- ness, in which subordinate units located in different states from their parent organizations believe that they are discriminated against in favor of in-state subordinates, who as a result enjoy deployment opportunities, priority for new equipment, and priority for training courses that do not accrue to the out-of-state unit.

That’s probably true. We knew that our guys were not going to get a fair shake at battalion or group command, staff, or sergeant major slots. Just the way it worked.

And then there’s this problem (Read The Whole Thing™ to understand it in full, but “Title 32″ means, essentially, “Guard units when not mobilized onto active duty”):

Under Title 32, there is very little coherence in command relationships for Special Forces units.

Boy, is that ever true.

Here’s a chart showing some of the personnel differences:

SF active vs Guard qualifications

This table is a little bit bogus because it was done by adding up the number of 18 series soldier with these qualifications and dividing them by the number of groups. But in addition to the groups, the active component has a large number of 18 series officers and men assigned to the training base or to headquarters, the Joint Readiness Training Center special-ops cadre, etc. The number of non-group 18 series slots is probably at least one group equivalent.

It is not really practical for part-time soldiers to maintain MFF and dive teams. In the last couple of decades, the currency and recency requirements, and the logistical requirements for running a jump or a dive, have exploded; if you were to meet your dive or HALO proficiency requirements, you would literally have to spend 100% of your drill time on that skill alone, neglecting everything else. Accordingly, the active commands parcel out few qualifications schools slots to the Guard, and those Guardsmen that have HALO wings or a Combat Dive bubble usually obtained the qualification on active duty.

Here are the recommendations. We think they speak for themselves:

Screenshot 2015-04-04 13.32.25

The colored numbers are explained by this graph:

Screenshot 2015-04-04 13.32.35


Here are some thoughts of ours that we did not see Peters et. al. take up.

  1. The Guard teams tend to stay together much longer. The Active Army personnel system is so bad that there’s no real way to keep personnel turbulence from wracking your team. When we were on active duty, three months with the same personnel was a long time.
  2. The problem of language proficiency, that they dwell on, comes in part from the Army whipsawing the Guard groups with area, language and priority changes. They do this to their own guys too (it’s not some anti-Guard bias, it’s lack of respect for language as important), but they fund language schools for them much more heavily. Basically, we’ll believe USASOC and USASFC thinks language is important when they start acting like it is important, and providing consistent and stable leadership on it. This, they have never done.



SF Doctrine: Field Manual 3-18

CrestThis document, linked in this post, is official Army doctrine on Special Forces operations. It will be very boring to those of you looking for a JADE HELM smoking gun, or even a lot of nuts and bolts about how SF does things; most of those details live in team and unit SOPs, and those don’t circulate beyond the community.

FM 3-18 is less than a year old and covers many thing better than previous editions of itself and its forerunner (FM 31-20 and 31-21). Among the things it covers better is SF integration with ARSOF and joint conventional forces, and it even includes an excellent and accurate recounting of SF origins and history.

Special Forces units are oriented to specific missions and regions. This drives their area studies, contingency mission planning, and language and cultural training. A unit’s area orientation is expressed in mission tasking letters, which are classified documents. Until relatively recently, the general orientation of specific SF elements to specific unified combatant commands was classified SECRET, even though it was very widely known and ridiculously easy for anyone to figure out. In this unclassified document, the regional orientations (which are adjusted from time to time) finally come out of the closet. Old-timers will note the disappearance of LANTCOM; its mission and responsibilities were divided among NORTHCOM, EUCOM, and Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) beginning in 1993; JFCOM has since been disestablished.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 14.26.27

In addition to the Special Forces units, some other ARSOF and other services’ SOF plan to fall in on specific commands in specific contingencies, but none has the highly developed, long-standing and persistent area orientation of Special Forces.

There are many key ideas to be distilled from this document, for instance:

The following five criteria provide guidelines for conventional and SF commanders and planners to use when considering the employment of SF:

  1. It must be an appropriate SF mission or activity. SF should be used to achieve effects that require its specific skills and capabilities.
  2. The mission or tasks should support the [Joint Force Commander’s] campaign or operation plan or special activities.

  3.  The mission or tasks must be operationally feasible. SF is not structured for attrition or force-on- force warfare and should not be assigned missions beyond their capabilities.
  4. Required resources must be available to execute the mission. Some SF missions require support from other forces for success.
  5. The expected outcome of the mission must justify the risks. Commanders must make sure the benefits of successful mission execution justify the inherent risks.

Doctrine like this is catnip to force and strategic planners. It tells them what units can and can’t do; it alerts them to the range of practical possibilities. With any luck it fires their imagination.

SF has evolved a good bit since we first darkened their door in the long black night of the Carter Administration. In the 1980s, SF avoided disbandment by offering commanders the capability to conduct deep strike and strategic or special reconnaissance. Despite the wonderful array of technical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems today, there has proven to be no substitute for intelligent, American (or American-controlled), human eyes on target. SF has proven to be a great distributor of “ground truth.” But the evolution of other SOF elements has produced other units that can do eyes-on-target, and that can do DA missions. (In some cases, some specific combinations of unit and mission, they do these missions better, and in some, not as well, as SF would do).

USASOC has identified 13 different principal tasks that special operations units must conduct. Of these it she’s the following nine, in the brown boxes, suitable to a greater or lesser extent for SF units.

Screenshot 2015-04-03 14.08.52


Since the 1970s development of units specially oriented towards surgical strike tasks, SF has concentrated more of the “green spectrum” of special warfare tasks. Only a small subset of SF, now called the Crisis Force (formerly, the Commander’s Interim/Intervention Force or CIF) maintains proficiency and currency in surgical strike tactics, techniques and procedures.

More SF doctrine document discussion Real Soon Now™.


Oops. We meant to attach the document. Heck, that was the whole point of this post. Here:

(U) Special Forces Operations, FM 3-18, May2014

OSS Operational Group Resources

phillips_greek_patchApparently it’s a thing for mouth-breathing rappers to say that they’re “OGs,” meeting “original gangsters.” (Sorry, gangstas. We forget that spelling is a marker of white privilege or some such twaddle, and authenticity means pretending you’re retarded in some circles).

By “original,” given the deep awareness of history possessed by most rappers, they’re probably referring to last Tuesday.

We got your OGs, gentlemen. These are the OGs, the OSS Operational Groups. Do not mess with them or their memory. These are our people.

OSS OG 2 in Greece pic26X

Lt Nick Pappas (center) and OG 2 in Greece. Note TSMGs, BARs,and 2.36″ rocket launcher.

The OSS OGs were a gang that was capable of taking turf from their rival gang, which was called the Axis. Each Operational Group comprised 30-odd officers and men, prepared and trained for operations in uniform deep behind enemy lines. They operated in most theaters of war: in Europe, France, Italy, Yugoslavia and Greece; in the CBI, China, Burma, Siam (Thailand), and Indochina. They were infiltrated by parachute, light aircraft, speedboats and native fishing boats, and sometimes even walked in. They were the most direct ancestor of US Army Special Forces, even though SF would never receive any of their lineage or honors.

We’ve mentioned them recently, but thought we would offer you some links to more resources on the OGs.
1. The OG manual, 25 April 1944, via the main Internet Archive page…

…and .pdf version

Sample of the common sense within:

Since OG personnel operate in uniform they must rely on concealment and secrecy to safeguard their operations. Concealment,is of particular important to OG’s because- they are small in number and can be severely weakened by the loss of even a few men. Prior to their entry, OG’s should be issued camouflage clothing appropriate to the season and terrain. OG’s will be obliged in most cases to avoid cities and towns where the enemy or his agents may be encountered. Semi­ permanent concealment in mountainous or forested areas may be available, and native sympathizers will be induced to provide hiding-places in their homes and barns when this is feasible. In some areas enemy con­ trols may be so rigid as to compel OG’s to keep on the move, changing bivouac sites frequently.

2. CGSC paper by MAJ John W, Shaver III, USA, 1993: Office of the Strategic Services: Operational Groups in France During World War II, July-October 1944:

3. Greek/American OG Memoirs of WWII:

This one is really good!

4. OG History site with the missions, code names and AARs of most of the European OGs and the Chinese ones. Some of the missions (like the recently updated AAR from the Italian CAYUGA group) are really classic SF UW missions, exactly what we try to drill in training exercises like Robin Sage and JADE PALM 15.

5. Official history page on the OGs. (Other pages linked here explain the other elements of OSS, letting you see where the OGs fit into that big picture).

The 2671st Special Reconnaissance Battalion, Separate (Provisional), is or was:

Here’s a question for all y’all (or in our native New England turkey-herdish, for youse guys). Answer after the jump:

The 2671st Special Reconnaissance Battalion, Separate (Provisional), is or was: free polls


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More Jade Helm Full Retard®

YouTube is a great place to look for proof of the proposition that half of everybody is below average. Here’s a screenshot of some of the people who don’t know that you Never Go Full Retard®.

Screenshot 2015-03-27 18.55.27


OK, they’re a little bit… nuts, eh? Or, perhaps, cognitively challenged? They just don’t know that the Academy doesn’t like it when you go full retard.

But surely that’s all of them, right? Er, no….

Screenshot 2015-03-27 18.55.58


“Texas FEMA Domes?” “Synagogue of Satan?” (Tip, folks. Learn something about other religions before you form opinions on them. There are people who worship in synagogues. Oddly enough, the God they worship is not Satan. Or Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, Baal, or The Lightworker. (Yeah, we slipped that in to see if you were paying attention). As far as FEMA oppressing you is concerned, you do realize that these guys can’t even get MREs to a flood or tornado scene in two weeks. If you see someone’s tongue stuck to a cold window, and his pants are on inside out, that’s the FEMA guy.

“Red Dawn Texas”? Oh, brother. Full Retard®. But if the actual YouTubes are retarded, you should see the imbecility in the comments:

Screenshot 2015-03-27 18.56.23

Plasma Burns? We’ll tell you what burns: stupid. In some of these cases it spontaneously combusts on exposure to oxygen.

Hey, the Three Stooges only played at being this stupid, and they entertained people.

After the jump, there’s a guy who claims to be former SF, and who talks sense (we don’t know him, nor does the retired SF field-grade who found the link) in his YouTube. And yes, all the spastic goonery above was in response to this good-natured, calm and patriotic video by Pastor Joe Fox (if we got his name right) on the next page

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No, SF is NOT preparing for civil war. Sheesh…. (long)

jh_logo This is the look of panic:

CIVIL WAR PREP: Pentagon To Conduct “Realistic Military Training” For War On American Soil Against “Insurgents”

The Pentagon looks like they’re gearing up for a civil war by releasing information about ‘realistic military training’

This is where we usually say, “Read The Whole Thing™” but that pretty much is the whole thing But if you’re disbelieving still, go thither yourself: CIVIL WAR PREP: Pentagon To Conduct “Realistic Military Training” For War On American Soil Against “Insurgents” | Doug Giles | #ClashDaily.

Here come the MC-130Js full of Rangers. Oh noes!

Here come the MC-130Js full of Rangers. Oh noes! “I said, ‘Don’t look, Ethel.’ But it was too late. She looked.”

There are other, even more partisan and more conspiratorial, sites that are even more wound up over this than Doug Giles is.

Which is really saying something. Because he’s wound up to the point where he renamed the briefing slides from their anodyne Army verbiage to: Jade-Helm-Martial-Law-WW3-Prep-Document. 

He’s aghast that The Iron Curtain of Fascism is Descending on America. (Harumph optional). That “Martial Law” title as much as anything shows that some guys have gone to 11 on the rheostat of outrage without understanding the thing that they’re so upset about. No, it’s not a preparation for Martial Law, although it may be a prep for WW3 — in somebody else’s country.

The evidence before us is a set of unclassified briefing slides for an SF and SOF unconventional warfare exercise — basically, guerilla and underground role-playing — that will take place across the southwestern United States. Jade Helm is a series of SOF and SOF-heavy exercises (in which conventional forces exercising their capabilities are also used as SOF training aids) that has been running for a while. For any veteran of Special Forces the slides will strongly recall other UW exercises, notably the culmination exercise of SF training, which has been coded Robin Sage for a very long time. (Previously it had other names, like Gobblers Woods).


Jade Helm differs from FTX Robin Sage in several ways:

  • It is not an initial training evolution, the main objective of which is to educate, train and evaluate individuals on the cusp of Special Forces qualification. Instead, it is a collective training exercise designed to improve, enhance and evaluate fully-qualified special operations units.
  • It is not contained in a small area where these exercises have been going on for years, such as the areas of Bavaria and the Palatinate where Exercise Schwarzes Pferd (Black Horse) took place during the Cold War, or the rural region of North Carolina where Robin Sage historically takes place.
  • It is not restricted to the participation of SF ODAs, the 12-man Operational Detachment Alpha that is the fundamental organic element of SF. (For SEALs, the equivalent is the platoon). ODAs are designed to split into two elements of roughly equal capability, to task-organize into even smaller elements with specialized capabilities where needed, and to assemble into larger units and efforts freely. They also can form the backbone of a large element of foreign irregular or regular forces, as leaders, advisors or trainers. Along with the ODAs, this exercise will shake down several ODBs (a task-organized element based on the HQ of an SF company supported by one or more ODAs and non-SF support personnel), and a Special Forces Operations Base (SFOB) based on a reinforced Group or Battalion headquarters.
  •  Jade Helm is not an SF exercise exclusively, but one that will also employ other ARSOF, joint SOF, including at least one MARSOC CSOT. The Marines were screwed in 2007 when they trained for Direct Action missions and were delivered into a theater that was expecting a UW-trained and culturally-preadapted element. We’re betting they will do much better in 2015, given the chance to prepare and train for the UW mission, and the record MARSOC has achieved in the interim.

Far from teaching SOF troops to operate the mechanism of a police state, exercises like Jade Helm give SOF troops critically needed experience operating against and inside the territory of a police state. Normally the “police” and “secret police” role players are selected from soldiers and real police. The “guerillas” can be conventional Army or Guard soldiers, or even ROTC cadets, friendly foreign troops, and in one case I’m aware of, were civilian volunteers. (The SJA put the kibosh on ever doing that again. Unfortunately).

These briefing slides were freely provided to local officials, in order to secure their cooperation in an exercise that will play out across their territory. In specific, these slides were for certain Texas authorities. Some genius at the command thought that that the slides were self-explanatory. As the current “martial law!!!1!!” hullaballoo shows, they’re not, unless you’re well steeped in Unconventional Warfare doctrine and fluent in its acronyms. As a public service, we’ll provide the slides here as a free download and explain what’s going on.

JADE HELM 15 Request to Conduct RMT.pdf

There are 12 slides. We will tell you for each slide what it means, OK? But in order to keep the stretch of this long post on the front page of the blog to a minimum, we’ll tell you after the jump.

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“New” Mission for Army SOF

Charles T ClevelandThe Fayetteville Observer has an interesting story on a public briefing at UNC-Chapel Hill on new missions for ARSOF. But they’re really not “new” so much as they’re “newly recognized;” under this new doctrine the military will be doing things it did during the Indian wars, the Philippine occupation and in many counter-insurgency operations and advisory deployments for the best part of a century.

The difference, perhaps, is that while in those wars remotely stationed officers were left to fly by the seat of their pants and improvise outside the framework of military doctrine, new unconventional warfare doctrine is going to give them something solid upon which their great-grandsons’ can base future improvisations.

[USACOM Commander LTG Charles T. Cleveland] said that for the first time in its 60-year history, Army special operations forces have written their own doctrine, better spelling out to other Army leaders how their unconventional warfare fits into the Army’s core competencies.
That could lead to better efforts in what Cleveland called the “messy middle” between conventional and special operations forces – counterinsurgency.

Iraq started with conventional forces during “Shock and Awe.” Afghanistan started with small teams of Special Forces soldiers working with the Northern Alliance.

But both wars “ended in the middle,” Cleveland said.

As we’ve always said, “We were winning when we left.”

“We’ve got to figure out these transitions. We weren’t able to capitalize on tactical success,” he said, emphasizing that the military can’t repeat past mistakes where they fought wars “one year at a time.”

New_USASOC__DUIThis may be one of the first shots in what will be a barrage of “who-lost-Iraq” finger-pointing by various vainglorious Beltway bloviators and policy panjandrums. But unlike most of those talking mouths (heads? Those just hold up a hairstyle), Cleveland actually fought these wars as a Special Forces and special operations commander.

It’s interesting to see that his focus is on the military, itself, internally. While there may well be political problems with the conduct of these wars (may be?), he sees plenty of things right within his own command that can be fixed or improved.

He goes on to suggest an idea that almost deserves its own capitals, as The Third Mission:

Historically, the Army had two missions, Cleveland said. The first, to fight and win the nation’s wars. The second, to respond to contingencies, including humanitarian disasters.

“There is what I would submit to you is a third mission,” he told students. “We have a requirement to build, maintain and then deploy a global network of land power capabilities.Not only ours but those of our allies, friendly nations and surrogate forces.”

That third mission is needed, he said, because the world is changing.

“We’re not fighting the way we did back then,” he said of earlier wars. “Waiting for large scale combat?  We can’t afford to wait that long.”

It’s a remarkable, sophisticated view of military operations that encompasses systematic force-, and, especially relationship-building with foreign allies.

Because “There’s nothing new under the sun,” a phrase that was probably old when first chiseled into a clay tablet, it turns out that the main message is a new take on an old one. What is Cleveland’s “human domain” but the latest restatement of Napoleon’s “In war, the moral is to the physical as three parts out of four?”  But he takes it in directions where the great general (and begetter of aphorisms) never did go.

Special operations forces are more than a different model of hammer, he said. They’re a different tool entirely.

“My strategy was change the fundamentals about how we talk about our form of warfare,” Cleveland said. “I think that what has emerged is a human domain.”

That human domain – in which Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers work – is no different from the “air domain” that was discovered amid the World Wars.

Please do Read The Whole Thing™. And you tell us if what emerges in the paragraphs after the last one quoted is not, without explicitly stating the case, a very near justification for an independent Special Operations Force, just as we established in 1947 an independent Air Force.

He never does make the call, and he probably would not. An independent SOF force may not be a good idea, and the route to an independent AF has sometimes been rocky and has seen the Air Force focus, at times, on internal, almost irrational mythologies at the expense of joint operations. Anybody aware of the relative efficiency of battlefield transport in the chaos of Vietnam compared to the bureaucratic quagmire that Air Force central Soviet-style management has made of the problem of moving men and matériel around Afghanistan or Iraq knows the answer is not one more staff, one more HQ, and one more bureaucracy stacked on a rickety stack of top-heavy bureaucracies.

What SOF does in wartime, it does in well-established symbiosis with conventional forces, to the benefit of both sorts of forces and the overall mission. But what it does in peacetime can extend those benefits, ideally preventing the need for combat employment of conventional forces, and if that is not possible, helping to lay the groundwork for their success.

Because that groundwork can be laid, years or even decades in advance, in the human terrain.

Napoleon I would approve.

Can Your Suppressed Pistol Beat This? 78 dB.

That’s the measured performance of this little beauty:


.32 ACP Welrod, from the collection of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.

Vintage 1941 or so, developed by the SOE. The ASOM notes another detail, which explains the strange magazine-is-the-grip design of the Welrod (bold is ours):

A limited range, close-qurters head shot weapon, the Welrod’s main value was its level of discreetness when used. This weapon could be fired with the magazine/grip removed, in which case it did not look like a weapon at all. Using the weapon in this manner allowed operators a level of stealth necessary for operations behind enemy lines.

Internally, Welrod’s suppressor design features are typical of silencers of the time. It has a ported barrel which vents into an expansion chamber partly restricted by screen discs. Modern suppressor designers abjure these design features as archaic and backward: the ported barrel saps velocity, and the screen discs are thought to be much less effective than shaped K-baffles or other baffles.

Really? Show us the quiet, guys. Show us a centerfire single-shot suppressed pistol that can beat 78 dB. We’re not asking much in the way of accuracy — the original Welrod was intended for contact ranges, but was good for minute-of-Nazi-skull out to 20 yards or so — but let’s see more muzzle energy for less noise than the Welrod.

We’re guessing that, without going to a captive cartridge like the Tunnel Rat experimental revolver or certain Russian silent-pistol designs, you can’t get materially better than those 20th Century Britons did with the Welrod. (For all their efforts, we’ve had a hard time confirming behind-the-lines use of this system, even with so many formerly secret archives opening up lately. Anybody know different?).

True, Jesse James the motorcycle loudmouth is claiming something similar for his rifle suppressor, but when he delivers that you’ll be able to hang it up next to your jet pack in the garage where you park your flying car. He’s the Baghdad Bob of gun credibility with that one.

But you would think we would be able to excel something made before computers, finite element analysis, and 70 years of progress in understanding sound theory and in production and metallurgical technology. That we are not, generally, far beyond the status quo of 1941 speaks volumes for the ingenuity and application of those wartime engineers.

The Spirit of De Oppresso Liber

The young buck on the left is not showing his most distinctive feature — then-lieutenant Jack Singlaub’s prominent ears are contained inside his English para helmet, as he prepares to jump into France — behind enemy lines as part of the Jedburgh program.

He didn’t end his service to the USA there; he retired, not voluntarily, in 1978 as a Major General. We’ll get to that in a moment, but in the interim, he was one of the founders of the CIA before returning to the Army where he held important positions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars (including Chief, MAC-V SOG).

He was a Major General and Chief of Staff of US Forces in South Korea when the Carter Administration planned to abandon the country, withdrawing US troops and support, leaving the South Koreans to the tender mercies of North Korea’s de facto king, Kim Il-Sung, and taking a good Billy-Beer-fueled whiz on the sacrifice of the roughly 200,000 US and Allied dead and missing from the Korean War. (Carter’s beef was with South Korea’s authoritarian leader at the time, Singlaub criticized Carter’s half-assed policy in an interview. Per a CGSC Paper on the controversy:

Singlaub granted John Saar of the Washington Post an interview on May 19, 1977, just days before the administration envoys were to arrive. Singlaub commented bluntly that the withdrawal plan was ill-advised, opposed by many of “the senior military people” and would lead to war with North Korea. He expressed his deep concern that policymakers might have been working with outdated intelligence, citing a recent intelligence estimate that demonstrated that North Korea was much stronger than had been previously thought.

Despite his outspoken opposition to the policy decision. Singlaub also took the position “If the decision is made we will execute it with enthusiasm and a high level of professional skill”. The interview also included reference to the misgivings of Gen. John W. Vessey, then Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations and U.S. forces in Korea and his deputy. Lt. Gen John J. Burns.

Unidentified sources were quoted as saying that Vessey had expressed his concerns directly to Carter and Defense Secretary Harold Brown.  Both the Washington Post and the New York Times featured articles on the interview. The administration’s response was not long in coming. Several hours after the publication of the interview, the White House announced that Maj. Gen. Singlaub had been told to report personally to the President at the White House.

Where Carter fired him, put him in a nothing job, and when he heard that Singlaub also disagreed with Carter’s neutron-bomb unilateral disarmament, cast him into a punitive early retirement, directing the denial of the gimpy old paratrooper’s disability claim.

Previously, old political general (and no fan of SF) GEN Bernard W. “Bathrobe Bernie” Rogers had told Singlaub that the decision was already a done deal, and that Carter had rejected military advice on the subject. Rogers, the Courtney Massengale of his era, would never stick his neck out on the subject, but he’d certainly prime Singlaub to stick his neck out.

It’s true that the incident gets muddier the more closely you look at it. Singlaub’s own post-incident statements have left his intentions unclear, and the Washington Post reporter seems to have been — no surprise there — a man of pretzel ethics, simply looking for a scalp for his paper. (Why any general officer would talk to a Post or Times reporter is a mystery for the ages. Let them make up their stories without words of yours to twist). But the picture emerges of an officer who, despite being quite small in stature, was enough of a giant to face certain death behind Nazi lines, and certain career death in the Oval Office.

One of the most remarkable things about General Singlaub is that he is still alive. And he will be attending an event on Friday that will offer any of you who are in, or can get, to Fayetteville, NC, with a chance to see and possibly meet him in person. (We won’t be there, but we’ve met him several times, and we’re nobody to him anyway).

Joan Singlaub,  COL (Ret) Andy Anderson, and the ASOM [Airborne and Special Operations Museum] Foundation invite you to meet one of the original Special Operations Soldiers of the United States Military.

The program starts in the Main Theater of the ASOM then moves out front to unveil the Singlaub pavers.

This was received by email but maybe the link to The Whole Thing™ will work. (If not we found it here, too). For the record, the ASOM is the museum in downtown Fayetteville, and open to the public, not the more intimate regimental museum that is on Ft Bragg proper, and requires some hassle to get through the gate to.

Time is 1330R Friday 20 Mar 15 (this Friday!) so be there or be square. Uniform is casual but tasteful, please: be respectful of the presence of many old heroes in the flesh and in the spirit.

Quick quiz: how did Carter having his signature policy upended work out? For the South Koreans, a lot better than being integrated in the Juche state would be, eh? And maybe that’s the best measure of the achievement of John K. Singlaub: freedom for millions. Now that’s the spirit of De Opresso Liber.

(There’s a good program on 28 March as well, with author Maurice Renaud, whose parents were residents of St. Mêre-Église, the first town liberated by American paratroopers on D-Day; check out the Museum web site).