Small Wars Journal

special operations forces

Irregular Warfare Podcast: Back to the Future - Resetting Special Operations Forces for Great Power Competition

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 12:19pm

An interview with Michèle Flournoy, former USD-P, and Admiral (Ret.) Eric Olson, former USSOCOM commander


The Honorable Michèle Flournoy is the cofounder and managing partner of WestExec Advisors. She previously served as the under secretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012, where she played a key role in formulating US strategy and policies that impacted SOF. Michèle is also the cofounder, and served as the chief executive officer, of the Center for a New American Security, a DC-based think tank.

Retired Admiral Eric Thor Olson was the eighth commander of United States Special Operations Command. Eric is a highly decorated Navy SEAL officer, having been awarded both a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for Valor, and was the first Navy SEAL appointed to the ranks of three-star and four-star admiral. At the time of his retirement, he was the longest-serving SEAL in the military.

Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces Teaming for Great Power Competition

Thu, 06/17/2021 - 9:16am
  The USMC's contributions to the future pacific fight are outlined in the recently released tri-service maritime strategy. However, the document only vaguely mentions Naval SOF's unique skill sets and ability to prepare the operating environment for maritime force access without delineating clear lines of effort or aligning resources. To visualize the possibilities of future USMC-SOF I3D, it is helpful to consider a continuum of conventional force and SOF cooperation from deconfliction measures on the low end to opportunities for Integration, Interdependence, and Interoperability on the high-end. 

About the Author(s)

Congressional Hearing on SOF Culture and Climate – March 2021

Fri, 04/02/2021 - 10:05pm

Analysis and commentary on recent testimony before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations on the state of the special operations community

Panel Participants. 

Ms. Linda Robinson is a long-time observer of US SOF. She is the author of Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces and of numerous papers and articles about SOF. Currently she is the Director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy at the RAND Corporation.

Lt. Gen. Mike Nagata, US Army (Ret.) had a long career in SOF spanning over 3 decades with US Army Special Forces and other special mission units (SMUs). He is a former commander of Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT).

Ms. Kate Germano retired from the United States Marine Corps with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. She is the author of Fight Like a Girl: The Truth Behind How Female Marines Are Trained. The book details her professional battle against systemic gender bias in the Marines.

Mr. Mark Mitchell is a retired 0-6 that served many years in U.S. Army Special Forces. He is also a former (acting) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (SO/LIC). He is a frequent commentator and writer about SOF and the need for ASD SO/LIC to have a closer relationship with the Secretary of Defense and more oversight on United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

Modern War Institute Podcast: Special Operations Forces in the High North

Fri, 04/02/2021 - 9:54pm

A conversation with Col. Brian Rauen and Capt. Barrett Martin from 10th Special Forces Group and Dr. Ryan Burke of Project 6633


"The US Army’s Special Forces groups are largely oriented toward specific regions, and 10th Group has a particular focus on Europe—which means they have a natural organizational interest in the Arctic region. Last year, Capt. Martin led a team that went to the high northern latitudes in Europe to train alongside Norwegian and Swedish forces. He shares some of what his team learned during that experience, and Col. Rauen talks about why the Arctic is an area of growing importance for 10th Group. They also discuss some of the especially unique challenges posed to special operations forces working in such an extreme environment.

10th Group and Project 6633 have also partnered to host an essay contest, inviting submissions that address the question of how American special operations forces can compete with near-peer adversaries in the polar regions. If you’re interested in entering the contest, you can find more details here."

JSOU Quick Look: Cyber Fundamentals for SOF

Sat, 03/20/2021 - 1:21pm



"Cyberspace operations extend the reach, agility, pace and effectiveness of SOF when fully integrated into doc-trine, training, planning and execution. For example, foreign internal defense requires cyber-enabled opera-tion off the grid and detection of adversary activity to enable partner response. In contrast, unconventional warfare needs ways for resistance movements to make its own equipment and that can happen with cyber-en-abled 3-D printing.All SOF core activities can be cyber enabled. However, for each core activity SOF needs different cyber-enabled capabilities to secure these benefits."

10th Special Forces Group: Polar SOF Essay Contest

Wed, 02/17/2021 - 7:04pm

Prompt: How can American special operations forces compete with near-peer adversaries in the polar regions?


A 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in cooperation with the Modern War Institute and Project 6633, essay contest. 


Full Details Available at this link: 



  • Essays will be accepted from any person from any field, and submissions from non-US participants are welcomed.
  • Up to two people may co-author an essay entry.
  • Participants may submit only one entry to the competition.
  • Essays must be original, unpublished, and not subject to publication elsewhere.

Submission Guidelines

  • Essays will not exceed 1,000 words.
  • Use the standard submission guidelines for the Modern War Institute.
  • Email your entry to with “Polar SOF Contest” in the subject line. Once submitted, no edits, corrections, or changes are allowed.
  • Submission deadline: essays will be accepted until 11:59 PM EDT on May 2, 2021.