About this event

In a world increasingly defined by the Compound Security Dilemma and marked by conditions of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, no component of the military element of national power is better prepared to help secure vital U.S. interests than the nation's Special Operations Forces (SOF). U.S. SOF is ever-evolving in order to meet the challenges of an uncertain future, which now sees the dawning of a Fourth Age of SOF. An understanding of the ways in which SOF previously deterred conflict and combatted the nation's enemies is necessary, but not sufficient, to meet the challenges of the future. With an eye on the past and a focus on the future, this forum provides a platform in which to consider, debate, and explore what are sure to be many answers to the question, "What kinds of personnel, capabilities, authorities, mission sets, equipment and doctrine will best prepare America's Special Operations Forces to succeed  in the Fourth Age of Special Operations?"

Andy Maher
Andy Maher

Major Maher has served in the Australian Army for 20 years and is taking leave in 2022 to complete a Doctorate examining Proxy Warfare. He has served with multiple deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq and has been a military fellow and post-graduate lecturer with the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Canberra. He is also a visiting fellow with the Charles Sturt University Terrorism studies program, a non-resident fellow with the Modern War Institute at West Point, and lectures with David Kilcullen on Irregular Warfare and the Theory of Special Operations. In 2021, he was an Australian Chief of Army Scholar. 

Brett Chaloner
Brett Chaloner

BRIG Chaloner entered Army via the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1991 and commissioned in 1994. Following service in Transport and Infantry, BRIG Chaloner completed Commando selection and reinforcement training and served in the 4 th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) (4RAR(Cdo)). He subsequently completed Special Air Service Regiment selection and training, serving in a range of command and operations appointments. These included deployment to East Timor and Counter Terrorism duties in support of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Concurrent to service as the Adjutant of the Royal Military College – Duntroon, BRIG Chaloner deployed in support of operations in Iraq in 2003.

Brian Babcock-Lumish
Brian Babcock-Lumish

Brian Babcock-Lumish is the director of the General David H. Petraeus Center for Emerging Leaders at the Institute for the Study of War. He is an adjunct associate professor in the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University, a nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point, and a security fellow of the Truman National Security Project. He served as a U.S. Army military intelligence officer, retiring after 24 years in uniform. Dr. Babcock-Lumish had two deployments to Iraq, first training Iraqi intelligence collectors and then serving as General Petraeus’ daily intelligence briefer during “The Surge” in 2007. At U.S. Army Pacific, he served as the analysis chief leading 200 analysts watching the 36 countries of the Indo-Pacific. He served two tours teaching international relations in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy at West Point where he also led the Academy’s graduate scholarship program. Formerly an enlisted Russian linguist, Dr. Babcock-Lumish double majored in International & Strategic History and International Politics and received his commission from West Point. Upon graduation, he earned an M.Phil. in Russian and East European Studies at Oxford University as a U.S. Marshall Scholar. Prior to his first tour on faculty at West Point, he completed his Ph.D. in War Studies at King’s College London as a Harry S. Truman Scholar. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Royal United Services Institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Chatham House.

Charlie Faint
Charlie Faint

LTC Charles (Charlie) Faint commissioned into the Military Intelligence Branch of the US Army through the ROTC program at Mercer University and claims Alabama as his home state.  After completing a branch detail to the Infantry in the 101st Airborne Division, he subsequently served as an intelligence officer in a variety of units, including ing the 2nd Infantry Division, the 5th Special Forces Group, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and the Joint Special Operations Command.  His most recent operational assignment was at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, where he served as the Chief of Intelligence Plans and Exercises and then Chief of Intelligence Operations on the G2 staff of US Army Pacific.  LTC Faint currently serves as an Assistant Professor and Deputy Director of the Modern War Institute at West Point, and instructs the Comparative Defense Policy course.  During a previous tour at West Point, LTC Faint was the Course Director for MX400, the Superintendent’s capstone course on Officership, for two years.  He also instructed International Relations, American Politics, Comparative Politics, Conflict and Negotiation, and Intelligence and National Policy for three years in West Point’s renowned Department of Social Sciences. 

Christopher Fussell
Christopher Fussell

Chris was commissioned as an Officer in the United States Navy in 1997, and spent the next 15 years on US Navy SEAL Teams, leading SEAL elements in combat zones around the globe. From war-torn Kosovo, to counter-terrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to highly specialized efforts in the troubled areas of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, he experienced and led through the modern evolution of the US military’s Special Operations community, first on SEAL Teams Two and Eight, then in the Naval Special Warfare Development Group.Chris was selected to serve as Aide-de-Camp to then-Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal during General McChrystal’s final year commanding the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), where they served for a year together in Iraq. He witnessed first-hand the Special Operations community’s transformation into a successful, agile network.

Chris is also a Senior Fellow for National Security at New America, a Washington, DC-based non-partisan think tank dedicated to understanding the next generation of challenges facing the United States. Chris is actively involved in several non-profits dedicated to helping veterans and their families, and holds a seat on the Board of Directors for the Navy SEAL Foundation. He is also a lifetime member to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Chris earned a Master of Arts in Irregular Warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School, receiving the Pat Tillman Award for highest peer-rated Special Operations Officer in the program. His thesis work focused on the interagency collaboration and intelligence sharing processes that drove effective, cross-silo collaboration during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cristian Simon
Cristian Simon

Cristian Simon is in the U.S. Army for 22 years, 7 as a Western Hemisphere Foreign Area Officer. He spent 2 years as a WHINSEC Instructor, 2.5 years in the US Embassy in Nicaragua, 2.5 years in the Joint Staff J5, and 4 years with the OUSD(I&S) CPE WHEM -- current WHEM Team Chief. 

David Kilcullen
David Kilcullen

David Kilcullen is Professor of Practice in the Center on the Future of War and the School of Politics and Global Studies, a Senior Fellow at New America and an author, strategist and counterinsurgency expert. He served 25 years as an army officer, diplomat and policy advisor for the Australian and United States governments, in command and operational missions (including peacekeeping, counterinsurgency and foreign internal defense) across the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe. In the United States he was Chief Strategist in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau, and served in Iraq as Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus, before becoming Special Advisor for Counterinsurgency to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He is the author of a number of influential books including, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One and CounterinsurgencyOut of the Mountains and, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism based on an essay that received the Walkley Award, the Australian version of the Pulitzer Prize.

Doug Jordan
Doug Jordan

Mr. Doug Jordan is Course Director for the newly developed Strategic Influence and Information Advantage (SAIA) Integrated Program of Study (IPoS) for the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU), MacDill AFB, Florida. He also serves as the Course Director for the the Special Operations Forces Security Cooperation Course (SOF-SC) and the Information Related Capabilities Seminar (IRC-S) and is assigned to the Department of International Education and Joint, Interagency, Intergovernmental, Multinational and Commercial (JIIM-C). JSOU is the joint educational component of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a global combatant command which provides fully capable Special Operations Forces (SOF) and synchronizes DOD planning against terrorists and terrorist networks. He was detailed from 2019-2020 to the Office of Defense Cooperation, US Embassy Ukraine as the Ministry of Defense Advisor for Strategic Communication. Mr. Jordan is a Master Instructor at JSOU responsible for the coordination, development and delivery of senior leader education programs in support of U.S. and International SOF personnel, including strategic and operational leadership and the coordination of joint special operations and irregular warfare education. He earned Defense Security Cooperation- Intermediate Certification in 2020. He graduated from the Air War College (Non-Resident) in 2021.


Isaiah Wilson
Isaiah Wilson

Dr. Isaiah (Ike) Wilson III, PhD is the President of the Joint Special Operations University (JSOU). He is a master strategist and a leading advocate for change in America’s concepts of and approaches to security and defense policy, and affairs of war and peace. A decorated combat veteran, former army aviator, and strategist, he most recently served as Director (Chief), Commander’s Initiatives Group, for the Commander, U.S. Central Command. A full professor of political science, Dr. Wilson formerly served as a professor and academic program director at West Point, where he also founded the West Point Grand Strategy Program. He has also taught extensively at the undergraduate and graduate levels at a number of prestigious colleges and universities, including Columbia University, Yale University, George Washington University, and the National War College. Prior to his appointment with U.S. Special Operations Command, Dr. Wilson was the Director of the U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and USAWC Press. Dr. Wilson has numerous publications to his credit, including, Thinking Beyond War: Civil-Military Relations and Why America Fails to Win the Peace. Dr. Wilson is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an International Affairs Fellow with New America.  He also serves as a professor of practice with the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University. 

Jacob Shapiro
Jacob Shapiro

Jacob N. Shapiro is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and co-founder of the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project, a multi-university consortium that studies politically motivated violence in countries around the world. His research covers conflict, economic development, and misinformation. He is author of The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations and co-author of Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict. His research has been published in broad range of academic and policy journals as well as a number of edited volumes. He has conducted field research and large-scale policy evaluations in Afghanistan, Colombia, India, and Pakistan. Shapiro received the 2016 Karl Deutsch Award from the International Studies Association, given to a scholar younger than 40, or within 10 years of earning a Ph.D., who has made the most significant contribution to the study of international relations. He is a veteran of the United States Navy. 

James Gagliano
James Gagliano

Elected on March 16, 2021, Mr. Gagliano was installed as the Village’s 29th mayor, after serving one term as a Village trustee. His professional pursuits include serving as a law enforcement analyst and policing methodology subject matter expert in the media, where he provides on-air analyses of complex law enforcement and counterterror matters. An adjunct assistant professor and doctoral candidate at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, he is a sought-after speaker on criminal justice, homeland security, police use of force, and organizational leadership matters, and delivers keynote addresses for corporate clients and in academic settings.

A 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he was commissioned as a U.S. Army Infantry Officer, serving as a light infantry platoon leader and company executive officer in the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division, while stationed at Fort Benning, GA, and Fort Drum, NY, between 1988 and 1991. He earned an M.P.S. in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Leadership from St. John’s University in 2017.

Jaroslaw Jablonski
Jaroslaw Jablonski

Colonel Jaroslaw Jablonski has been a member of the Polish Special Forces since 2002. COL Jablonski received his MA in defense analysis from the US Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in 2009 and a PhD in information and knowledge management in 2012. COL Jablonski has a combined more than 40 months of deployment time to Balkans, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Afghanistan in support of the ISAF. At present he serves as POLSOF Exchange Officer in USSOCOM.

Jarrid Johnson
Jarrid Johnson

Sergeant First Class Jarrid Johnson is the senior enlisted advisor for the Modern War Institute at West Point. He is an instructor for MS200 Fundamentals of Small Unit Operations. SFC Johnson is also the non-commissioned officer-in-charge and dive supervisor for the USMA Maritime Assessment Course for cadets attending Special Forces Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). SFC Johnson was assigned to an Operational Detachment Alpha as a senior weapons sergeant and combat dive supervisor. He deployed with the detachment to Afghanistan in 2017-2018 and 2019 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. He also deployed to Latvia in 2021 in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

John Melkin
John Melkin

Mr. John Melkon is the Director of the Center for the Study of Civil-Military Operations and an Assistant Professor at the United States Military Academy. In this capacity he is responsible for facilitating the coordination, planning and execution of the strategic vision and mission for the Center and education of cadets, faculty and the community of practice. He is the Course Director for the Geography of the Middle East and North Africa, and the Geography of Sub-Saharan Africa as well as a Civ-Mil Ops Colloquium. Before assuming his position at West Point, Mr. Melkon served as a Senior Operations Advisor to the United States Army Africa in Vicenza, Italy from 2009 to 2012 and service to OPERATION ODYSSEY DAWN. He was also a Strategic Operations Officer for the Department of Defense from 2006 to 2009 with service to OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. He is a retired Army Special Forces Officer with tours in Europe, Africa, SE Asia, the Middle East and multiple combat tours in Afghanistan.  He has been awarded the Ranger Tab, the Special Forces Tab, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal. Before re-entering public service Mr. Melkon worked as an International Banking Associate for Credit Suisse First Boston in Frankfurt, Germany. He holds an AB History from Princeton, an MA European Politics and Certificate of Professional Achievement in Enterprise Risk Management from Columbia, and an MBA from the Lowry Mays School of Business along with an MAIA from the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M. He enjoys competing in endurance events and completed Ironman Indian in 2021.

Joshua Rudd
Joshua Rudd

Major General Joshua M. Rudd most recently served as the Deputy Commanding General - Operations for the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In this role, he oversaw 29,000 soldiers, family members, retirees, civilians and contractors. He provided operational oversight for the planning and execution of current and future operations, training, contingency response requirements, readiness exercises, and Theater Security Cooperation Plans in support of the USINDOPACOM Commander's objectives. His other flag assignment includes Deputy Commanding General, 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne). Brigadier General Rudd was born in Southern California and grew up in South Carolina. He graduated from Furman University in 1993 after earning his comission through ROTC. He entered active duty as a Quartermaster Officer, and in 1996 he successfully completed Special Forces Assessment and Selection. As a Special Forces Officer he has commanded at every echelon - from ODA to Group. Most recent Command Assignments include: Commander JIATF-NCR (2017-2018), Commander of a Forward Deployed Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (2017-2018), and Commander 3rd Operations Support Group (2015-2017), Commander of a Forward Deployed Combined Joint Task Force (2015-2017). Brigadier General Rudd has deployed in support of multiple combat operations including to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, and Iraq and Jordan for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Inherent Resolve. Brigadier General Rudd has completed the following military schools: US Army War College - Fellowship at Duke University, Naval Command and Staff College, Infantry Officer Advanced Course, and Quartermaster Officer Basic Course. He holds a M.A. in Strategy and National Security from the Naval War College and a B.A. in Political Science from Furman University. He is authorized to wear the following awards and decorations: Defense Superior Service Medal (2nd award), Legion of Merit (3rd award), Bronze Star Medal (3rd award), Combat Infantryman Badge, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge and Combat Diver Supervisor Badge.

Kari Thyne
Kari Thyne

Dr. Kari Thyne served in the US Air Force for 20 years as an aircraft maintenance and munitions officer. Her experience includes command of a C-5 aircraft maintenance squadron at Dover, Delaware, before and after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, as well as shop and flight line aircraft maintenance experience on C-130 and C-141 aircraft. She was also a conventional munitions maintenance flight commander and munitions accountable supply officer (MASO) for the Air Force’s largest conventional munitions stockpile.

She served in the Pentagon on the Air Staff, the Joint Staff, and in the immediate office of the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She recently worked in the RAND Corporation’s Washington office supporting Project AIR FORCE’s Strategy and Doctrine Program.


Within academic environs, Dr. Thyne taught biomedical ethics and formal logic at the Northern Virginia Community College-Annandale Campus and military ethics at the US Air Force Academy.


She holds a doctorate of liberal studies from Georgetown University, a master of arts in philosophy from The Ohio State University, a master of science in educational leadership from Troy State University, and a bachelor of science from the US Air Force Academy.

Kate Nelson
Kate Nelson

MAJ Kate Nelson is the National Media Manager for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office (AEMO) which includes Linear Video, Streaming Video, Programmatic Online Video, Sports, Entertainment, Esports, Gaming, Digital Direct, Streaming Audio, Paid Social, Custom Content and Print media.  As a Military Intelligence officer she most recently served as the US Army Pacific G2 Battle CPT where she was responsible for tracking the integration and execution of intelligence operations across the Pacific theater. She served as the Bravo Company Commander in the 715th MI BN where she was responsible for timely and relevant Signal Intelligence in support of NSA-Hawaii. She served as a targeting and reconnaissance officer for unmanned aircraft supporting Joint forces, Special Operations, and multinational forces.  She served as the 82nd Aviation 1st BN S2 deploying to Afghanistan in support of combat operations. She began her career as an enlisted Radio Operator with 5th Special Forces Group deploying multiple times with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force throughout Iraq. MAJ Nelson will complete her Doctorate in Business Administration from Temple University this summer focusing on digital fan engagement. She holds two Master’s degrees, Master of Military Studies and Master of Sport Management.

Katie Crombe
Katie Crombe

Lt Col Katie Crombe has served in a variety of strategy and planning roles across the Middle East and currently serves at U.S. Special Operations Command Central as the Director of Strategy and Plans. Prior to this assignment, Katie served at U.S. Central Command, where she led a planning team charged with the D-ISIS campaign plan within the strategy and plans directorate prior to being selected as the CENTCOM commander’s aide-de-camp. Katie also spent three years working at the U.S Embassy in Amman, Jordan overseeing bilateral, coalition, and interagency plans, culminating with serving as the planning adviser to the Jordanian Chief of Defense for the Syria crisis and initial operations to combat ISIS along the Jordanian border.  Katie also served as an exchange officer in the United Kingdom’s Operational Headquarters, leading the team in development of a new U.K. theater strategy for the Middle East.

Keith Carter
Keith Carter

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Keith Carter is a United States Army officer currently stationed at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he serves as the Director of the Defense and Strategic Studies Program.  Keith’s last operational assignment was at Fort Bragg where he served as a strategic planner in the Joint Special Operations Command.  Prior to that Keith Commanded 1-26 IN at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  Over the course of his career, Keith has served in a variety of infantry formations including the 101st ABN DIV, the 2nd Infantry Division, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 4th Infantry Division. 

Keith earned his Doctorate in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania; his research interests include technology and strategy, civil-military relations, the role of arms trades in alliance formation, and information age war. 

Ken Segelhorst
Ken Segelhorst

Lieutenant Colonel Ken Segelhorst is a U.S. Army Special Forces officer and information operations practitioner. He is currently assigned to the Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Ken serves as the course director for MX400: Officership, the Superintendent’s capstone course. In his previous assignment, Ken served as a joint information operations officer and cross-functional team leader with Joint Special Operations Command. His operational experience includes numerous deployments to the Middle East and Africa. Ken’s interagency experience includes assignments to U.S. embassies in Baghdad, Iraq, and Bangui, Central African Republic. He is also a non-resident fellow with the Simons Center for Ethical Leadership and Interagency Cooperation at Fort Leavenworth.

Ken Tovo
Ken Tovo

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ken Tovo retired from the U.S. Army in 2018 with 35 years of service. A career Green Beret, he commanded at every level in the 10th Special Forces Group. He commanded SOCCENT, the Nato Training Mission in Afghanistan, was the deputy at U.S. Southern Command and commanded the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Ken was the 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group Commander, working with the PUK before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Kyle Atwell
Kyle Atwell

MAJ Kyle Atwell is an instructor in the Social Sciences Department at West Point and the founder and Chair of the Irregular Warfare Initiative, a joint venture between the Modern War Institute at West Point and the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project at Princeton University. His operational experience includes assignments in North and West Africa, Afghanistan, South Korea, and Germany. As a civilian, he has also held positions at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the United States Mission to the United Nations, and worked for two California state legislators. Kyle is currently a nonresident senior fellow in the Forward Defense practice of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and a Council on Foreign Relations term member. He was previously a Center for a New American Security Shawn Brimley Next Generation National Security Leaders fellow and a fellow at the Princeton Center for International Security Studies. Kyle received B.A. degrees in both Economics and International Relations from the University of California at Davis (2006), a M.A. in Public Affairs from Princeton University (2021), and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Security Studies at Princeton University. 

Liam Collins
Liam Collins

Liam Collins is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel who conducted operational deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, South America, the Horn of Africa, and Bosnia. He was the founding director of the Modern War Institute at West Point, former director of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, a fellow at New America, and a permanent member with the Council on Foreign Relations. Collins’ work has been cited by the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, the White House press secretary, the New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, ABC News, Fox News, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of U.S Counterterrorism and Irregular Warfare Operations and holds a PhD from Princeton University.

Meghan Cumpston
Meghan Cumpston

Lieutenant Colonel Meghan Cumpston is the Assistant Chief of Staff – G2, 1st Armored Division. LTC Cumpston received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Villanova University in 2003, and completed her Masters in International Relations and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 2013. LTC Cumpston was recently selected as a Goodpaster Scholar and will pursue a PhD upon completion of her assignment as the 1st Armored Division G2. LTC Cumpston served in multiple Army and joint command and staff appointments, including five years assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command Intelligence Brigade (JIB). LTC Cumpston previously taught in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy, and is a 2009 recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. 

Michael Eiland
Michael Eiland

Graduated from USMA in 1961, commissioned Field Artillery. Special Forces 1965-75 (7th, 5th, 1st Special Forces Groups and MACVSOG). OSD 1975-77. Detailed to Department of State and US Embassy Bangkok 1978-83. DIA 1984. Retired 1985. CIA 1985-2003, primarily in Southeast Asia (Chief of Station, Chief of Base, Chief of Platform, etc). Independent contractor 2004-present. BS USMA, MA Georgetown University, PhD George Washington University. Resides in Arlington, VA.

Michael Harris
Michael Harris

Colonel Michael Harris is a leading irregular warfare practitioner and scholar.  He’s led special operations teams conducting integrated deterrence, support to resistance, unconventional warfare, hostage recovery, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, counter-narcoterrorism, and joint forcible entry operations.  He’s completed studies at National Defense University, U.S. Army War College, Columbia University, and Harvard University.  His scholarly work on deterrence of hybrid warfare while an Army War College Fellow was lauded by senior faculty from Columbia University.  His PhD dissertation analyzes Russian and Chinese appropriation of resistance methods in gray zone campaigns.  He is currently working on a book titled, “The Love of War.”

Michael Kelvington
Michael Kelvington

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Kelvington was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in May 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in American History and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry. Upon completion of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ranger School, and Airborne School, he was assigned to the 501st Battalion (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson, Alaska, where he served as an Airborne Rifle Platoon Leader. In 2008, LTC Kelvington was assigned to 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield, GA where he served as a Ranger Platoon Leader and Ranger Company Executive Officer. At the completion of the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course at Fort Benning, Georgia in 2011, he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he assumed command of Battle Company in August 2011. In January 2013, he relinquished command and was assigned to 2nd Ranger Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord where he served first as the Battalion Assistant Liaison Officer and then later as the Battalion Logistics Officer. In April 2014, he was hand-selected to become the aide-de-camp of the Deputy Commanding General of Joint Special Operations Command and returned to Fort Bragg. After a year, LTC Kelvington was selected for the General Wayne A. Downing Scholarship. In June of 2017, upon completion of ILE and grad school, LTC Kelvington was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment for a third time, serving as the Battalion Operations and Executive Officer of the Regimental Special Troops Battalion at Fort Benning, GA.  During this time period, he also served overseas twice as a Joint Task Force Commander. In June of 2019, LTC Kelvington became the Deputy Operations Officer of the 75th Ranger Regiment, where he served as the Operations Officer for a Joint Task Force in support of overseas contingency operations.  He has deployed 14 times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.  Following these assignments, LTC Kelvington and his family moved to Columbus, Ohio where he now serves as the Professor of Military Science and Leadership at The Ohio State University.

Michael Rutledge
Michael Rutledge

Michael Rutledge originated from Bettendorf, IA and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in March 1990. He served three years as a helicopter rescue swimmer and graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 1994. Assigned to SEAL Team ONE he completed 3 contingency deployments as an M-60 machine gunner, and air operations specialist. Michael’s last assignment in the SEAL Teams was Course Director of Air Operations at Naval Special Warfare Group One.

In 2002 upon returning from the initial assaults into Afghanistan, Mike transferred from the US Navy to the US Army to become a helicopter pilot with a direct follow-on assignment upon graduation to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. After 13 years of continuous combat operations, Michael was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer Four and assumed command of the Executive Flight Detachment and Aviation Department at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In May 2019, CW4 Rutledge retired after 30 years of active duty and combat operations in Desert Storm, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He currently resides in Casa Grande, AZ as the CEO of Rutledge Airborne Applications providing wildland aerial firefighting capabilities and training. Michael and his wife Dena of 27 years have 2 children, Matthew and Joshua who is currently deployed as an Army Infantryman.


Moriamo Sulaiman-Ifelodun
Moriamo Sulaiman-Ifelodun

CPT Moriamo Sulaiman-Ifelodun currently serves as a Public Affairs Officer. As a prior-service enlisted Imagery Analyst, her first unit and combat tour were with 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). As an experienced Military Intelligence and Public Affairs Officer, Mo has a demonstrated history of working across all ranks, echelons, and communities. Mo is a published author and holds a Master's of Professional Studies in Public Relations & Corporate Communications from Georgetown University.

Patrick Howelll
Patrick Howelll

Col. Patrick Howell is the assistant to the director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. He is a career Engineer officer as well as Strategic/Operational Planner and is currently a Chief of Staff of the Army Advanced Strategic Plans & Policy Program Fellow. He has served in a variety of conventional and special operations assignments and has conducted multiple deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Eastern Africa. He has graduated from several military courses including Ranger School and the School of Advanced Military Studies. Prior to assuming his current position as the Director of MWI, Patrick served as the lead Strategic Planner at the Joint Special Operations Command, Battalion Commander, and an Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy. He has taught courses in International Relations, Comparative Politics, Politics & Government of Europe, and Central European Security Studies. He has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the United States Military Academy, Master of Arts in Law & Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Master of Military Arts & Science from the School of Advanced Military Studies, and PhD in Political Science from Duke University.

Peter Cloutier
Peter Cloutier

Peter Cloutier is the Joint Special Operations University Professor for Development and Human Security.  He is a career Foreign Service Officer in the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) having served as Office Director for programs in Afghanistan, Mozambique, Angola and Timor-Leste (East Timor). He has devoted much of his Foreign Service career to developing innovative strategies and advancing interagency partnerships in a range of technical fields. He is a successful and skilled negotiator with host country governments, in sector coordination bodies, and within the interagency. He has a track record for leading teams to achieve ambitious results in multiple technical areas. He is an accomplished writer and presenter, as evidenced by authoring a USAID country strategy and presenting numerous interagency proposals and presentations to senior USG decision makers. With nearly 20 years overseas, he has demonstrated consistent leadership, accountability and impact. USAID has recognized his sustained performance with three Superior Honor Awards as a result.

Richard Clarke
Richard Clarke

General Richard D. Clarke currently serves as the 12th Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, FL.

Prior to assuming command of USSOCOM, General Clarke served as Director for Strategic Plans and Policy (J5), Joint Staff, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

General Clarke’s other assignments as a general officer include: Deputy Commanding General for Operations, 10th Mountain Division from 2011 to 2013; the 74th Commandant of Cadets, United States Military Academy at West Point from 2013 to 2014; and the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

His formative and key, Army and special operations, assignments include: Director of Operations, Joint Special Operations Command from 2009 to 2011. Eight years in the 75th Ranger Regiment first as a company commander, then as a battalion commander, and finally as the regimental commander. He also served as commander of 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

General Clarke has led Soldiers at all levels in Airborne, Ranger, Mechanized and Light Infantry units in five different divisions, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 75th Ranger Regiment in the United States, Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan. His deployments while serving in the aforementioned positions include Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Guardian in Macedonia, three deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, four deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and one deployment as the commander of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command - Operation Inherent Resolve.

General Clarke was born in Germany and raised in an Army family. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and was commissioned into the Infantry in 1984. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from West Point and a Master of Business Administration from Benedictine College. He is a distinguished graduate of the National War College earning a master's degree in Security and Strategic Studies.

Rob Stephenson
Rob Stephenson

Brigadier Rob Stephenson commissioned into The Parachute Regiment in 1987.  During his career he has deployed on numerous operational tours in Northern Ireland under Op BANNER and also on various overseas operations both with the Parachute Regiment and with other units including to Bosnia, North Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  As a staff officer, he has fulfilled a variety of roles within the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In 2009 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his unit command appointment which included operational deployments to Afghanistan and North Africa. He has been the Deputy Commander of NATO Special Operations Headquarters since August 2018. Brigadier Rob holds a Masters Degree in Defence Studies from Kings College London. He is married and has two sons.

Robert Burrell
Robert Burrell

Dr. Robert S. Burrell is a military historian and professor of irregular warfare at Joint Special Operations University. Previously, he taught military history at U.S. Naval Academy. He is also the former editor-in-chief of special operations doctrine.

A retired Marine with combat experience, Dr. Burrell is an Asia-Pacific expert with 12 years living and working in Japan, Korea, Philippines, and Thailand, as well as a diplomatic tour at the U.S. Embassy in Australia.

 He is married to Carmen Burrell and has three boys Alex, Max, and Ben. 

Seth Jones
Seth Jones

Seth G. Jones is senior vice president, Harold Brown Chair, director of the International Security Program, and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He leads a bipartisan team of over 50 resident staff and an extensive network of non-resident affiliates dedicated to providing independent strategic insights and policy solutions that shape national security. He also teaches at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and the Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Shane Shorter
Shane Shorter

Command Sergeant Major Shorter enlisted in the Army in 1988 and attended Infantry Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, GA. He was subsequently assigned to 3rd Infantry Division in Kitzingen, Germany. Command Sergeant Major Shorter volunteered for Special Forces training and graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1992. He was then assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (A) at Fort Lewis Washington. During the following 23 years, he has held the positions of Junior Medical NCO, Senior Medical NCO, Team Sergeant and HSC First Sergeant. His Sergeant Major assignments are all with 1st Special Forces Group and include, OPSDET Sergeant Major, Company Sergeant Major for Charlie Company 3 rd Battalion, Group Operations Sergeant Major, and 1st Battalion Command Sergeant Major. Command Sergeant Major Shorter’s military education includes every level of NonCommissioned Officer Professional Development, to include the Summit Course. He is a graduate of the Special Forces Qualification Course, Special Forces Operations and Intelligence Course, Static Line Jumpmaster Course, Dive Medical Technician’s Course and the Military Free Fall Parachutist Course. Command Sergeant Major Shorter’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with “V” device, and Army Achievement Medal. He has been awarded the Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Infantryman’s Badge, Expert Field Medic Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge, and the Saint Phillip of Neri Award (Bronze Order). Command Sergeant Major Shorter currently serves as the Special Operations Command, Pacific (SOCPAC) Senior Enlisted Leader. He and his wife Leslie have been married 26 years and have one daughter, Kelcie, who is a senior at the University of Washington.

Shawna Moore
Shawna Moore

1LT Shawna Moore graduated from the United States Military Academy in 2018 as a Stamps Scholar and Rhodes Finalist with a degree in Environmental Engineering. She commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer and began her service with the 101st Airborne Division. Subsequently, she deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel as a JSOC targeting operations officer and cultural support team member. Currently, 1LT Moore is serving as a company fire support officer in 2D Ranger Battalion. She also works as a project manager at Allied Airlift 21, a non-profit evacuating at-risk partners from Afghanistan.

Timo Braese
Timo Braese

Sergeant Major Timo Braese was born on 23 September 1972 and is a native of Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.  He enlisted into the German Army on 1 July 1991 as an infantryman.  SGM Braese has served in all leadership positions from team leader to platoon leader of a ranger assault platoon.  He was appointed as Sergeant Major of the German Armed Forces on 1st January 2015 and continues to serve today.  His last assignment was with 3rd EGB 31st Airborne Regiment (SOF), and has served as an Operations Sergeant Major for the unit.


Timothy Heck
Timothy Heck

Timothy Heck is the deputy editorial director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. He is an artillery and regional affairs officer in the US Marine Corps Reserve and a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. He previously served at SOCOM FMD-JCT. He writes on Soviet military history, amphibious operations, operational art, and the Cold War. He teaches courses in the Defense & Strategic Studies program.

Trevor Hough
Trevor Hough

COL Trevor Hough is a career U.S. Army Intelligence Officer with extensive assignments in USSOCOM units.  COL Hough has served at every level of Special Operations formation from Special Forces Company to Special Operations Intelligence Brigade to 3 Star Joint Special Operations Task Force level.  COL Hough has also served at the national policy making level including tours at the Joint Staff and at the White House as Vice President Pence's Middle East policy advisor and at the National Security Council Staff.  COL Hough's last assignments in the Army were as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command Intelligence Brigade and at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as the Deputy GEOINT Mission Manager for Counterterrorism and the Near East.

What is the 4th Age of SOF?: Conversation w/ Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson, JSOU President

The views expressed in this video are entirely those of the speaker[s] and do no necessarily reflect the views, policy or position of the United States Government, Department of Defense, United States Operations Command, or the Joint Special Operations University.

Forum Scene Setter, Dr. Isaiah Wilson, JSOU president and CSM Shane Shorter, SEA JSOU

JSOU - The fourth age of SOF: the use and utility of Special Operations Forces in a new age history, theory and future practices scene setter with Dr. Isaiah “Ike” Wilson III, JSOU President and CSM Shane Shorter, SEA, JSOU. Day 1, 29 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Show Notes:

-          When we speak about “Ages of SOF”, we are referring to organizational structure essentially, and how ours has or has not changed over time to help us – SOF  -- meet mission requirements for Nation.


We like a “Back to our Futures” approach to framing or rediscovering, the Ages, and this involves 3 main questions: a) how is Global Geopolitical or Power Competition changing, and what are the implications of such change (good and bad)?  b)  What does this mean for Special Ops and SOF, for next 30 years?  c)  What will change / needs to change for SOF to meet mission requirements? Consider: 12 core tasks, joint combined competencies, SOF’s value proposition – what can we offer, force structure,  force modernization, force design, etc.


    Consider all this in the context of: 2022 draft National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, National Military Strategy


    3rd Age of SOF -- James Dietz’ “Call to Colors” Print, explanation. The GWOT Era in hindsight – this is the 3rd Age of SOF, which shows: failure of preventative deterrence, reactionary posture, under-preparedness, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars define the 3rd Age. But new light ahead – hope through new intention, benefits of anticipation, benefits of foresight. SOF Operators at the left of the print show SOF at the vanguard of change.

o   Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021, puts an end to the 3rd Age of SOF, closes out the second GWOT War.


SOF are at another threshold crossing, Compound Security, driven by a Compound Security Dilemma. Need SOF that is equally “compounded” – use all we have learned from the last 3 Ages and make new. We lose nothing, we take it all and use it.


Compound Security – this dynamic is placing new demands on us – New Operational Overview. Conflicts at the Seem – low intensity conflict, indirect force, physical and human terrain at the sub - system level. Gain positional advantage – in physical, virtual, and ideationally*


Sources of conflict can be viewed as sources of opportunity


Old School Mercantilism – going back to a more transactional international relations – breakdown of Westphalia


Early Age – task forces used for Special Ops – team put together and then disbanded after mission complete.


  1st Age – WW2 – still disbanding after wars. But were becoming able to see the values of SOF.


    2nd Age --  President John F Kennedy saw the need to build COIN and that SOF was the way. In response to Cold War threats against nationalism.


   3rd Age – started w/ Operation Eagle Claw and the establishment of USSOCOM. Goes through Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, and ends with the end of GWOT, August 2021.


  Now begins the 4th Age of SOF – exploitation of traditional Western institutions. China and Russia no longer playing by established norms.

o   China – island building, Taiwan, One Belt One Road Initiative

o   Russia  --  little green men and Wagner Group, bold invasion. Georgia, Ukraine

o   We must view these threats NOT ONLY as singularly and separate threats, BUT ALSO in light of ALL the other threats – Iran, Terrorism, CWMD, Climate, Information, etc


    How do we overcome transactional relationships? How can we find positional advantage?  Mention of Commanding Heights in the One Belt One Road Initiative.


   Is the key to preventing hot wars using irregular warfare in order to extend the length of periods of relative peace?


   SOF Value Proposition:  SOF has the most professional, educated, discipline, and mature forces our nation has to offer. SOF can help in 5 ways:  Geostrategic Shapers, Agent of Influence, Integrated Deterrence, Help pursue ideological supremist and CWMD proliferators, SOF Options for traditional warfare and crisis response

Panel 1: Ages of SOF from a Historical Perspective

JSOU SOF Q2 Forum - Panel 1 - Day 1, 29 March 2022 Panel 1: Ages of SOF from a Historical Perspective What are the major historical lessons from each previous age of Special Operations, and how can they be used to prepare for the future? Moderator: Mr. John Melkon Panel: COL (Ret) Mike Eiland CW4 (Ret.) Mike Rutledge 1LT(P) Shawna Moore Day 1, 29 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Show Notes:

Kings College War Studies research – Royal Navy officers dismissed historical lessons learned from 18th and 19th century commanders, which led to rigid Commands. Also, they dismissed technology from past decades and centuries that they should have been familiar with in order to benefit tactically, operationally, and strategically.

We do not study military history, or even history really, in our national education system. Why?  We didn’t want to study the Vietnam War, due to national embarrassment, and so we refused to learn lessons from it. Why did it happen?  Why did it expand?  What did we do wrong?

Next was the Cold War, Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), as well as the desire to abandon warfare altogether. Elites searched for the source of the problem, the “warmongers” they considered to be the “establishments” of the government, military, religion, etc. They saw war as a failure of human action / inaction.  Trotsky – “You may not be interested in war, but it is interested in you”.

Panelist 1:  COL (Ret) Mike Eiland – 1st Age of SOF.  1964-1974 – SOF HQ never existed, no SOF doctrine or anything like that existed. All was tactical. SE Asia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia.

        Question: What inspired you to come into Special Operations?   Answer:  His first year as a lieutenant, he met a SOF operator, and noticed his professionalism and was inspired by his stories.  SOF was a career killer and had a bad reputation of attracting rogues and misfits. But he did well in it anyway and also went to Vietnam. 

               Question:  Discuss some lessons learned that have been applied.  Answer:  1)  recruiting has gotten better in order to weed out bad personalities, 2)  communications capability has improved exponentially (but this can be a disadvantage as well), 3)  principal of war that we violate the most is – simplicity. We have many layers of command, and large staffs, which diminishes our agility,  4)  language capability is better now than it was, and could get even better still,  5)  old SOF had too many ethical pitfalls – we do better today, but we have much room for improvement.

Panelist 2:  CW4 (Ret) Mike Rutledge  -- 2nd Age of SOF.  Enlisted Navy and Warrant Officer Army – 1990 – helicopter pilot, then SEAL Team 1.

                Lessons Learned:  Desert Storm was the first true JOINT environment, but SOF didn’t seem too JOINT at the time, in some ways. The new generation is every bit as tenacious and physically and mentally able to do the job as well or better than we did. As a community, we have overestimated our ability to handle everything mentally. We need to look out for each other, there is no way to do this job for 20-30 years without feeling any effects mentally and physically.

Panelist 3:  1LT Shawna Moore:  4th Age of SOF, graduated from West Point.  Artillery Officer, Fort Campbell, JSOC, Cultural Support Officer. 4 years so far.

                Lessons:  What do we do well?  1)   Selection and reselection. This is unique and getting better all the time – longer selection, more mentally strong, AND intellectual tasks – SOF is getting smarter. This selection applies also to supporters, which makes the whole force better. Reselection is important because it means you have to repeatedly prove yourself, you are not “tenured”. Keeps SOF professional. 2) Another distinguishing factor is INNOVATION. We encourage innovation, which is not what general forces do. Doctrinally, GPF and SOF are not much different from each other, but they do work different, and this is because SOF is allowed and expected to be innovative, eg:  warm blood transfusions. 3)  Unwavering mastery of doctrine – we are good at quick institutional learning. What we asked of 2nd age of SOF and 3rd age of SOF were very different, and it adapted. We are able to innovate and learn and scale to capacity. 4)  Ops-tempo we need to achieve, we have to improve. Figuring out where we fit in the future fight will help us achieve this and get the tempo correct, so that we can sustain forces.

Question:  What’s the greatest challenge from your Age of SOF, and from what you hear and know about the state of the force today, is it still an issue?

Eiland – North Vietnamese Army, is no longer a challenge. Lack of communications was another challenge, and we have gotten better at that. Also, problem of Jointness, which was lacking more then and we have improved upon.

Rutledge – the biggest challenge in sustained combat ops, is finding motivation to a mission that is ongoing. After a year or two, we lose sight of mission and focus more on safety of ourselves and become adverse to risk.

Moore  --  focus on what the next fight looks like. There is a lot of things going on, and not knowing what is going to be most important, we train on various things, but will we be ready for the big fight? What will the next big fight be? 

Melkon --  What are you most excited about for the future, regarding technology?  For Moore.

Moore --  We possess a lot of technology and a lot of combat experience within our force. We have been at a technological overmatch for many years with the forces we have been fighting (ISIS), but going forward, it will be interesting to see how we combine our combat experience with our technological experience to address a new (more technologically competent) enemy and new threats.

Eiland (same question)  --  values are timeless, selfless service among them. As far as technology goes, what concerns me is how we use the technology. We do not have to exercise a capability just because it is there, and we must stay true to our values when we employ technology in the future. We have to balance all this with a tendency to micromanage, and how we recruit and give our best soldiers the ability to solve problems.

Moore – Question: Discuss human factors and psychological factors in the fourth age – we need to establish left and right limits very clearly. Young soldiers are asked to walk the line of what is human dignity and achieving tasks and mission. It is imperative for their psychological health that we set left and right limits and that we keep lines of communication open in order to support them. We ask a lot of them.

Melkon reminds us that allies and partners are crucial to the next fight. And relationships with our allies and partners are not only the responsibility of our government, but of each individual as well.

Panel 2: The Fourth Age of SOF

Panel 2: The Fourth Age of SOF How do the past three “ages of SOF” impact the preparation for, and success in, the Fourth Age of Special Operations? Moderator: COL Mike Harris Panel: Dr. Isaiah “Ike” Wilson Mr. Chris FussellBG (UK) Rob Stephenson MAJ Alex Deep Day 1, 29 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.


Research Question:  How did the past 3 Ages of SOF impact the preparation for, and success in, the 4th Age of SOF?

Moderator Opener – COL Harris – Panel is a combination of those from 3rd Age of SOF, moving into the 4th Age. We seek to be introspective and try to understand what we have learned over the last 20 years that we can apply to the new fight as our nation moves forward in Great Power Competition. Intentionally included MAJ Deep as a field grade officer that will have to transition our lessons learned into something useful going forward for the Enterprise.


Dr. Ike Wilson:  JSOU President, combat vet, Army aviator, strategist, CENTCOM CDR’s Initiative Group, Full Professor of Political Science, taught at West Point, Columbia, Yale, George Washington University, Previously Director of US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

BG Rob Stephenson (UK):  Deputy CDR NATO Special Operations HQ:  35 Years, N. Ireland, Bosnia, N. Macedonia, Iraq, Afghanistan, N. Africa, Masters in Defense Studies, Kings College London.

Mr. Chris Fussell:  Retired Navy SEAL, scholar and author, Senior Fellow for Natl Security New America, Lifetime Member of Council on Foreign Relations

MAJ Alex Deep:  current Army Special Forces, currently at USSOCOM, commanded at numerous levels, combat operations in Afghan and Syria, Masters of Arts in Strategic Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Instructor of International Relations, founder of Irregular Warfare Group, Westpoint.

COL Harris – Director of Special Activities at USSOCOM – Moderator.

Dr. Wilson:  Will use a 3 part approach to frame the research question. Focus on Operations, Actions, Activities, ad Investments (OAAI).

Q: Why should we revisit past ages of SOF?  Why do we need to change?

A:  Point 1 --While we may be doing things right, are we doing the right things? We are living in a time of change, and there may be large systems changes as well. We must be ready to change in response to big political changes that are happening. We have to consider what is the same and what is new, and for this we need THEORY.

            We have a New Security Environment, which demands we consider what will change in Special Operations (the nature of the operations), as well as our Forces (operators and professionals). New Use, Utility and Identity required to define what is a special operations and what is a SOF Professional.

            COMPOUND SECURITY DILEMMA:  Primary unique feature that underpins our need for change -- change in global security environment, change in character of global geopolitical competition. What makes this dangerous is the nature of the threat, which is a compounded collection of security threats that we have not been able to understand and solve, and underlying conditions that are complex and multidimensional, trans-everything and temporally dynamic.

           These threats are impossible to contain transnational, transregional, with potential for metastasizing into big multinational wars. Ukraine, Syria, Iraq . . . .

            International Relations:  Beg-thy-neighbor, transactional relationships, less collective security and more DIY security. We HAVE to fight against this with COLLLECTIVE security. Partners and allies are the key to combatting these problems.

           For SOF:  the task at hand requires everything we got – we have to compound all the TTPs and lessons learned form all the past ages of SOF in order to meet the compound threat we face today. Requires a back to our futures perspective.

     Point 2 -- History is illustrative:  SOF hasn’t changed in its importance, it is still as important as it ever has been. Only the environment has changed. But we may need to adapt as we consider the new threat environment. Russia and China openly challenge the traditional rules-based order of international relations.  

      Special Operators must become trans-domain problem-solvers. Also, with access and placement, as well as understanding of human terrain, SOF can provide early warnings long before conflict heats up (rheostat). SOF has presence and relationships, which translates into INFLUENCE.

      SOF must bend escalation curve downward and extend the spaces in between conflict over time (increase spaces of relative peace).

      Point 3 – Combined Joint SOF must be prepared to coordinate all facets on national power.

     Joint combined SOF will play leading role in defining the future role of alliances, we must revamp our messaging strategies in order to gain informational advantage – control the narrative. SOF in technology – SOF must figure out how to leverage new technology without compromising ethics. Where does SOF fit into deterrence? How does SOF power need to be reconsidered, SOF utility and relevancy, what is our role in grey zone conflicts?

BG Rob Stephenson  --  British Army 35 yrs. Began at end of Cold War. From NATO position, when considering the future of great power competition and conflict, I will offer a few thoughts from the European / NATO perspective. Can provide a view of what Dr. Wilson mentioned as the importance of Ally and Partner importance in fighting the compound global threats.

                Agree that the strategic environment and great power competition and conflict is central issue, and note that ‘we’ tend to make the mistake, when we think about the GPC, of comparing it to the Cold War, but it is really not the same strategic context. There are differences.

                The whole of Europe recognizes that it is different from the Cold War, as we see now with Ukraine (Georgia, etc)

                Advances in technology.

     1st, 2nd and 3rd ages of SOF each had their own opportunities to develop innovation and shape the force.  Policy restraints were less, due to the nature of conflicts in the 3rd age, where now when we are looking at GPC, things will probably move slower, considering the nature of “competition”.

     For the Alliance / NATO, the 3rd age of SOF has been a catalyst for development. 20 years of war have necessarily brought development. Will we lose some capabilities we had for the 3rd age? ISR, access, etc.? 3rd age of SOF has built a capability that is orientated toward the problem set of the last 20 years, and we want to be able to move away from some of the expectations we have created over the past 20 years as we pivot towards a new threat.  (eg: can we continue to provide readiness such as one hour medivacs)?

     *As we look toward the future, we have to think about a SOF capability across the Alliance that is fit for purpose. The U.S. leadership in this Alliance is of key importance. You must understand the strategic environment in order to get the information battle correct.

      Also, communicating with members of the Alliance requires a nuanced approach. Understanding the strategic environment and context is key to develop influence. What you say to Portugal is very different from what you say to Norway, and how you get each one to contribute to a SOF capability fit for purpose. Each country has a different requirement, provides opportunity for influence and building capability.

     Consider supporting law enforcement, and other agencies in some of these countries, where appropriate.

     We don’t want to lose what we have built over the past 20 years, keep developing the relationships, and then ADAPT the capabilities as needed.

     *Key: Understand the Strategic Context, Accept the Changes, Learn the right lessons from the previous ages of SOF, particularly the last 20 years (3rd age /CT age), and do what we can to unlearn the wrong lessons – particularly, training and recruiting, which we tend to focus backward when writing requirements and we need to focus forward to predict requirements.

Mr. Chris Fussell: Been out of SOF for 10 years but stay engaged (SEAL). Pessimistic on the transformation. The idea of transitions of phases (ages) of SOF could be argued, but as SOF has evolved, we look for trigger points. The forcing function of modern SOF was 9/11. Prior to that was President Kennedy, and a recognition of a need for a SOF force, and so it was built and codified. What is the trigger point for a new age of SOF?

                Maybe it has occurred? Maybe it is Ukraine? But we should discuss if we have had such a trigger point . . . . . there hasn’t been an event that has required us to change.  Dr. Wilson is looking at the world and recognizing a change in context, and stating a need for change, and it would be great if all systems could be predictive and proactive this way, but it is an uphill grind.

                Old Organization:  A hierarchy, specialized units led by generational leader, accomplish a mission, gather intel, analyze, and new decision cycle. McChrystal recognized a need for something else, b/c the enemy was a NETWORK, so we had to adapt. We became a hybrid of structured and unstructured organization. This has been the last 20 years the way we have been organized.

                Now we need a new structure – considering culture of our organization (direct action, kinetic activities is what our culture expects, but we need something else, like space, cyber, information influence), capabilities we need now, and composition of the force (insufficient to solve the next 20 years, SOF has ability and flexibility to bring in other people from society, and employ new selection models, think diversity and inclusion, tech, crypto, cyber experts).

MAJ Alex Deep:  I think that security is a zero sum game, in that the steps one entity takes to secure itself, inherently take away from the security of another.  The zero sum game has come to revolve around INFLUENCE, along the same lines as security, influence capacity is limited.

                We need to take an asymmetric approach toward influence. FID, SA, COIN, CT, UW, etc, are all our tools to engage in irregular warfare (IW), or to influence. As me move to the 4th age, IW is going to be the standard way to fight. We need to avoid random acts of IW, and make sure that the missions we take are strategically connected in support of a larger goal. IW is a great set of tools, and we are good at it. We just need to avoid random acts of IW and move toward coordinated efforts of IW in a large, strategic campaign.

COL HarrisQ:  Consider what Dr. Wilson asked – are we doing the right things? And what BG Stephenson said, what do we need to Unlearn? What is one thing we should unlearn from the 3rd age of SOF?

Wilson:  We have to reconsider our USE and UTILITY from the last 20 years and toward the GPC. What we are going to be essentially doing, is going to be different . . . . . we focused more on some of the 12 core tasks than others. We need to understand we are NOT pivoting from CT, we always have done CT ad we still are going to do it. AND, we are ALSO doing more things for GPC. Strategic rebalance? New wine in old wine skins? No. We need to keep working to understand and explain and educate people about what we do, and what we can do.  Unlearn the simplistic way we talk about what we do.

Fussell:  SOF will have to return to being the SUPPORTING element, where we have become the SUPPPORTED element. It will not stay that way. We will have to return to specialized elements. The world has become hard to understand, and SOF has much to offer because of the nature of what we do.

Deep:  How we conceptualize risk will define how we operate in the 4th age of SOF.

Harris:  3 things we should unlearn:  unlearn putting ourselves and our need of mission in a box, unlearn that SOF is the supported element, unlearn how we conceptualize risk and risk mitigation.

Wilson:  I think all 3 go back to what Chris put on his whiteboard, speaking to CORE IDENTITY. A synthesis of all 3 comments is that there is a forewarning, that we must understand our identity. We are taught to understand mission by task and purpose – PURPOSE is the defining factor, and we must figure it out. We have to understand what the nation needs from us, our PURPOSE, then consider tasks. We have been doing it backwards.

Fussell:  We evolved the way we did for a specific 20-year effort. In order to change to meet the new fight, we DO HAVE to let some of that go, some of the capability will be lost. How capable do we want and need to be in that part of the mission set – direct action, CT, etc. Should we move some resources over to another area of focus . . . . . . probably.

COL Harris:  Q: What is one thing we need to bring with us from the 3rd to the 4th Are of SOF?

Wilson:  F3EAD mindset. The org chart may need to be adjusted, but the core value of INTEGRATION of SOF, needs to be brought forward. We are good at integrating, bringing together all the elements of national power, the force multiplying role. Anauytical approach.

Fussell:  Human networking, and all that Wilson said. Technology and innovation, acquisitions, miniaturization, AI and ML, advancement. We have to keep bringing the cutting edge, challenging norms to get better. Innovative approach.

Deep: Culture of using the partnered approach. Partnered approach.

Keynote: General Richard Clarke

JSOU SOF Q2 Forum - Keynote Speaker (recorded) GEN Richard Clarke, CDR USSOCOM . Day 1, 29 March 2022. Source: https://www.aspeninstitute.org Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Panel 3: Creating Complexity for Current and Potential Rivals

Panel 3: Creating Complexity for Current and Potential Rivals How can Special Operations Forces best create complexity for current and potential rivals during both competition and conflict? Moderator: COL (Ret.) Liam Collins Panel: Mr. Andy Maher, LTC Meghan Cumpston, Dr. David Kilcullin and Mr. Peter Cloutier. Day 1, 29 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Show Notes:

Research Question:  How can Special Operations Forces best create complexity for current and potential rivals during both competition and conflict?

COL (Ret) Liam Collins:  former SOF, PhD Princeton, Director of Combatting Terrorism Center and founding Director Modern War Institute at West Point.

Mr. Andy Maher: 20 yrs Australian Army, doctoral candidate examining proxy warfare

LTC Meghan Cumpston:  G2 1st Armor Division, MA International Relation John’s Hopkins

Dr. David Kilcullin: Center of Future War, senior fellow, New America, senior diplomat, State Department, senior advisor, author of Accidental Guerrilla, Out of the Mountains

Mr. Peter Cloutier: JSOU Professor, career Foreign Service Officer, USAID

Mr. Andy Maher:  What do we mean by a Special Operation?  It is unorthodox, and it is elite. Public likes to focus on the elite part, but is this always a good thing?  Does focus on the elite cause moral drift? How do we look at what is unorthodox and innovative, in an open source environment?

     Can we create a playbook to identify what our range of options are in order to create complexity for the adversary? Lay out tasks, or “plays” from tactical level to strategic, from less elite to more elite capabilities. Look to the past, not just American operations, but all the special operations in all the past wars, and how might they be adapted with the new capabilities we have today. What was the effect of the operation, and how can we achieve the same effect today, albeit by including new technical capabilities for instance?  Codify all the options in playbook form. Think through these options, deliberately consider specific options, based on effects. This playbook will assist in creating complexity for the enemy by using our collective histories to present options we can visualize and mix and match in a useful way.

COL Collins:  What should we be doing in the Ukraine conflict?

Maher: Competition with Russia creates second order effects when considering Ukraine. The way the Wagner group doubled down in Mali a few weeks ago, was a response to U.S. competition and activities in Ukraine. The way other nations are seizing Russian assets, economic warfare, presents a challenge in that it is difficult for us to assess all these activities and then visualize the overall result. We must look at the globalized scale when we consider results, because it isn’t a bilateral problem. We are doing things, and so are others, and there are effects being achieved.

Collins:  How much does SOF need to engage the Interagency, are we doing enough or do we need to do more to get into the Interagency response?

Maher:  Hyper-Interagency is a requirement of SOF if we want to accomplish unconventional warfare effects in the arenas of political warfare, economic warfare and resistance.

LTC Cumpston: as a senior intel officer of an armored division, to increase complexity for our adversary means we need to increase interoperability with our own U.S. general purpose forces (GPF). This will allow us to increase effects in our missions.

     Internal interoperability:  Intel sharing, data sharing, how we communicate together, train together. We all need to understand what SOF brings to bear on a problem set, and what GPF brings to bear. There is much room for improving these relationships and thereby increasing understanding and awareness and interoperability. This is not a formalized process. We have a lot of room to grow in order to work towards better incorporating SOF in the fight and multiplying the effects we can achieving by doing so.

Collins:  When we are in competition phase (short of conflict), what are some ways we can increase complexity for our adversaries?

Cumpston:  Intel sharing needs to be improved and would set the stage for success when we move toward conflict. Second, by demonstrating interoperability to the adversary by training exercises – and messaging these to the adversary.  Specifically, would ask for exercise illuminating how SOF’s specific capabilities can enhance some of the capabilities we have here at Fort Bliss.

Dr. Kilkullin:  Complexity is a subset of man sets of costs to the adversary. We want to impose costs on the enemy in time, space, material, and reputation.

     Time -- SOF can throw a campaign off tempo, cause an adversary to take longer to do things, mapping the adversary target set and publishing it can slow down the adversary.

      Space --  SOF can pose a distributed threat far and wide, operate in a diffused space, so that the enemy has to defend everywhere. SOF is agile and can operate this way.

      Material  --  forcing the adversary to plan for more material losses. Imposing continuous costs on the adversary. Every little cost counts.

     Reputation  --  Russia / Ukraine, and China / Taiwan  -- they seek to intimidate the smaller nations by creating the illusion that they (Russia / China)  are invulnerable. By showing the world that they are not untouchable, we discredit this illusion and harm their reputation in a way that translates into actual physical victories.

     Keep in mind that we need to create these effects across both military and non-military capabilities. Very Important -- we have to understand the reaction parameters of the adversary, where they will react, what form, what duration, by what authorities, etc. We must predict the adversary response as much as we can in order to gauge the correct activity.

     We also need to free ourselves from the tyranny of the CONOP. We need to deploy smaller teams, with diverse skill sets. We need more agility. We need to sustain a virtual persistent presence, reach back and reach forward capability. Our own GPF also needs to be more involved, train with them more, as well as more agencies need to get involved – working toward more whole of government solutions. It’s not just a military problem.

Collins:  what is impeding us from being able to do these things?

Kilkullin:  We need to improve our physical and mental capacity to do them. Risk aversion by politicians who have become used to a very certain kind of mission set for SOF. We need to let them know what else we can do, we need to be the gray zone threat, and we need to explain to politicians what this means and how we can contribute.

Mr. Cloutier: The best focus here is:  Monograph of 4th Age of SOF: Use and Utility of Special operations in a New Age, by Will Irwin and Isaiah Wilson, JSOU President. Find here in the Forum webpage as a rea ahead. This monograph explains how we can create complexity. Focus on Illegal and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF). Complexity theory – agents at one level are building blocks for agents at the next level; networks include many agents gathering information who are learning and acting in parallel and in an environment produced by the activities of these agents; system co-evolves with its environment; future is emergent and always unfolding; hard to predict future.  Greatest implication of complexity is in rethinking our mindset to solve our problems.

     Butterfly Effect: 1978 theory. Butterfly does cause the tornado because, controlled for all other environmental conditions, the tornado would not have happened if the butterfly had not flapped its wings.

     How do we apply complexity theory to our operations:  Probe, sense, adjust. Do an action, observe changes, observe new starting position, do another action, observe again. We are observing whether we are moving in the right direction, rather than doing a single activity and expecting a single response or output, which is too simplified of thinking and planning for a complex environment.

     Monograph agrees with this, as it recommends by, with and through operations, and population centric operations in order to “attack the adversaries strategy rather than his army”.  Invisibly adjust the rheostat – for IUUF – work through indigenous people to affect the government and thereby effect China’s ability to fish illegally.

Question:  What are some ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness at defining assumed adversarial doctrine versus actual doctrine?

Cumpston:  What we assume has been adversarial doctrine versus what has played out on the battlefield, has indeed highlighted our mistaken assumptions. Can we collect intel as evidence to support actual adversary doctrine, or to show what is inaccurate in their published doctrine?  This may help.

Question:  Do you hold to strategic paralysis theory? If so, how does SOF contribute and how was this evident in 1st, 2nd and 3rd ages of SOF?

Kilkullin:  There are examples from the 1st World War, and Shock and Awe is another general example. 2 distinct modes of strategic paralysis - - 1) closing a lethal threat to an adversary commander (for the adversary to know that their commander is being hunted, might cause them to act irrationally, and make mistakes, this is why Russia is sending kill teams to go after Ukrainian leadership);  2) posing a bandwidth challenge for adversary’s decision makers

Question:  In this 4th age of SOF, what emphasis should we put on deterrence versus preparation for the big fight?

Maher:  Use accumulative strategy rather than sequential strategy. We have to engage on as many levels and in as many places as possible in order to create complexity. Do a bunch of things in a bunch of places at the same time to create a strategic problem for the adversary. We can do message this capability via exercises and overt messaging and also right in our doctrine.

Kilkullin:  We just experienced a major failure of strategic deterrence – in Ukraine. We did not deter Russia in Ukraine. We see deterrence in a vertical escalation, but SOF can support deterrence in a horizontal direction (if you were to hold assets at risk in El Salvador, you might cause nuclear deterrence in Russia, etc).

Collins:  What might we have better to deter Russia in Ukraine?

Kilkullin:  We had a tripwire of allies and partners and infrastructure in Ukraine for years. When threat increased, we pulled our people out!  This was the opposite that we should have done. We indicated that we were going to leave and emboldened the adversary Russia.

Cumpston:  There is an information component as well. The administration released de-classified information in order to claim the narrative. Could we have employed that strategy further left in the timeline? Would this help? Would it have given more time for Russian leadership to change their calculus?

Collins:  Should we have combat observers on the ground in Ukraine?

Cumpston:  The benefit of having combat observers on the ground is gaining truth. They can help the military get better insight as to how well they are actually doing, and what they need to work on.

Kilkullin:  We should not have combat observers on the ground now. If we had them before the invasion, they may have actually served as a deterrent, but putting them in now would be too dangerous.

Collins:  What do we need to do in training and education to better prepare us for complexity against the adversary?

Kilkullin:  Smaller teams, operating at distance, design, using autonomous systems underwater, air, etc., air-ground integration, space is now a warfighting domain, support to resistance movements.

Panel 4: Understanding and Countering Irregular Adversaries

Panel 4: Understanding and Countering Irregular Adversaries What is ‘irregular warfare,’ and how can SOF conduct, and prevent against, IW in the future? Moderator: MAJ Kyle Atwell Panel: Dr. Jake Shapiro, Dr. Seth Jones, LTC Katie Crombe, and LTG Ken Tovo Day 1, 29 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Show Notes:


Question:  What is Irregular Warfare (IrW), and how can SOF conduct and prevent against IrW in the future?

Moderator:  MAJ Kyle Atwell:  Chair Irregular Warfare Initiative, Podcast host IrW Podcast


LTC Katie Crombe:  Army Strategist, SOCCENT, J5

Dr. Seth Jones: Sr. Vice President CSIS, Author:  3 Dangerous Men: Russia, China, Iran and the Rise of Irregular Warfare

Dr. Jake Shapiro: Professor Princeton University, Coauthor: Small Wars, Big Data: The Information Revolution in Modern Conflict

LTG (Ret) Ken Tovo:  U.S. Special Forces, former CDR USASOC

Question:  Definition of irregular warfare, and how it is distinct from regular warfare.

Dr. Jones: IrW components:  activities short of conventional warfare, designed to expand a nation’s legitimacy and at the same time weaken the adversaries power / legitimacy, eg:  psychological ops, disinformation, misinformation, cyber ops, support to state and non-state actors, information warfare, economic coercion.

     Undermine adversary without direct action.  Regular warfare uses direct action mainly.

     Understand that our adversaries have similar concepts, but speak about this topic differently, for instance:  Russians say:  “active measures” Iran says:  “soft war”  Chinese:  refers to “3 warfares”, and supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy with indirect action

LTG (Ret) Tovo:  DoD definition:  violent struggle between state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population.

     Conventional and IrW are seeking the same ends, we are just going about it in different ways.

LTC Crombe:  How are our adversaries leveraging IrW?  IrW is a thing that is about people.

     Iran:  gets in with their proxies at all levels, not just militarily, but also at the familial level, economic, etc.  How can we ensure that Iran doesn’t hold so much leverage in places like Lebanon, Iraq?  We need to get deeper into the villages again, like in Iraq. Where we have been fighting ISIS in Iraq, we have not been staying in touch at the tribal level, but Iran has.

Dr. Shapiro:  Compare IrW challenges we have now to those over the last 20 years? Over the last 20 years, we have known exactly where to invest our resources, in the Middle East. Now, where should we be investing our IrW efforts, when we are considering a global “battle” field? 

LTG (Ret) Tovo:  From your vast experience, what common threads related to IrW, do you find among all your experiences? To help frame the issue.  These conflicts are ASYMMETRIC, or chosen by the side without means to fight, because it is the best way for them to fight. Sometimes, the U.S. actually chooses this way as well, due to restrictions like lack of access. But sometimes, IrW is preferable, it is generally an asymmetric approach chosen by someone who has less means, or one of the parties is self-limiting for some reason.

LTC Crombe:  Patience – we have to communicate to our decision makers for instance in Congress, that the nature of IrW is that it takes time. For instance Ukraine – it is not what we are doing now in the Ukraine that makes a difference (it is still good to pump weapons and training into the fight now), but the decades of SOF work we have invested into that country prior to this conflict, that has really made a difference.

LTG (Ret) Atwell:  Agree – 3 Ps -- Patience, Persistence, Presence, and these things require strategic commitment.

     On Great Power Competition:  this strategy is expensive. See the UK, which won 2 long great power competitions – WWI and WW2. And even though they won them, they came out having lost their empire. So, even the winners lose in GPC.

Dr. Jones:  We must prepare for engagements that require IrW. As the NDS shifted our focus, and the shiny effort moved toward major conventional type war with China or Russia, we have engaged in a lot of wargames and investments in these areas. However, we additionally need to focus on the IRREGULAR aspects of these competitions.

     Eg: Building capabilities of the Taiwanese to fight against China, and planning for any other short of war responses we need to have ready for China (and other adversaries)

Question:  How about the Middle East?  Are we okay in these places, or do we need to do more, now that we are turned away from prioritizing CT?

Dr. Jones:   Investments matter. We should be investing much more in understanding the adversary, for instance reading Chinese books and translating so that we can understand.

MAJ Atwell:  So we have framed the conversation, framed the character of the threat and explained how prominent it might be in the future. How can SOF engage with these IrW challenges in the future?

LTG (Ret) Tovo:  Our approach can make a difference, as we have seen in Ukraine for example. IF the partner has a desire to help themselves, we can help them. If unwilling, we will not be successful. Ukraine was interested in learning and taking on the responsibility, and now they are demonstrating their abilities on the battlefield. Going forward, I see a partner focused role for SOF.

MAJ Atwell:  Interesting – most people view the conflict in Ukraine as evidence that IrW is dead, and future wars are going to be conventional. As you just highlighted, it is the decades of work SOF has done in the Ukraine prior to the war, that has paid dividends.

Role of information / disinformation in Ukrainian conflict.

Partnerships, SOLOs (Special Ops Liaison Officers), Interagency, Embassy relationships, etc. needed to prime the environment. SOF is the best tool for keeping a small posture inside nations, keeping a finger on the information ops context, staying in touch with the society, etc.

LTG (Ret) Tovo:  Warfare is a cognitive struggle. It is convincing the adversary that he has lost the struggle. We have to convince our own population that the struggle is worth it, and to the adversary population as well. Not just convincing governments, but populations, these days.

Dr. Shapiro:  What was interesting about Ukraine was that Russia ran out of weapons. Can you imagine the U.S. going into a fight and not having enough weapons or ammunition?

LTG (Ret) Tovo:  Yes, this is interesting, and reinforces the earlier discussion on how we need to prioritize our ability to understand our adversaries. Until we can better understand China, how they make decisions, how they see the world and themselves, we cannot create effective strategy. We should not be surprised by the decisions that our adversaries make. Are we surprised by Putin’s decisions in Ukraine?  Why are we surprised? Do we understand him? Do we understand all the aspects of Russian culture, how its government works, how Putin thinks?

Question:  Where should SOF be focusing? What are some areas that are NOT the correct focus for SOF?

Dr. Jones:  We should be focusing anywhere the Wagner Group is focusing? Wherever the One Belt ad One Road is expanding, anywhere where our adversaries are expanding – Africa, Indo-pacific, ports, maritime areas.

     No advantage:    for conventional warfare, only support

     Best advantages:  GRU, PLA subversive activities, Quds Force, building resistance activities in E. Europe and Baltic States, deterrence in the capacity to resist in case of invasion – SA and FID.

LTC Crombe:  COIN, CT, MISO, do what we do best, and do it EVERYWHERE. So, we don’t want to engage Russia in the Ukraine, where else in the world are there Russian forces – let’s engage them there. View is global.

LTG (Ret) Tovo:  Strategic Competition is not a strategy – it is an environment. SOF has a good mix of capabilities across USSOCOM. They will be needed in the future. SOF exists to solve hard problems and to create hard problems for our adversaries. We ca start by thinking about how we can create hard problems for our adversaries.

MAJ Atwell:  GWOT Era, SOF has been seen as a direct action force. Where do we need to make changes – what to keep and what to divest?

LTG (Ret) Tovo:  Partnerships have worked. ISOF in Iraq was the last standing bastion when ISIS came to town in Iraq. ISOF was a decades old partnership, and it made a difference. It wasn’t enough, but it made a difference.

     Partnerships are a good place to start going forward. They will never be regretted.

     Until we have a better strategy, I wouldn’t get rid of anything.

     May want to invest more in information operations.

LTC Crombe:  Same question.  Need for education going forward. Particularly educating ourselves on China – we need to study in China, we need to be able to read Chinese texts, understand their culture, etc. China sends its people here to study, and they understand us well. We need to do the same.

Dr. Jones:  Strategic construct is necessary, agree w/ Ken. We aren’t quite there when it comes to strategy, and this is really important.

     The competition will be global, and similar to Cold War.  There will be a lot of disinformation and misinformation. And looking at force posture, SOF can help locate, underwater drones, undercover people and forces, and other capabilities. Where adversaries might try to hide capabilities, including in the space and cyber domains, SOF can find a niche going forward.

Question:  What are the implications of this conversation for policymakers?

Dr. Shapiro:  We put a lot of money into DoD, and this is at the expense of our energy sector, our infrastructure, etc. SOF is a cheaper option than general purpose forces. SOF can offer solutions that decrease defense spending. This is an opportunity for SOF.

MAJ Atwell:  Sometimes SOF and Conventional forces compete with each other to present solutions to policymakers. Seth, do you see this at all in Washington?

Dr. Jones:  SOF is still seen as a direct action force. There MUST be a continued education campaign to make policymakers understand that SOF has an indirect action capability. We have significant expertise in indirect action, and we really need to show this.

Panel 5: What is a SOF "Professional"?

May 17, 2022 Panel 5: What is a “SOF Professional”? What makes a “profession,” and how are SOF professionals unique and distinct? Moderator: LTC Mike Kelvington Panel:LTC Ken Segelhorst, Mayor James Gagliano, Dr. Kari Thyne, and SGM Timo Braese (German SOF) Day 2, 30 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Show Notes:

Question:  What is a “SOF professional”?  What makes a “profession”, and how are SOF professionals unique and distinct?

Moderator: LTC Mike Kelvington:  Princeton graduate, Army Ranger, Professor Military Science at Ohio University. 

     What is a professional?  Accept the responsibility to be stuards of the people and resources entrusted to them by society and to advance the state of their profession in anticipation of changes to the world around them. Mission is more important than the individual. (Army definition).

     Lessons gathered though not yet learned, from 4th Age of SOF Monograph – bend conflict curve downward and extend the space between conflicts – this is our overarching goal.


LTC Ken Sengelhorst:  Army SOF Officer, Ethics and Leadership expert at Westpoint


Mayor James Gagliano:  law enforcement analyst, CT, Westpoint graduate, former infantry officer, MA Homeland Security

Dr. Kari Thyne: USAF Officer retired, munitions and mechanics, Pentagon Air Staff, Joint Staff, RAND Strategy and Doctrine, Ethics Instructor various, JSOU Ethics and Leadership expert

SGM Timo BraeseGerman Army, SOF Ops SGM, now at WestPoint

Sengelhorst:  What ways can commissioning agencies better prepare future SOF leaders? We try to develop officers in 4 areas of expertise, including moral and ethical. When we commission them, we are certifying them as “professionals” – character, competence, and commitment. Character is most important, we can’t teach it, we have courses for competence, but not much for character. We have to focus on character, by giving these officers leadership positions so they can gain leadership experience and build character, because it is hard to train on character. For SOF, this is particularly important.

Kelvington:  “Team of Teams”, General McChrystal. What is going on at WestPoint in regards to moral / ethical, and critical and creative thinking so they can be successful on the battle field.


Sengelhorst:  Liberal Arts education at WestPoint serves these efforts. In the past 20 years, we have been able to use some of this education to real world problems, such as the things that have happened in D.C. during and after the elections. We focus on complexity and critical thinking to challenge their thinking. We focus on Commander’s intent, empowering your team, and decisive decision making. SOF is known to be better at these tasks, because they have historically had to operate with little support and in denied environments.


Gagliano:  What can you advise?  And especially how can we continue to serve after the military?  Was in FBI Hostage Rescue Team, doing hostage rescue in U.S., which is same as SOF Hostage Rescue mission OCONUS. In FBI, CT effort is important, and works w/ military and SOF. FBI does interrogations, interviews, fingerprinting, DNA testing, and law enforcement skill sets as well as tactical skill sets such as jumping, etc. There is much available for SOF operators once separated in FBI and law enforcement.

     Finding purpose after transition from professional SOF / military:  You may not ever find the bond of brothers that you have in your SOF teams, but in law enforcement / FBI, you will find the closest thing to it that you can find.  Mission and challenge will also be a part of these fields, which lends to purpose as well.


Thyne:  SOF Ethical Considerations Project – General Clarke and Chief Smith released the Comprehensive Review. My team decided to make a contribution to the solution of the problems in the Review. So:

     Professions seek to earn and keep the trust of the communities they serve – do so by establishing an ethos or system of values. What are SOF values / what is the SOF ethos?  We found the answers in the ancient Greeks, Plato, Aristotle, and Renaissance, Machiavelli, then John Locke 17th Century England. What are the characteristics of human nature?  One is that we all are subject to moral drift.  Concept of human nature, leads to moral drift, leads to moral injury.

     New finding: extended moral injury, ongoing moral injury, repeated moral injury leads to higher  likelihood of suicidal ideation.

     Findings:  4 Quadrants:  Moral Drift + High Instance of Mission Success  --  when you have a culture where you are encouraged to disregard morals and values, then you have a real problem. So, do we have such a culture?  Does SOF encourage moral drift?  Does SOF look the other way, and even expect and even demand its professionals to disregard moral and ethical standards?  Not necessarily, but these are the questions we address.

Kelvington:  At WestPoint, accountability is a big focus. Vignette – Ranger training for of ethics:  RASP 1 and 2 are required as assessments before moving through promotions, includes psych evals, boards with senior leaders, etc. Helps raise red flags and eliminate people, as well as identify people who may need help, but we want to keep them in the organization – focus is both physical fitness and mental / moral fitness.


Thyne:  We have found:   Selection processes in place are actually selecting the right people. But the SOF environment is unique in particular because it makes ethical demands on its people that others services do not. For instance, we tach children that we win and lose graciously – do we reinforce such values in SOF? We do not lose wars graciously . . . .

     Other things are the team dynamics. SOF is comfortable critiquing each other on absolutely everything, except moral drift. These are uncomfortable conversations, but we have to get to the place where this is a normal critique, like anything else. It is part of looking after each other.


Kelvington:  Trust is definitely a big part of this. We need to be able to trust each other, that we can ask for help, and that we are all here to make each other better.

     Also, we in the military come from all different types of places and cultures. We have to be able to create a shared culture and also one of trust. This is a tall order for leaders, but an ethical baseline is definitely the best place to start.


Braese:  with the 75th Ranger Regiment right now. Considering international relations, NATO, German-US relations, etc., understanding and communications is key. Critical thinking is also key, especially when practiced together among nations, and for SOF, the level of critical thinking is unbounded. Joint training missions are the best way to build international culture, ethical baseline – training is our best tool to get there together as ally, partner and friendly nations.


Kelvington:  Thank you – it is true communication is such an issue. It often causes frustration, also when considering information sharing and technology systems issues. How have you overcome some of the challenges you spoke about, like the haves and have nots issue and other bureaucratic road blocks.

Braese:  In German Army, we do what has to be done to get the mission done. Sometimes we have to do questionable things, or disregard bureaucratic road blocks when they are just complicated for no reason. Not saying we do things that are illegal, but some of the things we are made to do are just senseless, and we disregard.


Kelvington:  Great comments. I remember when serving on the task force, the issue was always intel sharing. The intel was useless when we were the only ones who could use it. We needed to share it with partners and weren’t allowed to. We were always having to find ways around this problem.

Question:  Considering 4th Age of SOF, what education priorities would you recommend we focus on for short and mid-term?

Thyne:  JSOU is revamping our curriculum:  5 new focus areas -- SOF Leadership and Ethics, Integrative Campaigning, Resistance and Resilience, Information Advantage, Itelligence and Technology

Sengelhorst:  from WestPoint perspective, Geocultural / Political focus is key for us. There is an unprecented complexity in battlefield, hybrid threats, below threshold of armed conflict. We are short on language and culture expertise, and we need it for all cultures and nations. We need to better understand the operating environment much better.


Question:  How do you get senior leaders to relate to junior leaders in order to make the needed changes, when their experiences are much different?  How do you effectively pass the baton?

Kelvington:  Yes. We cannot disregard the junior leaders’ GWOT experience. Even though we have pivoted our focus away from CT, these officers have definitely led complex operations, and are as relevant as anyone who experienced the Cold War of the 90s.

Sengelhorst:  I would say that this is less of an issue for SOF than the general forces. We are much more adaptive and agile and better poised to avoid issues like this. But I do understand that this is going to be an issue for the larger forces.

Panel 6: SOF Education, Authorities, Doctrine, Special Challenges

May 18, 2022 Panel 6: SOF Education, Authorities, Doctrine, Special Challenges What adjustments to education, authorities, and doctrine need to be made to help SOF overcome the special challenges of the future? Moderator: COL Patrick Howell LTC Keith Carter Panel: Lt. Col. Timothy Heck, LTC (Ret) Cris Simon, and CPT Moriamo Sulaiman Day 2, 30 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Panel 7: Partners and Allies, SOF's Role in Integrated Deterrence and Defense

What is SOF’s role in establishing/maintaining partnerships and alliances, and what should those relationships look like in the future? Moderator: Dr. Rob Burrell Panel: COL Jaroslaw Jablonski (Polish SOF), BG Brett Chaloner (Austrailian SOF), and SFC Jarrid Johnson (US SF) Day 2, 30 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Panel 8: Fact and Fiction: Active Campaigning in the Gray Zone

What are “grey zone” operations, and what is SOF’s role in active campaigning in them? Moderator: COL Trevor Hough Panel: MG Joshua Rudd, Mr. Doug Jordan, LTC (Ret) Brian Babcock-Lumish and MAJ Kate Nelson Day 2, 30 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.

Closing Comments: Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson, JSOU President

Dr. Isaiah “Ike” Wilson III, JSOU President Day 2, 30 March 2022. Opinions in this forum are those of the presenters and may not necessarily be the views of U.S. Government, Department of Defense, United States Special Operations Command, and the Joint Special Operations University.