The Fourth Age of SOF: The Use and Utility of Special Operations Forces in a New Age by Will Irwin and Dr. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson III
The Fourth Age of SOF: The Use and Utility of Special Operations Forces in a New Age is a sweeping monograph that chronicles the history of modern Special Operations Forces (SOF) and insightfully describes their new challenges. The authors have compiled an excellent, concise history of SOF’s three earlier ages: 1941–1960, 1961–1979, and 1980–2020, setting the stage for projecting SOF’s Fourth-Age roles in the emerging era of strategic competition. The early years were not easy, but with determination and perseverance, the SOF community prevailed, and four decades of remarkable and unprecedented SOF achievements resulted. As they begin their Fourth Age, SOF will again be challenged.
In this monograph, William “Bill” Knarr, Mark Nutsch, and Robert Pennington offer an unvarnished examination of America’s initial response to 9/11—the battle for Mazar-e Sharif and the events that preceded and followed that critical battle. Most remember the “horse soldiers” and the role U.S. Special Forces played fighting alongside the Central Intelligence Agency and Northern Alliance forces. Accounts of this operation have been portrayed in movies, but the difference between this monograph and other accounts is simple: the authors employ an academically rigorous methodology that is based on documentary evidence supplemented by interviews with those involved in the operations.
The purpose of this paper is to offer a general model, based on learning theory that links the two: Case + Study. It begins with learning objectives and outcomes centered on the identified needs of a community. The science of developing the case study is in linking the storyline to the learning outcomes via discussion points. Those discussion points bring life to the study; depending on the desired cognitive learning level, they can compel a seminar member to think critically about the topic. The art of developing the case study, in challenging seminar members to higher levels of learning, lies in the quality of those linkages in conjunction with appropriate teaching/learning styles.
To illustrate the model’s application this paper uses “A Case Study in Counterinsurgency” as the topic; it frames counterinsurgency tenets as the learning objective; and uses “Discuss the root causes of the insurgency” as a learning outcome. The case used to discuss the model and illustrate this process is the “Anbar Awakening,” the partnering of the Sunni Tribes with the Coalition and Government of Iraq to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2005-2008.
Some 70 years ago the OSS came into being as a small, nearly invisible, Washington, D.C.-based organization whose unique capabilities and strategic reach resulted in decisive outcomes during World War II. Today the OSS legacy survives as a practical touchstone for the SOF Warriors of the 21st century. As part of the USSOCOM Commander‘s Guidance for 2011, JSOU was directed to complete a study that addressed if and how the OSS Model could be used to improve USSOCOM efforts to select, organize, resource, and develop authorities for SOF of the future. JSOU engaged select experts from the SOF community, academia, and the OSS Society to assist in developing recommendations for the Commander’s review. This report, organized by issue, highlights the group’s recommendations.
This paper examines the Coast Guard's historic participation in special operations and posits a requirement for the Coast Guard to designate a special operations force today-Coast Guard SOF. Lieutenant Commander Bowen advances a timely argument for the formation of additional SOF units, Coast Guard (CG) SOF units, at a time when USSOCOM is under pressure to expand SOF capabilities. Bowen argues that the Coast Guard has considerable experience fighting terrorists, insurgents, and criminal networks, all of which have the cellular, compartmented structures that describe the current threats in the global war on terrorism. These are the same threats that US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) seeks to thwart by means of its global campaign plan to synchronize the counterterrorism efforts of the Department of Defense.