This is the last norwescon blog, I’ll ever write for you….

This is the last time that I’ll tell you just how much I really learned,

This is the last panel post from Norwescon, this year anyway….

Special Warfare, a panel I waited for all weekend long. I knew it was going to be full of info I could use in my spy novel, given my characters. Four pages of notes, people. Settle in for a long one.

The first thing they asked was how many authors in the room, almost everyone raised their hand. To which the presenter gleefully responded, “Fabulous, my boss only gave me the time off because I told him I could be a liaison between Special Ops and the writing community and then maybe you’d all start getting this stuff right.”

We’re listening – educate us.

When you use the term Special Operations what that really designates is a multi tier system of teams from various entities which come together for one off assignments. Each team member will do something unique that forwards the team to the goal. The system is so compartmentalized that people on your own team may have no idea what you do until you do it.

Tier one: Special Forces guys. They specialize in unconventional warfare. Train local populations, area studies, recruitment, sneak and peak, intel gathering, setting up bases. They try to avoid going toe to toe if at all possible. Generally, they go not blow up bridges, take over airports, etc. Yes, yes, they have done so in some circumstances, hence the word generally.

Tier Two: Direct action. Popular example: Rangers.

Two definitions of a Ranger. A) serves in a Ranger battalion. E1-E4 are not eligible to Ranger qualify. They are technically Airborne Infantry. About 50% of E5s have gone to Ranger school. B) Those who have gone to and graduated Ranger school.

Rangers have a great quote: “If everything is going according to plan you’re probably in an ambush.”

These are the guys who seize the airport, blow up the bridge, grab the required human target.

Tier Three: Civil Affairs – the humanitarian branch. They also do psy ops. Counter insurgency, establishing the legitimacy of the government in control in the host country. Build schools, lay roads, dig wells. They have an all female cultural support team who have airborne, cultural sensitivity, and language training.

Their command and control structure is flexible. One of the presenters explained in his current command structure an O5 (E5 equiv) is over an O6, because the O5 has more experience.

Special Operations interviews people for positions rather than simply placing them. This had led to the idea that they don’t play well with others.  In the 70s, 80s, 90s the regular military was suspicious of Spec Ops and would deny them materials. Just in the last ten years or so are people who have gone the Spec Ops route being promoted into top positions, Admiral and General.

Both the Ranger and the Spec Forces men on the panel confirmed having women in their units. They also felt that after a trial period the men of the unit ceased to consider the sex of the soldier fighting with them, ie the woman was only a woman until she proved herself a soldier.

What does an op look like?

A rumored operation went something like this. In a joint Civil Affairs, Spec Forces, PsyOps operation they made it appear that a volcano was going to erupt. When the enemy forces in the area fled, SpecOps moved in and relocated the villagers who were hostage. Neat and Clean. Not a shot fired, or so the rumor goes.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of the panelists (Joe Malik –

“Special Operations enforces the political will of the nation through violence.”

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