A senior weapons sergeant conducts an after-action review with policemen from the Afghan National Civil Order Police Brigade, following a joint patrol through the Arghandab River Valley, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo.

Expanding the UW reach

By Merton "Bill" Woolard and Mark E. Cooper
Originally published in the March-April 2011 edition of Special Warfare

"UW is the core mission and organizing principle for Army Special Forces. It is the only military organization specifically trained and organized to wage UW. Nonetheless, it is apparent to me that we have not invested adequate training and resources in developing and maintaining sufficient advanced capability to conduct UW or UW-related operations in sensitive environments or conditions. My own assessment, based on my experience as a TSOC commander trying to expand and develop a theater-wide capability to prosecute sensitive operations specifically in support of the theater commander, is that the critical point in time where military UW skills are crucially relevant to decision makers is "left of the beginning" of a policy decision contemplated by the United States Government regarding sensitive operations. The assessment phases of relevant resistance or surrogate potential — by definition normally very sensitive requiring a healthy toolkit of operational skills — are the ones where our informed, UW military skills are most needed, and where all-too-often we are not participating."
— Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Operations Command
"Unconventional Warfare Evolution," USASOC leadership briefing, Aug. 23, 2010

The commanding general of the United States Army Special Operations Command, or USASOC, wrote the quote above in 2010 while contemplating the role of U.S. Army Special Forces, or SF, in the contemporary operating environment and in future operations. Although the core mission of SF always has been unconventional warfare, or UW, we do not have a formal education and training program that extends beyond what students receive in the SF Qualification Course, or SFQC. To rectify that deficiency Lieutenant General Mulholland directed the commanding general of the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, or SWCS, Major General Bennet Sacolick, to examine the current training regime, identify opportunities for improving training, and develop an advanced curriculum to educate senior officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers in the science and art of planning, preparing for and conducting UW.

Current Operations

Currently, there are four distinct training venues that provide noncongruent UW education and training to SF Soldiers: the SFQC; the SF Senior Leader Course, or SFSLC; the SF Warrant Officer Technical and Tactical Course, or SFWOTTC; and the SF Warrant Officer Advanced Course, or SFWOAC. In addition to these courses, officers who attend the Army's Command and General Staff College receive graduate-level training and education in campaign design and planning, staff operations, critical and creative thinking and operational art.

The SFQC provides students undergoing entry-level SF training an elementary education in the subjects, tactics and techniques required for planning for and supporting a U.S.-sponsored resistance movement or insurgency in a UW context.

This initial exposure to UW includes fundamentals of UW; organization and operation of an underground; organization of the auxiliary; logistics in UW; guerrilla operations; guerrilla tactics; mission planning (with an emphasis on UW); application of SF officer skills; employment in joint interagency intergovernmental multinational, or JIIM, environments; Army special-operations forces and joint command and control; U.S. military and Afghan strategy; and case studies. The final phase of the qualification course is four-week module consisting of a UW analysis-and-planning block and a two-week UW field exercise that provides for application of learned skills in a demanding environment under varying conditions.

The SFSLC provides a distance-learning class on logistics in UW. In addition, it provides lessons that contribute to the successful planning and execution of UW, such as religious planning factors; operations planning; integration of Civil Affairs, or CA; and Military Information Support Operations, or MISO, but there is no specific focus on UW in the lessons.

The SFWOTTC contains a comprehensive operations module on UW that includes: insurgent ideologies, strategies and infrastructure; insurgent methods of operation; the asymmetrical threat; seven phases of a U.S.-sponsored UW; development of a long-range training plan for indigenous forces; integration of fundamentals of urban operations into the UW environment; conduct of UW mission planning; and development of an area assessment. This module provides new warrant officers with the skills, knowledge and abilities needed to conduct UW operations at the tactical level.

The SFWOAC includes a UW module with four major lessons: insurgent ideologies, strategies and infrastructure; U.S. doctrine and policy for irregular warfare; U.S. doctrine and policy for counterinsurgency, or COIN; and conducting the military decision-making process in support of COIN and UW campaign planning. This course educates senior SF warrant officers in the conduct of UW and COIN at the battalion and group levels.

UW Comprehensive Education

The courses listed above continue to provide the necessary basic and intermediate education and training that have been required in the past, considering the emphases placed on find-fix-and-finish operations and later on COIN conducted during named operations in Southwest Asia. However, in order for SF to meet evolving and future operational requirements, the command has identified a need to revise and strengthen current UW education and establish new advanced UW training and education for selected SF officers, warrant officers and senior NCOs assigned to sensitive operational positions. That requirement is known as the UW Comprehensive Education Initiative. The initiative includes revising or developing education at four education levels: 100, 200, 300 and 400.

UW Ed Level 100. The level 100 UW education is designed to provide an initial-entry-level UW operator with the capacity to understand and execute the unique mission requirements associated with developing, training and employing a resistance or surrogate force as a member of an SF operational detachment-alpha, or SFODA, to articulate those requirements to commanders and staffs at the tactical level to facilitate accomplishment of a variety of UW activities. The student should also understand the complexities of the UW environment, including but not limited to logistics, communications, cultural sensitivities, language barriers and environmental ambiguities.

To meet the evolving UW requirements and provide vision for the SFQC, SWCS conducted a curriculum mapping and alignment study and published the study findings in June 2010. As a result, SWCS is developing a comprehensive training environment, or CTE, is planned for spiral implementation by the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, to provide a continuous, immersive UW scenario that progresses as the student advances from phase to phase within the course, culminating in a comprehensive UW field exercise. Additionally, UW training is now introduced early in the qualification course instead of in the final phase, thus providing the student with a point of reference that can be built upon throughout training. The orientation phase of the qualification course is expanding to include early UW training and a field exercise in which the students will participate in the Robin Sage exercise as members of the guerrilla force in order to experience the UW environment from the guerrilla's perspective. Phase V includes a revised curriculum that expands the students' understanding of mission analysis and planning, interagency operations and the integration of CA and MISO assets. In addition, the SFQC has added a UW comprehensive examination to evaluate the students' understanding of UW concepts and operations — the exam is a "must pass" event.

The area-of-concentration training for officers (18A) and military-occupational-specialty training for NCOs has been strengthened with the addition of an MOS field training exercise for the NCOs and a pilot-team field training exercise for officers.

UW Ed Level 200. The level 200 UW education is for more "seasoned" SF operators — Soldiers with at least two to three years on an SFODA. The end state for this level of education is a tactical UW operator who is capable of analyzing and understanding the dynamics of resistance and insurgency movements. The operator will be a critical thinker with the capacity to understand and execute the unique mission requirements associated with developing, training and employing a resistance or surrogate force and articulating those requirements to commanders and staffs at the tactical level to facilitate the accomplishment of a variety of UW activities. He will be capable of understanding the campaign design and planning needed to facilitate the execution of theater-level operational and contingency plans that support the geographic combatant commander, or GCC. In the realm of 200-level education, SWCS has developed a three-week detachment leader's course that follows the SFQC and is designed to help the officers transition from training, introducing them to the contemporary operating environment and providing insight into the operational environment prior to their first assignment.

UW Ed Level 300. The level 300 UW education is graduate-level UW education designed for senior SF operators who will be assigned to a special activities department, a military-liaison element or a staff at the group level or higher. He will be a technical UW operational planner capable of analyzing, assessing and developing regional resistance and surrogate capabilities in permissive, uncertain and hostile environments through professional education and UW activities in support of theater and national objectives. The graduate will be an adaptive problem-solver who has the capacity to understand and implement the unique requirements associated with developing the components of a resistance (guerrilla force, underground or auxiliary) and articulating those requirements to commanders, staffs and other U.S. government entities at the operational level. The level-300-educated Soldier will be capable of participating in campaign design and planning to facilitate the development of theater-level UW operational and contingency plans to support the GCC and strategic-level decision-makers. The graduate will understand campaign design and planning necessary to facilitate the execution of theater-level operational and contingency plans that support the GCC. The new advanced UW training and education programs are under development, targeted for implementation during the third quarter of FY 2011, and will provide unique training and education in UW and network-development.

The Unconventional Warfare Operational Design Course

UWODC is designed to educate senior officers, warrant officers and NCOs in the art of UW so that they can develop and/or assist in the development of theater-level UW campaign designs and plans for theater special-operations commands and theater commands. The course contains three major elements: an in-depth study of insurgencies, discussions of UW and a planning exercise based upon U.S. support to a possible real-world theater-based insurgency. Students begin the course by looking at the history and the genesis of insurgencies through a detailed examination of two very different real-world historical examples. At the same time, students compare those examples to a notional theater-based insurgency upon which their assignment will be based. As they move on to UW or U.S. support to insurgency, they will conduct the same exercise, studying UW doctrine and historical examples while comparing them to and analyzing their assignment. Students will conduct a series of briefbacks to instructors and guest subject-matter experts to allow the cadre to gauge each student's ability to apply what he has learned. The campaign-design exercise culminates with small-group presentations of the proposed UW campaigns for the assigned notional scenario.

The Special Forces Network Development Course, or SFNDC, teaches students a higher level of skills in developing indigenous a networks. The course focuses on developing the infrastructure necessary for sustaining and developing resistance or insurgency movement. It teaches operators to assess a group's ability to develop, support and sustain a guerrilla force, then to develop a plan for training and assisting the group to build a clandestine organization to conduct operations against a foreign government or the military forces of occupying powers. Operators learn how to teach members of an underground or auxiliary to build and sustain the networks needed for command and control, intelligence collection, supply, transport and sustainment of indigenous combat forces. They also learn to assess network security and teach indigenous forces to avoid compromise and to mitigate damage if compromise occurs.

UW Ed Level 400: The level 400 UW Education is considered the post-graduate UW education designed for senior SF officers and NCOs operators who will participate in internship programs with other U.S. government agencies and with regional partners. They will learn to provide UW subject-matter expertise when representing the GCC in communicating the theater UW plan to ambassadors and their country teams and other senior military and civilian leaders. They will also learn to understand the implications of UW as it relates to U.S. national objectives and to be able to express the theater requirements for UW implementation, including the impact on other theater-level operations, diplomatic initiatives and the whole of government. The SME should be able to articulate the unique benefits of UW as an alternative option during the development of strategic foreign policy. In addition, the SME will be able to educate, provide guidance to and direct theater planners in developing UW operational campaigns and contingency plans, including sensitive activities.


As a result of the comprehensive review of current UW education and the establishment of the four UW education levels, the SWCS Directorate of Training and Doctrine, in close collaboration with the 1st Special Warfare Training Group, is continuously redesigning and revising SF qualification, improving intermediate-level education and creating new courses of instruction to provide advanced special-operations education and training; the UWODC; and the SFNDC. These courses will focus on creating or enhancing UW skills that Lieutenant General Mulholland calls "crucially relevant to decision makers 'left of the beginning' of a policy decision contemplated by the U.S. government regarding sensitive operations."

The SFQC will continue to undergo revisions that implement a thematic approach in which UW is the overarching premise. From revising and enhancing the SFQC to developing new UW-focused courses, SWCS is undergoing a continuous evolutionary transformation. In the future, SWCS education and training will continue to train Soldiers in all SF missions, but it will concentrate on the core mission most vital to the success of SF — unconventional warfare.

Merton "Bill" Woolard is a training specialist in the Advanced Skills Branch, Training Development Division, Directorate of Training and Doctrine, SWCS. Before becoming a Department of the Army Civilian, he served in on active duty in various positions in the 3rd Special Forces Group, participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Woolard is currently the lead training developer for the Special Forces Sniper Course and co-lead training developer for the Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Operational Planners Course.

Mark E. Cooper is a training specialist in the Advanced Skills Branch, Training Development Division, Directorate of Training and Doctrine, SWCS. Before becoming a Department of the Army civilian, he served as an Infantry officer and Special Forces officer, commanding various units at the platoon, SF detachment and company levels in the 8th Infantry Division, the 7th and 10th Special Forces groups, and at the Joint Readiness Training Center. He participated in various operations in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East. Cooper is currently the co-lead training developer for the Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Operational Planners Course.

This issue

March-April 2011
Volume 24 | Issue 2

Special Warfare, March-April 2011

Special Warfare

Special Warfare is an authorized, official bimonthly publication of the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, Fort Bragg, N.C. Its mission is to promote the professional development of special-operations forces by providing a forum for the examination of established doctrine and new ideas.

Views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official Army position. This publication does not supersede any information presented in other official Army publications.