First off, I apparently wasn't clear enough in my first article. SF = SPECIAL FORCES/GREEN BERETS ONLY!!!!
After reading some Facebook comments, there seems to be a couple of other misconceptions. Please check out the US Special Operation's Command (USSOCOM) structure. This is an excellent high-resolution organizational chart that shows each and every unit under USSOCOM and where they fall. SF is not under JSOC, and I chose not to write about Delta Force/CAG because I was never in that unit. It is not my place to explain them.
Because of our two recent conflicts, people tend to think that FID is the same thing as COIN and that anyone can do it. While many times there is a counter insurgency reason to conduct FID, there doesn't have to be.
During COIN, FID is a tool that can be used to better prepare Government Forces, whether military, law enforcement or helping a staff even up to the Cabinet level. In active war zones, FID can be used to create a unit from scratch, like in Iraq, or used to bolster the forces already there. During peace time, FID is used to conduct training specifically asked for by the Host Nation (HN).
In my previous article, I explained why not everyone can do COIN and many of the same lessons apply to FID. The unit conducting it must have an understanding of cultural differences and the ability to work with units that run the gamut, from barely off the farm to highly trained CT forces.
As with UW, knowing the language is important. There are many people who can do great things, but get them in front of a group of people who aren't American, and attempt to teach them how to do even the basics, and they either choke, get frustrated or pissed off. Whoever is conducting the training needs to be able to know what instructional method will work the best, and then be able to articulate that into another language and culture, many times without the use of PPT. Acting like a Drill Sgt screaming at them will most likely do the exact opposite of what you intended. Let’s be honest, if it was easy, the Coast Guard would be doing it.
Due to the rampant misunderstanding of Foreign Internal Defense (FID), it has been disrespected and mocked by the DA side of SOF, because it isn't as “sexy.” Ironically, it can be argued that FID is the most important mission in the U.S. global arsenal, especially since the wars are winding down. FID is a major tool that the U.S. has for fighting and preventing future wars or conflicts. Other SOF units are beginning to see this, which is why there has been an increase of improving UW/IW/FID capabilities.
But it is so much more than teaching people to wipe their ass and march in a straight line.
Foreign Internal Defense
Participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to its security. Also called FID. (JP 3-22)
I feel that FID should be broken down into two sub-categories, "Peace Time FID" and "Combat FID."
Special Forces/Green Berets have been going into combat with units that they have trained since they were created. Laos, Vietnam, El Salvador, Afghanistan and Iraq to name just a few. Many of the units had never previously existed and in fact were stood up by ODAs, They were created, trained, and when they are sufficiently trained, conduct combat ops.The ODAs mentored them through multiple deployments year after year. Many times SF soldiers made repeat trips and worked with the same FID partners, Whether you are talking about the Nungs or Rhades in Vietnam, or the multi ethnic elite ICTF in Iraq, the basics are all the same.
Lara Logan in Iraq
Whether you are talking about the Nungs or Rhades in Vietnam, or the multi ethnic elite ICTF in Iraq, the basics are all the same.
In the case of building a professional capability into the HN military, the final goal is for them to conduct operations on their own, with no U.S. forces involved. ICTF Unilateral ops (if you don't like haji music, turn the volume down).
During the early stages, the Special Forces Soldiers will conduct all phases from training, planning, rehearsals and they will be in charge on the ground and lead the combat operation. As the HN force becomes better trained, the Special Forces soldiers will step back into a more advisory role, but still be with their FID partners through every phase from planning, to boots on the ground. They are with them, shoulder to shoulder with the HN, fighting and dying next to each other while acting as a liaison between the HN and U.S. assets. ( CAS, artillery, ISR or medevacs)
The end state of Combat FID is that you are attempting to work yourself out of a job. My crowning achievement with combat FID happened in 2008. My team was working in Baghdad with the 36th Commando Bn, which is a part of the Iraqi Special Operations Force (ISOF). We had received word that there was an HVT that the CFs had been trying to get for years, but he was constantly moving between Iraq and Iran, never sleeping in the same place for two nights in a row. This cat was slippery. We found out that he was going to be staying at the Baghdad hospital and submitted a CONOP; ready to roll when it was time. Our plan went all the way up to the General's staff where it was denied, because the target was in a hospital and it wasn't worth the potential PR nightmare if something went wrong.
As the 18F, I went to my Team Leader and Team Sgt after they had told me, and I made the recommendation to unleash our barbarians on the world, with no adult supervision. It was a risk because it had already been denied, but in '08 ISOF was coming into their own, and they had their own ROEs and launch requirements outside of the U.S. Chain of Command. As long as those conditions were met, they didn't need U.S. permission to go. My leadership talked it out and agreed.
We got the word and went down to the Bn leadership and briefed them on the mission and the situation. I told the commander that this was a chance for him to highlight the capabilities of his unit, police up a very bad man, and everyone would know that his unit was able to do this mission with no American support. (See what I did there? Because I had worked closely with them, I knew their capabilities, strengths, weakness and insecurities. Even though he was nervous going out without us, I knew exactly what buttons to push and what kind of motivation he needed to go out and get the guy that I wanted them to get. See The importance of rapport)
It was a completely unilateral Iraqi mission. We advised them on the planning and helped with Intel, but when they left the compound it was with a convoy of about 20 trucks, personally led by the Bn Cdr. It was a nervous night for my team leadership and me. If things went sideways, there was a very good chance that the hammer would come down on us. Even if you are completely right and justified, if a 3-star is pissed off, there's no ballistic protection that will save you.
A few hours later they came back, and I watched the Commando Bn CDR escort his prisoner into the detention facility. I could see the pride for his men even though he was trying to keep his face professional. They infiltrated into the gated hospital, surrounded the building this motherfucker was hiding in, and captured him without firing a shot or doing any significant damage to the hospital. It was funny because, even though I wanted to go out myself and be on the target with them, I had the exact same pride for the boys that he had.
Peacetime FID is best utilized when the HN agencies that are involved are already somewhat capable and are asking for U.S. assistance to get training in basic tasks; or when they are requesting specialized advanced training, usually by USSOF conducting Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET). They are normally requested and approved through the Department of State, who then pass it to DOD.
When FID is requested and approved, it is usually in support of the overall strategic goals of the United States Government, because it provides a friendly Government with the capabilities to handle any internal or external threats with minimal direct U.S. involvement, while maintaining legitimacy of the Government and the respect of the local populace.
Peacetime FID is not a tactic for those who demand immediate gratification. It is a tool to be developed over many years, and used to create relationships between individuals and units at the operational level. The trust and respect that is built takes time, but when successful, it allows the U.S. to have not only regional experts who have been there many times, but also locals who have had good experience and look favorably on the U.S. When Peacetime FID done right, it prevents the need to send large conventional forces into hostile action because the situation deteriorated due to the inability of the HN military or Security Forces to handle it.
This is a great 40 min video showing SF working with the ANA Commando's and Afghan Special Forces.
Lesson 3 will finally answer the most asked question on the internet: “Who is better, SEALs or SF, Rangers or SF, any SOF unit, U.S. or Coalition vs. SF”... just kidding, I’ll answer it now. The answer is, and always will be, the Special Forces/Green Berets. (Although I may not be completely impartial.)
About the author: Loren Schofield is retired Special Forces with over 16 years serving in the various positions within the Special Forces Regiment. He started out as an infantryman, in both a line company and a scout platoon and during his Special Forces career he was both an 18E (SF Commo) and an 18F (SF Intel). He served on a Mountain Team, Mobility Team, and in a Special Forces Direct Action Company. He deployed twice to Kosovo and from April of 2002 to May of 2009 he deployed five times to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq.
You can find Loren on Instagram @Loren_NotASeal