The CIA’s top secret special ops division

Robert Morton
4 min readJan 17, 2022
The CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD) trained Ukraine soldiers in paramilitary tactics

The CIA has, for over five years, trained elite Ukrainian special forces in paramilitary fighting techniques. The secretive training location is “somewhere in the southern U.S.

The CIA-trained forces will, no doubt, be assigned to Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russian troops have been positioned by Vladimir Putin, who may order an invasion soon. It’s a top-secret program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s “Ground Branch”, officially known as Ground Department, which was created by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. President Biden has further funded and strengthened it and Ground Branch paramilitaries routinely travel to the eastern Ukraine front and advise their counterparts there.

One former CIA official commented that the program is teaching Ukrainians how “to kill Russians” if their country is attacked. The experience includes training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like “cover and move,” intelligence tradecraft, guerilla warfare tactics, and how to maintain secure communications behind enemy lines or in a “hostile intelligence environment”.

Yes, the CIA runs paramilitary operations. Its Paramilitary Operations Officers lead covert missions geared to collect foreign intelligence vital to national security policymakers. It all happens in the Special Activities Division (SAD), the most secretive and discreet special ops organization in the United States.

SAD members are typically former military soldiers and veterans of military special operations units such as the Green Berets or Marine Force Recon. It also recruits from within the Agency itself. But regardless of background, all SAD operators undergo extensive specialized training.

On a side note, Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency also employs paramilitary personnel that support MI6’s cover operations.

In writing the MISSION OF VENGEANCE spy thriller, I studied both the covert paramilitary units within the CIA and MI6. Their missions and warfare tactics are very similar to one another, and I describe them in the novel. Here’s a few snippets from MISSION OF VENGEANCE:

Snippet 1: U.S. President Rhinehart folded his arms and massaged his chin as he slowly turned and walked back to his chair and sat down. He looked over at General Morrison. “Bill, I’m activating the USS Caribbean Sea amphibious assault ship. It will sail out of Norfolk tonight and begin training exercises off the coast of the Dominican Republic. I want you to contact the CIA’s special ops commander and have him and two squads board while it’s in route.

Morrison said, “That would be one-hundred troops.”

“Exactly. I want the entire contingent, including their Blackhawk assault and Apache attack helicopters onboard. If any more U.S. citizens are killed, the Russian Spetsnaz bastards will quickly have real warriors in their faces… America will go to war.”

Snippet 2: The FBI and DR police were ready to move in and make arrests. However, the Spetsnaz assassins had to be neutralized. Based on Bocharov’s dead drop report of the additional Spetsnaz arrivals, Corey modified the assault plan. To prevent FBI agents from being slaughtered, the CIA’s special ops squads would go in first.

Snippet 3: Five Black Hawk choppers accompanied by five Apaches swarmed into the grounds and hovered over a thick canopy of palmetto palm several hundred yards from the Spetsnaz barracks. One hundred CBIF Special Ops soldiers rappelled from them and immediately advanced toward their target. They carried M4A1 carbines, each fitted with an under-slung grenade launcher and optic red dot sight.

A Rail Accessory System, RAS, was attached to the front of each rifle so they could quickly adapt to changing circumstances. Telescopic sights were attached but they could be replaced with laser-aiming red dot sights and bayonets for close-in fighting.

Four Spetsnaz fled out of the barracks with AK-47’s blazing on full auto. Their heads were instantly blown off by paramilitary sniper teams hidden behind a stone fence 200 yards away.

Moments passed, then fifteen Spetsnaz ran out from the back of the barracks. The unexpected happened. One raised and fired an RPG, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with an anti-tank warhead. It hit one of the Apaches hovering over the advancing squads that it was protecting. The chopper burst into a huge fireball and dropped toward the soldiers below who barely made it out of the way. Upon impact, the flames flew out along the ground, severely burning three special ops warriors who weren’t quite fast enough.

The CIA squads opened up with their M4A1’s on full auto and fired the grenade launchers. Some high-explosive grenades crashed through the barrack windows; others landed behind the compound. The continual detonations were ear-shattering. After the barrage was over, a moment of silence. The roof of the barracks fell in.

Another moment of silence. The special ops warriors removed the telescopic sights and attached old-fashioned bayonets, then proceeded cautiously. Suddenly, they hit the dirt as the Spetsnaz fired AK-74’s on full auto. The hail of gunfire didn’t subside. The magazines hold 30 rounds, and they must have stored many more in the camouflaged foxholes they sought shelter in.

Lastly, this video, The CIA’s Special Activities Center, also known as the Special Activities Division, gives a visual portrayal of SAD and the reason why it remains so secretive.

Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community, and relishes traveling to the Florida Keys and Key West, the Bahamas and Caribbean. He combines both passions in his Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.



Robert Morton

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