US Army Special Forces : Report by SOTO Mac : Oct 2001

 

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  Introduction

The insignia on the right is the official insignia of The Ghosts, but it has a basis in fact.

The above designation is a valid one within the US Army. The 5th SFG [Airborne] is pretty much THE most decorated US Army Special Forces unit, because it was the primary US Special Forces presence in the Vietnam War, from 1965 since the US involvement began in earnest, all the way until the end.

They still exist today, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky (along with the 101st US Army Infantry Division [AirMobile] and the 160th US Army Special Operations Aviation's Regiment), with the primary mission focus of the Middle East (will be assigned part of US Central Command in time of crisis; USCENTCOM was the theatre command during the Gulf War).

21 Sep 61- 5th Special Forces Group activated at Fort Bragg, N.C. 10 Jun 88 - HQ, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) moved from Ft. Bragg, N.C. to Ft. Campbell, KY.

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  President Kennedy

In 1961, President Kennedy visited Fort Bragg. He inspected the 82nd Airborne Division and other conventional troops of the XVIII Airborne Corps and liked what he saw. But what he liked even more were the Special Forces. As a student of military affairs, President Kennedy had developed an interest in counterinsurgency - the art and method of defeating guerrilla movements. As he gazed at the ranks of Special Forces troops, he realised he had the ideal vehicle for carrying out such missions. With President Kennedy firmly behind them, new Special Forces groups sprang up with rapidity. On September 21, 1961, the 5th Group was activated followed in 1963 by the 8th Group on April 1, the 6th on May 1, and the 3rd on December 5.

President Kennedy's interest in the Special Forces also lead to the September 21, 1961, adoption of the green beret as the official headgear of all Special Forces troops. Until then, the beret had faced an uphill fight in its struggle to achieve official Army recognition. After his visit to Fort Bragg, the president told the Pentagon that he considered the green beret to be "symbolic of one of the highest levels of courage and achievement of the United States military." Soon, the green beret became synonymous with Special Forces, so much so that the two terms became interchangeable.

And, indeed, it was fitting that the men of the Special Forces finally had the right to wear their own headgear because they were now on the brink of proving just how courageous and committed they were. Vietnam was beckoning.

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Vietnam
Nam Dong, Lang Vei, Dak To, A Shau, Plei Mei - these were just some of the places Special Forces troops fought and died for during their 14-year stay in South Vietnam. It was a stay that began in June 1956 when the original 16 members of the 14th Special Forces Operational Detachment entered Vietnam to train a cadre of indigenous Vietnamese Special Forces teams.

Throughout the remainder of the 1950s and early 1960s, the number of Special Forces military advisors in Vietnam increased steadily. Their responsibility was to train South Vietnamese soldiers in the art of counterinsurgency and to mould various native tribes into a credible, anti-Communist threat. During the early years, elements from the different Special Forces groups were involved in advising the South Vietnamese. But in September 1964, the first step was taken in making Vietnam the exclusive operational province of 5th Group when it set up its provisional headquarters in Nha Trang. Six months later in February, Nha Trang became the 5th's permanent headquarters. From that point, Vietnam was mainly the 5th's show until 1971 when it returned to Fort Bragg.

But fighting in remote areas of Vietnam - publicity to the contrary - wasn't the only mission of the Special Forces. They were also responsible for training thousands of Vietnam's ethnic tribesmen in the techniques of guerrilla warfare. They took the Montagnards, the Nungs, the Cao Dei and others and moulded them into the 60,000-strong Civil Irregular Defence Group (CIDG). CIDG troops became the Special Forces' most valuable ally in battles fought in faraway corners of Vietnam, out of reach of conventional back-up forces. Other missions included civic-action projects, in which Special Forces troops built schools, hospitals and government buildings, provided medical care to civilians and dredged canals. This was the flip side of the vicious battles, the part of the war designed to win the hear and minds of a distant and different people. But although the Special Forces drew the allegiance of civilians almost everywhere they went, the war as a whole was not as successful.

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  Medals of Honour

By the time the 5th left Southeast Asia, its soldiers had won 16 of the 17 Medals of Honor awarded to the Special Forces in Vietnam, plus one Distinguished Service Medal, 90 Distinguished Service Crosses, 814 Silver Stars, 13,234 Bronze Stars, 235 Legions of Merit, 46 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 232 Soldier's Medals, 4,891 Air Medals, 6,908 Army Commendation Medals and 2,658 Purple Hearts. It was a brilliant record, one that was built solely on blood and sacrifice.

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  SPARTAN

The years immediately following Vietnam were lean ones for the Special Forces. The 3rd, 6th and 8th Special Forces groups were inactivated, and there was a general de-emphasis of special operations as the Army concentrated once more on conventional warfare, turning its gaze from the jungles of Asia to the well-worn tank paths of Europe.

To prevent a further emasculation of their capabilities, Special Forces leaders adopted a program called SPARTAN - Special Proficiency at Rugged Training and Nation-building. SPARTAN was designed to demonstrate the multiplicity of talents Special Forces troops possessed, showing that they were not outmoded simply because the war was over.

Under the aegis of SPARTAN, the 5th and 7th groups worked with Indian tribes in Florida, Arizona and Montana to build roads and medical facilities, and provided free medical treatment to impoverished citizens of Hoke and Anson counties in North Carolina.

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  Special Forces Recognised

But however noble SPARTAN was, it was not entirely what Special Forces were designed for. They were designed to train and fight unconventional warfare, and as President Ronald W. Reagan took office in 1981, they got that chance once again. With the advent of the Reagan presidency, defence policy received a renewed emphasis. Special Forces in particular were among the beneficiaries of this new attention. The need for Special Forces capabilities had become apparent with the rise of insurgencies as far away as Africa and Asia, and as close to home as Central America. To meet the challenges of a changing world, the Army injected a revitalised esprit into the Special Forces.

The Special Forces qualification course was made longer and tougher to see that only the highest-caliber soldiers joined ranks with the Green Berets. In June 1983, the Army authorised a uniform tab for wear on the left shoulder solely by Special Forces troops. The Army established on October 1, 1984, a separate career field for Special Forces. The warrant officer career field soon followed and, on April 9, 1987, the Army Chief of Staff established a separate branch of the Army for Special Forces officers.

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  U.S. Army Special Forces Creed

I am an American Special Forces soldier. A professional! I will do all that my nation requires of me.

I am a volunteer, knowing well the hazards of my profession.

I serve with the memory of those who have gone before me: Roger's Rangers, Francis Marion, Mosby's Rangers, the first Special Service Forces and Ranger Battalions of World War II, The Airborne Ranger Companies of Korea. I pledge to uphold the honour and integrity of all I am - in all I do.

I am a professional soldier. I will teach and fight wherever my nation requires. I will strive always, to excel in every art and artifice of war.

I know that I will be called upon to perform tasks in isolation, far from familiar faces and voices, with the help and guidance of my God.

I will keep my mind and body clean, alert and strong, for this is my debt to those who depend upon me.

I will not fail those with whom I serve. I will not bring shame upon myself or the forces.

I will maintain myself, my arms, and my equipment in an immaculate state as befits a Special Forces soldier.

I will never surrender though I be the last. If I am taken, I pray that I may have the strength to spit upon my enemy.

My goal is to succeed in any mission - and live to succeed again.

I am a member of my nation's chosen soldiery. God grant that I may not be found wanting, that I will not fail this sacred trust.

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  THE GREEN BERETS

THE GREEN BERETS - The Special Forces A-Team / The Building Block of Special Forces Groups

The Special Forces Operational Detachment-A, or A-Team, is the fundamental building block for all Special Forces Groups. There are six A detachments in each Special Forces company. A captain leads the 12-man team. Second in command is a warrant officer. Two non-commissioned officers, or NCOs, trained in each of the five SF functional areas: weapons, engineering and demolitions, medicine, communications, and operations and intelligence comprise the remainder of the team. All team members are SF qualified and cross-trained in different skills as well as being multi-lingual.

Capabilities of the highly-versatile A-team include: plan and conduct SF operations separately or as part of a larger force; infiltrate and exfiltrate specified operational areas by air, land, or sea; conduct operations in remote areas and hostile environments for extended periods of time with a minimum of external direction and support; develop, organise, equip, train and advise or direct indigenous forces up to battalion size in special operations; train, advise and assist other U.S. and allied forces and agencies; plan and conduct unilateral SF operations; perform other special operations as directed by higher authority.

In the SF company, one of the six A-teams is trained in combat diving and one is trained in military free-fall parachuting. Both are used as methods of infiltration.

The detachment can serve as a manpower pool from which SF commanders organise tailored SF teams to perform specific missions. In general, A-teams are equipped with high-powered communications systems such as tactical satellite communications, burst transmission devices, high-frequency radios, and global positioning systems. Medical kits include, among other things, field surgical kits, laboratory and dental instruments and supplies, sterilizers, resuscitator-aspirators, water-testing kits, and veterinary equipment. Other key equipment includes individual and perimeter defence weapons as well as night-vision devices, and electric and non-electric demolitions. Equipment distribution is geared to conform to specific missions.

For underwater or waterborne infiltration, SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) teams are equipped with open-circuit twin-80s SCUBA tanks, closed-circuit Dragger (rebreather) Lar-V, Zodiac boat and Klepper kayaks. Military free-fall parachuting teams use ram-air parachutes and oxygen systems.

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  5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) derives its lineage from the unit of World War II fame -- The First Special Service Forces. "The Devils Brigade" -- a combined Canadian-American Force, constituted 5 July 1942 in the Army of the United States as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Battalion, Third Regiment,1st Special Service Force. The Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Battalion, Third Regiment, 1st Special Service Force was first activated and trained at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana.

The unit participated in the Italian campaign and saw additional action in France. The unit was disbanded in France on 6 February 1945. The unit was reconstituted in the Regular Army, on 15 April 1960, and was designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces. On 21 September 1961 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was officially activated. One year after the 5th Group was organised, elements of the 5th Special Forces Group began serving temporary duty tours in the Republic of Vietnam. Full deployment of the Group was completed in February 1965. Although young in years of existence, from its operational base at NHA Trang, the Group deployed throughout the four military regions of South Vietnam. Its operational detachments established and manned camps at 270 different locations which trained and led indigenous forces of the civilian irregular defence groups, as well as regular units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam. Despite being one of the smallest units engaged in the Vietnam conflict, the Group colours fly twenty campaign streamers, and its soldiers are among the most highly decorated in the history of our nation. Seventeen Medals of Honour were awarded, 8 posthumously. The Group was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Army) Vietnam 1966-1968, The Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) Vietnam 1968; Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Vietnam 1964-1969; and Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honour Medal, 1st Class, Vietnam 1968-1970. Other teams and elements received numerous other unit citations including, Naval Presidential Unit Citation, valorous unit awards and numerous Vietnamese unit awards. On 5 March 1971, the colours of the 5th Special Forces Group were returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina by a 94-man contingent led by Col. (now Maj. Gen. Retired) Michael D. Healy, thereby terminating their official Vietnam service. The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) remained at Fort Bragg, North Carolina until 10 June 1988, when the Group colours were cased at a ceremony marking its departure from Fort Bragg. The colours were officially uncased by Maj. Gen. Teddy G. Allen, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, Col. (now Maj. Gen.) Harley C. Davis, Commander of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Dennison on 16 June 1988 at its new home at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) added to its rich combat history during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

In August 1990 the Group was called upon to conduct theatre operations in Southwest Asia in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. During this crisis the Army's First Special Operations Task Force, (ARSOTF), consisting of elements of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) comprising 106 special operations teams performing a myriad of missions that spanned the scope of operations: support to coalition warfare; conducting foreign internal defence missions with Saudi Arabian Land Forces, performing special reconnaissance, border surveillance, direct action, combat search and rescue missions; and advising and assisting a pan-Arab equivalent force larger than six U.S. Divisions, as well as conducting civil-military operations training and liaison with the Kuwaitis. In the words of the Centcom Commander, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkpf, "Special Forces were the eyes and ears on the ground." The border surveillance mission assigned the 5th Special Forces was among the most vital in providing "ground truth" to the American and Pan Arab Forces. A new chapter in coalition warfare was written while new military relationships were forged which continue their importance today.

In August 1992, a full four months prior to the deployment of major U.S. Forces, the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) were conducting operations in the country of Somalia, again, providing "ground truth." On 11 June 1993 Gen. Wayne A. Downing, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command, presented the Valorous Unit Award to the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) for service during Operation Desert Storm 17January 1991 to 28 February 1991. Today, 5th Special Forces Group teams are deploying throughout Southwest Asia and Africa. Over the past two years, teams have trained in over 14 countries to include: Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia. The soldiers of the 5th Special Forces Group continue to live the Special Forces motto: To liberate the oppressed. DE OPPRESSO LIBER...a Latin phrase that means To Free the Oppressed.

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  Missions

Special Forces soldiers are trained to perform the following missions:

Unconventional Warfare (UW):

A broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy-held, enemy-controlled or politically sensitive territory. UW includes, but is not limited to, the interrelated fields of guerilla warfare, evasion and escape, subversion, sabotage, and other operations of a low visibility, covert or clandestine nature. Conduct a broad spectrum of military and paramilitary operations. Long-duration, indirect activities including guerrilla warfare and other offensive, low visibility, or clandestine operations. Mostly conducted by indigenous forces organised, trained, equipped, supported, and directed in varying degrees by special operations forces.

Direct Action (DA):

Either overt or covert action against an enemy force. Seize, damage, or destroy a target; capture or recover personnel or material in support of strategic/operational objectives or conventional forces. Short-duration, small-scale offensive actions. May require raids, ambushes, direct assault tactics; emplace mines and other munitions; conduct stand-off attacks by firing from air, ground, or maritime platforms; designate or illuminate targets for precision-guided munitions; support for cover and deception operations; or conduct independent sabotage normally inside enemy-held territory.

Special Reconnaissance (SR):

Special Forces teams are infiltrated behind enemy lines to provide the theatre commander with intelligence on the enemy or to gather information on the terrain, local populace, etc. of an area. Verify, through observation or other collection methods, information concerning enemy capabilities, intentions, and activities in support of strategic/operational objectives or conventional forces. Reconnaissance and surveillance actions conducted at strategic or operational levels to complement national and theater-level collection efforts. Collect meteorological, hydrographic, geographic, and demographic data; provide target acquisition, area assessment, and post-strike reconnaissance data.

Foreign Internal Defence (FID):

FID operations are designed to help friendly developing nations by working with host country military and police forces to improve their technical skills, understanding of human rights issues, and to help with humanitarian and civic action projects. FID missions assist another government in any action program taken to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. U.S. Government interagency activity to foster internal development of economic, social, political, and military segments of a nations structure. Train, advise, and assist host-nation military and paramilitary forces.

Counter terrorism (CT):

Offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, and respond to terrorism. Pre-empt or resolve terrorist incidents. Interagency activity using highly specialised capabilities.

Coalition Warfare/Support:

Ensures the ability of a wide variety of foreign troops to work together effectively, in a wide variety of military exercises or operations such as Operation Desert Storm. Draws upon the SOF soldier's maturity, military skills, language skills and cultural awareness.

Humanitarian and Civic Action (HCA):

SOF soldiers' diversified military skills, language capabilities and cultural training make them a natural choice for supporting humanitarian and civic action Operations.

OTHER INDIVIDUAL MISSIONS

Besides the individual skills of operations and intelligence, communications, medical aid, engineering and weapons, each Special Forces soldier is taught to train, advise, and assist host-nation military or paramilitary forces. Special Forces soldiers are highly skilled operators, trainers, and teachers. Area-oriented, these soldiers are specially trained in their area's native language and culture.

OTHER SPECIAL OPERATIONS MISSIONS

In addition to the above specialised missions, the various Special Operations Commands must: Prepare assigned forces to carry out special operations missions as required and, if directed by the president or secretary of defence, plan for and conduct special operations. Develop doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures for special operations forces. Conduct specialised courses of instruction for all special operations forces. Train assigned forces and ensure inter-operability of equipment and forces. Monitor the preparedness of special operations forces assigned to other unified commands. Develop and acquire unique special operations forces equipment, material, supplies and services. Consolidate and submit program and budget proposals for Major Force Program II. Monitor the promotion, assignments, retention, training and professional development of all special operations forces personnel.

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  THE SPECIAL FORCES CREST
 
Emblazoned on the distinctive black and silver crest worn by Special Forces soldiers is the Special Forces motto: De Oppresso Liber, a Latin phrase that means To Free the Oppressed. Two crossed arrows symbolise the Special Forces' role in unconventional warfare. A fighting knife is attached over the arrows, which reflect the qualities of a Special Forces soldier - straight and true. The knife, a silent deadly weapon, was used by the American Indian.
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  THE SPECIAL FORCES PATCH
   
The gold and teal Special Forces patch is worn by members of Special Forces units around the world. The arrowhead shape represents the craft and stealth of the Indians, America's first warriors. An upturned dagger represents the unconventional warfare missions of Special Forces. Three lightning bolts represent blinding speed and strength, and the three methods of infiltration - land, sea and air. The gold represents constancy and inspiration, and the background of teal blue represents the Special Forces' encompassing of all branch assignments.
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  SPECIAL FORCES BRANCH INSIGNIA
   
The Special Forces officer branch inherited its insignia - two crossed arrows - from the Indian scouts, several of whom earned Medals of Honour while serving U.S. Forces in almost every major campaign. Crossed arrows were a symbol of peace to the U.S. Scouts, which were inactivated in 1939. However, the crossed arrows served the 1st Special Service Force through World War II, and some Special Forces officers at Fort Bragg began wearing them unofficially on their collars in the Sixties. In April 1987 a separate branch of the Army was created for Special Forces officers, who then formally adopted the crossed arrows as their official branch insignia.
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