Military Wiki
3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Active 1 Jul 1990 – present
5 Dec 1963 – 1 Dec 1969
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army
Type Special operations forces
Size 4 Battalions
Garrison/HQ Fort Bragg
Motto(s) "From the Rest Comes the Best"
"We Do Bad Things to Bad People"

Vietnam War
Gulf War
Operation Uphold Democracy
Operation Enduring Freedom
War in Afghanistan

Iraq War

The 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) – abbreviated 3rd SFG(A) and often simply called 3rd Group – is an active duty United States Army Special Forces (SF) group which was active in the Vietnam Era (1963–69), deactivated, and then reactivated in 1990. The 3rd SFG(A) was primarily responsible for operations within the AFRICOM area of responsibility, as part of the Special Operations Command, Africa (SOCAFRICA). Its primary area of operations (AO) is now Central Asia as part of a 2009 SOCOM directive[1] but 3rd Group has also been involved in the Caribbean and the Greater Middle East. While not quite as seasoned (inactive from 1969-1990) as some of the other Special Forces groups, the 3rd SFG(A) has seen extensive action in the War on Terror and its members have distinguished themselves on the battlefield in Afghanistan.



File:Vietnam era organization chart for Special Forces groups.GIF

Special Forces Group organization in the Vietnam Era

3rd Group was first activated on 5 December 1963 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The four colors of the quadrants of 3rd Group's beret flash are derived from the flashes of the pre-existing SF units from which 3rd Group's members were initially drawn (hence its original motto: "From the Rest Comes the Best"). These colors are: yellow (1st SFG (A)), red (7th SFG (A)), black (5th SFG (A)), and white (Special Forces Training Group (A)). 3rd Group was originally oriented towards the Middle East and Africa during the 1960s. The unit trained the armed forces of Mali, Iraq, Ethiopia, the Congo, and Jordan – in addition to supporting the Gemini 6 and 7 space launches in 1965. 3rd Group also worked with the 5th SFG(A) in Vietnam. In 1966, 3rd Group transferred assumed control of the 403rd Army Security Agency Special Operations Detachment and the 19th PSYOP Company over to 5th Group.[2] With the "Vietnamization" of the conflict, the 3rd SFG(A) was deactivated in 1969 and its members were transferred back to the other Special Forces Groups.


Members of ODA 3336 in the Shok Valley

The 3rd Special Forces Group was reactivated in 1990. Its AO initially consisted of the Caribbean and West Africa. New group members were drawn primarily from the 5th SFG(A). At the outbreak of the Gulf War, 3rd Group's only functioning battalion (1st BN) was deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for three months. Its A-Teams carried out reconnaissance and sabotage missions into denied areas of Iraq and Kuwait.[3] In February 1991, 3rd Group was tasked with the mission of securing and occupying the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City.[4] The 2nd BN and 3rd BN of 3rd Group were reactivated in 1991 and 1992, respectively. 3rd Group also took part in the restoration of democracy in Haiti in 1994.[5] In the late 90's, 3rd Group helped train forces in Senegal, Uganda, Malawi, Mali, Ethiopia, and Trinidad and Tobago, among others.[6]


In the fall of 2000, the 3rd SFG(A) was involved in training and stabilization efforts in West Africa, dubbed "Operation Focus Relief" by the State Department; the training mission was geared towards combating the Revolutionary United Front.[7]

Since 9/11, the 3rd SFG(A) has been heavily involved in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Two of 3rd Group's battalions spend roughly six months out of every twelve deployed to Afghanistan as part of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan. In 2008, ten members of ODA 3336 were awarded Silver Stars for combat action during the Battle of Shok Valley. It was the largest set of citations for a single battle since the Vietnam War. After the citations were read then-commander of United States Army Special Operations Command, Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, Jr., stated:[8]

As we have listened to these incredible tales, I am truly at a loss for words to do justice to what we have heard here, where do we get such men? … There is no finer fighting man on the face of the earth than the American soldier. And there is no finer American soldier than our Green Berets. If you saw what you heard today in a movie, you would shake your head and say, ‘That didn’t happen.’ But it does, every day.

In October 2010, Staff Sergeant Robert James Miller was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. On January 25, 2008, Miller's team was ambushed dur­ing a com­bat recon­nais­sance patrol in Kunar Province near the Pak­istan border. Miller's commander was seriously wounded within the first min­utes of the attack. Wounded and under intense enemy fire, Miller held his ground and laid down sup­pres­sive fire on mul­ti­ple insur­gent positions, which allowed his wounded com­man­der to be pulled out of the line of fire and his teammates to safely reach cover. Miller single-handedly eliminated several insurgents before succumbing to his wounds.

The 1st Battalion, 3rd SFG(A) were awarded the Canadian Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation on 23 May 2012, for their actions during Operation Medusa in 2006. The ceremony was presided by Major-General Charles Cleveland, the commander of USASOC, and the award presented by CEFCOM Commander, Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, on behalf of the Governor General of Canada. The 1st Battalion, 3rd SFG(A) is the first non-Canadian unit, and seventh overall, to receive this honour.[9] The citation read:

Medals awarded to soldiers of the 3rd SFG(A).

During August and September 2006, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), United States Army, displayed extraordinary heroism and outstanding combat ability while battling insurgents in support of a Canadian-led operation in Afghanistan. After completing their initial objectives, they willingly engaged a much larger force to secure the Canadian Battle Group’s flank and prevent the enemy from staging an effective counter-offensive. Outnumbered and facing a well-prepared enemy, they were relentless in their assault and eventually captured the position after days of intense fighting.


  • Headquarters and Headquarters Company
  • 1st Battalion
  • 2nd Battalion
  • 3rd Battalion
  • 4th Battalion – activated on 18 August 2009[10]
  • Group Support Battalion

Notable officers and soldiers

SSG Robert James Miller


  2. Sutherland, Ian D.W. (1990), Special Forces of the United States Army: 1952–1982, San Jose, California: R. James Bender Publishing, pp 297–300.
  3. Smith, R. Jeffrey (4 March 1991), "U.S. Special Forces Carried Out Sabotage, Rescues Deep in Iraq", The Washington Post.
  4. Diaz, Tom (20 March 1991), "Special Forces Busy in Kuwait", The Washington Times, pg 1.
  5. Goff, Stan (2000), Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti; Soft Skull Press.
  8. Patrick Jennings (May 20, 2010). "Danger Close: ODA 3336 in the Shok Valley". Defense Media Network. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  9. U.S. Army unit receives Commander-in-Chief Unit Commendation for Operation MEDUSA
  10. New Special Forces battalion activated at Fort Bragg
  11. Transcript of Jeffrey McDonald’s Article 32 Investigation Hearing, 1970, Vol. 12., CPT Richard Thoesen, MSC: "I came to know Captain McDonald when he reported to the 3rd Special Forces Group. I was his sponsor… In the latter part of August… 1969…"

External links

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