|U.S. Army Special Forces|
United States Army Special Forces shoulder sleeve insignia
|Active||June 19, 1952 – present|
|Type||Special operations force|
United States Special Operations Command|
United States Army Special Operations Command
|Garrison/HQ||Fort Bragg, North Carolina|
|Nickname(s)||Green Berets, Quiet Professionals, Soldier-Diplomats, Snake Eaters, Bearded Bastards|
De Oppresso Liber|
Operation Urgent Fury
Operation Just Cause
Operation Uphold Democracy
Operation Enduring Freedom
The United States Army Special Forces, known informally as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with five primary missions: unconventional warfare (the original and most important mission of Special Forces), foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. The first two emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, hostage rescue, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, information operations, peacekeeping, psychological operations, security assistance, and manhunts; other components of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) or other U.S. government activities may also specialize in these secondary areas. Many of their operational techniques are classified, but some nonfiction works and doctrinal manuals are available.
As a special operations unit, Special Forces are not necessarily under the command authority of the ground commanders in those countries. Instead, while in theater, SF soldiers may report directly to United States Central Command, USSOCOM, or other command authorities. The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) highly secretive Special Activities Division (SAD) and more specifically its elite Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits from the Army's Special Forces. Joint CIA-Army Special Forces operations go back to the famed MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War. This cooperation still exists today and is seen in the War in Afghanistan.
The main mission of the Special Forces was to train and lead unconventional warfare (UW) forces, or a clandestine guerrilla force in an occupied nation. The Special Forces are the only U.S. Special Operations Force (SOF) trained to employ UW. The 10th Special Forces Group was the first deployed SF unit, intended to operate UW forces behind enemy lines in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. As the U.S. became involved in Southeast Asia, it was realized that specialists trained to lead guerrillas could also help defend against hostile guerrillas, so SF acquired the additional mission of Foreign Internal Defense (FID), working with Host Nation (HN) forces in a spectrum of counter-guerrilla activities from indirect support to combat command.[Clarification needed]
Special Forces personnel qualify both in advanced military skills and the regional languages and cultures of defined parts of the world. While they have a Direct Action (DA) capability, other units, such as Rangers, are more focused on overt direct action raids conducted in uniform. SF personnel have the training to carry out covert DA, and other missions, including special reconnaissance. Other missions include peace operations, counter-proliferation, counter-drug advisory roles, and other strategic missions. As strategic resources, they report either to USSOCOM or to a regional Unified Combatant Command.[Clarification needed]
SF team members work closely together and rely on one another under isolated circumstances for long periods of time, both during extended deployments and in garrison. Because of this, they develop clannish relationships and long-standing personal ties. SF non-commissioned officers (NCO) often spend their entire careers in Special Forces, rotating among assignments to detachments, higher staff billets, liaison positions, and instructor duties at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS). They are then required to move to staff positions or to higher command echelons. With the creation of USSOCOM, SF commanders have risen to the highest ranks of U.S. Army command, including command of USSOCOM, the Army's Chief of Staff, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Special Forces traces its roots as the Army’s premier proponent of unconventional warfare from the Operational Groups and Jedburgh teams of the Office of Strategic Services.
The OSS was formed in World War II to gather intelligence and conduct operations behind enemy lines in support of resistance groups in Europe and Burma. After the war, individuals such as Col. Aaron Bank, Col. Wendell Fertig and Lt. Col. Russell W. Volckmann used their wartime OSS experience to formulate the doctrine of unconventional warfare that became the cornerstone of the Special Forces.
In June 1952, the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was established under Col. Aaron Bank. Concurrently with this was the establishment of the Psychological Warfare School, which ultimately became today’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. The 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) deployed to Bad Tolz, Germany in September 1953. The remaining cadre at Fort Bragg formed the 77th Special Forces Group, which in May 1960 became today’s 7th Special Forces Group.
Since their establishment in 1952, Special Forces soldiers have operated in Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, and, in an FID role, Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa, which was transferred to United States Africa Command in 2008.
Special Forces groups
Special Forces are divided into five active duty (AD) and two Army National Guard (ARNG) Special Forces groups. Each Special Forces Group (SFG) has a specific regional focus. The Special Forces soldiers assigned to these groups receive intensive language and cultural training for countries within their regional area of responsibility (AOR). Due to the increased need for Special Forces soldiers in the War on Terror, all Groups—including those of the National Guard (19th and 20th SFGs)—have been deployed outside of their areas of operation (AOs), particularly to Iraq and Afghanistan. A recently released report showed Special Forces as perhaps the most deployed SOF under USSOCOM, with many soldiers, regardless of Group, serving up to 75% of their careers overseas, almost all of which had been to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Until recently an SF group has consisted of three battalions, but since the Department of Defense has authorized U.S. Army Special Forces Command to increase its authorized strength by one third, a fourth battalion will be activated in each active component group by 2012.
A Special Forces group is historically assigned to a Unified Combatant Command or a theater of operations. The Special Forces Operational Detachment C or C-detachment (SFODC) is responsible for a theater or a major subcomponent, which can provide command and control of up to 18 SFODAs, three SFODB, or a mixture of the two. Subordinate to it are the Special Forces Operational Detachment Bs or B-detachments (SFODB), which can provide command and control for six SFODAs. Further subordinate, the SFODAs typically raise company- to battalion-sized units when on unconventional warfare missions. They can form 6-man "split A" detachments that are often used for special reconnaissance.
|1st Special Forces Group – Headquartered at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington along with its 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions, its 1st Battalion is forward deployed at Torii Station, Okinawa. The 1SFGA is oriented towards the Pacific region, and is often tasked by PACOM. Currently, 1SFGA and two of its battalions spend roughly six months out of every twelve deployed on a rotational basis to either Iraq as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula, to Afghanistan as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan, or to the Philippines as Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines.|
|3rd Special Forces Group – Headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The 3SFGA is theoretically oriented towards all of Sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of the Eastern Horn of Africa, i.e. AFRICOM. In practice, 3SFGA and two of its battalions spend roughly six months out of every twelve deployed to Afghanistan as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan.|
|5th Special Forces Group – Headquartered at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The 5SFGA is oriented towards the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa (HOA), and is frequently tasked by CENTCOM. Currently, 5SFGA and two of its battalions spend roughly six months out of every twelve deployed to Iraq as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula.|
|7th Special Forces Group – Headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The 7SFG(A) is oriented towards the western hemisphere: South America, Central America, the Caribbean (i.e. the USSOUTHCOM AOR), and North America (i.e. the USNORTHCOM AOR). In practice, 7SFG(A) and two of its battalions spend roughly six months out of every twelve deployed to Afghanistan as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan. In 2011, 7SFG(A) relocated from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round.|
|10th Special Forces Group – Headquartered at Fort Carson, Colorado along with its 2nd, 3rd and newly added 4th Battalions, its 1st Battalion is forward deployed in the Panzer Kaserne (Panzer Barracks) in Böblingen near Stuttgart, Germany. The 10SFGA is theoretically oriented towards Europe, mainly Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Northern Africa, i.e. EUCOM. In practice, 10SFGA and two of its battalions spend roughly six months out of every twelve deployed to Iraq as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula.|
|19th Special Forces Group – One of two National Guard Special Forces Groups. Headquartered in Draper, Utah, with companies in Washington, West Virginia, Ohio, Rhode Island, Colorado, California, and Texas, the 19SFGA is oriented towards Southwest Asia (shared with 5SFGA), Europe (shared with 10SFGA), as well as Southeast Asia (shared with 1SFGA).|
|20th Special Forces Group – One of two National Guard Special Forces Groups. Headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with battalions in Alabama (1st Battalion), Mississippi (2nd Battalion), and Florida (3rd Battalion), with assigned Companies and Detachments in North Carolina ; Chicago, Illinois; Louisville, Kentucky; Western Massachusetts; and Baltimore, Maryland. The 20SFGA has an area of responsibility (AOR) covering 32 countries, including Latin America south of Mexico, the waters, territories, and nations in the Caribbean sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Orientation towards the region is shared with 7SFGA.|
|6th Special Forces Group – Active from 1963 to 1971. Based at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Assigned to Southwest Asia (Iraq, Iran, etc.) and Southeast Asia. Many of the 103 original Son tay raider volunteers were from 6SFGA.|
|8th Special Forces Group – Active from 1963 to 1972. Responsible for training armies of Latin America in counter-insurgency tactics.|
|11th Special Forces Group – Active from 1961 to 1994.|
|12th Special Forces Group – Active from 1961 to 1994.|
Battalion HQ Element – SF Operational Detachment-C (SFODC) composition
The SFODC, or "C-Team", is the headquarters element of a Special Forces battalion. As such, it is a command and control unit with operations, training, signals and logistic support responsibilities to its three subordinate line companies. A lieutenant colonel (O-5) commands the battalion and the C-Team and the battalion Command Sergeant Major (E-9) is the senior NCO of the battalion and the C-Team. There are an additional 20–30 SF personnel who fill key positions in operations, logistics, intelligence, communications and medical. A Special Forces battalion usually consists of four companies: "A", "B", "C", and Headquarters/Support.
Company HQ Element – SF Operational Detachment-B (SFODB) composition
The ODB, or "B-Team", is the headquarters element of a Special Forces company, and it is usually composed of 11–13 soldiers. While the A-team typically conducts direct operations, the purpose of the B-Team is to support the company's A-Teams both in garrison and in the field. When deployed, in line with their support role, B-Teams are usually found in more secure rear areas. However, under some circumstances a B-Team will deploy into a hostile area, usually to coordinate the activities of multiple A-Teams.
The ODB is led by an 18A, usually a major, who is the company commander (CO). The CO is assisted by his company executive officer (XO), another 18A, usually a captain. The XO is himself assisted by a company technician, a 180A, generally a chief warrant officer three, who assists in the direction of the organization, training, intelligence, counter-intelligence, and operations for the company and its detachments. The company commander is assisted by the company sergeant major, an 18Z, usually a Sergeant Major. A second 18Z acts as the operations sergeant, usually a Master Sergeant, who assists the XO and technician in their operational duties. He has an 18F assistant operations sergeant, who is usually a Sergeant First Class. The company's support comes from an 18D medical sergeant, usually a Sergeant First Class, and two 18E communications sergeants, usually a Sergeant First Class and a Staff Sergeant.
The following jobs are outside of the Special Forces 18-series career management field (CMF), but hold positions on a Special Forces B-Team. Soldiers in these positions are not "Special Forces qualified", as they have not completed the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC or "Q Course):
- The supply NCO, usually a Staff Sergeant, the commander's principal logistical planner, works with the battalion S-4 to supply the company.
- The Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN defence) NCO, usually a Sergeant, maintains and operates the company's NBC detection and decontamination equipment, and assists in administering NBC defensive measures.
Basic Element – SF Operational Detachment-A (SFODA) composition
A Special Forces company consists of usually six ODAs (Operational Detachments-A) or "A-Teams". The number of ODAs can vary from company to company, with each ODA specializing in an infiltration skill or a particular mission-set (e.g. Military Freefall (HALO), combat diving, mountain warfare, maritime operations, or urban operations). An ODA is identified by its group, battalion, company and the team itself. For example, ODA 111 would be the first team in the first company of the first battalion of First Special Forces Group.
An ODA consists of 12 men, each of whom has a specific function (MOS or Military Occupational Specialty) on the team, however all members of an ODA conduct cross-training. The ODA is led by an 18A (Detachment Commander), a Captain, and a 180A (Assistant Detachment Commander) who is his second in command, usually a Warrant Officer One or Chief Warrant Officer Two. The team also includes the following enlisted men: one 18Z (Operations Sergeant) (known as the "Team Sergeant"), usually a Master Sergeant, one 18F (Assistant Operations and Intelligence Sergeant), usually a Sergeant First Class, and two each, 18Bs (Weapons Sergeant), 18Cs (Engineer Sergeant), 18Ds (Medical Sergeant), and 18Es (Communications Sergeant), usually Sergeants First Class, Staff Sergeants or Sergeants. This organization facilitates 6-man "split team" operations, redundancy, and mentoring between a senior NCO and his junior assistant.
The basic eligibility requirements to be considered for entry into the Special Forces are:
- Age 20–30 (male or female)
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Be a high school graduate.
- Score a General Technical score of 107 or higher and a combat operation score of 98 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
- Qualify for a secret security clearance.
- Qualify and volunteer for Airborne training.
- Achieve a minimum of 60 points on each event and overall minimum score of 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test.
- Must successfully complete the Pre-Basic Task list.
- Must have 20/20 or corrected to 20/20 in both near and distant vision in both eyes.
- One year of college is preferred, but it is not a mandatory for enlistment.
Selection and training
The Special Forces soldier trains on a regular basis over the course of their entire career. The initial formal training program for entry into Special Forces is divided into four phases collectively known as the Special Forces Qualification Course or, informally, the "Q Course". The length of the Q Course changes depending on the applicant's primary job field within Special Forces and their assigned foreign language capability but will usually last between 55 to 95 weeks. After successfully completing the Special Forces Qualification Course, Special Forces soldiers are then eligible for many advanced skills courses. These include, but are not limited to, the Military Free Fall Parachutist Course (MFF), the Combat Diver Qualification Course and the Special Forces Sniper Course (SFSC).
Special Forces MOS descriptions
- 18A – Special Forces Officer
- 180A – Special Forces Warrant Officer
- 18B – Special Forces Weapons Sergeant
- 18C – Special Forces Engineer Sergeant
- 18D – Special Forces Medical Sergeant
- 18E – Special Forces Communications Sergeant
- 18F – Special Forces Intelligence Sergeant
- 18X – Special Forces Candidate (Active Duty Enlistment Option)
- 18Z – Special Forces Operations Sergeant
Uniforms and insignia
The Green Beret
US Army Special Forces adopted the Green Beret unofficially in 1954 after searching for a piece of headgear that would set them apart as an elite fighting force. Members of the 77th SFG began searching through their accumulated berets and settled on the Rifle Green color of the British Commandos from Captain Miguel de la Pena's collection. Captain Frank Dallas had the new beret designed and produced in small numbers for the members of the 10th & 77th Special Forces Groups.
Their new headdress was first worn at a retirement parade at Fort Bragg on 12 June 1955 for Lieutenant General Joseph P. Cleland, the now-former commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Onlookers thought that the commandos were a foreign delegation from NATO. In 1956 General Paul D. Adams, the post commander at Fort Bragg, banned the wearing of the distinctive headdress,(although members of the Special Forces continued to wear it surreptitiously ). This was reversed on 25 September 1961 by Department of the Army Message 578636, which designated the green beret as the exclusive headdress of the Army Special Forces.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized them for use exclusively by the U.S. Special Forces. Preparing for an 12 October visit to the Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the President sent word to the Center's commander, Colonel William P. Yarborough, for all Special Forces soldiers to wear green berets as part of the event. The President felt that since they had a special mission, Special Forces should have something to set them apart from the rest. In 1962, he called the green beret "a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom".
Forrest Lindley, a writer for the newspaper Stars and Stripes who served with Special Forces in Vietnam said of Kennedy's authorization: "It was President Kennedy who was responsible for the rebuilding of the Special Forces and giving us back our Green Beret. People were sneaking around wearing [them] when conventional forces weren't in the area and it was sort of a cat and mouse game. Then Kennedy authorized the Green Beret as a mark of distinction, everybody had to scramble around to find berets that were really green. We were bringing them down from Canada. Some were handmade, with the dye coming out in the rain".
Special Forces have a special bond with Kennedy, going back to his funeral. At the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of JFK's death, General Michael D. Healy, the last commander of Special Forces in Vietnam, spoke at Arlington Cemetery. Later, a wreath in the form of the Green Beret would be placed on the grave, continuing a tradition that began the day of his funeral when a sergeant in charge of a detail of Special Forces men guarding the grave placed his beret on the coffin.
On a wreath of the colors (Argent and Sable), two arrows saltire-wise Argent – that is, two silver arrows crossed with a dagger, also silver, above them, surrounded by a black ribbon.
- The beret crest is taken from the gold crossed arrow collar (branch) beret insignia of the First Special Service Force, an American-Canadian commando unit organized in 1942 for World War II. The crest was changed to silver to create visual harmony with the shield, as well as to make a difference from the collar insignia.
- A silver color metal and enamel device 1 1⁄8 inches (2.9 cm) in height consisting of a pair of silver arrows in saltire, points up and surmounted at their junction by a silver dagger with black handle point up; all over and between a black motto scroll arcing to base and inscribed "DE OPPRESSO LIBER" in silver letters. The motto, De oppresso liber, is of uncertain meaning.
This distinctive unit insignia was approved on 8 July 1960. The insignia of the 1st Special Forces was authorized to be worn by enlisted personnel of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) and its subordinate units since at least 1965.
- 1965: The Green Berets, a book by Robin Moore.
- 1966: "Ballad of the Green Berets", a song performed by Vietnam veteran and Green Beret, Barry Sadler. The song was written by Sadler and Robin Moore.
- 1968: The Green Berets, a movie about the "Green Berets" produced, directed, and starring, John Wayne, who plays role in it as "Colonel Kirby".
- Tales of the Green Beret, a comic strip and American comic book written by Robin Moore with artwork by Joe Kubert.
- Rambo: 1982, 1985, 1988, 2008: In this series of films, the central character, John Rambo, is a former Green Beret and Vietnam War veteran.
- 1965: "Outpost of Freedom",a book by Captain Roger H. C. Donlon as told to Warren Rogers 1965, McGraw-Hill Book Co. Captain Donlon was awarded first Medal of Honor for action in Vietnam, July 6, 1964 with Detachment A726.
- 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force)
- Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division
- Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group
- Operation Jedburgh
- Devil's Brigade
- Alamo Scouts
- United States Army Counterintelligence (CI, or USAI)
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- Special Forces Weapons Sergeant | GoArmy.com
- Special Forces Engineer Sergeant | GoArmy.com
- Special Forces Medical Sergeant | GoArmy.com
- Special Forces Communications Sergeant | GoArmy.com
- Special Forces Candidate | GoArmy.com
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