The green berets are also referred to as the Special Forces. The U.S Army special force was created in 1952, and it was kept in a somewhat low profile. The Army Special Forces were formed by recruiting former OSS officers and the veterans from the elite Rangers and Airborne army units. The first leader of the Special Forces was captain Aaron bank who was recruited from the OSS.
The beret history
The modern beret was first used in the U.S military was in 1943, when a battalion of the 509th Parachute Infantry was given maroon berets by their British counterparts for their service in the war. In 1951, the Marine Corps experimented with green and blue berets, but they dismissed them, as they looked too “foreign and feminine". The Green Beret was designed by Major Herb Brucker, after he got the idea from the berets worn by the elite troops in European armies. Shortly after, the widespread use of the headgear came up when a new army organization trained specially for insurgency and counter guerrilla warfare began wearing a green variety in 1953. It took another eight years for the army's Special Forces to get the presidential approval from President John F. Kennedy to make the headgear official. (Taylor, 1995)
President Kennedy was also influential in pushing for the official adoption and wearing of the Green Beret by Special Forces units. In October 1961, before his visit to the Special Warfare Centre at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he sent word to the centre's commander, Brigadier General William P. Yarborough, that all Special Forces soldiers wear the beret as part of their uniform. He felt they had a special mission so the Special Forces units should have something to set them apart. In 1962, he called the Green Beret a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.
Since the establishment of the Special Forces in 1952, the soldiers have operated in Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia Kosovo and the Philippines. The Green berets carried out many “cold war” missions in the 1950s to resist the spread of communism around the world. They backed up rebels fighting against communism governments in unfriendly countries and helped friendly countries battle communist insurgencies. They were however not well known outside of the military establishment since nearly all of their missions were secret. The U.S special force was divided into five Active Duty (AD) and two Army National Guard (ARNG) Special Forces groups, each of them with a specific regional focus. The soldiers assigned to these groups received intensive language plus cultural training for countries within their regional areas of responsibilities. (Taylor, 1995)
The Green Berets and Vietnam War
The mission of the Special Forces was “to infiltrate the land by sea, land or air deep into enemy-occupied territories and organize the resistance/guerrilla potential.” The soldiers were required to speak more than one language. They also were trained in at least two of the Special Forces’ basic skills: communications, intelligence, weaponry, demolitions and medical aid as well as how to operate behind enemy lines with minimal or no outside support. The Special Forces units were organized into “A” teams, which consisted of two officers and ten enlisted men. (Moore, 2007)
After the assassination of president john F. Kennedy in 1963, Special Forces Troopers wearing their green berets formed part of Kennedy’s funeral honor guard. A Green Beret soldier later placed a green beret on Kennedy’s gravesite, which became a famous photo. Soon afterwards, the green berets received prominent mainstream cultural attention following a publication of a popular book in 1965, which was later followed by some Green Beret music in 1966 and a Hollywood film in 1968. In 1965 and 1966, in a Gallup poll, about sixty percent of Americans supported sending troops to Vietnam to counter the Vietnam War. During that period, the American Green berets enjoyed popularity and public support. (Moore, 2007)
In September 1969, eight Special Forces accused of killing a Vietnamese national had their charges dropped after the secretary of the Army Stanley Resor announced that the U.S Army, conceding that it was helpless to enlist the cooperation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was dropping the murder charges. They included Colonel Robert B. Rheault, Commander of the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam, plus seven other Green Berets. The eight had been charged with premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the summary execution of Thai Khac Chuyen, who had served as an agent for detachment B-57. It was reported that Chuyen was murdered for being a double agent who had compromised a secret mission. The case against the green berets was ultimately dismissed for national security reasons after the CIA refused to release highly classified information about the operations, which had involved Detachment B-57. This followed Colonel’s Rheault’s retirement from the Army. (Moore, 2007)
The green berets popularity was also associated with contributions of Robin Moore, who published a book called The Green berets in 1962. Robin also wrote a song with Barry Sadler, who was also a Vietnam veteran and a Green Beret, “Ballad of the Green Berets”. In December 1965, John Wayne, a Hollywood legend and by the veteran of around 140 films most famously westerns and war movies, addressed a letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson proposing a patriotic movie about America’s growing involvement in the Vietnam war. In 1968, “The Green Berets” was directed by Wayne who also starred in the movie. It was the most blatantly propagandist contemporaneous American feature film made about the Vietnam War. Other films were produced after the war which included Apocalypse now!(1978), The deer Hunter(1978), Rambo: First blood(1985), Platoon(1986), Good Morning, Vietnam(1987), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and Hamburger Hill(1987). Robin Moore also wrote an American comic book called Tales of the Green Beret. Barry Sadler’s The Ballad of the green Berets was a no.1 hit record and received large popularity. It commemorated the fighting men of the U.S Special Forces then doing battle in the Vietnam War. (Robinson, 2005)
After the withdrawal of the U.S from Vietnam, the army was forced by budget cuts to rethink its dependence on large conventional forces and to consider the use of more elite units. It was though that wars could be fought with air power and smaller units of highly trained men in future. This plan was put into effect during operation “Just Cause” by the Army, aimed at invading panama to remove its despotic leader Manuel Noriega and stop him from allowing Panama to be used as a way station by drug dealers. The mission was entirely carried out by the Green Berets, Navy Seals and Rangers. (Robinson, 2005)
During Desert Shield, the first war against Iraq that secured the liberation of Kuwait, the Special Forces went to Kuwait early to train resistance forces. Immediately the air war was launched, Green berets operated well behind enemy lines providing intelligence and targeting data to direct air units on concealed and elusive targets such as the Iraqi mobile scud missiles. Before the ground war commenced, Special Forces were instrumental in clearing lanes through the minefields and trenches that blocked the invasion routes for the conventional forces. Kuwait was later liberated, and the Special Forces helped reconstitute the Kuwaiti armed forces. (Robinson, 2005)
The war on terror necessitated the need for Special Forces soldiers, so all groups, were deployed outside their area of operations, especially Iraq and Afghanistan. Special Forces were the most deployed SOF (Special Operation Forces) under SOCOM (Special Operations Command) with many soldiers regardless of their group serving up to 75% of their careers overseas, almost all of which had been to Iraq and Afghanistan. (Robinson, 2005)
Structure and deployment
A Special Force consisted of three battalions. A Special Forces group was assigned to a theatre of operations or a unified Combatant Command. The special forces Operational Detachment C(SFODC) was responsible for a theatre subcomponent, which could command and control up to 18 SFODAs, 3 SFODBs, or a mixture of the two. Subordinate to it were the Special Forces Operational Detachment Bs, which could provide command and control six SFODAs. Further subordinate, the SFODAs typically raise company-to battalion-sized units when on conventional warfare missions. They formed 6-man “split A” detachments, often used for Strategic Reconnaissance. (Goldberg, 2002)
The 1st SFGA was headquartered at Joint Base Lewis in Washington along with its second, third and fourth battalion. It was oriented towards the Pacific region, and was often tasked by PACOM. It spent roughly six months each year deployed on a rotational basis to either Iraq Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. 3rd Special Forces group was headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was oriented towards all of Sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of the Eastern horn of Africa. It spent six months each year deployed to Afghanistan as Combined joint operations Task Force. The 5th Special Forces group was headquartered at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was oriented towards the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa. It was tasked by CENTCOM, and it spent six months each year deployed to Iraq as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. (Meissner, 2005)
The 7th Special Forces group was headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and was oriented towards the western hemisphere, South America, Central America, the Caribbean and North America. Two of its battalions spent six months every year deployed to Afghanistan as combined joint operations Task force. The 10th Special Forces group headquartered at Fort Carson, Colorado together with its 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions. The first battalion was deployed in the Panzer Barracks in Germany. The 10th SFGA was oriented towards Europe, the Balkans, and turkey, Israel, Lebanon and northern Africa. The 10th SFGA and two of its battalions spent six months each year to Iraq as Combined Joint Special operations Task force. The 19th SFGA was headquartered in Draper, Utah. It was oriented towards south East Asia, Europe plus Southwest Asia. The 20th SFGA was headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama with 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida respectively. The 20th SFGA gas an area responsibility 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 was shared with the 7th SFGA. (Goldberg, 2002)
A Special Forces battalion consisted of four companies: “A”, “B”, “C”, and headquarters support. The A-team typically conducted direct operations, and the B-team supported the company’s A-teams both in the field and in the garrison. B-teams were usually found in more secure rear areas. Under some circumstances however, B-team would deploy into a hostile area, to coordinate the activities of multiple A-teams. (Goldberg, 2002)
Recruitment of Special Forces Soldiers
The basic eligibility requirements to be considered for recruitment into the US Army Special Forces were:
i) Be a male aged 20-30 years
ii) Be a U.S citizen
iii) Be a high school graduate
iv) Score a general technical score of 107 or higher and a combat operation score of 98 on the Armed Services Vocational aptitude Battery
v) Qualify for a secret security clearance
vi) Qualify and volunteer for Airborne training
vii) Achieve a minimum of 60 points on each event and overall minimum score of 240 on the Army Physical Fitness Test
viii) Must successfully complete the Pre-Basic Task list
ix) Must have 20/20 or corrected 20/20 in both near and distant vision in both eyes
x) One year of college was preferred, but not mandatory for enlistment (Hamilton, 2011)
The initial formal training program for entry into Special Forces was divided into four phases collectively referred to as the Special Forces Qualification Course (Q Course). The Q course length changed depending on the applicant’s primary job field within the Special Forces and their assigned foreign language capability and lasted between 55-95 weeks. After successful completion of the Q Course, the soldiers were entitled to many advanced skill courses such as Military Free Fall Parachutist Course (MFF), Combat Driver Qualification Course and the Special Force Sniper Course (SFSC). (Hamilton, 2011)
The Green Berets and War on Terror
After the World trade Centre and the pentagon was hit by terrorist activities, the United States declared war on terrorism. President George W. Bush announced the “Bush Doctrine” during his state of Union Address on September 2001. In his statement he said, “We will pursue nations that provide aid or save haven to terrorism.” Afghanistan was by then already safe haven for the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, which was led by Osama Bin laden, and was responsible for the terrorist attacks on September. The U.s demanded Afghanistan hand over Bin Laden and his associates but her demands were ignored, causing the U.S to invade Afghanistan. The Green Berets and Rangers were leading the ground war, together with indigenous forces provided by the North Alliance. The war ended quickly, but Bin Laden was not captured and he remained in hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where the rugged terrain made military operations really difficult to sustain, until 2011 when president Barrack Obama launched an operation hunt for Laden, which saw Laden killed by “being shot on sight”, a mission carried out by the Special Forces and Navy Seals. (Meissner, 2005)
Green Berets in Iraq
On March 2003, the Green Berets spearheaded the invasion of Iraq, to remove the dictator Saddam Hussein and free the Iraqi people from the excesses of his Ba’athist regime. The approximate period of the war was three weeks, but securing peace was a difficult task and continued for a couple of years. Saddam went into hiding and lived in disguise, but he was apprehended, transported to the U.S and charged with crimes against humanity among others. He was sentenced to death and later hanged. The Special Forces were instrumental to the ousting and capture of Saddam Hussein. The Green Berets trained the new Iraqi army and police forces, as well as providing humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq. (Meissner, 2005)
The Green Berets are led by their motto, “De Oppresso Libe”(To Free the Oppressed), and special forces today are stationed in trouble and war-torn spots all over the world, fighting terrorism and training local forces in counter-terrorism tactics, techniques and procedures with the objective that someday the whole world will be liberated from terrorism.
Goldberg, J. Green Berets: The U.s. Army Special Forces. New York: Rosen publishing, 2002.
Hamilton, J. Green Berets. Minnessota: ABDO publishing, 2011.
Meissner, P. The Green Berets And Their Victories. Bloomington: Author house publishing, 2005.
Moore, R. The Green Berets: The Amazing Story of the U.S. Army's Elite. New York: Sky horse publishing, 2007.
Robinson, L. Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces. New York: McGraw Hill. 2005.
Taylor, P. The Green Berets. Retrieved on 10th November, available at http://ics-www.leeds.ac.uk/papers/vp01.cfm?outfit=pmt&folder=40&paper=732, 1995.