Green Beret 5th Group
Green Beret 5th Group

This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri October 11th and 18th 2017. If you would like to see the current articles as they are published, you may subscribe to The Belle Banner by calling 573-859-3328, or email, or mail to The Belle Banner, PO Box 711, Belle, MO 65013. Subscription rates are; Maries, Osage, and Gasconade County = $23.55 per year, elsewhere in Missouri = $26.77, outside Missouri = $27.00, and foreign countries = $40.00.
Green Berets, US Army Special Forces, the “quiet Professionals”. Who are they and how did they become “Green Berets”? The core of Special Forces is the A-Detachment, yes the “A Team”. The twelve man A Detachment consists of 10 NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) (sergeants), a Captain Commander, and a Warrant Officer Assistant Commander. The Warrant Officer is a former Special Forces Sergeant who has spent a minimum of three years (preferably more) on an A Detachment, applied to be a Warrant Officer, was accepted, attended a 20 week Warrant Officer’s Course, and then promoted to Warrant Officer. The specialties of the sergeants are weapons, engineers, medics, and communications. The success rate of soldiers from the very start of the year and a half to two year training to becoming Green Berets is about 25 percent. A big part of the day to day training within an A Detachment is cross training. Teaching each other their particular skills.
The Captain, who is usually the youngest member of the team, gets to spend about two years as an A Detachment Commander, then he moves on. Other than the Captain, an A-Detachment will usually stay together for years. Most A Detachments become one large extended family. They train together and they socialize, with their families, together. They know the names and birthdates of each others children, and when higher ups or “regular army” are not around they use first names. The Special Forces A Detachment’s bond with each other is stronger than in any other organization.
A retired Command Sergeant Major (CSM) of the US Army Special Forces Command said; ”The Hollywood version of the Special Forces soldier is far from reality. In movies, they mostly look like bodybuilders and seem to talk in macho catch-phrases, but the reality is, if you met a Green Beret out of uniform, you probably wouldn’t know it.” Retired CSM Frank McFadden, who at one time was in charge of the grueling 19 continuous day Special Forces Assessment and Selection course (SFAS), which is used to determine who will be accepted into the actual Special Forces Qualification Courses (SFQC), said; “I would find the biggest guy in the class and the smallest guy, stand them up, and tell the class, ‘This guy has just as much of a chance as this guy right here, and it has nothing to do with physical ability. It all has to do with your head, heart, and guts. SFAS is physically and mentally challenging beyond the abilities of most, and it’s meant to be that way. It’s a thinking man’s game. My job is to get you into a drop zone, and your job is to figure out how to train a battalion of guerillas. You figure out the rest. You might ask for 15,000 rounds of ammo to train them, but here’s 500 rounds. You have to figure out to accomplish the mission.”
One Green Beret recalled some memorable missions to South and Central America. “We were part of a MEDRETE to Honduras.” (A MEDRETE (Medical Readiness, Education and Training Exercise) is a medical mission to provide acute, primary, and preventative medicine services, that is otherwise not available, to populations in foreign (third world) countries.) “The US sent in doctors, veterinarians, and dentists to a remote region to promote goodwill between the people and the host nation government. About 750 – 1,000 villagers were expected, due to the word getting out, close to 10,000 showed up. Many had never seen a doctor or a dentist, and they brought their horses and donkey’s for the vets to look over. A couple of days were spent pulling teeth, under the watchful eyes of our dentists. Another was working with the vets, inoculating animals with a shot that would rid them of ticks.” “During a six month deployment to Bolivia to train counter-narcotics troops, we were planning for 10 days off during Christmas, but the American Ambassador ask for our help, so we spent it completely rebuilding a school. Our medics in Chimore were the only doctors for miles. Many women trekked for miles across mountainous terrain to have their babies born in the ‘gringo hospital’, which was our medical dispensary at the camp we shared with a Bolivian counter-narcotics battalion and DEA agents.”
Green Berets were the first to organize Afghan people to drive the Taliban out of town in Afghanistan. Some of you may recall those early Green Beret pictures. They looked like tribesmen on horseback. On January 23rd, 2002, Master Sergeant (MSG) Anthony Pryor’s A Detachment received orders, from US Central Command, to conduct a night raid on a suspected al-Qaeda compound in a remote area of southern Afghanistan. Their mission was to take over an old school house while the enemy fighters slept. But almost as soon as they entered the compound, their position was compromised, and they found themselves under intense gunfire, some less than 25 meters away. MSG Pryor and a teammate, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Scott Neil, pushed forward under fire. As they turned to enter a room, an enemy fighter charged through the doorway. MSG Pryor shot that fighter and moved into the room alone while SFC Neil was engaging another fighter outside. MSG Pryor later recalled, “I went in, and there were some windows that they were trying to get their guns out of to shoot at our guys that hadn’t caught up yet. So I went from left to right indexed down and shot those guys up. I realized that I was well halfway through my magazine, so I started to change magazines. Then I felt something behind me, and I thought it was Neil, that’s when things started going downhill.” Something hard struck Pryor on the back, breaking his clavicle and dislocating his shoulder. He went to the floor. “He jumped on my back, broke my night-vision goggles off and started getting his fingers in my eyeballs,” Pryor recalled. “I pulled him over, and when I hit down on the ground, it popped my shoulder back in.” Back on his feet, Pryor squared off with his attacker. Then, using only his hands, he killed him. But the fight wasn’t over. “I was trying to feel around in the dark for my night-vision goggles, and that’s when the guys I’d already killed decided that they weren’t dead yet.” Pryor raced to bring his rifle up while the two wounded men did the same. Moments later, Pryor emerged from the room, leaving four dead enemy soldiers in his wake. “As soon as he left the room, he came running up to me and wanted to know if everybody was okay,” Neil recalled. “He never mentioned anything about what went on … and during the whole objective and as the firefight continued, he never stopped.” When it was over, 21 enemy soldiers had been killed and all of the Americans were alive. Five years later, when the story could be told, MSG Pryor was awarded the Silver Star.
Special Forces values brains over brawn. Special Forces soldiers, are, as a group, the smartest group of people with whom I have ever been associated, and that includes university and college faculties. Most now have college degrees. Education and intelligence are not necessarily related. College doesn’t make you smarter, it teaches skills. Granted, a person has to be fairly smart to complete highly technical courses, such as medicine, engineering and computer science. Although, my son-in-law who is fairly high up on the food chain in computer science, says that some dumb guys do manage to get through that course.
In my research for this article, since my experience with these folks was 50 years ago, I found an in depth, three month psychiatric study of an A Detachment in Vietnam in 1966. They were called “A Camps” because the A team and a South Vietnamese SF A team, plus locals they had trained, constructed camps in remote isolated areas to train and influence the local population and to see to their medical needs. The doctor who published the study had three people live at the A Camp for three months, observing and conducting informal interviews. They reported things like – they all had big egos, each protected his own little area from the others, and the commander didn’t know what he was doing. I was there then, and I never heard of an A Camp like that. As I reread and studied that report, and thought back to my time there, I realized what had happened. A Camp’s were always under the threat of attack, and they did get attacked, a lot. More than one got completely overrun, which kept the stress level fairly high, so when you had a chance to have some fun you did it. That Special Forces A team performed a, well played, three month act in psyching the psych’s. Probably the most fun they had that year.
Green Berets – Who is attracted to Special Forces? Some apply to SF for the popular reasons, adventure, where the action is, and the Green Beret. The Sergeant who is probably going to be accepted, and go through training with very few problems, is a very intelligent, very mature Sergeant or Staff Sergeant who is a self-starter, and who has looked at Special Forces and seen them operating by themselves or in small groups, with great freedom of movement, and decided that he would rather do that than be in a regular unit. In a regular army division, to maintain control of 15,000 young soldiers, there has to be lots of rules. The Special Forces soldier, must be able to handle a considerable amount of stress, both physical and mental, he should also be comfortable with sorting through often large amounts of conflicting information, and deciding on a course of action, and he must have the maturity and self-confidence to make the right decision.
Since 9 – 11, the Army has allowed civilians to enlist for Special Forces. That contract only guarantees that the person get to attend the Special Forces Preparatory Course (SFPC). The requirements to enlist for Special Forces are, be at least 20 years old, but not yet 30, be in excellent physical condition, have a squeaky clean record, except perhaps a minor traffic ticket (you must have a secret security clearance initially and eventually a top secret), score high on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery), and preferably have at least one year of college. The enlistee who is accepted to contract for the 18X option will contract for five years, because they must have three years remaining at the completion of Special Forces training. He first attends 22 weeks of infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He is trained as a light weapons infantryman, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 11B. He then attends the three week basic airborne course also at Fort Benning. He is then moved to the US Army John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina to attend the four week Special Forces Preparatory Course (SFPC), which was designed specifically to prepare the 18X enlistees for the Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course (SFAS). The 18X program had a rocky start, and was nearly dropped, only pressure for more Green Berets kept it going. The Command Sergeant Major of the Special Warfare School reported that of the first 798 18X enlistees, only 14 made it through SFAS to actually start training. About 20 percent were dropped in Infantry training, 10 percent in Airborne School, 30 Percent in the preparatory course, and 40 percent of those remaining were dropped in SFAS. I have seen indications that the success rate is now somewhat better. When an 18X enlistee is dropped from the program he is an 11B (light weapons infantryman) assigned according to the needs of the Army. If he is lucky, he will go to the 82nd Airborne Division right there at Fort Bragg, if he is not so lucky, he could be maintaining a Bradley Fighting Vehicle at Fort Bliss, Texas or Fort Riley, Kansas. Neither of those may be a bad assignment, but if you were planning to be a Green Beret, it would be quite disappointing. That’s why I don’t recommend a civilian enlisting for Special Forces, although some have made it and became Green Berets.
In a the regular Army a Captain commands a company of 100 to 200 soldiers, he has a First Lieutenant Executive Officer and a First Sergeant E-8 to help run the company. In Special Forces, a Captain commands a team of 12 men, including himself. He has a warrant officer as an assistant, and a Master Sergeant E-8 to run the team. The Master Sergeant is the Operations Sergeant, the “Team” Sergeant, then there is a Sergeant First Class E-7 Intelligence Sergeant. These are the “big four” who run the team. The remaining eight members of the team include, two Weapons Specialists, a Sergeant First Class (SFC) E-7 and a Staff Sergeant (SSG) E-6, two Engineers, an SFC and a SSG, two Medics, an SFC and a SSG, and two Communications Specialists, an SFC and a SSG. That is the composition of the A Team (Operationally Detachment Alpha). Internally referred to as “ODA-111 (the number of the team). In the last decade, Green Berets have deployed into 135 of the 195 recognized countries in the world. Successes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa, the Philippines, the Andean Ridge, the Caribbean, and Central America have resulted in an increasing demand for US Army Special Forces around the globe.
Every day, Special Forces Soldiers remain deployed around the world, living up to their motto: “De Oppresso Liber” — To Free the Oppressed
There are six A Detachments in a company, which is called a B detachment (SFOD-B). The B Detachment (company) is commanded by a Major, and there are three companies in a Battalion, commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel, and four Battalions in a Group, which is commanded by a Colonel with a Command Sergeant Major and a full staff. There are about 1,500 soldiers in a Special Forces Group. There are presently five active SF Groups and two National Guard.
The 1st Special Forces Group is headquartered at Joint Base Lewis McCord (Fort Lewis), Washington. Its area of responsibility is the Pacific. The 1st Battalion of the 1st Group is forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan.
The 3rd Special Forces Group is at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Its area of responsibility is sub-Saharan Africa.
The 5th Special Forces Group is at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Its area of responsibility is Middle East, Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.
The 7th Special Forces Group is located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Its area of responsibility is South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
The 10th Special Forces Group is at Fort Carson, Colorado. Its area of responsibility is Europe. The 1st Battalion of the 10th Group is forward deployed to Stuttgart, Germany.
The 19th National Guard Special Forces Group is located at Draper, Utah and is oriented to South East Asia and the Pacific.
The 20th National Guard Special Forces Group is in Birmingham, Alabama and is oriented to South American, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Special Forces soldiers have to have a good body, not a weight lifter body, just a good body in top physical condition. They are more likely to resemble a long distance runner that a weight lifter. They have to be able to throw a hundred pounds on their back, walk up a mountain and just keep going and going and going. Endurance is most important.
After an enlisted man, in the rank of Specialist through Sergeant First Class, or an officer with the rank of Captain, volunteers and is accepted, or an SF enlistee who has made it through SFPC, the first step to becoming a Green Beret is the 19 day Special Forces Assessment and Selection Course (SFAS) course. All rank is removed, nobody knows anyone’s rank. It is harder than ranger school, it is harder than anything. It is a “weed out” course. It is 19 continuous days of little sleep, brutally hard training, with heavy rucksacks carried always. There is no training schedule. Events are not known until just before they happen. Complex training problems are given to teams. Individuals go through long distance, multiple point, timed land navigation courses. It is designed to create physical and mental stress. Several batteries of psychological tests are given, often asking the same question four or five different ways, after you haven’t slept for three days. Physical training (PT) is just short of breaking the individual, which includes a mile long, 30 event obstacle course, and runs are not regulated by distance or time, but by how much time is available. That can be hours. Historically about 35 percent successfully complete SFAS and are accepted for training. Those who can’t complete the course because of physical reasons, such as an injury or trench foot, are usually allowed to return and try again. Those who voluntarily withdraw (quit) are not allowed to return. Some will complete the course, but not be accepted because of psychological evaluations.
Those who are accepted into SF training first attend a six week Introduction to Unconventional Warfare (Phase I).
Phase II is 13 weeks of small unit tactics, advanced marksmanship, SF common tasks, urban operations, mission analysis, advanced special operations, sensitive-site exploitation, and military decision making process. Phase III then ends with the SERE course (Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape). You try not to get caught by an enemy force, you get caught, you resist answering questions, and then you get water boarded.
Phase III is MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) training. Within the past year, under pressure to produce more Special Forces soldiers, all MOS training, except medics have been realigned to 14 weeks.
Officers attend the Detachment Officers Course on how to command and lead a Special Forces A Detachment.
Weapons Sergeant, MOS 18B, covers functional operation, assembly, disassembly, maintenance and firing of most all of the world’s small and heavy weapons.
Engineer Sergeant, MOS 18C, is heavy on explosives, both use and creation, plus construction using locally available materials.
Medical Sergeant, MOS 18D attends the 36 week Special Operations Combat Medic Course, and an orientation to performing as an SF Medical Sergeant.
Communications Sergeant, MOS 18E, studies communications/IT foundations, tactical systems, field applications and performance.
Phase IV is a four week field exercise called “Robin Sage”, where students are organized into A-Teams and inserted into a fictional country in North Carolina with professional players, plus the participation of a large part of the local population, to put their SF skills into practice.
Phase V is 24 weeks of language and culture of the area to which the SF soldier will be assigned. That is classroom study and practice, so it is also during that phase that Special Forces Combatives is taught and practiced. That is pure mixed martial arts. In other words, down and dirty street fighting, but the goal is not to win by points.
Phase VI is graduation week, processing, regimental ceremonies, awarding of the Special Forces Tab, and initial donning of the Green Beret.
When you see the very rare pictures of Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan, they usually have a full beard, wearing dark sun glasses, and no name tags or rank. The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS fear and loath our Green Berets. The enemy pays big bounties for Special Forces, plus, if identified, their families back in the United States could be in danger. They are our shadow warriors, behind the scenes.

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