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USASOC Year in Review: 2011-2012

1st Special Forces Group

The big news for 1st SFG in 2011 was the standup of their new 4th Battalion on Aug. 29. But the soldiers of 4th/1st SFG did not wait for their new battalion colors to be uncased to get downrange. A number of 4th/1st SFG A-Teams were already overseas on missions to Thailand and the Philippines when the battalion stood up its headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash. With the addition of more than 400 new Green Berets, this will bring 1st SFG up to its planned strength of almost 1,700 soldiers.

 

3rd Special Forces Group

On Feb. 15, 2011, 3rd SFG commander Col. Mark Schwartz hosted a ceremony for Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Wright, where Wright relinquished his responsibilities as the 3rd SFG senior enlisted advisor to Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Meffert. Schwartz hosted another ceremony two weeks later on Feb. 25, when 37 3rd SFG soldiers were recognized for their actions in combat in Afghanistan. Five soldiers received the Silver Star; 19 soldiers the Bronze Star with “V” device for valor; 18 soldiers the Army Commendation Medal with “V” device for valor; and five soldiers received Purple Hearts. Four battles involving members of the group were highlighted in presentations that recounted the actions performed by each man receiving a medal. One engagement with enemy forces led to the entire Operational Detachment – Alpha receiving an award for combat actions during a firefight. Of the Green Berets being decorated that day, Schwartz said, “Every valor award recipient who came across the stage today will tell you they are simply doing their job. As your commander, there is no greater honor than to recognize these men. All of them are warriors who represent the finest caliber of noncommissioned officers and officers that make up the ranks of our [Special Forces] group.”

De Oppresso Liber Statue

Lt. Gen. John Mullholland, as commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and former commander of Task Force Dagger, addresses the audience during the dedication and unveiling ceremony for the “De Oppresso Liber” statue at the Winter Garden Hall in Two World Financial Center near Ground Zero, Nov. 11, 2011. Mulholland has been confirmed as USSOCOM deputy commander. U.S. Army photo

Another mass award ceremony was held on Sept. 15, when more than 30 valor awards were awarded to soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). The decorations awarded included two Silver Stars, 22 Bronze Stars with “V” device, eight Army Commendation Medals with “V” device, and 11 Purple Hearts.

 

5th Special Forces Group

The 5th SFG had another full and eventful year in 2011. The 5th got a new commander when Col. Mark Mitchell relinquished command of “the Legion” to Col. Scott E. Brower on Aug. 12, 2011.

“It is with great humility and pride that I watched this group of soldiers deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan time and again, accomplishing what no one else has dared to attempt,” said Brower. “You have deployed to locations on behalf of our nation, serving quietly in the shadows with no fanfare or recognition because that’s what is expected of you. I am confident that you will continue to meet each and every challenge that you face.”

On Sept. 21 at Fort Campbell, Ky., Brower presided over the 5th SFG’s weeklong 50th anniversary celebration of the group’s formation, which originally took place on Sept. 21, 1961, at Fort Bragg, N.C. It was a fitting celebration for the most decorated and storied of SFC’s groups, which is in the middle of building a new state-of-the-art campus of facilities at Fort Campbell. There was another celebration for 5th SFG in 2011, one in which it took a particular pride. On Nov. 11 in New York City, an 18-foot-tall statue called “De Oppresso Liber” (“To Free the Oppressed”) was dedicated in lower Manhattan near what has come to be known as “Ground Zero.” On this hallowed ground, a bronze statue of one of 5th SFG’s “horse soldiers,” Green Berets from ODA 595, was dedicated. ODA 595 and other SF teams operated on horseback with the Northern Alliance of Gen. Dostum in the fall of 2001 in northern Afghanistan near Mazar-e-Sharif.

 

7th Special Forces Group

The 7th SFG completed the big move to its new garrison and home base at Eglin Air Force Base(AFB), Fla., after years of planning and construction since the announcement of its move by the Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC). The first major event of note at the new facility was a change-of-command ceremony where Col. James E. Kraft Jr. handed over his responsibilities to Col. Antonio M. Fletcher on July 7. The official handover of the new garrison facility came on Sept. 14, with the final signoff to the contractors. Then, on Oct. 14, came a gala grand opening ceremony attended by numerous local and state dignitaries.

 

Special Operations Forces In Afghanistan

A coalition special operations forces team member inspects weapons and equipment found during a clearing operation in La’pur district, Nangahar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2011. Afghan Commandos, partnered with coalition special operations forces, conducted the operation to disrupt a known insurgent safe haven and promote security in the area. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anderson Savoy

10th Special Forces Group

On Jan. 19, 2011, four members of the 1st Battalion, 10th SFG, received awards during a ceremony for their valorous actions over the course of their last deployment to Afghanistan. During the ceremony one Bronze Star Medal for valor, two Army Commendation Medals for valor and one Purple Heart were awarded. Although all valor medals were presented for separate actions, the Special Forces soldiers to whom they were awarded came from the same detachment. Maj. Gen. Michael S. Repass, commander, Special Operations Command Europe, said, “We have the opportunity to recognize some of the valor and sacrifices these men have rendered in defense of their nation, and as members of the Special Forces Regiment. All the better that their families, friends, teammates, and associates are present to hear what they’ve done, since they most likely have never said much about it themselves.”

 

19th and 20th Special Forces Groups

SFC’s two Army National Guard (ANG) SFGs, the 19th and 20th, once again spent their year supporting cooperative training and combat missions. This often included performing duties in which their active-duty SF brethren would be involved in more peaceful times. The two National Guard SFGs have been key in keeping the critical Joint Cooperative Engagement/Training (JCET) program and the foreign internal defense (FID) mission alive within SOCOM and USASOC. The groups have worked hard to keep their own field skills sharp, as 2nd Battalion of the 19th SFG did while at Camp Atterbury, Ind., in May 2011. Meanwhile, more than 100 19th SFG Green Berets came home from a yearlong mission in Iraq on May 13, arriving home at the Utah Air National Guard Base.

The 20th SFG also stayed busy in 2011, with a number of the group’s Green Berets receiving the Croix de la Valeur Militaire (equivalent to the American Silver Star) from the French ambassador at his residence in Washington, D.C., on July 25. The decorations were for valor during a multinational 2009 combat mission in the Uzbin Valley in Afghanistan.

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John D. Gresham lives in Fairfax, Va. He is an author, researcher, game designer, photographer,...