This is the 50th Anniversary Year of the US Army's Special Forces (SF) and a reason to celebrate the awesome capability of this organization's unconventional warriors. It is also the time to recognize the absolute need, when such an organization exists, to establish systematic and certain safeguards to defend against the possible development of an uncontrollable covert activity by a power bent commander given unbridled authority over men. material and events.
Retired former OSS operative and later Green Beret Colonel Aaron Bank, founder of the US Army's Special Form, perhaps best known as the Green Berets, wrote the book, From OSS to Green Berets, published In December 1987 by Pocket Books. In it he writes of the Joint Chiefs of Staff decision to activate the Psychological Warfare Center and a Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg on 1 May 1952. Colonel Bank would be the Psy War Center Activator and the new Group Commander. In mid-June of that same year Colonel Banks relates, "I received my orders to assume command of the 10th Special Forces Group (Abn.).the first such unit ever to be allotted to the regular Army. On 19 June 1952, 1 activated the unit and assumed command."
From the beginning, Colonel Banks was, in his own words, "determined to obtain a level of proficiency equal to or better than the unit's OSS predecessors and at least on par with the CIA covert operatives. Training in the field of clandestine operations would not be neglected in favor of the more exciting field of overt guerrilla warfare. The whole gamut of unconventional warfare operations would be covered thoroughly."
Cross-training was a continuing function of instruction, recognizing the need for each man to be able to function well in every facet of unconventional warfare with exception of the complex and demanding fields of communications and medical aid. Specialized training in those areas was a continuing and rigorous activity due to the technical complexity of these fields. Special needs of a force operating in an environment that calls for an SF NCO to perform in a capacity normally performed by a code an electronics specialist. or in the case of the medical aid man — a physician.
"The reason for my insistence in cross-training," Colonel Banks explained, "was that in conducting operations a team would often be split among guerrilla groups, where a SF trooper would be responsible for all the functions conducted by the team — organizing, instructing, equipping and leading when necessary. He would be on his own with very infrequent supervision.”
Understanding from his own combat experience as an OSS irregular led him to also insist that an SF trooper be functionally capable in the areas of supply, equipment recording, storage and maintenance operations.
I would learn that the introduction of Civil Affairs, Military Government and Psychological Warfare training in the SF Officers! Course gave Special Forces the capability to operate independent of higher level command or control while performing covert missions; for the CIA and overt unconventional operations as determined optimum by the ranking member on the ground when all known situations were taken into consideration. Such was the case in An Phu where my independent command encompassed Special Forces operations, district government, border control, CIA missions and provision of security for the 64,000 South Vietnamese Hoa Hao people who lived in An Phu. Of utmost significance were the first-ever TOP SECRET mission to assassinate a head of State and permission to take the war into the enemy's Cambodian Sanctuaries with the specific knowledge that we would have no higher level air, ground medical evacuation or artillery support when inside Cambodia.
Next week — Part Two: Secret Orders & Compartmentilization.
The way of the men who consider the impossible as something that "just takes a little longer."