July 20, 2021
The unofficial name of the U.S. Army Special Forces (SF) is “the quiet professionals.” They value this phrase because they believe that their work should survive on merit alone, and not require promotion of fanfare. Those who wear the green beret have stayed true to their mantra, even when some members of other Special Operations elements haven’t. As a consequence of their silence, few outside the small community understand what it is they actually do.
Most of the civilian world (and many inside the military) misunderstand the Green Berets. I had the privilege of serving as a Green Beret and fighting on multiple deployments in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, I was an unconventional warfare team leader, and in Iraq I was a sniper team leader. While I was in, and now that I’ve been out for several years, the most common and incorrect refrain I’ve heard used to describe the Green Berets is that they train natives to become soldiers. That’s just one skill of many, and it’s a supporting effort but not the primary objective. I would describe the main objective as “to close with and destroy our nation’s enemies on the field of battle by any and all means available.” At times, the “means” may be using the gun in your hands; at other times through indigenous forces you train and lead; and sometimes there’s just a little death, but a whole lot of deceit and manipulation. No other special operations element works as autonomously or maintains and relies on such a broad skillset.
Immediately following the attack of September 11, 2001, our nation knew the enemy who was responsible for the attack was based in Afghanistan. This failed state was on the other side of the world, had no infrastructure, and the U.S. had no bases or support of substance nearby. America’s leadership knew the situation was dangerous, and that someone needed to be killed, but we had limited details on the “who” and “where.” The only U.S. Special Operations element trained and equipped to fight in that environment was the Green Berets. You can abandon an SF team in a remote area and know that they have the skills to fend for themselves while simultaneously locating and destroying the enemy. Green Berets are not meant to sit on base, eat and lift weights as they wait for a call to swoop in and come to the rescue. If everyone is doing their job, those types of calls almost never occur (and can often be handled by air support). Locking up your best fighters for an improbable scenario is the definition of wasting resources.
Being a Green Beret is hard. Each team is composed of four core specialties supplemented with an intelligence collection capability. The team’s leadership must be familiar with each specialty and directs their implementation, often in areas where the nearest friendly face is hundreds of miles away. Each specialty is critical for the team’s survival. The specialties include weapons (i.e., shooting and employing everything from pistols to mortars); engineering (i.e., a demolitions expert that can also build the team a house in the middle of nowhere); medical (the most important role on the team, able to stabilize gunshot victims as well as operate a clinic for everything from infections to toothaches); and communication (if you’re going somewhere dangerous and think you might need to scream for help, you’re going to need a guy who makes sure someone can hear you).
Collectively, the specialties enable the team to function without external support for months. Each team also self-sustains from an operational perspective, meaning they don’t need anybody feeding them intelligence about the enemy, and no one helps plan their missions. The same small group that executes the mission, plans the mission, which makes Green Berets unique.
Special Forces Charitable Trust The Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, recognizes that there is some benefit in educating the public about the Green Berets, and what a career has to offer. So, they planned a media-based shooting competition with the help of the Special Forces Charitable Trust. A recent event included a few celebrities shooting with Green Berets in a competition that pitted teams against each other across four shooting stages. Range 37, where the Green Berets teach their close quarter battle and sniper schools, hosted the event and set up the stages. Each Special Forces Group provided two Green Berets, and each celebrity was assigned to a group. Once upon a time, I was a member of 3rd Special Forces Group, so my teammates for the event both came from that Group. (Working for Guns & Ammo, they counted me as a “celebrity.” Ha!)
Competitors were issued gear from the Special Forces arms room. I had a standard Colt M4 carbine with a Geissele URG-I upper receiver, and an Aimpoint Micro T-2 red dot. My rifle also featured Surefire’s SOCOM556-Mini2 suppressor which made the two-day event much more enjoyable.
Course of Fire Stage 1 consisted of a Texas Star and some additional steel targets set up at 50 yards for rifle fire. Once complete, the competitor would run to a car, use it for cover, and then engage another Texas Star and some extra steel at about 10 yards. The final array was a series of plate racks shot from the inside of a bus.
Stage 2 was a run-and-gun stage about 100 yards long that consisted of both rifle and handgun targets from shooting positions located behind vehicles and obstacles that could be used as support. Stage 3 had targets from 100 to 300 yards including 12-inch-wide moving targets. I thought the event coordinators were joking when they mentioned shooting a 300-yard mover with a red-dot sight and no magnification, but they weren’t. The final stage was a high-speed run through a shoot house full of targets.
The following are my primary takeaways from the event: Shooting a 300-yard mover with just a red dot is possible! Country music singer Chuck Wicks is hilarious. UFC champion Randy Couture is quiet, good-natured, and terrifying. Lee Brice, another country music star, is the good old boy that you’d expect — and a hell of a good shot.
I’d like to thank the Special Warfare Center (soc.mil) and the Special Forces Charitable Trust for putting on this event. I applaud their efforts to better educate the public about the Green Berets, and am thankful for the opportunity to participate. It’s important for Americans to understand the Special Forces community and the many talents they offer. If you’d like to help this community, be sure to visit their website, specialforcescharitabletrust.org.
I remember early in my military career hearing older vets whine about soldiers not being as tough or as talented as they used to be. That assertion is false. America produces excellent warfighters and, even in today’s world of participation trophies and the idea of “toxic masculinity,” they’re still out there. To play off the lines from one of my favorite childhood TV shows, “If you’re man enough, if you’re young and strong and motivated, and if you want to experience professional satisfaction at a level impossible to replicate anywhere else, maybe you can join the A-Team.” Come and get it. Your future awaits.
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