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Army Green Beret clandestine operations counterinsurgency NATO Support Our Troops

Sofia, Bulgaria, (March 23, 2024): “Fearless men who jump and die, men who mean just what they say, the brave men of the Green Beret.” These immortal words from the Ballad of the Green Beret, written by Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler during the Vietnam War,  became one of the top ten songs of the era. These storied warriors have been featured in countless films and media accounts for their intelligence, skills, and fearlessness.

Just who are the Green Berets?

In the above photo by Sergeant Alejandro Lucero, Army Green Berets provide security with Bulgarian and Romanian special operations forces soldiers during recent joint maneuvers in this NATO country. The exercise is typical for the elite Green Berets who work in small teams and specialize in psychological and guerrilla operations.

What sets them apart from conventional forces is the intensive language and cultural training they receive for countries within their regional area of responsibility. Their core mission is unconventional warfareforeign internal defensedirect actioncounterterrorism, and special reconnaissance. These small units emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Recruits are required to learn a foreign language and must maintain knowledge of the political, economic, and cultural complexities of the regions in which they are deployed. Other Special Forces missions include combat search and rescue, counter-narcotics, hostage rescue, and humanitarian assistance.

The Green Berets have a longstanding and close relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, tracing their lineage back to the Agency's predecessors in the Office of Special Services during World War II. From this heritage was born the highly secretive Special Operations Group (SOG) made up of recruits from Army Special Forces into a Joint CIA–Army Special Forces operation. SOG units engaged in highly classified missions to recruit and train Montagnards tribesmen as counter guerrillas to fight the Viet Cong.

These clandestine warriors were active most recently in Afghanistan training and leading unconventional forces to topple the Taliban in 2001. Just weeks after the attacks of September 11th, Green Berets were among the first American troops deployed in the U.S.-led War on Terror. Infiltrating mountainous terrain in advance of the invasion of Afghanistan, sometimes traveling on horseback with Northern Alliance tribesmen, the Green Berets paved the way for conventional forces.

Since their establishment in 1952, Special Forces soldiers have operated in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El SalvadorColombiaPanama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, 1st Gulf WarAfghanistanIraq, the Philippines, SyriaYemen, Niger and East Africa.

Green Berets undergo rigorous training that begins with a six-week course focused on physical fitness to see if a recruit even qualifies to try out for a spot on the team. That is typically followed by the Special Forces Assessment and Selection, a grueling three-week test of physical and mental stamina held at North Carolina’s Fort Liberty (formerly Fort Bragg). Selected candidates must then complete the year-long Special Forces Qualification Course that includes instruction in foreign languages, regional cultures, survival techniques, and tactical combat skills. Survivors of this intense training provide a pipeline to higher units, like the Army's "Delta" Force.

Interestingly, it took presidential action to authorize the wear of their distinctive headgear. Prior to a visit by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, soldiers wore their berets secretively. The President later requested they be allowed to wear the Green Beret as part of their duty uniforms.