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In the bloody aftermath of the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes, the raid on Entebbe, and Germany’s GSG-9 storming of an aircraft in Mogadishu, the western world had to take a hard look at their military capabilities and figure out how they would address the growing threat of terrorism. The United States had created Delta Force and SEAL Team Six to conduct counter-terrorism missions. With South Korea being given permission to host the 1988 Olympics, the government now knew that they had to stand up their own counter-terrorism unit. In 1982 the 707th Special Mission Battalion was stood up.
The 707th came to consist of two assault companies, one support company, and one all-female company that could be used as bodyguards or for low-visibility operations. If you watch Korean television, “you see the president with girls in the background in traditional Korean dresses. Under the dresses is body armor and MP-5” sub-machine guns former Det K Sergeant Major Jack Hagan explained. At one point he jokingly asked members of the female company if they had nurse and school girl disguises as well. He received a serious and enthusiastic reply: yes!
During this time the 707th also received a liaison from Delta Force and in later years, Det K would provide a liaison who had previously served in Delta or had experience in C/1/1 which is 1st Group’s Commanders In-extremis Force (CIF). In time, C/1/1 would come and train on the 707th compound as they had buses, a train, and an actual 747 passenger jet where soldiers could practice hostage rescue tactics.
South Korea has a small minority population of Muslims who originally came from Western China, but they have never really stirred up any trouble. The real terrorist threat continues to emanate from North Korea. The 1988 Olympics was symbolic of South Korean cementing itself as a true modern nation on the world stage, and the government would take no chances in making sure that everything went according to plan.
In 1984, B Squadron of Delta Force traveled to South Korea to conduct training with the 707th. Two operators named Sergeant Major Dennis Wolfe and Sergeant First Class Mike Vining worked with a Korean EOD unit that was assigned to support the 707th. The South Korean EOD unit put together a series of inert Improvised Explosive Devices and asked the two Delta demolition experts to defuse them while they watched. Both operators felt as if they were being challenged to test and they accepted. They “successfully defeated a series of IEDs employing various methods of defeat including remote techniques and hand entry,” Mike Vining recalled. After the test, the two operators taught the South Koreans EOD techniques and procedures. The joint training ended with a parachute jump from a balloon. Vining recalled that he liked working with the Koreans, finding them fast learners and able to reconstruct any piece of gear he demonstrated to them.
Meanwhile, large-scale training exercises to counter North Korean aggression continued. In addition to Foal Eagle, there was Team Spirit. While Foal Eagle took place in the fall, Team Spirit took place each March when the ground in Korea is hard and conducive to a ground invasion. Around this time, North Korean forces would posture at the DMZ and menace the South with the threat of an invasion. Team Spirit brought in conventional and Special Operations units from around the Pacific Theater to South Korea, bringing force levels up to their highest point in order to deter the North Korean military. It also forced North Korea to drain its military resources by trying to match the troop buildup.
Recall that Detachment K is a skeleton crew in South Korea. In addition to liaison duties with South Korean Special Forces, they are prepared to accept Special Forces ODA’s from 1st and 19th Groups, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and Navy SEALs and push them out the door and into combat operations in the event of war. During the 1980’s, 2nd Battalion of 1st Special Forces Group (which was reactivated in 1984) had the Korea mission. To this end, they were constantly training in both Korea and Alaska. Interestingly, they were not just training for war in Korea, but also in Alaska itself in case the Soviet Union ever tried to establish a strategic foothold in America’s northernmost state prior to a full-scale invasion of the rest of North America.
It was said that you could tell 2nd Battalion members by their frostbite and the more fortunate 3rd Battalion members by their dark tans. 3rd Battalion was assigned Thailand and the Philippines as their area of operations, leading to no small amount of envy from 2nd Battalion. George Hand, who served on a 2nd Battalion ODA explained why.
(Lead picture courtesy of ROK Ministry of Defense)
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