The 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) was formed on June 24, 1957, and is 62 years old* this week. The 1st SFG (A) is the SF group tasked with an area of operations within the Asia-Pacific theater, although many of the group’s teams have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The United States Army Special Operations Command lists the lineage back to the First Special Service Force. The combined Canadian-American unit, known as the “Devil’s Brigade,” was known for its daring and successful raids in the Mediterranean theater of operation.

Detachment 101 of the Office of Strategic Services is also considered a key predecessor of the 1st SFG (A). This unit raised and led a guerrilla force known as the “Kachin Rangers,” which disrupted the enemy behind Japanese lines in Southeast Asia during World War II.

When the 1st SFG (A) was formed initially on June 24, 1957, it was stationed at Camp Buckner, Okinawa. Lt. Col. Albert Scott Madding was the first commander and Robert L. Voss was the first Sergeant Major of the unit. Sergeant Voss recently celebrated his 92nd birthday.

With insurgencies cropping up all over in Asia, the 1st SFG (A) would be battle-tested and gainfully employed in nations all over the region. During the next 17 years, the unit would garner nearly 300 awards for valor, carrying out a variety of missions in the Pacific region, including civic action, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, reconnaissance and disaster relief. The 1st SFG (A) saw extensive combat in Vietnam as well as in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Soldiers from the 1st SFG (A) were awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation.

One of the first American troops killed in Vietnam was Capt. Harry Cramer. Captain Cramer was the commander of a Mobile Training Team assigned to the 1st SFG (A) and tasked to train indigenous Special Forces units in a variety of military skills. In June of 1957, the team was assigned to Nha Trang, Vietnam training South Vietnamese SF in raids, ambushes, and similar skills.

Prior to the class graduation, they were conducting field exercises on October 21, 1957, when a South Vietnamese soldier was attempting to throw a lit block of melinite (a French military high explosive) when it prematurely detonated. Captain Cramer and the student were killed instantly. Several SF members (both American and Vietnamese) were wounded. The melinite was found to have deteriorated in storage and was unstable.

The 1st SFG (A) was also awarded the Philippines’ Presidential Unit Citation for humanitarian disaster relief, giving aid to the Filipino people suffering from floods and famine.