Note: this is part of a series about America’s first counterterrorism unit. You can read part one here. Another EDRE training mission came as policymakers struggled to find a force capable of dealing with aircraft hijackings. One CT-EDRE was called ‘End Game’ and took place in the fall of 1977. Colonel Mountel told some of the Green Berets in 5th Group to pack for the tropics. The Special Forces alert force grabbed their gear and flew down to Hunter Army Airfield, where they linked up with 1st Ranger Battalion. The Rangers shrugged into their T-10 static-line parachutes and boarded the aircraft. The Green Berets didn’t feel like wearing their parachutes for the entire trip, so the Special Forces sergeant major asked the flight crew to give them a 30-minute warning when they were approaching the drop zone.

When they got closer to the target location, the Green Berets donned their parachutes and the flight crew opened the door of the C-130 aircraft. That was when they realized that Mountel had played a little joke on them by saying they should pack for the tropics. They could see nothing but white below them. The Rangers and Green Berets were about to jump into Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. The troops jumped into the exercise and drove on with the mission.

Once on the ground, a pop flare shot up into the night sky. One of the Ranger lieutenants froze right in the middle of a road, so the Special Forces soldiers moved away from the infantrymen. Next, the Rangers decided to slog their way through a frozen swamp on the way to the objective. This was the last straw for the Green Berets, who separated from the Rangers and walked around the swamp.

Soon, Green Berets had the target in sight. It was the president’s Boeing 707, which, technically speaking, becomes Air Force One once the president is on board. Of course, President Carter was not on board this night. Inside the aircraft were role players pretending to be hostages and terrorists. Blue Light infiltrated the target area and penetrated the aircraft, coming right up into the cockpit using an ingress technique the pilots of the plane did not even know existed.

The aircraft takedown was just another test shot as the Pentagon tried to figure out how they were going to deal with hijackings in the future.

Coming back from an exchange program with the British Special Air Service (SAS) in 1962, Special Forces officer Charlie Beckwith realized that America was missing a certain special operations capability. The idea that America needed an elite force of commandos who were more than airborne light infantry, like the Rangers, or trainers, like Special Forces, was something that stuck in Beckwith’s mind.

Colonel Bob Mountel

“We have never been able to do special operations well,” Beckwith wrote. “Special Forces, yes, they teach and train, but we’ve never been able to do special operations very well.” At the time, terrorism was just a sideshow in the larger geopolitical context of the Cold War. America’s main threat was the USSR, and terrorism was not really on the U.S. government’s radar. Guerrilla or revolutionary warfare, yes, but not terrorism.

Originally, Beckwith envisioned a unit based upon the SAS structure, one that would conduct unilateral direct-action missions with a highly trained, permanently assigned force. The capability that Beckwith pitched to the Pentagon was a unit that could conduct POW rescue missions like the Son Tay raid in Vietnam. He argued that, instead of assembling a rescue force on an ad hoc basis, America should have a permanent, professional force to execute such missions. He encountered resistance to his concept for years, until terrorism reared its ugly head in full force during the 1970s.