Note: this is part of a series about America’s first counterterrorism unit. You can read part one here. Master Sergeant Jake Jakovenko was known as a hard man among the Green Berets of 5th Special Forces Group. When asked about what type of soldier Jakovenko was, retired 7th Special Forces Group Warrant Officer Jim “Smokey” West simply replied, “No bullshit.” Born in what he describes as a “no-name village” in Donbass province, Ukraine, to a coal miner mother, Jakovenko was introduced into the same rough life that his family lived in Eastern Europe.

Speaking of his mother, Jakoveko told SOFREP, “When she was 16 in 1933-34, Stalin tried to starve Ukraine out, like the Germans did to the Jews. Someone, for a loaf of bread, said her brother had a pistol. The Bolsheviks came even though no pistol was found. They tortured and murdered her whole family. She was sitting, leaning against a fence, too weak to move from hunger and watched the horror. Two Bolsheviks came over to her, one pointed a pistol at her head. The other said, ‘Why waste a bullet? She will be dead by sundown.'”

Her neighbors stepped in after the Bolsheviks left, taking Jakovenko’s mother in and helping her recover. In 1941, the Germans invaded Ukraine, were defeated, and retreated back to Germany. Ukrainians who had worked with the Germans had to retreat with them or face retaliation. “We ended up in Berlin. Pop was a fireman and Mom worked in a factory, sewing German army uniforms,” Jakovenko said. “We left Berlin in May 1945. Again the Russians were only blocks away, and again it would be death or Siberia. We ended up in a displaced-person camp in Hanover, England. Pop died in 1946, and Mom married my stepfather. It was easier to immigrate to America as a family unit. We arrived in the U.S. in November of 1950.”

After working on a ranch in Idaho, Jakovenko moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, where he soon dropped out of school and tried to join the Army. The first time, he was turned down because he was too young and not a U.S. citizen. In 1958, he volunteered for the draft. He became an American citizen in 1961. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he deployed to the Dominican Republic with the 82nd Airborne Division. When he came home, he volunteered to go to Vietnam. Hitting the ground in January of 1966, Jakovenko served in the infantry before becoming a member of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRPs), which were rebranded as Ranger companies later in the war. Running six-man recon patrols, he saw plenty of action.

Back in the United States, he volunteered for Special Forces, graduating the Q-course in June, 1968. He again volunteered for service in Vietnam, and then volunteered to participate in the Son Tay raid in 1970. Suffice to say that Jankovenko was about as seasoned as they come, but was far from alone in 5th Special Forces Group. He was in good company among other Son Tay raiders, MACV-SOG, and Mike Force veterans up on Smoke Bomb Hill.

In 1973, Jakovenko was sent to Mott Lake, which was then an isolation facility for Special Forces teams to conduct mission planning. This particular mission was to infiltrate into Iran and recover sensitive CIA monitoring equipment that had been installed along the border. Briefers from the State Department told the Green Berets that Russian Spetsnaz was also getting this mission. The Cold War showdown between Green Berets and Spetsnaz looked like it might actually happen for a moment.

Incredibly, the State Department briefers told the Special Forces team that they were to shoot to wound if they made contact. “I asked if the Russians were getting the same briefing, and being told not to kill anyone,” Jakovenko said. The mission was cancelled and the Russians got ahold of some of the most modern eavesdropping equipment that the CIA had at the time. Master Sergeant Jakovenko was spun up again with the group of Special Forces men who were to execute a hostage-rescue mission during the previously mentioned Hanafi siege in 1977.

Colonel Mountel clearly wanted Jakovenko on Blue Light, so when Jakovenko demanded that his entire ODA be allowed to come with him into the unit, his request was granted. Jakovenko then became the team sergeant of one of the assault teams, his men the assaulters. “Blue Light was ready to launch 24/7, anywhere American interests were threatened. Delta was still selecting and training,” he said about the disposition of the two units.