Established during the Second World War, the 1st Special Service Force (SSF) was a joint American-Canadian commando unit. It participated in all major combat operations in Italy and Southern France before being deactivated in 1944. Its formidable character and night-combat expertise forced the Germans to nickname the unit as the “Black Devils.” The U.S. Army’s modern-day Special Forces Groups — there are five Active Duty (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th) and two National Guard (19th and 20th) — and the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) trace their lineage back to the SSF. The location where the SSF’s deactivation ceremony took place, a village in Southern France named Menton, has become ingrained in the history of its SOF descendants.
Once a year, a commemoration event called Menton Week offers an opportunity for the modern Green Berets and their Canadian SOF brethren to come together and celebrate their common ancestry and to honour their comrades who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
This year, the 1st Special Forces Group organised the celebration in its home base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in Washington State. Events included the Gladiator Challenge, mixed-martial art (MMA), competition, parachute jumps, a shooting competition, an 11-mile ruck march, and a lifting competition — which was comprised of bench pressing, weighted sled pushing, and weighted pull-ups.
Moreover, there was a family day where family members of the Green Berets and of the support personnel had the chance to accompany their loved ones and experience firsthand a day in their lives. Among others, the family day events included the shooting of a wide variety of contemporary and Second World War weapons, such as the M3 Grease submachinegun and the M1 Garand rifle.
In the memorial service that began the Menton Week’s events, Colonel Owen Ray, the Commander of the 1st SFG, said “This week is a celebration but also a reminder and reflection of our culture and values, as our forbearers in the First Special Service Force and the Office of Strategic Services. We are and remain relentless, professional and seek excellence in all we do.”
The CSOR specialises in Special Reconnaissance (SR) and Direct Action (DA) missions. Alongside the Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2), which specialises in counterterrorism and is the Canadian equivalent of the Delta Force; the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron; and the Joint Incident Response Unit, which specialises in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) warfare; CSOR is part of the Canadian Special Operations Command (CANSOFCOM). Canadian SOF units were some of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.
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