“Free Pineland!” This is the cry many a prospective Special Forces student will hear during their final phase of the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) that culminates in the premiere Unconventional Warfare (UW) exercise in the military, Robin Sage.

After many months of training, in some cases over a year, prospective Green Berets put all that training to the test by parachuting into the fictional country of Pineland. The former government of Pineland was a friendly one to the United States.

Following a coup that deposes the legitimate government, the SF students work with an eclectic mix of role players, former SF soldiers and soft skill MOS soldiers to raise and train a guerrilla force that will fight the enemy government troops and attempt to restore the Pineland government. They’ll teach them the basics of patrolling, raids and ambushes, communications, and medical training.

The fictional country of Pineland encompasses 15 counties in North Carolina including Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Chatham, Davidson, Guilford, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly, and Union counties.

This unique training and unconventional warfare, or UW, training environment allow instructors to stress the candidates, assessing their ability to think on their feet and accomplish their team’s assigned missions. The political instability of the area, coupled with working alongside guerrillas who may act (and frequently do) outside of the rules of warfare while engaged in open warfare will place the teams in frequently faced “real-world” situations.

Robin Sage, derives its name from the town of Robbins, N.C., a central area of operations for the exercise, and former Army Colonel Jerry Sage, a World War II veteran and an Office of Strategic Services, or OSS officer who taught unconventional warfare tactics. Steve McQueen’s character Hilts in the film “The Great Escape” was based off Sage.

The enemy soldiers or OPFOR (Opposing Forces) for the exercise are generally members of the 82nd Airborne Division from Ft. Bragg. They provide a good test for the SF candidates to take on. They’re well trained and motivated to make things as interesting as possible. We’ll delve more deeply into the civilian role players in a follow-on post.