The U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) culminates in an Unconventional Warfare (UW) exercise known as Robin Sage. The students, prospective Green Berets, enter into the exercise after many long months of intensive training. The exercise is conducted in the hills of Western North Carolina. The scenario places the detachment in the fictional country of Pineland and the mission is to assist the resistance movement in the defeat of the forces occupying Pineland.

The exercise is conducted by the Special Forces schoolhouse [1] located at Fort Bragg, NC with assistance from other Army units (such as the 82nd Airborne Division) from Fort Bragg and elsewhere. The supporting military units fill the role of opposing forces (the bad guys) and members of the guerrilla band (good guys). The schoolhouse is assisted by local residents and defense contractors [2] who provide support and perform duties as role players.

The students in the qualification course are formed into student detachments – very similar to the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (12-man A-Team) of the seven Special Forces groups. Prior to the Robin Sage exercise, the students receive instruction in Unconventional Warfare including the topics of guerrilla warfare, sabotage, intelligence, and subversion. The detachment enters a planning and preparation phase (called isolation) at Camp MacKall, North Carolina. [3] Camp MacKall is not far from Fort Bragg. They conduct mission analysis and plan their infiltration, linkup plan, and subsequent activities while in this ‘isolation phase’.

The infiltration of the operational area, that area of Pineland (behind enemy lines) where the detachment will conduct their operations, is usually by airborne operation (parachute); but sometimes by helicopter or truck movement. Most times the infiltration is followed by a significant foot movement over rough terrain to test navigational skills.

The student detachment will then, utilizing their contact plan developed while in isolation, linkup with the resistance movement.  Once the student detachment has met up with the resistance, they proceed to establish rapport with the guerrilla band leaders, assess the overall security of the operational area, conduct an assessment of the training and support requirements of the resistance, and then – proceed with training and employment of the resistance group. Naturally, in a real situation, these events would take time but in Robin Sage the events are sequenced through very quickly.

Robin Sage - Unconventional Warfare ExerciseThe student detachment, working with the guerrilla band (the fighting arm of the resistance movement); will conduct a few Direct Action (DA) missions (raids, ambushes, etc.). The students rotate through the leadership and key positions of the detachment so the instructors and evaluators can all get a look at each of the students under stressful situations.

Free Pineland!  Exercise Robin Sage and Pineland Flag patches

Read Next: Free Pineland! Exercise Robin Sage and Pineland Flag patches

The exercise typically lasts a few weeks. At the end of the exercise the detachment is exfiltrated from the operational area (usually by helicopter or truck) back to Camp MacKall for debriefings, evaluations, and post-mission maintenance and tasks.

Working with indigenous forces is a key element of the many different types of missions that U.S. Army Special Forces is tasked with around the world. The Robin Sage exercise is an important part of the Special Forces Qualification Course as it prepares the prospective Special Forces Soldier for a variety of missions and how to work with indigenous forces. The students are confronted with a variety of complex problems that they need to work through; replicating situations they will encounter when deployed on Special Forces missions.

Footnotes:
[1] The SF Schoolhouse is officially known as the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.
[2] Typically the contractors are retired Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) will years of Special Forces experience.
[3] See Camp Mackall, WikipediA.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Mackall

References:
USAJFKSWCS, “World’s Foremost Unconventional Warfare Exercise Turns 35”, Special Warfare Magazine, Mar-Apr 2009. www.dvidshub.net/publication/issues/8256
Alex Quade, Becoming a Green Beret,video about the Robin Sage exercise, November 8, 2015.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSBGXY6GkZM

Images:
Picture at top of article from Special Warfare Magazine, USAJFKCSWS, January-March 2015. SFQC students work with guerrilla force during Robin Sage. U.S. Army photo by Specialist Derek L. Kuhn.