Read Part 18 HERE

Back in Korea, there was a pretty good dust-up as the U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry decided that Detachment K would now be known as Special Forces Detachment 39. Special Forces veterans and careful researchers may note that Det 39 is actually the designation of the now-deactivated Detachment A in Berlin, while Detachment K’s lineage goes back to Det 40 in Korea. Veterans of both Det A and Det K were upset by this move, feeling that it stole from the history of both units.

Sergeant Major Hagan at Det K did his best to get this designation revoked. “I called them and asked them why. They can’t steal Det A’s history. The way it is done is based on how long the unit existed. Because Det 39th had been the longest around, they gave it to Det K to continue the lineage of that Det.” The Institute of Heraldry (or heresy, as Horace Boner says) would not change their mind. Hagan worked up a petition that was sent up to General Schoomaker and Command Sergeant Major Mike Hall, but 1st Special Forces Group did not want to push the issue.

Frustrations aside, the Det continued to do its job, making a long-term, quiet contribution on the Korean Peninsula. Korea had achieved much during a short period of time, even outpacing Germany as an industrial nation. They had also moved ahead in their political development, with military officers saying that they now live in a different country, and coups are a thing of the past. But because Korean Special Forces had been involved in past coups, the conventional Army continued to try to exert leverage over the Special Warfare Command. Once a year, the 707th trained by assaulting the Korean Army headquarters, just to let the Army know that Special Forces are no lap dog. In diplomatic speak, this would be called signaling.

South Korean SEALs who had been mentored by a Det K member (lacking a liaison from U.S. Navy SEALs) stormed a Korean-flagged ship that had been taken over by Somalian pirates in 2011. The Korean SEALs killed four pirates during an initial engagement, and then gunned down five more when they boarded the ship several days later. The order to deal decisively with the situation came directly from South Korea’s president. The Green Beret who had trained the unit to board vessels underway was more than pleased with their work in the Gulf of Aden.

In past decades, the Korean Special Forces put an emphasis on physical toughness, feeling that their soldiers needed to be as tough as their North Korean adversaries. Today, toughness takes second place to training and tactics. The South Koreans have also accepted technology into their force, and make full use of it as Western militaries do. The ROK military still has problems with rigid thinking, and it has taken years to get them to warm to the idea of creating a Korean SOCOM. Change happens slowly in the very hierarchical, very regimented army, but those changes do happen in time. Today, South Korea can defend itself and defeat North Korea all on its own, but if America does not back them up, the damage of a war between the two countries would be as catastrophic as it was during the last Korean War.

(Featured image courtesy of