U.S. Army Special Forces has a multitude of missions that require many types of skills and capabilities. One of these capabilities is being able to infiltrate and conduct operations and missions in environmentally challenging conditions – such as in cold weather or mountainous terrain. Some Special Forces detachments are designated mountain teams and participate in Special Forces mountain training to develop their environmental skills.

The Special Forces (SF) groups are assigned to regional areas of the world. Some of these areas have high elevations and mountainous terrain – South America, Central and South Asia, Europe, etc. In order to have the ability to operate in this difficult terrain the SF groups will designate some of the Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (12-man teams) as Mountain Teams. [1] In addition to everything else an SF mountain team needs to be able to do to conduct its mission it must also be able to operate in mountainous terrain.

Special Forces Mountain Training

This mission requires the team to have some specialized equipment and training. Mountain kits consisting of climbing gear and other supporting types of equipment are issued to each team. The teams will attend various mountain climbing schools as well as conduct their own internal sustainment training [2] at group or detachment level. The Special Forces mountain training provides skills on how to operate in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes, and in cold weather.

One of the training opportunities for Special Forces mountain training is the Special Forces Advanced Mountain Operations School (SFAMOS) located in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. There are two courses conducted by the SFAMOS – the Special Forces Senior Mountaineering Course and the Special Forces Master Mountaineering Course. In addition, there are a number of other mountain training courses run by the military. The U.S. Marine Corps has their Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at 29 Palms, California. The Vermont Army National Guard runs a professional summer and winter Mountain School in Jericho, Vermont. At Fort Wainwright, Alaska the Northern Warfare Training Center (NWTC) conducts courses at the Black Rapids Training Site not far from Delta Junction, Alaska.

[1] Depending on the Special Forces group (and the region of the world this group works in) one or more teams per SF company will be tagged as a ‘Mountain Team’; requiring the specialized equipment and Special Forces Mountain Training.
[2] Read an article about 19th Special Forces Group conducting sustainment training in the hills of the Tonto National Forest of Arizona in “Working Your Way Up in the World”, June 2001.

Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center
Northern Warfare Training Center

Picture of ice climber and cliff face climber are U.S. Army photos by Dave Chace of the USAJKFSWCS public affairs office.