A while back a friend asked me what the differences are, between the Special Forces of my day, and this generation of Green Berets.

After careful thought I have decided that the spirit is virtually identical, the mission and organization are basically the same, and everything else is a lot different. The spirit of Special Forces, when I joined it, was forty percent Knights of the Round Table, and maybe sixty percent Robin Hood’s Merry Men. I’m pretty sure that’s what it is today.

The attitude is businesslike, but with gusto.

The twelve-man A team, the Operational Detachment Alpha, is still the heart of the Group: two officers, a captain and a warrant officer, formerly a first lieutenant, two operations and intelligence NCOs, two weapons men, two commo guys, two medics, and two engineers. Each of these specialists is vastly more highly trained than their counterparts in conventional units. The medics train for a year.

The engineers know all kinds of improvised demolitions techniques that most demolitionists don’t know. They can design and build field fortifications, dig a well, or build a school. The weapons men can do repairs on all kinds of US and foreign weapons, and at a level that a conventional unit can only get from an ordnance depot. In my day the commo guys sent coded messages 1,500 miles with an old radio we were still using from the OSS in World War II. It consisted of two boxes about the size of cigar boxes, some cable, a code key, and an antenna made of wire strung in the trees.

A former team sergeant, with experience on the old radios, and with the new ones, writes, “Commo today is terrific. The team is in constant contact with their Area Specialist at Group Headquarters, who transmits directives from the commanding officer and operations officer.  The Satellite bouncers can make the world-wide trip in six seconds via the MILSTAR high-flyer.

The AN/GRC 112 is a search and rescue radio, with each ODA Member carrying one.  It has an automatic GPS locator, built into the radio, which is activated as soon as the set is switched to the “On” position.  

However, a young Special Forces officer, former enlisted medic, recently returned from Afghanistan, has some qualms about the new radios, “On the commo- they use the latest technology from satellite real (now this second) time communications, including tracking every maneuver element on the field like a video game, on the computers back at headquarters. How it works, and what it’s called is classified.