My former medic, now an officer and friend, describes it thus, “The death of us has been the creation of a full blown Command, with concomitant layers of official bureaucracy, which has killed a lot of initiative. There is an overbearing burden of risk assessments and pre-approval requirements, by everyone, before anything can get done. This snuffs even the simplest of training plans before they can leave the team room. And operations? Fergitabowtit! If there’s a hint of risk, the aversion is like the black plague.

As for the warrant thing, a double edged sword. They often compete with the captain for power, and the entire warrant program has been downgraded by the fact that a guy can now apply straight out of the “Q” (Qualification) course, and get fast tracked through courses without the benefit of commensurate experience. In other words, just like a lieutenant, who, if selected, put through the basic schools and then through the “Q”, brings the same as the warrant officer, with a few bennies. A major bennie is that when he does become captain/ team commander, he’s vetted, experienced and clued in!
“As for nco/officer relations- the officers average 12-15 months on a team, before they move to staff where they spend 2-3 years telling team guys what/how to do things. And so, there is a big rift right now between the officers and NCOs, all easily resolved if lieutenants are let in, and then groomed by the NCOs, which would endear both to each other instead of the enmity that exists now.”

That’s pretty much how it was when I was a team second-in-command. I was a senior lieutenant when I joined the team. It was very much an apprentice situation. By the time I got my own team, I was ready to command it. Not by giving orders, but simply by having a fully formed idea of what we wanted to accomplish in the time available, and making it clear what that idea was.

I had great NCOs and they did the rest. Other than that, I made sure their pay wasn’t messed up, and, oh yeah, led by example in the field.

The other major change will probably make no sense to a civilian. It is the creation of the Special Forces branch. When I was in SF my branch was infantry. My records were held at the infantry branch and I was considered for promotion against other infantry officers. Other SF officers came from different branches.

Under that system, staying too long in Special Forces was career suicide. An officer pretty much gave up any chance of retiring higher than Lieutenant Colonel. Many made that choice, because they believed so much in Special Forces and its mission. And with little or no chance of promotion to higher rank, the commanders were willing to take huge chances, and break a lot of rules, to accomplish the mission.

I once said to Lt. Col. “Pappy” Shelton, that commanding the team that trained the Bolivian Rangers who got Che Guevara, must have done wonders for his career. He laughed, and said, “If it hadn’t been my last assignment before retirement, I would have never had the guts to do what I had to, to get the job done.”

When the 1st Special Forces Group was formed in 1957, it was put on Okinawa, with an operational area that included the entire Far East. It’s first commander, Col. “Mad Jack” Shannon, had been with OSS Detachment 101, fighting with guerrillas in Burma, in WWII. He was used to complete autonomy, and had what might be described as a puckish sense of humor. He once dropped six teams into South Korea, without notifying the Koreans, or the U.S. Eighth Army. The result was that the South Koreans thought his teams were North Koreans, and were out hunting them with live ammunition. That was what Shannon wanted. Good training.