Many books have been written and several movies made about America’s Green Berets, the Special Forces, but it is incredible how many stories about these warriors are obscure if not lost to history entirely. The history of Special Forces is in many ways a living history, and the only way to learn it, is to talk to the men directly involved. One such example comes in the form of what is believed to be the only joint US Special Forces-Russian Spetsnaz combat mission in history.
It happened in the winter and into the spring of 2001, months prior to the events of September 11th, which of course changed the trajectory of US Special Operations Forces forever. This was a time in which the Green Berets were not as widely known by the public and not so often reported on by the press. Special Forces members deployed around the world training foreign militaries, and sometimes on more quiet, classified operations. However, combat was very rare for these troops. Technically, it was peacetime. But in the 1990s, war had again visited Europe in the Balkans, and Special Forces were deployed to Bosnia and Kosovo.
Mark Giaconia was a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant (18B) assigned to a team in 10th Special Forces Group assigned to provide a liaison element to Russian forces patrolling a sector of the Serbian/Kosovar border. In his book, “One Green Beret” he recounts his experiences working with Spetsnaz, the Russian equivalent of the Green Berets or Navy SEALs. Having served through the 1990s, this was the first experience many of them had ever had with combat.
One day a Russian soldier came running into their team house asking for assistance after one of their troops had been shot and killed by an Albanian sniper. The Americans went out and helped their Russian partners by setting up a landing zone for a helicopter to come and evacuate the body of the now-deceased soldier. It was the first combat death that Giaconia had ever seen.