It was with great interest that I read Brandon Webb’s piece about his travel to Bogota, Colombia. Having spent time there during the heyday of the Medellin/Cali Cartel, I was really interested in how much the city has changed. Bogota is beautiful and huge. I had heard from other SF guys who were there recently or had families there (quite a few SF guys married Colombian women) that since the peace deal with the FARC, tourism has been back and things are much better in Bogota. Yet, back then, Bogota, and Colombia were a much more unsafe place. And even a donut could be dangerous… 

Colombia wasn’t considered safe for American military troops assigned to either the American Embassy or the Colombian Military Headquarters (CAN). Nevertheless, Bogota, and Colombia overall, was a fantastic place.

If memory serves me right, Chico, where Brandon was staying, is only about five minutes from the Zona Rosa. This is a T-shaped area of luxury shops, cafes, and upscale restaurants. The rich and famous Colombians would hang out there. If you were a single guy, that is what Special Forces guys would call “a target-rich environment.” 

7th SFG presents its guidon in Colombia
U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers present their unit’s guidon December 7, 2016 during an award ceremony in Florencia, Colombia. A Colombian Army Counter-narcotics Brigade, known as BRCNA, honored the U.S. Special Forces unit with the unit’s “Bandera de Guerra” military medal. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite/U.S. Army)


The Rich History of US Special Operations Units in Colombia

Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs made multiple deployments to several areas in the country. They trained counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics troops and performed riverine operations. Delta Force troops did specialized training with select Colombian units. Also, they were part of the task force with DEA, CIA, and Colombians in the hunt for Pablo Escobar. Today, Colombia’s Special Forces are some of the best in the world. 

During one such deployment, we had an augmented SF team assigned to the Colombian Army HQ. We were helping facilitate the creation of training packages between the American Embassy, Washington, and the Colombians. It was basically an administrative job and pain in your fourth point of contact. But the good part was that we got to live in Bogota. 

Every two SF guys got an apartment, which was a nice perk from the embassy. Nevertheless, due to security concerns and threats against Americans, we had to get picked up each morning in an armored Suburban. Four heavily armed Colombians in a jeep would escort us from the front door of our apartment to the vehicle and follow us to the HQs. 

Uniforms were low-key. That black windbreaker over the green dress shirt and no Class A jacket allowed, (those were left in the office). No berets or jump boots either… You get the idea. Although the distance was only five-six miles, due to the horrible traffic, it would take an hour to get there. The MILGRP had some great SF guys assigned there and they were always on top of stuff. My good buddy Wade Chapple was the American liaison officer to the Colombian Lancero School and we got to see one another on occasion.