The primary mission of U.S. Special Forces (often referred to as Green Berets) is unconventional warfare, so when Americans think about explosive entries and clearing rooms in combat, they usually envision Rangers or SEALs conducting this type of mission. Although unconventional warfare is their primary task, one of the missions assigned to Special Forces is direct action, which can include unilateral operations without indigenous forces, although this would be an exceptional scenario. In order to support this mission and institutionalize the tactics, techniques, and procedures used for direct-action missions, Special Forces has developed a number of schools at Fort Bragg over the years.

Special Operations Training (SOT)

The first course, called Special Operations Training (SOT), started right after 5th Special Forces Group shut down Blue Light, which was an interim counterterrorism unit meant to fill the gap until Delta Force was stood up. Like Blue Light, SOT sought to retain the tactics developed by Special Forces during the Son Tay raid in Vietnam, which were then further refined by Blue Light.

SOT took place at Mott Lake, but in these early years the Army was not really thinking about counterterrorism the way they are today. SOT was a three-week (later four-week) course that consisted of advanced weapons training. Entire 12-man ODAs would attend the course. Special Forces students, along with the occasional Ranger or Marine, would spend a few days on advanced pistol marksmanship, then advanced rifle marksmanship, and so on. The team’s snipers would break away from the main element to train on long guns. Tony Cross, a former instructor out at Mott Lake, said of the room-clearing techniques taught at that time, “They were really rudimentary, brother.”

At SOT, Green Berets were learning critical skills that they would need to perform their duties. “All the specialities are just infiltration, bro!” Tony said, referring to the specialty teams in a Special Forces company such as combat diver and military free-fall teams. Special Forces men who attended SOT learned how to do their jobs once they arrived at the objective, or how to teach indigenous forces to do it for them.

Out at Mott Lake, the Special Forces soldiers fired an absurd amount of ammunition during a three-week course. They also constructed and used all sorts of obscure explosive charges. The course was “solely designed for the ODA to give them baseline training and develop their own standard operating procedures,” Joe Crane described.

Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course (SFARTAETC)

By 1987, a new direct-action school was being created called SFARTAETC—the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course—which is a crazy-long acronym even for the Army. SFARTAETC began dragging resources away from SOT, and the latter course started running three times a year instead of seven or eight. It could no longer function as a course that trained entire ODAs either, but SOT was not closed down until 1993.


Special Forces instructors arrived at the new SFARTAETC course in the summer of 1987 and began preparing lesson plans, which had to be cleared and given to them by another unit. In January of 1988, the first pilot course was run. In those first two years of SFARTAETC, it was common for the instructors to put in 15-hour days running the eight-week long course one cycle right after the other.