US Special Forces counter-terrorism missions in Syria and Iraq get a lot of media coverage, but Green Berets are deployed to over 100 countries on any given year conducting a range of operations as laid out in the unit’s Mission Essential Task List (METL) including everything from counter-proliferation to special warfare. This past May, Special Forces participated in Vigilant Guard 17-03 in Saint Thomas which was no doubt a welcome respite from deployments to hotter and drier parts of the world.
“We got the call that there was a large-scale disaster relief effort that was needed in the Virgin Islands and we were in Puerto Rico. We were able to respond with our helicopter assets and load our boats onto the helos and were able to get in before everyone else by helo-casting into the ocean and come ashore,” one of the Green Berets said to a DOD press officer.
US Special Forces are able to capitalize on their rapport building skills and past relationships with local nationals to aid in disaster relief efforts such as the one they trained for in St. Thomas. Years ago while in Belize, a hurricane tore across the small country. A 7th Special Forces Group CIF team happened to be in country to help another unit stage for a hostage rescue mission. Their team leader was up in a U.S. Air Force plane surveying the damage for the government of Belize immediately after the hurricane passed. This was something that the local government would not have been able to accomplish on their own. Luckily, the damage was minimal in this instance.
While these types of training exercises and missions are not as sexy as high-speed counter-terrorism missions in which operators blow down doors and clear rooms with high-tech rifles that have twenty thousand dollars worth of crap strapped to them, these endeavors are a vital part of the Special Forces mission that help our Green Berets develop long-term relationships, aid the local people, and develop rapport. Remember, the point of Special Forces is not to rush into a country in response to an emergency but rather to have pre-existing relationships and boots on the ground knowledge before anything bad happens.
(All pictures courtesy of DVIDS)