The final training in Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) is the Unconventional Warfare (UW) exercise “Robin Sage”, which we went over in detail in an earlier post, that you can read here:

The prospective Green Berets put all their training together and infiltrate into the fictional country of Pineland via an airborne operation. The SF candidates must raise and train a guerrilla force that will fight the enemy government troops and attempt to restore the friendly Pineland government.

As we stated the fictional country of Pineland encompasses 15 counties in North Carolina including Alamance, Anson, Cabarrus, Chatham, Davidson, Guilford, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore, Randolph, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly and Union counties.

This unconventional warfare, (UW), training environment has been in use by the Special Forces School for many years and what makes this operation and training so realistic has to do with the scope of interaction with the community. Not only have the citizens of the operational area given their support for the exercise, they’ve become deeply involved.

Many of the role players have been involved for decades and then their children follow on to take over the role of underground or auxiliary in the exercise. And they have proven time and again just how important having popular support in the UW area of operations is to mission success.

It was a point driven home by one of our UW instructors, a Vietnam vet with multiple combat tours who said this of popular support, “you can be the 12 baddest MFers on the planet, but if the people in your area aren’t even nominally behind you, you won’t last a minute out there.”

To the people of these counties, the SF students are “the good guys” and the OPFOR forces are most definitely “the bad guys.” Case in point, moving the entire guerrilla base camp was an undertaking and two major roads had to be crossed. Approaching one in the dark, the lead element woke a farmer’s dog from a house about 200 meters away. The dog was causing a racket.

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A light came on and a few moments later, the farmer appeared with a shotgun in hand.
“Are you fellas the SF?” he asked with a heavy drawl. When he was assured that the group was, he smiled. “I told them other fellas, that they couldn’t use my property, they are trying to bushwhack ya.” He then proceeded to tell us where the OPFOR had set up blocking positions knowing we’d be crossing somewhere along the line.

He saved us countless headaches of exposure, firefights and then trying to run cross country with the OPFOR on our trail. We asked the farmer if he was part of the underground for Robin Sage. “Nope, just lookin’ out for the good guys.” He then told us to wait. A minute later he reappeared with a bag of apples that he gave us and wished us luck.

The depth of knowledge these role players have of their own areas is fantastic. Our underground contact knew every single inch of the terrain in the 50-square miles around our guerrilla base. No matter where we’d have to go, he could get there on his ATV, regardless of how thick the vegetation was. We quickly learned that when traveling between different points in the area, he’d give tremendous insight on the areas to avoid, the discrepancies of what the maps showed and what was on the ground and who to avoid in the area.

During on Direct Action (DA) mission, the guerrillas were tasked from the Area Command to blow a small bridge that was defended by elements of the OPFOR. The vegetation around the bridge was incredibly thick. Visibility was about 15-20 in most places. It made the recon of the target very difficult.

Our underground contact stepped in…”My brother and his son fish there all the time, we cut out a trail that can take you right up to the river on the near side for a good look, without making any noise,” he said.

Even better, he sent his brother and nephew “fishing” off the bridge. They ran into the OPFOR, spent the better part of an hour shooting the breeze with the soldiers, and his 11-year old son quickly made his way around the small perimeter talking with the bad guys.

They came into our hasty patrol base and the 11-year old produced a sketch that would make a Ranger instructor proud. All of the fighting positions were marked including the two machine gun emplacements. He even had their walking patrol paths down. We were impressed, his dad said, “He’s been doing this since he was 9, he’s getting pretty good at it.”

These role players helped ferry supplies and equipment, move troops in covered trailers around the operational area as well as provide an early warning network for the guerrilla force. As it is with all people who live in the country, nothing happens out there without all of them knowing about it and they invariably warned the good guys.

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Whenever the OPFOR guys were moving in the area, the calls went out and got to the G-Force (Guerrillas) in no time. The area was wired in tight for the resistance movement. It was an eye-opener with how valuable they truly were.

The final target was a big substation for the electric company. The guerrillas had to overwhelm the small detachment of OPFOR guarding it and blow the generators using platter charges. The time to hit the target was 0430 hrs. When the leader’s recon came back, they reported that half the town was set up across the street, huddling in the cold to “watch the show.”

While that kind of gave away the time for the OPFOR that something was about to happen, including having the instructors on site as well, it hit home how much the people have bought in. There were close to two hundred people there to watch the students take down the target. The G-force and students didn’t disappoint. It went flawlessly and the allotted time on target was met with less than a minute to spare before the charges were blown.

The instructors put on a show by throwing an inordinate number of simulators, firing off star clusters and parachute flares for the people out there that chilly October morning. As the last of the explosions died away, the G-force and students were racing back to the rally point, the cheers from the town could be heard from quite a way back.

The role players, the underground and the auxiliary are key components of Robin Sage but it also strikes home how important having popular support is when either helping or countering a resistance movement. If a foreign invader ever comes to the US, one area they will be bound to bypass would be the Uwharrie National Forest. Because the transition from role players to actual underground would be done in the blink of an eye and an invader would find himself in a bad way.

Special Forces soldiers are well trained in the area of working with indigenous personnel. It is their bread and butter. The inner workings of Robin Sage show how valuable that area of expertise is. Using language skills and cross-cultural communication, these lessons will serve the Green Berets well in their follow-on assignments in Special Operations.

Photo courtesy of Randolph County History