Thank you for your concern now get the hell away from my pet project

Nothing moves faster than bad news and sometimes when 80,000 people of your own tell you that you are wrong then perhaps it is time to stop, step back and listen.

The US Army Special Forces community is mad and the last thing you want is one of them mad at you, but when 80,000 both active and retired Special Forces men are mad, then you’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest.

Special Forces known in the military as “SF” are the premier Unconventional Warfare (UW) specialists in the US military and one of the Army’s Special Operations Forces. They are known publicly by their headgear, Green Berets. But the SF are no longer the only men in the army wearing green berets. And that, among other issues pertaining to their legacy are what have them fighting mad. And mad at one of their own. But first a bit of background.

SF was born out of the OSS of World War II, from whom they draw their lineage. Colonel Aaron Bank, the first Commander of Special Forces was an OSS member.

After SF was organized in 1952, it quickly grew when the guerrilla wars or “wars of liberation” sprang up during the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy was impressed by the troops and knew the role that they were about to play in the war in Vietnam. Much to the chagrin of the Army at that time, Kennedy liked the look of the green beret which is the traditional wear of the Commandos of our European allies. He asked General Yarborough to make sure the men of Special Forces wore them for a visit he made to Fort Bragg. The President said, “The green beret is a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom.” By his order, the Department of the Army relented and on 25 September 1961 by Department of the Army Message 578636, which designated the green beret as the exclusive headdress of the Army Special Forces.

The Special Forces patch was blue and in the shape of an arrowhead to acknowledge the stealth and field skills of the American Indian. The Indian Scouts of the Old West wore crossed arrow brass which SF has adopted. The crossed arrows are also found on the unit crest. In the middle of the patch is a Sykes-Fairbairn fighting knife of the British Commandos and the 1st Special Service Force of World War II, a special operations mountain unit. The three lightning bolts signify Special Forces three methods of infiltration, by air, sea, and land. The Airborne tab above the patch signifies that it is a unit that conducts airborne operations as part of its mission. The Special Forces tab signifies that the wearer of it has passed the SF Qualification or “Q” course.

Special Forces and other Special Operations Forces run courses designed to weed out the unfit for their qualification courses called Selection and Assessment. The SF course is called SFAS and is a three-week smoker where candidates are physically and mentally tested with a minimum of sleep in a course designed to get harder with each passing day. If selected, the candidate will attend the “Q” course. Depending on the candidate’s specialty, it will take anywhere from a year to two years to graduate. It is a long, difficult, expensive process. The cost for training of one Green Beret is about $1,000,000.

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Since the Global War on Terror (GWOT) began the operational tempo of deployed SF units has been extremely high. One of Special Forces’ primary missions has been Foreign Internal Defense (FID). Now in an attempt to free up SF to more of a war-fighting advisory role, General Mark Milley, the Army’s Chief of Staff and a former Special Forces officer has decided to use conventional army troops to train, foreign conventional allies. Thus freeing up SF to train and advise the Special Operations troops of our allies. The SF community is split on that subject. Many feel that the conventional army can handle the training of the basic unit tasks and WILL free up SF for more advanced training and warfighting. Others feel like the FID mission is tied into Unconventional Warfare tasks and that the conventional troops are ill-prepared to handle the task. And that the training of our allies is an SF mission.

Milley created these units called Security Force Assistance Brigades, or as they’re calling themselves S-Fab. He said in a presser recently that these Brigades will function like SF but aren’t SF. To the SF community, that is way too close to their name. But that is just the beginning.

Milley chose as the headgear for the S-Fab, an olive green beret, not the rifle green of SF but an off-color. They adopted for their patch an arrowhead design, very similar to Special Forces’ with a sword or dagger in the center. It is also very close to an upside down Recondo patch from Vietnam. They have issued a tab that says “Combat Advisor” and finally, they began calling themselves “The Legion”, which the 5th Special Forces Group has used a unit nickname for many years.

So how “special” are these S-Fab troops? Their training lasts six weeks, not a year, or two…six weeks. They started their own Selection and Assessment course. That lasts a grand total of 48 hours.

Needless to say, the stealing of the SF legacy, their patch design, the name (S-Fab), and the Legion moniker got SF troops and retired ones up in arms. And suffice to say, they were pi$$ed off. It was an obvious attempt they feel to lump this new unit, the pet project of General Milley into the legacy of the SF units in a backhanded, kind of way. It would give this new, untested and barely trained unit instant credibility.

Brown, or Olive green….perhaps too close for comfort

Derek Gannon, a writer from SOFREP.com and a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan with the 5th SFG(A), the real “Legion” put together an online petition to gather support from the SF community to force the Special Operations Command and the Department of Defense to cease the issuance of Green Berets for the S-Fab units. The results speak for themselves. In just a few days over the weekend, Gannon has garnered over 80,000 signatures. The Chief of Staff’s office was inundated with phone calls and emails.

On Monday morning, General Milley’s secretary reached out to Gannon and said the general would like to talk to him. It is important to note, that the Chief of Staff for the US Army reached out to Gannon. Not the other way around. When he’s reaching out to you, then I’d say you got his attention and what you are trying to say has hit home. However, once the  general called Gannon, he made it clear he wasn’t budging and his talking points via Gannon, who posted this on a Special Forces Facebook group were as follows:

Gen Milley says hello and he hears us.

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  1. Gen Milley wants us all to know that 1st SFAB is his baby. He is requesting all hate go directly to him and not the kids in SFAB. We have scared the living shit out of them and we are starting to look like bullies. Stop fires on the SFAB proper.
  2. The Beret: Will not change. “The beret is the international color of Infantry. It is not Hunter Green it is brown/green.” It is the headgear. I informed him that civilians cannot tell the difference. He will look into it and send out (to me I think) the actual side by side. He chose the color.
  3. The Legion: He has full stopped any and all reference to “The Legion” and/or “The V Legion.”
  4. The patch: Patch and tab will not change. It is (according to him) from the Office of Military Heraldry and is NOT an SF patch. he says it is from MACV and not MACV-SOG. The patch and tab are staying.

I told the General that the Brotherhood has no issue with the mission of SFAB, we have issue with our lineage and heritage being co-opted.

The General told me that Green Beret core mission set is evolving to FID/JCET exclusively for host-nation SOF/Commandos. The Green Berets will no longer train conventional forces. 1st SFAB will. Green Berets are evolving to direct action advisor’s like the Horse Soldiers of Afghanistan and the Jedburghs of WWII. Gen. Milley feels the USSF is spread way too thin and therefore DoD is refocusing them to specific warfighting tasks.

The intent is to push USSF into clandestine/DA operations. A a larger SOCOM GWOT slice of the pie. Gen. Milley wants to free up ODA’s to conduct warfighting.

He has received over 1,200 emails and phonecalls in 72 hrs for this. He wants all queries and complaints to come to him.

He reiterated that he has done everything to preserve the heritage of The Legion and USSF.

He is aware of this back-brief.

1st SFAB is having its flagging ceremony in Benning in two weeks. They will take the field in green/brown berets.

Apparently, his pet unit was feeling the wrath of SF troops and veterans, where they removed parts of their Facebook page because of it. I know that many vets were venting on the guys who are in the unit. Which is why the general said to vent on him. He didn’t care for this “dumping” on his new unit that he had a hand in creating. Imagine the feelings of the men (80,000) who have felt this way about their unit for the past 65 years? If he thinks that is bad, wait until their flagging ceremony. One has to wonder whether if there will be a veterans contingent of Special Forces there.

By saying that the Berets are green/brown is splitting hairs and Milley of all people should know that. It is green, not rifle green but olive green, and if it is that close, to cause the slightest bit of confusion, it is hence BS and shouldn’t have been chosen.

25 September 1961 by Department of the Army Message 578636, which designated the green beret as the exclusive headdress of the Army Special Forces. There is no gray area there. And the beret color of commandos is green …everywhere. And this unit isn’t any more Infantry than they are Special Forces, so even if they’re adopting an “infantry” color, there are more different MOS’ there than infantry among the actual deployable troops being assigned there.

MACV Advisory patch

Here is the S-Fab Patch next to the SF patch and then the Recondo patch. Beneath this is the MACV patch the general says is the what the official heraldry states. Now my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. So, I will leave it up to the reader to determine. 

And for the General to say that he’s done that he’s done everything to preserve the heritage and legacy of Special Forces…sorry that dog won’t hunt. I was going to use a more explicit term but my wife has told to cut down on my use of cuss words.

And by him telling Gannon that they won’t use the “Legion” moniker, that was just a nice way of throwing the Sf veterans a bone and saying, “Thanks for your concern, now stay the hell away from my pet project.”

The S-Fab aren’t Special Forces, they aren’t special in any way. But to attract volunteers to a six-week shake and bake school the Army is promising berets, tabs, hefty bonuses and immediate promotions.

Shortly after General Milley spoke with Gannon this afternoon, he did an interview where he said the following:

“Special Forces does not train the Afghan National Army. They don’t train them now. They never have. Same thing in Iraq,” he added. “There’s a reason for that. One, that’s way beyond the capacity of Special Forces. It’s also beyond the skill set.”  Beyond their skill set?

I don’t know General Milley, to my knowledge we’ve never met, other than being born in the same hospital a few days apart. So I can’t or won’t comment on his intentions. But he had to know this was going to backlash…  and there is no reason for it.  None. He could have easily stood up this new unit, one that has no lineage or heritage to Special Forces without tying their legacy far too close to the men who sweated and bled for theirs.

I don’t get it… and never will. And neither will the Special Forces men who have given so much for this country for over 65 years already. You know them…the Green Berets. The guys who earned them… the real ones.

**update***

As of 2300 hrs on 3o Oct, General Milley has amended his comments about the Afghan army:

GEN Mark A. Milley
This is General Milley and I want to assure everyone that the color of the SFAB Beret will be brown and will not be green or any shade of green. It is derived from the Brown Infantry Beret worn by many Armies. There was no intent to dishonor or misappropriate the Green Beret of US Army Special Forces and all it stands for. Second, I should not have said that SF “never” advised the ANA or ISF. That is not true. The majority of advising to the ANA and ISF conventional units was done by conventional US Army and Marine units while SF focused on the ANA Commandos, Iraqi Special Forces and other specialized units. All of which were part of the ANA or the ISF. Also, there were some SF teams that did advise ANA and Iraqi conventional units. I was obviously incorrect and I apologize. Finally, I ask that people support this concept. SF is way overstretched and this is an effort to professionalize and institutionalize the conventional US Army advisory capability. I appreciate everyone’s comments and feedback.

Photos US ARMY