A U.S. Special Operations Soldier participates in Emerald Warrior 2011…

A U.S. Special Operations Soldier participates in Emerald Warrior 2011 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 2, 2011. Emerald Warrior is an annual two-week joint/combined tactical exercise sponsored by U.S. Special Operations Command designed to leverage lessons learned from operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom to provide trained and ready forces to combatant commanders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tony R. Ritter/Released)

On 19 October 2001, a group of elite U.S. soldiers landed in the middle of nowhere, supply line as far away as possible with a mission that would make history. Those soldiers were Operational Detachment Alpha 555, 5th Special Forces Group Green Berets out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky and were the first U.S. military presence in Afghanistan post 9-11-01. Their mission, work with the Northern Alliance and bring Al Qaeda and the Taliban government to a reckoning.

According to the U.S. Army, “They were the core of Joint Special Operations Task Force NORTH, called Task Force (TF) DAGGER in conjunction with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), whose specialty is inserting Special Forces units in unique circumstances.”

These 21st century warriors entered and adapted to a culture that forced them to fight as soldiers of bygone days with laser guided missiles.

One must ask: How did such a small group accomplish so much?


A SF operator (Green Beret) told me that, “U.S. Army Special Forces is unique in the special forces community. While each military SF unit has unique missions, the U.S. Army’s is to embed, work with, train and recruit local inhabitants to raise an army to fight an enemy.” He continued, “to do this, you have to become a master of all trades and be able to work with people of different cultures, learning what works in their culture and what doesn’t. The success or failure of the mission is tied directly to the operator’s abilities to work with and coordinate the local population, whom the operators ultimately become dependent upon for food, clothing and their safety. Your nearest backup or QRF (Quick Response Force) might be a two-hour flight away, so you survive by your wits.”


A Special Forces Group is organized into smaller teams of 12 known as ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha) or “A” team. A team usually has two Weapons Sergeants, Communications Sergeants, Medical Sergeants and Engineering Sergeants. A Commander, Assistant Commander (Warrant Officer), Operations/Intelligence Sergeant and Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) complete the team. These teams can change according to mission type.

To join SF an individual will go through a rigorous process and must be mentally and physically tough to endure a very long and difficult training regime.

Spec-Ops Task Force soldier provides over-watch during a patrol in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

According to the U.S. Army, all SF applicants must be male (women are not eligible), age 20 to 30, a U.S. citizen and a high school graduate. They must do well on military entrance exams, PT tests, qualify for a secret security clearance and volunteer for Airborne training. Vision of 20/20 or corrected to 20/20 in both near and distant vision is required. One year of college is preferred, but it is not a mandatory.

The first stop of any aspiring operator is a 30-day Special Operations Preparation Course taught at Fort Bragg. After that, the 24 days of Special Forces Assessment and Selection is all about survival. Modeled after the Australian SAS selection, this process aims to test a potential candidate’s physical and mental abilities. Emphasis is placed on long-range land navigation and on assessing one’s ability to work as a team or alone under physically demanding, mentally stressful and ambiguous circumstances.

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