Beret flash and crest of First Special Forces Group (Airborne). The yellow denotes "Asian Gold", the black border was added to mourn the death of President John F. Kennedy, who officially recognized the Green Beret as unit distinctive headgear.
The First Special Forces Group (Airborne) was activated 20 July 1942 at Helena, Montana as Second Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, First Special Service Force. This joint Canada-American unit, known as the “Devil’s Brigade”, was intensively trained in airborne, amphibious, winter, and mountain warfare.
The soldiers of the 1st SFF distinguished themselves through daring and successful raids in both the Pacific and Mediterranean Theaters.
The Force incurred so many casualties that it became ineffective as a combat formation, and was disbanded 6 January 1945 at Menton, France.
Although not recognized in Army lineage, Detachment 101 of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) is also considered a predecessor of 1st Special Forces Group. This unit raised and led a guerrilla force known as the “Kachin Rangers” which wrought havoc behind Japanese lines in Southeast Asia during World War II.
The modern 1st Special Forces Group was activated 24 June 1957 and stationed at Fort Buckner, Okinawa. For the next seventeen years, the Group carried out a variety of missions in the Asia-Pacific region, including civic action, foreign internal defense, counterinsurgency, reconnaissance, and disaster relief. (right) 1st SFGA Beret flash & crest, 1961-63
1st Special Forces Group saw extensive combat service in Vietnam, as well as in Laos and Thailand. Soldiers from 1st SFGA earned 296 awards for valor in Southeast Asia, and the Group was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation. These honors were earned at a heavy price: 45 soldiers of the 1st SFGA were killed in Southeast Asia, 293 were wounded, and one remains missing in action.
1st Special Forces Group fought natural disasters as well as the enemy; teams deployed to the Philippines in 1972 and Pakistan in 1973 to provide disaster relief for victims of floods and famine. For this humanitarian service, 1st SFGA received the Philippines Presidential Unit Citation.
1st Special Forces Group was inactivated 28 June 1974 as part of a general reduction in Special Forces strength. Ten years later, recognizing the critical role that Special Forces performs in both peace and war, the Army re-activated 1st Special Forces Group. On 2 March 1984, 1st Battalion was organized at Fort Bragg, NC and posted to Torii Station, Okinawa Japan. The Group Headquarters, 2nd and 3rd Battalions were reactivated at Fort Lewis WA on 4 September 1984.
Special Forces Detachment Korea was assigned to 1st Special Forces Group in 1986.
1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) has served in peacetime and in war throughout Asia and the Pacific basin. Since the events of September 11th 2001, 1st Special Forces Group has participated in combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines. The first American to die at the hands of the enemy in Vietnam, Captain Harry Cramer, KIA 21 October 1957, and the first U.S. soldier to die by hostile fire in Afghanistan, Sergeant First Class Nathan Chapman, KIA 4 January 2002, were both 1st SFGA soldiers.
To date, eleven 1st Group soldiers have given their lives in the Global War on Terror.
The battalion trains in many countries throughout the Pacific Area Of Responsibility (AOR). Performing their doctrinal mission of foreign internal defense, 10-12 man Special Forces teams train host nation forces in small unit tactics, individual specialty skills, leadership, human rights, and infiltration techniques. 1st Battalion also teaches foreign militaries' humanitarian demining, showing them how to render the areas safe for local civilians. Other subjects include counter-drug operations in coordination with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Joint Interagency Task Force-West, and humanitarian assistance including disaster relief.
By working within local customs and taboos, and by using the indigenous language, Special Forces soldiers provide Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) a low visibility and credible engagement force. The quiet professionals of 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, with their diverse skills and robust quick response capability, earned the motto "First In Asia."
Given the maritime nature throughout their Area of Operations and Responsibility (AOR), 1st Group SF teams are proficient at maritime operations; surface & sub-surface swimmer infil supported by Zodiac boats and kayaks launched from "mother-ships", submarine lock-out, ramp-launched from MH-47 or MH-53 Special Operations helicopters, or even via parachute from MC-130 aircraft. The teams also practice fast-rope insertion techniques and military free-fall HALO (High-Altitude, Low-Opening) parachuting. The latter allows them to leave the aircraft at 25,000 feet and land within 75 feet of their objectives.
The twin Torii Gates at the front gate of Torii Station, Okinawa.
Somewhere in Pyongyang is a desk drawer filled with photographs of me flipping the bird at the guy who used to stand across the street in front of the Royal Hotel (posing as a Japanese tourist) and take our pictures as we drove out these gates.
This post is a part of an on-going series on the History of US Army Special Forces - S.L.