Currently the United States Army is considering giving non Special Forces personnel a “Green Beret”. These personnel are being assigned to the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (1st SFAB). Below is the content of a letter I have written and sent to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Please feel free to copy and paste or reproduce at will.
Dear Sir or Ma’am
Honor is a showing of usually merited respect caused by an outstanding reputation or worth. Honor is a core element in our military’s values system. Those who develop the habit of being honorable, solidify that habit with every choice they make. Often the military will recognize that actions of an individual or unit deserves a recognition of Honor.
These can be awards for valorous action in combat such as the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross. Where the United States military recognizes service members for extreme gallantry and risk of life in combat. This recognition is for those who risk death to do something for the greater good in an unselfish act.
These honors remind everyone we would not have the freedoms we hold so dearly today without the individual sacrifices of our nation’s service members. The duty to preserve this Republic is an individual responsibility. Honoring those who have sacrificed to insure our way of life is a key aspect of insuring its continued survival.
Recognition of Honor for members of our military for accomplishing arduous training such as the Army’s Ranger School or the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition course is also recognized. These courses bestow the graduates with the emblems recognized as marks of distinction. Militaries the world over know the SEAL “Trident” or Ranger “tab”. These symbols of recognition show the bearer to be of a higher standard. The military bestows these awards as recognition of superior skill and capability. These symbols are a unit and individual honor.
The Military is mostly responsible for bestowing a recognition of honor. Occasionally the duty or act transcends even the military. Occasionally the President of the United States will take action to recognize honor within the military. The Medal of Honor is an extremely rare award bestowed to the recipient, or their next of kin, by the President at a formal ceremony in Washington, D.C. It is the highest possible of honor that can be given to an individual military service member.
Federal law, including criminal penalties, protects the Medal of Honor. Any award provided by the President of the United States holds the highest possible respect within the U.S. Military.
President John F. Kennedy awarded the “Green Beret” in 1961 as the official headgear for all US Army Special Forces. “The Green Berets” have been clearly recognized as unequalled experts in Unconventional Warfare. To earn the honor of wearing one can take years of selection and training. Often the percentage of successful Special Forces applicants is in the single digits.
John F. Kennedy was a visionary, knowing the future of warfare was to be Counter Insurgency, Irregular Warfare, and Unconventional Warfare. He recognized the unique capabilities and value of US Army Special Forces -“Green Berets”- in the struggle against despots, insurgents, and terrorists.
President Kennedy in awarding the “Green Beret” to General Yarborough and his men said, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one and I know that you and the members of your Command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”
The connection between President Kennedy and the “Green Berets” is so strong; our training center bears his name. After President Kennedy’s assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy requested Special Forces Soldiers in the honor guard. Then, to reciprocate the honor President Kennedy had given to Special Forces, a “Green Beret” was left at his gravesite.
This Presidential award of honor and distinction is being besieged. The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (1st SFAB) is issuing “Green Berets”. SFAB’s headgear is uncomfortably similar to the “Green Beret” worn by elite Special Forces soldiers.
This dilution of a presidentially bestowed honor is already lamentable in its own right. Considering the similarity of mission parameters, the 1st SFAB will pose numerous operational and political risks. Army Special Forces are highly selective units that draw from the best NCO’s and Officers in the Army. They are selective because of the highly sensitive and political nature of many Special Forces missions.
These units will be mistaken for Special Forces units. Due to their similar function, formation, and appearance they face the same sensitive situations. This will result in potentially disastrous results in our Theater Security Co-Operation Plans. Minor missteps in the culturally sensitive aspects of inter-military and inter-agency activities can destroy decades of work. Loss of rapport with host nation forces can alter a sensitive relationship. These cascading second and third or effects can easily disrupt national goals in a critical region of the world.
In 2012, junior Navy enlisted non- Special Operations personnel damaged the entire U.S. Government’s relationship with the key South American ally of Columbia. This prostitution scandal embroiled both governments and was a major embarrassment for the United States.
Special Forces institutional knowledge and cultural norms are already established with a history that extends back into World War Two. Without this knowledge, the 1st SFAB and its subordinate units risk massive regional political costs. In today’s current operational environment, loss of rapport with a key ally, even for a short period, could be devastating. Imagine young and less thoroughly vetted personnel do something similar to the Navy personnel in 2012. Imagine it happens in Jordan, causing the very culturally conservative Muslim population, or threat nation proxies to pressure the Jordanian government to oust U.S. Government personnel. The entire operational landscape of CENTCOM and the world would shift.
This is the environment the 1st SFAB is entering without the decades of institutional knowledge needed to be effective. The 1st SFAB is a capability that also already exists within the United States Army. These units should be rotated under current Special Forces Groups as augmentees. This would provide the extended capability while minimizing operational and political risks.
The 1st SFAB is a redundant waste of tax pay dollars that carries with it risk that far exceeds any rewards. The 1st SFAB should be disbanded and its remnants should be provided to USASOC (United States Army Special Operations Command) to utilize in it’s chartered support of TSCP missions.
I implore you to support the disbandment of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. It is a matter of experience, it is a matter of liability, it is a matter of exorbitance, it is a matter of honor.
CW2 (R) Frank Plumb