By Danny Brosnan
They are the first ones in and the last ones out. The human mind is their most valued weapon, and they use it to devastate the enemy. They operate in the shadows and rarely write books. The work they do is covert, and they are famous for implementing guerrilla warfare – training a small, indigenous force to fight a much larger enemy. They are the descendants of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and they work with their own intelligence.
It has been 11 years since the infamous terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the United States Army Special Forces, better known as the “Green Berets,” continue to be the backbone of the fight in Afghanistan and other countries that harbor terrorism. They are trained in five specific areas and are the only U.S. military outfit that utilizes unconventional warfare. Since the Vietnam War, these quiet warriors have been confused with other units in the Special Operations community. Most people are surprised when they hear Green Berets are the only soldiers in the U.S. military who are classified by Special Operations Command as “Special Forces.”
While the contributions the Green Berets have made in fighting the war on terror have been great during the last 11 years, most of them will agree that their Special Operations brethren, the Navy SEALs, have also taken a lead role in the fight. It is important, however, to understand the difference. Since the killing of Osama bin Laden by SEAL Team 6, many people have wondered how Special Operations work. The SEALS go after high-value targets. They are known in the Special Operations community as “the best door kickers in the business,” with reconnaissance being their specialty. Following the death of bin Laden, Hollywood and the media became big fans of the SEALs. Unfortunately, most of those in the SEAL community have become uncomfortable with the attention and wish they could maintain the same silence the Green Berets have enjoyed. The movie “Act Of Valor” and the recent release of “No Easy Day,” a book describing the operation to kill bin Laden, raised concern in the top levels of the Special Operations community.
“As the commander of the United States Special Operations Command, I am becoming increasingly concerned about how former members of the Special Operations community are using their ‘celebrity’ status to advance their personal or professional agendas,” said Adm. William H. McRaven in a message to current and former Special Operations soldiers. “While as retired or former service members, they are well within their rights to advocate for certain causes or write books about their adventures, it is disappointing when these actions either attempt to represent the broader SOF community, or expose sensitive information that could threaten the lives of their fellow warriors.”
While Hollywood has positively portrayed the Navy SEALs, they have done the Green Berets no favors and continually fail to give the American public a good idea of what they actually do. Movies like “Rambo” portray them as special warriors with a bad touch of post-traumatic stress disorder who have an appetite for heavy conflict. In reality, Green Berets are much more special than Rambo. In Vietnam, they freed South Vietnamese prisoners, and then trained them to fight the North Vietnamese army using unconventional warfare. Green Berets are required to speak a foreign language fluently, and in Vietnam many of them spoke French, as this was the language of many of the South Vietnamese. While they appreciate America’s enemies knowing little or nothing about them, there are Green Berets who become frustrated by their portrayal.
“It’s funny how the movies make us look like Rambo, and they make the British look like James Bond,” said one retired Green Beret. “You can teach anyone how to be a killer; we are warrior-politicians.”
Warrior-politicians might be the best description of how Green Berets are trained. Much of what they do involves working with politicians of local governments. This might also be what best distinguishes them from the Navy SEALs. However, working with local governments and behind enemy lines only contributes to the danger Green Berets face.
According to Brig. Gen. Edward M. Reeder Jr., the U.S. Army Special Forces commanding general at Fort Bragg, N.C., there have been nearly 300 Green Berets killed and 1,000 injured since the beginning of the war on terror. To those of us who are citizens, these numbers are shocking. But for the humble men who wear the green beret, they fully understand the danger of their business. Kalani Matthews, a former Marine who became a Green Beret later in his career, makes this very clear.
“Of course guys understand the danger,” said Matthews. “Everyone understands the danger – you see it on TV. SF attracts men who seek out what others tend to try to avoid.”
There is no easy way to describe the contributions Green Berets have made since their introduction by President Kennedy in 1961. The Green Berets might be their own worst enemy when it comes to Americans not understanding what they’ve accomplished. They take pride in being called the “the quiet professionals” of Special Operations. If placed into the right hands, an accurate film about the history of the American Green Beret would sell out box offices across the country. It may be, however, that misunderstanding the Green Berets is what truly makes them “Special Forces.”
Danny Brosnan joined the staff of WND in June, after spending two years in radio and television at Radio America and Fox News Channel. At Radio America, he worked as a writer for “The G. Gordon Liddy Show” and was a field correspondent for the nationally syndicated baseball program, “Talkin’ Baseball.”