5th Special Forces Group (United States)

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5th Special Forces Group
5SFG flash.gif
5th Special Forces Group beret flash
Active21 September 1961 – present
CountryUnited States of America
BranchUnited States Army
TypeSpecial Operations Forces
Garrison/HQFort Campbell
NicknameThe Legion
The Professionals
EngagementsVietnam War
Gulf War
Somalia
Operation Enduring Freedom
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
 
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5th Special Forces Group
5SFG flash.gif
5th Special Forces Group beret flash
Active21 September 1961 – present
CountryUnited States of America
BranchUnited States Army
TypeSpecial Operations Forces
Garrison/HQFort Campbell
NicknameThe Legion
The Professionals
EngagementsVietnam War
Gulf War
Somalia
Operation Enduring Freedom
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan

The 5th Special Forces Group, 5th SFG(A), is an active duty United States Army Special Forces (SF) Group that was activated on 21 September 1961, at the height of the Cold War. It is one of the most decorated special operations units in the United States military. The 5th SFG(A) saw extensive action in the Vietnam War. Today, 5th Group is primarily responsible for operations within the CENTCOM area of responsibility, as part of the Special Operations Command, Central (SOCCENT).

Unit history[edit]

The 5th SFG(A) traces its lineage to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment, 1st Special Service Force, a combined Canadian-American organization which was constituted on 5 July 1942. It was activated four days later on 9 July at Fort William Henry Harrison, Montana. During World War II, the 1st Special Service Force was disbanded on 5 December 1944 in Villeneuve-Loubet, France.

5th Group was constituted on 15 April 1960, concurrently consolidated with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Ranger Infantry Battalion (activated 1 September 1943). The consolidated unit was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. Organic elements were constituted on 8 September 1961. 5th Group was reactivated 21 September 1961 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.[1]

On 1 October 2005, the unit was redesignated as the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Regiment.[1]

Vietnam War[edit]

Special Forces Group organization in the Vietnam Era

Fearing the growing threat of the Viet Cong insurgency to the Vietnamese government, President John F. Kennedy begin activating special forces units in anticipation of their insurgency combat expertise in 1961. The 5th Special Forces Group was amongst those units activated in 1961, and while attending training at the Special Warfare Center, Kennedy visited the units and personally approved the distinctive Special Force's Green Beret.[2] The 5th SFG was first deployed as a battlefield advisory group for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). By February 1965, it was deployed as a mainstay battle force[3] once the war was in full swing.[4] and irregular units of the Vietnam People's Army, and other communist bloc insurgents. They used unconventional and conventional warfare, and were some of the last soldiers the United States pulled out of Vietnam.

In June 1969 the killing of a suspected double agent Thai Khac Chuyen, and the attempt to cover it up, led to the arrest in July of seven officers and one non-commissioned officer of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) including the new commander, Colonel Robert B. Rheault in what became known as the “Green Beret Affair”.[5] Mr. Chuyen was working with the 5th on Project GAMMA when he underwent some ten days of rigorous interrogation and solitary confinement before being shot and dumped into the sea.[6] National newspapers and television picked up the story which became another lightning rod for anti-war feeling. Finally in September 1969 Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor announced that all charges would be dropped since the CIA, which may have had some involvement, refused to make its personnel available as witnesses.[7][8][9]

In April 1970, 5th SFG began reducing its number of personnel in Vietnam. Later in November and December, further reductions in personnel and extraction of companies ensued, ending in a complete withdrawal of the group by March.[10] On 5 March 1971, 5th SFG returned to Fort Bragg.[4] During their time in Vietnam, members of the unit earned 19 Medals of Honor, making it the most prominently decorated unit for its size in that conflict. Members of the unit continued to conduct intelligence operations in Southeast Asia until the collapse of the South Vietnamese government on 29 April 1975.

5th SFG(A) Honors – Vietnam War[edit]

5th Special Forces Patrol by Robert T. Coleman, U.S. Army Vietnam Combat Artists TeamVI (CAT VI 1968).

During ten years of service in Vietnam, thirteen Special Forces soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for conspicuous gallantry and exceptional heroism under fire.

Nine Special Forces soldiers of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MAC-V SOG) also received the Medal of Honor.

* Awarded posthumously

The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a joint unconventional warfare task force created by the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a subsidiary command of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). The unit would eventually consist primarily of personnel from the United States Army Special Forces. Others assigned to MACV-SOG came from the United States Navy SEALs, the United States Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Special Activities Division, and elements of the United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance units. The Studies and Observations Group was in fact controlled and missioned by the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA) and his staff at the Pentagon. After 1967 "administrative" support was provided by HQ 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Vietnam; SOG was never assigned to or missioned by HQ 5th SFG(Abn).

In additional men of the Special Forces earned the following number of awards:

* 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Mike Team B55 conducted seek and destroy missions during January – February 1969 in the Rung Sat Special Zone (RSSZ), an area about 20 miles south-southeast of Saigon and under operational command of the US and Vietnamese Navies.

The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, earned the following unit awards in the Vietnam War:

United States Army Special Forces campaign participation credits number fourteen (see Campaign Participation Credit below) for the Vietnam War and range from 15 March 1962 to 31 December 1970.[11]

Relocation[edit]

The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) remained at Fort Bragg until 10 June 1988, when the Group colors were cased at a ceremony marking its departure from Fort Bragg. The colors were officially uncased by Maj. Gen. Teddy G. Allen, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, Kentucky Col (now MG ret.) Harley C. Davis, Commander of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Dennison on 16 June 1988 at its new home at Fort Campbell, KY.

Late Cold War[edit]

In 1989, through ‘Operation Salam’, demining training camps for Afghans were established at Risalpur and Quetta in Pakistan under UN auspices. From 1989–1995 a total of 17,055 mine clearance personnel were trained at these camps. Part of Operation Salam’s agenda was also to impart mine awareness to Afghan refugees to identify mines and undertake due precautions.

The UNSSM for service with the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) was awarded to 5th Group soldiers who participated in this operation.

Operations Desert Shield & Desert Storm[edit]

The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) added to its combat history during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In August 1990 the Group was called upon to conduct operations in Southwest Asia in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. During this crisis the Army's First Special Operations Task Force, (ARSOTF), consisting of elements of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) comprising 106 special operations teams performing a wide variety of missions that spanned the scope of operations: support to coalition warfare; conducting foreign internal defense missions with the Saudi Arabian Army, performing special reconnaissance, border surveillance, direct action, combat search and rescue missions; and advising and assisting a pan-Arab equivalent force larger than six U.S. divisions, as well as conducting civil-military operations training and liaison with the Kuwaitis. The border surveillance mission assigned the 5th Special Forces was among the most vital[weasel words] in providing "ground truth" to the US and Pan-Arab Forces. New military relationships were forged between the US and the Arab dictatorships which continue their importance today.[4]

General Norman Schwarzkopf described the Special Forces as "the eyes and ears" of the conventional forces and the "glue that held the coalition together."[12]

During the period of 2 August 1990 – 30 November 1995, selected unnamed members were awarded the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Saudi Arabia Kuwait Liberation Medal, Kuwaiti Kuwait Liberation Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Valorous Unit Award reference General Orders 14.

Southwest Asia[edit]

Selected members of the unit are eligible to wear the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for participating in the following activities between December 95 – 18 March 2003 in SW Asia:

Operations Restore Hope & United Shield[edit]

On 3 December 1992, U.N. Security Resolution 794 authorized the U.S. led intervention "to use all necessary means to establish a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia as soon as possible."[4] Select[weasel words] members were awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the United Nations Medal.

Operation Enduring Freedom[edit]

By 13 September 2001, the 5th Special Forces Group was ordered to stand up a forward headquarters to conduct operations in Afghanistan.[13] On 19 October, Operational Detachment Alpha 555, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was the first of several 5th Group teams to infiltrate into Afghanistan, and work with the Northern Alliance to bring down the Taliban government.[14]

Major Mark E. Mitchell of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Operation Enduring Freedom was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in November 2001 at Qala-i-Jang Fortress, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.

Operations Iraqi Freedom & New Dawn[edit]

During Operation Iraqi Freedom 5th SFG(A) assisted in the capture of Saddam Hussein and was deployed throughout Iraq as part of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula (CJSOTF-AP). 5th Group teamed up with various National Guard support groups from many different states: Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, New York, etc.

Subordinate units[edit]

Order of Battle (ORBAT) of the 5th SFG before the addition of a fourth battalion.
Order of Battle (ORBAT) of the 5th SFG after the addition of a fourth battalion(since Aug. 2008)

5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Regiment Honors[edit]

Campaign Participation Credit

World War II: *Aleutian Islands; *Naples-Foggia; *Anzio; *Rome-Arno; *Southern France (with arrowhead); *Rhineland

Vietnam: *Advisory; *Defense; *Counteroffensive; *Counteroffensive, Phase II; *Counteroffensive, Phase III; *Tet Counteroffensive; *Counteroffensive, Phase IV; *Counteroffensive, Phase V; *Counteroffensive, Phase VI; *Tet 69/Counteroffensive; *Summer-Fall 1969; *Winter-Spring 1970; *Sanctuary Counteroffensive; *Counteroffensive, Phase VII

Southwest Asia: *Defense of Saudi Arabia; *Liberation and Defense of Kuwait; *Cease-Fire

War on Terrorism: To be determined

Decorations

1st Battalion additionally entitled to:

2d Battalion additionally entitled to:

3d Battalion additionally entitled to:

Commanders[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]