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Thread: Spec Ops and the QDR

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default Spec Ops and the QDR

    Sean Naylor has an interesting article in the current Armed Forces Journal about the expansion of Special Forces. The full article is here.

    One interesting paragraph:
    A recurring complaint among Army special operators is that the initiative to expand their force structure was dreamed up by Defense Department civilians and foisted upon the special operations community with minimal input from special operations leaders. Thomas O'Connell, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, whose office is supposed to craft special operations policy, was cut out of the QDR decision-making, while U.S. Special Operations Command, the higher headquarters for U.S. Army Special Operations Command, had only "indirect" input to the document, according to a Pentagon source. The result, the source said, was that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his principal deputy undersecretary for policy, Ryan Henry, allowed themselves to be influenced by civilians whose approach to SOF expansion was, "Yeah, that's what's needed, it can be done – just snap your fingers."

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default The Return of Billy Jack

    Steve Blair, great article. They tried this before around 74 if I remember, you could enlist off the street to be a green beret. Everybody had seen the movie "Billy Jack" (Tom Odom will know about this one ) and wanted to be a green beret but didn't want to work for it and their ranks were so depleted because of Vietnam that they came up with the idea to train them right off the street.

    They waived the original requirements of 2nd enlistment, E5 or above and be airborne qualified. If they made it through the Q course you could not wear a complete flash on your beret just a colored bar of the group you were assigned to. We used to call them "candy strippers." when Regan was elected that stopped and they went back to being a professional outfit.

    Hope they don't make the same mistake again.

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    They already did once. During the activation of 1st Group in the early 80s they had SF babies and they have been doing this on the active side for almost two years. The Guard never stopped doing it.
    Also, candy stipers were support personnel and not Q course grads.

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    Default More SF or

    Slapout, your comments on the Candy Stripe were incorrect. I came into SF in 79, and we were allowing kids off the street then, but at time there was a push to decrease active duty Groups from three to two (a lot of talk about deactivating 7th Group, which at time covered down on both SOUTHCOM and PACOM). Very few guys made it few that were fresh off the street, because the Q course at that time wasn't about numbers, and a high attrition rate was authorized. When I was younger, I thought I was somewhat better to make it through at that time period before a larger percentage started graduated in the 80s to expand the course; however, time has given me a different perspective. In the 80s standards were lowered initially, then they tightened them back up, and so it went throughout the history of SF. The bottom line is a good soldier is a good soldier regardless of when he went through the Q Course.

    However, the new Qualification Course (SFQC) is effectively graduating a large number of "high" quality soldiers, guys that wouldn't bother going into the regular Army if that was their only option. We have successful business men, at least one Phd, and several college graduates coming into our ranks that bring not only life experiences, but in general a higher level of reasoning ability, thus able to solve problems. Sort of reminds me of the OSS filling its ranks with daring lawyers, doctors, and successful businessmen. These guys joined since 9/11 and they joined to fight for their country. They know they have more to offer at this point in their life than being a private in a Mech unit pulling guard duty. Those that don't make it, well then the 82d Airplane gang is getting some top notch kids.

    There are challenges with the expansion though on the other end of the pipeline. Once they get to the ODAs (especially when we expand the Bns) you will diluted the senior leadership, thus very few of them will have a senior engineer, weapons, commo, or medical Sgt to mentor the junior in the hard earned knowledge that one only gains in the field. Another problem will be retaining these guys. They had a successful life (many of them) that they want to return to after they fight in the war.

    I think it will degrade the force in a number of ways, but not due to the guys coming off the street into SF, but rather due to management challenges, funding issues, and loss of senior mentorship.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Bill, didn't mean to piss in your corn flakes, but my comments on the candy stripper's is correct. I was 82ND 72-75. I don't know what S.F. was doing in
    79. I was volunteered by my 1ST Sgt (X-SF) to go a a training mission with the 5Th group.

    Operation: Cable Alley. Should be an AAR somewhere, one civilian guerrilla was killed during the operation. Should be orders reassigning us (about 20 as I recall) for UCMJ reasons. They lost my rucksack on top of Franklin Mountain, N.C. while I was leading an ambush on a convoy.

    The opinions of the program came from some of the team Sgt.'s that we got drunk with after the operation. These were hard corps 2 and 3 tour Vietnam types who did not like the way SF was changing.

    G2-they may have been support personnel but they sure told us that they were Q course qualified and after serving a year with their A team they be allowed to wear the full unit flash.

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    Default They we're pulling your leg

    I'm enjoying your song, "so long Texas" in the background as I respond. O.K., you have me by a couple of years, so I'll have to touch base with some of the older timers at the SF association, but I suspect this is what happened:

    1. National Guard types during that time frame could get what we called a paper flash, where they attended a very modified hands on course and completed a coorispondence course to get SF qualified. You can imagine the mixed results that came out of that arrangement. They wore a candy stripe until they were fully qualified. I don't know if they had to spend a certain amount of time on an ODA before they were awarded their full flash. The NG is a different animal, even today, so for us active duty folks it remains clocked in mystery. The good news is there is no longer an easy way to complete the Q Course, everybody must go through the real McCoy.

    2. Support personnel and soldiers in SF training wore a candy stripe. So the soldiers could have been support soldiers, and it wasn't out of the norm for support soldiers to tell some tall tales of daring do...., or they could have been students supporting the training waiting for their particular phase to start.

    3. The Candy Stripe caused a lot of problems, because you basically had young support kids wearing Green Berets getting in all sorts of trouble that reflected bad on the force (not that us regulars in those days didn't cause enough trouble on our own lol). I recall the time line, but SF's answer was to give everyone a full flash and guys who were SF qualified were awarded the SF tab to wear above their ranger tab. This infuriated the force, and I recall a lot of guys in on my team and throughout the Co went to the Iron Brucie statue (Green Beret Statue, relocated now to next to the new USASOC HQs)and burned their berets in protest, and wore patrol caps until ordered to wear their berets again (does this sound similiar to the Army getting issued Black Berets and the rangers protesting? lol). Anyway the higher ups came to their senses and told the support personnel to don maroon berets with the unit flash symbolizing they were airborne qualified assigned to Group, but not SF qualified. The SF Tab still exists also. That is how it is today. All this seems a little child like in retrospect, but then again symbols have meaning, if they didn't what would elite units rally around?

    Also, I don't want to give you the opinion that there is a rift between our support soldiers and long tabbers, as we have some of the most professional support soldiers in the world, and we couldn't do our job without them. They are an integral part of our SF family, but there were occassional issues in the past when young private truck drivers and cooks who wore green berets pretended to be something they weren't, and as you mentioned their pretending at times was along the lines of the movie "Deer Hunter" and "Rambo".

    We digress, this has very little to do with the expansion of SF, but I thought you would find it interesting anyway. Bill

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    Default Spec Ops and the QDR

    I went thru SFTG in '64 and there were first term men going thru training!!

    BMT

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Steve Blair, great article. They tried this before around 74 if I remember, you could enlist off the street to be a green beret. Everybody had seen the movie "Billy Jack" (Tom Odom will know about this one ) and wanted to be a green beret but didn't want to work for it and their ranks were so depleted because of Vietnam that they came up with the idea to train them right off the street.

    They waived the original requirements of 2nd enlistment, E5 or above and be airborne qualified. If they made it through the Q course you could not wear a complete flash on your beret just a colored bar of the group you were assigned to. We used to call them "candy strippers." when Regan was elected that stopped and they went back to being a professional outfit.

    Hope they don't make the same mistake again.
    They were taking them direct during Vietnam too, if memory serves. I know with SOG there were a fair number of people by 1968 or so who were direct in-country volunteers who hadn't seen the SF Q course at all.

    Sometimes ya wonder if anyone above the rank of, say, major pays the slightest bit of attention to tradition, lineage, and unit qual requirements. I was on Fort Riley when they sent a brigade of the 1st ID to Germany...well, at least when they sent the flags over. The people there were reflagged from mechanized infantry to armor. That caused a great deal of commotion, and I knew at least four really good troops who decided to get out at that point.

    Again, way off topic, but it does carry to unit cohesion and spirit - things that become vitally important in any sort of small wars effort.

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    Default Question for BMT

    BMT, can you recall what the prerequisites were for first termers going to SF in 64? Language? Age? GT Score? etc. Also, can you tell me when SF first started running the legacy phase I thru phase III SFQC? By the way, now it is several phases, I can't recall how many, it seems to change every 6 months or so. Thanks, Bill

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    I was on a SOT-A from 90-96 in 3d Group and was there when the change of berets happened and the reasons ran more than support guys getting into trouble. Suprisingly, SF qualified guys got into trouble too. It had much more to do with 112th Signal and 528th Spt Bns being assigned to SF Command and wearing Green Berets. After Gulf War 1 there was a fair amount of pregnant females running around in Green Berets and tennis shoes. That got some serious attention and by Dec of 91 we had switched over to maroon and black if you were Ranger qualified and had been in Regt. I wore maroon until I left for the AF in Spring 06. As a SOT-A member I was unable to attend the Q course because it would mean a change in primary MOS and still was held to CMF 18 standards for physical fitness, marksmanship and other certification criteria.

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    Default in trouble, us?

    What do you mean SF guys got in trouble also? (lol)

    There were several reasons behind the decision, regardless it was one of the better ones when it came to uniforms. Airborne soldiers earned the maroon beret and deserve to wear it. The Candy Stripe was insulting to those who wore it, and it created confusion outside the organization on who and who wasn't SF qualified. GS thanks for your service, our SOT-A teams are hard as nails and are doing great work in support of GWOT.

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    Bill, thanks for laughing at the joke. What is even funnier is that all of the non-airborne qualified soldiers in group continue to wear maroon berets.

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