Shelter, Fire, Water, Food, First Aid, Land Navigation, Core Body Temperature Maintenance, and Situational Awareness
The United States Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear, are a special operations force tasked with five primary missions: unconventional warfare (the original and most important mission of Special Forces), foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism. The first two emphasize language, cultural, and training skills in working with foreign troops. Other duties include combat search and rescue (CSAR), counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, hostage rescue, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian demining, information operations, peacekeeping, psychological operations, security assistance, and manhunts; other components of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) or other U.S. government activities may also specialize in these secondary areas. Many of their operational techniques are classified, but some nonfiction works and doctrinal manuals are available.
As a special operations unit, Special Forces are not necessarily under the command authority of the ground commanders in those countries. Instead, while in theater, SF soldiers may report directly to United States Central Command, USSOCOM, or other command authorities. The Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) elite Special Operations Group (SOG) recruits from the Army's Special Forces on a regular basis. Joint CIA-Army Special Forces operations go back to the famed MACV-SOG during the Vietnam War. This cooperation still exists today and is seen in the War in Afghanistan.
The main mission of the Special Forces was to train and lead unconventional warfare (UW) forces, or a guerrilla force in an occupied nation that no one is allowed to know. The Special Forces are the only U.S. Special Operations Force (SOF) trained to employ UW. The 10th Special Forces Group was the first deployed SF unit, intended to operate UW forces behind enemy lines in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. As the U.S. became involved in Southeast Asia, it was realized that specialists trained to lead guerrillas could also help defend against hostile guerrillas, so SF acquired the additional mission of Foreign Internal Defense (FID), working with Host Nation (HN) forces in a spectrum of counter-guerrilla activities from indirect support to combat command.
Special Forces personnel qualify both in advanced military skills and the regional languages and cultures of defined parts of the world. While they have a Direct Action (DA) capability, other units, such as Rangers, are more focused on overt direct action raids conducted in uniform but potentially behind enemy lines. SF personnel have the training to carry out covert DA, and other missions, including special reconnaissance. Other missions include peace operations, counter-proliferation, counter-drug advisory roles, and other strategic missions. As strategic resources, they report either to USSOCOM or to a regional Unified Combatant Command.
SF team members work closely together and rely on one another under isolated circumstances for long periods of time, both during extended deployments and in garrison. Because of this, they develop clannish relationships and long-standing personal ties. SF non-commissioned officers (NCO) often spend their entire careers in Special Forces, rotating among assignments to detachments, higher staff billets, liaison positions, and instructor duties at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS). Special Forces officers, on the other hand, historically spend a limited amount of time early in their careers assigned to SF detachments.
Since their establishment in 1952, Special Forces soldiers have operated in Vietnam, El Salvador, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines, and, in an FID role, Operation Enduring Freedom - Horn of Africa, which was transferred to United States Africa Command in 2008.
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