Aaron Bank and other great men who designed the framework for today’s U.S. Army Special Forces planted a seed that has permeated the genealogy of Green Berets ever since. Occasionally old timers are heard to lament “the new breed is different. The training’s not tough enough. They’re too young. They’re too old. It’s too easy. They don’t have the right mix.” From time to time, I have expressed some of those fears myself. Someone should have said to me; “oh ye of little faith” Getting a fresh look at SF today, I find the reality is they are as good as any that preceded them.
Today’s Special Forces soldiers are everything we had hoped they would be. Sure there are occasions when someone slips through the cracks or someone drops a ball or some vogue training concept temporarily sends chills through us old guys. Then the genes they inherited overcome popular trends. Like a sophisticated honing system, the Special Forces community always makes the adjustment, calculates the direction, and locks on to the basic operational tenants of their forefathers. It is no wonder that they are the most respected, most revered, most loved, most intelligent and the most creative men ever to bear arms for the United States of America.
Some mockingly refer to Special Forces as just “teachers”. And yes, we are teachers. Others have tried to denigrate us by laughing at our inclination for living “native”. And we do. Many don’t seem to understand why we place so much import on cultures, customs, traditions, languages, religions, agriculture, politics and economies. They have often scoffed that such training has no application in military operations. Still others have insinuated that our reserved use of force is an indicator of weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Woe be the foe that mistakes kindness for weakness in today’s Special Forces soldier.
So misled are the poor souls that see victory only in terms of lethal capabilities. Make no doubt that a Special Forces “A” Team’s application of brute force would stagger the imagination of our most competent adversary. Their individual strength, skills, survival instincts and most importantly their ability to persevere against overwhelming odds is without equal. But it is their inherent ingenuity and passion for the human race that is their true strength.
SF soldiers know that victory is defined by a productive and free society and that the route to checkmating a ruthless, tyrannical government is not in reigning destruction on the populace. But rather it is our “A” Teams around the globe, leading by example, that give hope to people who had none. It is the SF soldiers who toil with indigenous peoples, eat with their families, sleep among them, care for their health, assist in the birth of their children, share in their grief, and rejoice in their successes that make for permanent change in this world.
We believe peoples of the world are basically good. The Concept of Operation for every SF mission always considers: “how might we achieve a lasting, positive result with the fewest casualties on each side. For that matter, how can we do it without firing a shot”. As a practical matter the peaceful path sometimes fails, and Special Forces teams will unleash a fury known only to the occasional enemy survivor of such an encounter.
As we face more and more enemies without a name, without an identifiable country, without an organized Army, enemies that hail from what we’ve come to call non-nation states, we will need Special Forces more than ever before in history. It is the indigenous people of any given country that either because of hatred against Americans or indifference towards us that allow the enemy to survive. Special Forces “A” teams have been neutralizing hatred and indifference wherever they have left their imprimatur since their inception.
SF has long been adept at the art of nation building; a mission that many military forces find difficult to grasp and most shun. Our country can ill afford to not have this asset in our arsenal. We must preserve it, expand it, trust in their judgment, and listen, really listen to their assessments. For it is from their experiences that we will be able to develop meaningful strategies for world peace.
Colonel Gerald L. Schumacher (ret)
United States Army Special Forces