Open main menu

5th Special Forces Group (United States)

The 5th Special Forces Group [5th SFG(A)] is one of the most decorated active duty United States Army Special Forces groups in the U.S. armed forces. The 5th SFG(A) saw extensive action in the Vietnam War and played a pivotal role in the early months of Operation Enduring Freedom. 5th Group—as it is sometime called—is designed to deploy and execute nine doctrinal missions: unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, direct action, counter-insurgency, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, information operations, counterproliferation of weapon of mass destruction, and security force assistance.[3] As of 2016, the 5th SFG(A) is primarily responsible for operations within the CENTCOM area of responsibility as part of the Special Operations Command, Central (SOCCENT). The 5th SFG(A) specializes in operations in the Middle East, Persian Gulf, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa (HOA). The 5th SFG(A) and two of its battalions spend roughly six months out of every twelve deployed to Iraq as Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula.

5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
5th SFG Beret Flash.png
5th Special Forces Group beret flash 1964–1985 and 2016–present
Founded21 September 1961 (1961-09-21)
Country United States
Branch United States Army
TypeSpecial operations forces
Part ofSpecialForces Badge.svg 1st Special Forces Command
Garrison/HQFort Campbell, Kentucky, U.S.
Nickname(s)"The Legion"[1]
Motto(s)"Strength and Honor" and "De Oppresso Liber"
EngagementsVietnam War
Persian Gulf War
Somali Civil War
Global War on Terrorism
COL Joseph W. Wortham, USA
Former 5th SFG(A) recognition bar, worn by none-special operations qualified soldiers—in lieu of a beret flash—from the 1960s to 1984[2]
US Army 5th SFG Recognition Bar.svg
1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) shoulder sleeve insignia, worn by all 1st SFC(A) units
United States Army Special Forces SSI (1958-2015).png
U.S. Special Forces Groups
Previous Next
3rd Special Forces Group 7th Special Forces Group



Unit lineageEdit

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.[4]

On 1 October 2005, the unit was redesignated as the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Regiment.[4]

Cold WarEdit

Vietnam WarEdit

Special Forces Group organization in the Vietnam Era

Fearing the growing threat of the Viet Cong insurgency to the South Vietnamese government, President John F. Kennedy began activating special forces units in anticipation of their insurgency combat expertise in 1961. The 5th Special Forces Group was among 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.[5] 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[6] once the war was in full swing.[7] They used unconventional and conventional warfare, and were some of the last soldiers the United States pulled out of Vietnam.

5th SFG flash from 1961 to 1964 and 1985 to 2016

The group's personnel in Vietnam adopted a variant flash with an added diagonal yellow stripe with three narrow red over-stripes to the existing black background with white border from 1964 to 1970. These colors symbolize the 1st and 7th SFG Soldiers who served under 5th SFG during the Vietnam War.[8] The reason was that the group had a black flash bordered in white was to provide visibility against the beret from 1970 to 1985 it was adopted by the entire Group.[9] It reverted to the plain black flash on 16 January 1985. On 23 March 2016, the 5th Special Forces Group changed over to the Vietnam-era flash to pay respect to the unit's history and the Green Berets of the past who are part of the unit's history.[10]

The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was unique in the Vietnam War for its heavy usage of watercraft, particularly Hurricane Aircat airboats. The 5th Special Forces Group launched a wide-ranging campaign against Viet Cong forces in the Mekong Delta in July 1967. The campaign, conducted jointly with the South Vietnamese Army, civilian irregulars, and the US Navy and Air Force, was built around the use of some 400 watercraft, including 84 airboats, as well as helicopters, US Navy warships, and civilian vessels.[11] The extensive naval operations required an overhaul in tactics to allow the 5th Special Forces Group to employ the speed and firepower of the Aircat airboats to their maximum effect. When used in concert with armed helicopters, Patrol Air Cushion Vehicle hovercraft, and support from Air Force reconnaissance planes, Navy river patrol boats, and artillery, these watercraft enabled "telling victories over the Viet Cong" and turned the flood season into a significant tactical advantage for the United States.[12] The use of watercraft, increases in troop strength, and introduction of other tactics—deploying more soldiers to Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) bases, distributing improved handbooks to commissioned and non-commissioned officers, etc.— allowed the 5th Special Warfare Group to take the fight to the enemy, capturing large swaths of territory in the Delta, making the 50 percent of territory and CIDG bases that were previously too overrun with Viet Cong to enter safe enough to operate in, and mounting operations and establishing CIDG bases deep in Viet Cong territory. These gains were not without cost, however: 55 Special Forces and 1,654 Vietnamese were killed during 1967, as well as an estimated 7,000 Viet Cong.[13]

5th Special Forces Company D Hurricane Aircat airboats on the Mekong near the Cambodian border in 1966

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".[14] Chuyen was working with the 5th on Project GAMMA when the Green Berets learned he might be a double agent. He underwent about ten days of rigorous interrogation and solitary confinement before he was shot and dumped into the sea.[15] 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.[16][17][18]

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.[19] On 5 March 1971, 5th SFG returned to Fort Bragg.[7] Sixteen Soldiers assigned to or administratively assigned to 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) during the Vietnam War were awarded the Medal of Honor; making 5th Group 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.

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 the HQ 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), provided administrative support to MACV-SOG Special Forces soldiers in Vietnam.


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, Kentucky. Originally 5th Group was going to be moved from Fort Bragg to Fort Bliss, Texas, because of its ideal training environment. In 1986, however, the Chief of Staff of the Army decided that training environment should not be the principal factor in determining where to relocate the Group. He requested another analysis that considered such factors as total cost, military construction cost, and the impact of unit relocations and activations on post populations. After this analysis the Secretary of the Army approved the Chief of Staffs plan to relocate 5th Group from Fort Bragg to Fort Campbell in the 1986–88 time frame.[20]

Late Cold WarEdit

In 1989, through "Operation Salam", demining training camps for Afghans were established at Risalpur and Quetta in Pakistan under UN auspices. From 1989 to 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 United Nations Special Service Medal (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.

Persian Gulf WarEdit

Operations Desert Shield and Desert StormEdit

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 consisting of elements of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), comprising 106 special operations teams, performed a wide variety of missions. These spanned a wide scope of operations, including 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 key to providing actionable intelligence to the US and Pan-Arab Forces. New military relationships were forged between the U.S. and the Arab states.[7]

General Norman Schwarzkopf described the Special Forces as "the eyes and ears" of the conventional forces and the "glue that held the coalition together."[21]

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.

Operations Restore Hope and United ShieldEdit

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."[7] Select members of the unit were awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and the United Nations Medal.

Global War on TerrorismEdit

War in AfghanistanEdit

After 11 September attacks, the U.S. government acted quickly. The following day, President Bush called the attacks more than just "acts of terror" but "acts of war" and resolved to pursue and conquer an "enemy" that would no longer be safe in "its harbors".[22] By 13 September 2001, the 5th Special Forces Group was ordered to stand up a forward headquarters to conduct operations in Afghanistan.[23]

The unit received its orders in mid-October. Their mission was wide-open: to assist General Abdul Rashid Dostum in conducting unconventional warfare operational area to make the area unsafe for terrorists and Taliban activities.[23] Task Force Dagger, established on 10 October 2001, was built around the 5th SFG with helicopter support from the 160th SOAR, and assigned to infiltrate northern Afghanistan in order to advise and support the commanders of the Northern Alliance.[24]

The first group of Task Force Dagger included seven members of the CIA's Special Activities Division and Counter Terrorist Center (CTC) led by Gary Schroen, who formed the Northern Afghanistan Liaison Team.[25][26] The CIA team infiltrated Afghanistan into the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, on 26 September, only 15 days after 11 September attacks.[27] They brought three cardboard boxes filled with $3 million in $100 bills to buy support.[28] Known by the callsign Jawbreaker, the team linked up with Northern Alliance commanders and prepared for the introduction of Army Special Forces into the region.[29][30]


Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 555 and 595, both 12-man teams, plus Air Force combat controllers, were the second and third groups of Task Force Dagger to enter Afghanistan.[25]

On 19 October 2001, in the first operation of its kind, ODA 555 and 595 were flown from a former Soviet airbase, now named the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (nicknamed K2 by the Special Forces), in Uzbekistan[27] more than 300 kilometers (190 mi) across the 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) Hindu Kush mountains. They flew in two SOAR ("Nightstalkers") MH-47E Chinook helicopters, escorted by two MH-60L Black Hawks. Conditions were marginal due to the altitude and icing conditions brought on by the low temperatures. Because the Chinooks didn't carry a centralized oxygen-delivery system for passengers, the troops had to use single-use "bailout bottles" at high altitude to survive the flight. This meant the mission was "one way".[31] The pilots refueled the helicopters at very low altitude under black out conditions, flying using night-vision goggles, and without radio communications, as they had trained to do multiple times. The Black Hawk escort was forced to turn back when they could not clear a pass along the flight route. The MH-47 crew set a world record for combat rotorcraft missions, refueling three times during 11 hours of flight.[31] After refueling, they flew into a sand storm and heavy fog which created near-zero visibility conditions.

Special Forces Operational Detachments A-555 and A-595 were inserted into Afghanistan at night in zero-visibility conditions aboard two MH-47 Chinook helicopters.

One Chinook made its second attempt at infiltrating ODA-555, "Triple Nickel" after being turned around two days before by severe weather trying to fly over the treacherous Hindu Kush mountains. The Chinook dropped ODA 555 in the Panjshir River Valley just 20 miles north of Kabul, where they linked up with warlord Fahim Khan and his Northern Alliance forces. They were in a deadlock with Taliban forces a few miles south in the vicinity of Bagram Airfield.[32] The second Chinook finally dropped the 12-man ODA 595 led by Capt. Mark D. Nutsch onto a farmer's field at 0200,[33] in the Dari-a-Souf Valley, about 80 km (50 mi) south of Mazar-i-Sharif. The teams arrived only 39 days after the Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center for what they thought would be a year-long stay.[29] The teams were extremely isolated. They were hundreds of miles from any allied forces and any possible extraction was hours or days away. On arrival, both teams linked up with the Northern Alliance and 'Jawbreaker' CIA advisers.[27] Several of the CIA team members previously served in U.S. military special operations, but were in the country as civilian operators.

Members of ODA 595, part of Task Force Dagger, and Afghan forces ride into northern Afghanistan in October 2001 on horseback.

In the southern portion of Afghanistan, a company-sized element of approximately 200 Rangers from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were flown in on four Lockheed MC-130 aircraft and briefly captured a desert landing strip south of the city of Kandahar in Operation Rhino.[34]

Fighting on horsebackEdit

Once they arrived in-country, the Northern Alliance troops provided the US forces with horses, the only suitable transportation for the difficult mountainous terrain of Northern Afghanistan. Only ODA 595 commander Capt. Mark D. Nutsch[35] had any significant experience on horseback, but all readily accepted.[36][37] Capt. Will Summers, Special Forces team leader, said "It was as if The Jetsons had met The Flintstones."[37] They were the first U.S. soldiers to ride horses into battle since 16 January 1942, when the U.S. Army's 26th Cavalry Regiment charged an advanced guard of the 14th Japanese Army as it advanced from Manila.[38][39][40] The Afghan horses were all stallions and tended to fight each other, even with the soldiers on their backs. They rode trails a foot wide alongside a 1,000 feet (300 m) cliff, sometimes at night. During the next few weeks they rode from 10 to 30 kilometres (6.2 to 18.6 mi) per day.[23]

A stallion ridden by Summers one day was especially strong and spirited. During one especially harrowing ride off of a high mountain pass, zig-zagging down multiple switch-backs, his horse took his own lead and leaped straight down the mountainside.[32]

And my horse turned and faced straight down the hill... And he crouched down like a cat, and just sprung off the side of the mountain. And, I think about three to five horse lengths later, his front feet hit. And, this guy just took off like lightning down the side of a cliff. The only thing that went through my mind was this 1980s movie, The Man from Snowy River. And so, I was like, "Okay, the guy from Snowy River, he put his head on the back of the horse, and he put his feet up around his neck."

And so, my feet came up, my head goes back. And I have like horsetail on the back of my head. And this guy just tears down the side of this mountain where at the bottom of it is like a gully about six to 12 feet deep, and about four feet wide.... And he successfully jumped over that.....

And I guess about 20 minutes later, the General [Dostum] and some of his entourage had finally caught up. And he had stopped, and looked at me kind of strange again, but a little different this time. And, he said something to me. And he started off again on his horse. And he turned around, and he said something again. And I knew that he was pretty serious about what he was saying. And, then we walked off. And, his translator said, "The General just paid you a great compliment." And I was like, "Wow, that's great. What did he say?" And, he said, "Truly, you are the finest horseman he has ever seen." ...And then he had stopped and said, "In addition to this, I was the most daring and brave man he had ever known."[32]

Summers became known as "the bravest horseman in all of Afghanistan."[32]

Captain Nutsch soon requested replacements for the traditional small, hard, wooden saddles used by the Afghanistan soldiers. He specified a supply of lightweight saddles, either McClellan or Australian-style, suitable for the smaller Afghan horses. A supply of saddles was air-dropped in mid-November.[33] The last U.S. Army unit to receive horseback training was the 28th Cavalry in 1943.[41] A picture of the soldiers on horseback was shown by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a news conference on 15 November 2001. When sculptor Douwe Blumberg saw that image, he felt impressed that he had to do something and created what became the only public sculpture to commemorate special forces, America's Response Monument.[42]

On 21 October, the Northern Alliance led by General Dostum prepared to attack the fortified village of Bishqab. Dostrum's forces were equipped with AK47s, light machine guns, and Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers (RPGs). The Northern Alliance totaled about 1,500 cavalry and 1,500 light infantry. They were assisted by the 12-member U.S. Special Forces team and American air power. Bishqab was defended by several T-54/55 tanks, a number of BMPs (armored personnel carriers) armed with cannons and machine guns, and several ZSU-23 anti-aircraft artillery, along with mortars, machine guns, RPGs, and mines. The armor and heavy weapons were usually manned by the foreign Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters, who fought hard and did not surrender readily.[23] To reach the enemy, Dostum's forces needed to cross a 1 mile (1.6 km)-wide open plain cut by seven ridges, each between 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 m) high, and spaced about 600 feet (180 m) apart, that left the advancing forces completely exposed to enemy fire. To the U.S. Special Forces, it looked like the Charge of the Light Brigade, Battle of Fredericksburg, and Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, all at the same time.[36] Supported by American air power and precision-guided munitions, in an 18-hour period, they destroyed over 20 armored and 20 support vehicles.[43] Many of the Taliban threw away their weapons and ran,[30] or made a secret pact with Dostum's forces to join his forces as soon as the attack began.[23]

The next day, the Northern Alliance prepared to attack Cobaki. The U.S. Special Ops teams used SOFLAM Laser Target Designators to identify targets for air strikes on the enemy armor and artillery. The Northern Alliance followed this with a horse cavalry charge. When it looked like Dostum's cavalry charge would fail, several members of ODA 595 rode into action and helped win the battle.[36] Within the first two weeks, ODA 595 was joined by two more special forces soldiers, bringing their number to 14. They split the team into four three-man teams and spread out over 60 kilometres (37 mi) of mountainous terrain, in some cases 12 to 18 hours apart from each other by horseback. Each team of NCOs advised senior Northern Alliance commanders and called in air strikes and resupply for their forces.[23]

On 2 November, a third Special Forces team, ODA 534, was inserted by SOAR to assist Northern Alliance General Atta Mohammad. ODA 534 later linked up with the CIA team Jawbreaker, ODA 595 and 555, and General Dostrum outside Mazar-e-Sharif.[44]

Capture of Mazar-e-SharifEdit

One of the Task Force Dagger's primary strategic objectives was to capture Mazar-e-Sharif and an airfield so the U.S. could use it to bring in supplies and more troops. On about 6 November, the Northern Alliance broke through the Taliban defense in the valley of Darah Sof District, 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Mazar-e-Sharif.[23] The three teams reunited near Mazar-e-Sharif and participated in its capture. They guided hundreds of GPS-guided 2,000-pound JDAM precision-guided munitions dropped by USAF B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers onto Taliban and Al-Qaeda positions near Mazar-e Sharif.[23]

Additional teamsEdit

By 18 November 2001, 10 ODAs from 5th Special Forces Group were operating in Afghanistan.[45]

ODA 534 from Charlie Company, 1st Btn, 5th SFG was split between the Darya and Balkh Valleys supporting General Atta Mohammad.[45][46]

ODA 553 from Bravo Company, 2nd Btn, 5th SFG[46] was inserted on 2 November. The ten-man team in Bamyan supported General Karim Khalili and his militia in the northern regions of Afghanistan. Together the men worked to flush Taliban forces from the region with a number of cities quickly falling to Kahili's tribal forces.[44][45]

ODA 554 from Bravo Company, 2nd Btn, 5th SFG[46] was in Herat supporting General Ismail Khan.[45]

ODA 555 ("Triple Nickel") from Bravo Company, 2nd Btn, 5th SFG[46] was, with ODA 595, one of two ODA units inserted on 19 October. They supported General Shariff in the Panjshir Valley.[45] It linked up with General Fahim Akhtar Khan in the Bagram/Kabul area of the Panjshir Valley, near the fortifications surrounding Bagram Air Base. Air Force Combat Controller Sgt. Calvin Markham used a SOFLAM Laser Target Designators to identify targets for air strikes on the enemy armor and artillery. He set up a series of strikes on the fields of targets around the airbase, guiding wave after wave of precision-guided munitions onto tanks, armored personnel carriers, guns, and fortifications around Bagram.[47]

ODA 555 worked closely with Northern Alliance forces under warlord Fahim Khan. They called in air strikes that dropped up to 15,000 lb BLU-28 'Daisy Cutter' bombs on Taliban troop positions with devastating effect along the Shomali Plain.[44] ODA 555 accompanied Khan's militia and fought alongside them in numerous engagements. They sometimes called in air strikes danger close to stop Taliban attacks. They were with the Northern Alliance militia when they captured Mazar-e Sharif on 9 and 10 November, and with the assistance of ODA 595 and Jawbreaker, accompanied the militia when they captured Kabul on 13 and 14 November.[44]

ODA 574 ("Texas One-Two") from Alpha Company, 3rd Btn, 5th SFG[46] deployed from K2 just outside of Tarin Kowt on 14 November, along with Pashtun militia leader, Hamid Karzai. As Karzai's forces pushed south towards Kandahar, an error by an attached USAF TACP resulted in a 2,000lb GPS-guided JDAM hitting the ODA's position, killing and wounding several Special Forces and Afghan militiamen. Assisted by the remaining ODA 586 soldiers, with reinforcements from ODA 750 and ODA 523, Karzai was able to negotiate the surrender of Taliban forces around Kandahar and go on to become the first Afghan president.[44][45]

ODA 583 from Bravo Company, 3rd Btn, 5th SFG[46] deployed late on 21 November to the Shin Narai Valley supporting Gul Agha Sherzai near the Shin Narai Valley.[45] During their infiltration, one of the helicopters experienced a mechanical failure and made an emergency landing. Another helicopter was dispatched but dropped the team in the wrong location. The 583 finally joined the CIA team and Sherzai and pushed towards Kandahar. The 583 set up observation posts overlooking Kandahar International Airport and over the next few days, called in ongoing air strikes on the Taliban positions. On 7 December, ODA 583 helped Sherzai's forces capture the airport and very soon the city of Kandahar.[44]

ODA 585 from Bravo Company, 3rd Btn, 5th SFG[46] inserted by helo on 23 October into Kunduz to support General Burilla Kahn.[45] Despite initial missed air strikes that left Burillah unimpressed, 585's senior enlisted member Master Sergeant Bolduc called in another wave of F-18 strikes that in four passes obliterated several Taliban command bunkers and collapsed several sections of the enemy's trench lines. The display of coordinated airpower by 585 earned General Burillah's respect and proved their value to the Afghans. ODA 586 Eventually joined 585 and General Burillah's men for the final assault on the provincial city of Konduz, seizing it on 11 November.[44]

ODA 586 from Bravo Company, 3rd Btn, 5th SFG[46] was in Farkhar supporting General Daoud Khan in the Takhar province, who took the capital city of Taloqan on 11 November. Khan's troops, supported by airstrikes called in by 586, eventually took the city and provincial capital of Konduz on 26 November.[44][45]

ODA 595 from Charlie Company, 3rd Btn, 5th SFG[46] was with ODA 555 of two ODA units inserted on 19 October. They helped General Dostrum outside Mazar-e-Sharif.[45] ODA 595 were instrumental in helping the Northern Alliance to capture several thousand foreign and Afghan Taliban and bringing hundreds more local Afghans over to the Northern Alliance side. Over two months they destroyed several hundred enemy vehicles, liberated about 50 towns and six northern provinces comprising hundred square kilometers.[23]

Mission successEdit
Major Mark E. Mitchell is decorated for his combat actions during the battle by General Bryan D. Brown, chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command

The well-placed ordnance dropped on the Taliban by the air power controlled by Task Force Dagger forced the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces to continually pull back. The rapidity with which the enemy resistance crumbled eliminated the U.S. military's plans to deploy significant conventional ground forces.[44]

The Taliban and Al Qaeda forces were defeated within two months. It could have happened more quickly, but the Bush administration was fearful that without a provisional government to take over Kabul, the Northern Alliance would commit atrocities as they had when they had previously occupied the capital.[28]

The ground forces who eventually entered Afghanistan were left to pursue high value targets, including Osama bin Laden, among the Al-Qaeda near the Pakistani border. The high level command of Task Force Dagger remained in the country until the unit was finally redeployed to the United States in April 2002.[44]

Major Mark E. Mitchell of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry in November 2001 at Qala-i-Jangi Fortress, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan.[48]

Iraq WarEdit

Operations Iraqi Freedom and New DawnEdit

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, Minnesota, Wisconsin and others.[citation needed]

Subordinate unitsEdit

Current structure of the 5th SFG(A)

Unit campaign creditEdit

World War IIEdit


  • 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 AsiaEdit

  • Defense of Saudi Arabia
  • Liberation and Defense of Kuwait
  • Cease-Fire

Iraq and AfghanistanEdit


Vietnam War honorsEdit

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

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

  Awarded posthumously

In total, members 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.

Unit honorsEdit

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.[51]

1st Battalion additionally entitled to:

  • Army Superior Unit Award for 1992–1993

2d Battalion additionally entitled to:

  • Army Superior Unit Award for 1992–1993

3d Battalion additionally entitled to:

  • Army Superior Unit Award for 1992–1993[4]

Southwest AsiaEdit

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:


  • Col. Leo H. Schweiter September 1961 – July 1962 (retired as Major General)
  • Col. L. E. Wills July 1962 – July 1963
  • Col. G. C. Morton September 1962 – November 1963
  • Col. T. Leonard November 1963 – July 1964
  • Col. H. F. Roye July 1964 – August 1964
  • Col. J. M. Spears August 1964 – July 1965
  • Col. W. A. McKean July 1965 – June 1966
  • Col. F. J. Kelly June 1966 – June 1967
  • Col. J. F. Ladd June 1967 – June 1968
  • Col. H. R. Aaron June 1968 – May 1969 (retired as Lieutenant General)
  • Lt. Col. C. G. Ross (Acting) May 1969
  • Col. R. B. Rheault May 1969 – July 1969
  • Col. A. Lemberes July 1969 – August 1969
  • Col. M. D. Healy August 1969 – March 1971 (retired as Major General)
  • Col. March 1971 – June 1972
  • Col. E. L. Keesling June 1972 – December 1973
  • Col. A. C. Harris December 1973 – August 1974
  • Col. R. Maladowitz August 1974 – February 1976
  • Col. C. L. Stearns February 1976 – June 1977
  • Col. R. A. Mountel June 1977 – December 1978
  • Col. G. W. McGovern December 1978 – December 1980
  • Col. H. E. Bynam June 1980 – December 1982
  • Col. J. A. Guest December 1982 – June 1985 (retired as Major General)
  • Col. L. W. Duggan June 1985 – June 1987
  • Col. H. C. Davis June 1987 – November 1989 (retired as Major General)
  • Col. J. W. Kraus November 1989 – August 1991
  • Col. K. R. Bowra August 1991 – August 1993 (retired as Major General)
  • Col. J. W. Noe August 1993 – August 1995
  • Col. T. M. Carlin August 1995 – August 1997
  • Col. D. P. Brownlee August 1997 – July 1999
  • Col. C. W. Paxton July 1999 – July 2001
  • Col. J. F. Mulholland July 2001 – July 2003 (retired as Lieutenant General)
  • Col. H. E. Pagan July 2003 – July 2005 (active Brigadier General)
  • Col. K. McDonnell July 2005 – July 2007
  • Col. C. E. Conner July 2007 – August 2009
  • Col. M. E. Mitchell August 2009 – August 2011
  • Col. S. E. Brower August 2011 – July 2013 (active Brigadier General)
  • Col. J. W. Brennan July 2013 – July 2015 (active Brigadier General)
  • Col. K. C. Leahy July 2015 – July 2017
  • Col. L. J. Powers July 2017 – Present

In popular cultureEdit


  • The 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was featured in the 1968 film The Green Berets, starring John Wayne.
  • In the 1978 film The Deer Hunter, Robert De Niro's character was a soldier in the 5th Special Forces Group.
  • In the 1979 war film Apocalypse Now, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz is the operations officer for the 5th Special Forces Group. Although Kurtz is a colonel, the operations officer for a Special Forces Group is normally a major or lieutenant colonel.
  • In the Rambo series of films, both John Rambo and his former commanding officer, Sam Trautman, are 5th Special Forces. This is indicated both verbally and via Col. Trautman's beret flash.
  • In the 2018 film 12 Strong, the actions of Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595 in fighting the Taliban on horseback are featured.[52]


  • In the Season 1 episode 10 ("West Coast Turnaround") of the television show The A-Team John "Hannibal" Smith stated the team was with the "5th Special Forces Group" in the Vietnam War and that he was the lieutenant colonel in charge of the unit.
  • In the third season of the Amazon show Bosch, Detective Harry Bosch is revealed to have served in the 5th Special Forces Group during Desert Storm and following the 9/11 attacks.

Video GamesEdit

  • The Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon video game series features soldiers from Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, referred to as "The Ghosts" throughout the series.
  • In the game Mafia III, main protagonist Lincoln Clay states that while serving in Vietnam he was a member of “fifth SFG” or 5th Special Forces Group.

See alsoEdit

  • Lauri Törni, aka Major Larry Thorne, a 5th SFG soldier who was killed on a 1965 covert MACV-SOG mission.


  1. ^ Sgt. Jacob Mahaffey (2 June 2015). "The Legion honors fallen warriors" (Press release). Fort Campbell, KY: U.S. Army. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  2. ^ US Army Special Forces 1952–84, Bloomsbury Publishing, by Gordon L. Rottman, dated 20 September 2012, ISBN 9781782004462, last accessed 29 March 2019
  3. ^ Army Special Operations Forces Fact Book 2018, USASOC official website, dated 2018, last accessed 28 July 2019
  4. ^ a b c The United States Army Center of Military History, Force Structure and Unit History Branch, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces Regiment Lineage and Honors Information
  5. ^ Kelly, 5–6
  6. ^ "WORK-IN-PROGRESS, Special Forces In Indochina". Sherman, Stephen. Radix Press 2006
  7. ^ a b c d John Pike. "5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces Regiment".
  8. ^ "Beret flash changeover ceremony ties together past, present 5th SFG (A) Soldiers". Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  9. ^ Rottman, Gordon L. (2012). US Army Special Forces 1952–84. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781782004462.
  10. ^ 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs Office (23 March 2016). "Beret flash changeover ceremony ties together past, present 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers". Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  11. ^ Kelly, 1973, 97
  12. ^ Kelly, 1973, 108
  13. ^ Kelly, 1973, 108–110
  14. ^ Kelly, Francis John (1989) [1973]. History of Special Forces in Vietnam, 1961–1971. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History, Department of the Army. p. 148. ISBN 978-1944961947.
  15. ^ "Army Fingers Captain as Beret Triggerman". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 27 September 1969.
  16. ^ Stein, Jeff. A Murder in Wartime: The Untold Spy Story That Changed the Course of the Vietnam War – 1992. ISBN 0-312-92919-6.
  17. ^ Stein, Jeff. "Oh, What a Lovely War".
  18. ^ Seals, Bob. "The "Green Beret Affair": A Brief Introduction".[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Appendix A: Chronology Of U.S. Army Special Forces 15 April 1970 – 1 March 1971". U.S. Army Special Forces 1961–1971. Vietnam Studies. United States Army Center of Military History. 1989 [1973]. CMH Pub 90-23.
  20. ^ "Rationale for Relocating the 5th Special Forces Group From Fort Bragg, North Carolina" (PDF). Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  21. ^ "United States Army Special Forces Command Airborne". Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  22. ^ "Full text of President Bush's public remarks during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001" PBS Newshour 12 September 2001
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i "On The Ground – What Are The Special Forces? – Campaign Against Terror". Frontline. PBS.
  24. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 1472807901, 978-1472807908, p. 25
  25. ^ a b Morrow, Joyce E.; Peter J. Schoomaker (25 September 2006). Units Credited With Assault Landings (PDF) (Technical report). Headquarters, Department of the Army. General Orders No. 10. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  26. ^ Moore, J. Daniel. "First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan". Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  27. ^ a b c "Jawbreaker – CIA Special Activities Division". American Special Ops. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  28. ^ a b "Special forces and horses". Armed Forces Journal. 1 November 2006. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  29. ^ a b "Task Force Dagger – Operation Enduring Freedom". Retrieved 13 January 2012. page 127ff
  30. ^ a b Zimmerman, Dwight Jon (16 September 2011). "21st Century Horse Soldiers – Special Operations Forces and Operation Enduring Freedom". Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  31. ^ a b Gresham, John D. (12 September 2011). "The Campaign Plan – Special Operations Forces and Operation Enduring Freedom". DefenseMediaNetwork. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  32. ^ a b c d "Interview: Special Forces ODA 555". Frontline: PBS. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  33. ^ a b Briscoe, Charles H.; Kiper, Richard L.; Schroder, James A.; Sepp, Kalev I. (2003). Weapon of Choice: U.S. Army Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: Combat studies institute Press. ISBN 978-0-16-072958-4.
  34. ^ "The United States Army in Afghanistan – Raid on Kandahar". Archived from the original on 16 February 2008.
  35. ^ Barry, John (25 August 2002). "The Death Convoy Of Afghanistan". Newsweek.
  36. ^ a b c Zimmerman, Dwight Jon (16 September 2011). "Operation Enduring Freedom: The First 49 Days". Retrieved 15 January 2012.
  37. ^ a b Bissell, Brandon (18 November 2011). "'Horse Soldier' statue dedicated near Ground Zero". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  38. ^ Elaine Woo (17 March 2013). "WWII cavalry officer in the Philippines". Los Angeles Times.
  39. ^ Phil Davison (3 April 2013). "Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin Ramsey: Soldier who led the last cavalry charge by the US army". The Independent.
  40. ^ Stilwell, Blake. "Special Forces Who Avenged 9/11 on Horseback". Retrieved 7 February 2016.
  41. ^ "The 28th Cavalry: The U.S. Army's Last Horse Cavalry Regiment". Lawton, OK: 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. Archived from the original on 20 December 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  42. ^ Quade, Alex (6 October 2011). "Monument honors U.S. 'horse soldiers' who invaded Afghanistan". CNN. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  43. ^ "Global War on Terrorism Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan" (PDF). United States Special Operations Command History 1987–2007. p. 90. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "5th Special Forces Group "Task Force Dagger" Commemorative Challenge Coin Versions 1 – 5". The Commander's Challenge. 1 December 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  45. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Joint Special Operations Task Force – North (JSOTF-N) (Afghanistan) "Task Force Dagger"". Global Security. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Special Forces Group Organization – Before the Growing of SF Community". Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  47. ^ Gresham, John D. (14 September 2011). ""Triple Nickel" at Bagram – Special Operations Forces and Operation Enduring Freedom". Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  48. ^ Army Public Affairs (2 February 2007). "Afghanistan SF leader gets first DSC since Vietnam". United States Department of the Army.
  49. ^ "Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins". United States Army. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  50. ^ "Roger Donlon got the Vietnam War's first Medal of Honor 50 years ago".
  51. ^ "Appendix B: U.S. Army Special Forces Honors". U.S. Army Special Forces 1961–1971. Vietnam Studies. Washington, DC: United States Army Center of Military History. 1989 [1973]. CMH Publication 90-23.
  52. ^ "Upcoming Movie – 12 Strong – The Horsemen of Northern Afghanistan". SOF News. 17 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

January and February 1966 – 1st Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Brigade, 1st Air Cavalry Division, and establishment of new Special Forces "A" Camp at Xom Cat, South Vietnam: