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Old 17 November 2015, 14:50
Devildoc Devildoc is offline
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SF history question

Good day, Gentlemen. As I love history, I read everything I can get my hands on...military history, world, US, political, whatever. I was reading a book that referenced officers in SF in the 60s, said that officers did not go through a selection or through SFQC 1950s/early 60s, and were assigned to SF. I am curious when they started, and was it a natural progression/extension, or was there some "watershed" event that precipitated it? Curious for my own historical edification only. Thanks.
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Old 17 November 2015, 19:28
AKAPete AKAPete is offline
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Baby Steps

There was a lot of baby steps taken in the development of the formal "SFQC" from the 50's through the early 1970's.

Gobbler Woods transitioned into Robin Sage.

By the mid 1970's the basic Phase I, II and III was fixed and it remained that way through the creation of the "Long Tab" and 18 series.

SFOT/SFAS "selection" was a late 1980's development and, in my opinion, was developed to cut down on Phase I attrition. Costs a lot of money to PCS someone to Ft Bragg.

Things expanded from there. Taking Language School and tacking it onto the back of the course. Taking SERE and tacking it into the course, etc etc, etc and you end up with a two year course.

Most who were one term enlistees in SF have a small snap shot of the period they were in and would answer questions based on their experiences in that period.

The whole Full Flash vs Candy Stripe, everybody in the unit wears a GB, only SF wears the beret, GB's wear the GB and everyone else wears the maroon one all depends on when they served.

Team numbers are another example of something that evolved. You have the VN era numbers, cold war era numbers and modern numbers.

Paper Flashes are something else that had their time and place. And there were two different kinds of paper flashes. One was done through paperwork "paper" but the other was if an officer was assigned as a company commander. He would be awarded a "paper flash" based on position. I had one of those as a company commander.

So everything depends on "when".
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Old 17 November 2015, 19:31
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This ought to be interesting. My former FIL, RIP, was originally with the unit that left Bragg with Aaron Banks, became 10th, and went to Bad Tolz in 52 or so. By ship no less. He wasn't what we would call SF today, during my day it was called a supply clerk. He had a fascinating year book (like a HS year book) with everyones photo in it that was in 10th at Bad Tolz. The coolest thing about it was that, I don't remember if anyone remembers getting SF guys from behind the curtain, ALL the guys faces from behind the curtain were fricken blacked out!!! I was totally awestruck. I would love to hear some of the old timers, the ones from that era that remain, tell their story on here. I do have a special place in my heart for SF, and have always been proud to serve them with 110%. Except Watts. He owes me a BJ. JK, my best friend in the world!

Sorry for the sidebar.

EDIT: Speaking of "paper flashes" Pete, I started taking that course around 76. You're right, seems like when is key.

Hell no I'm not, proud of SF guys!
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Last edited by jdogonroad; 17 November 2015 at 19:37.
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Old 17 November 2015, 20:29
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My time was 67-70.
There were a lot of the old timers around from E Europe.
Also some Axis vets.
Very interesting environment. Lots of history.
Officers at that time went through "SFOC" or SFOQC."
School house followed by Field problem.
There also was a 6 week or so deal called "Pre mission."
It was for guys on orders to VN from various groups on the hill.
Good training that covered a lot of ground.
A lot of new guys coming into SF were just out of AIT and jump school and many had no real field training. They were MPs, Commo guys, etc.
I was Infantry but only had about 6 months in the army when I got to SFTG.
Things went to Hell on the hill about early 70.
5th was leaving VN and there was a flood of new guys with noplace to go.
I got back April 1970, after 20 months RVN, and it was a huge clusterfuck. Problems and bad atitudes the order of the day. Drugs were showing up-as if Alcohol was not already an issue in SF.
I had all I wanted and got out after 4 years.
Anybody who made it through the 70s army accomplished something.
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Old 17 November 2015, 22:18
Opie62 Opie62 is offline
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Back in the late 80's in 7th Grp my Bn Commo Chief and the 1/7th CSM used to tell stories of their Team Sergeant in Bad Tolz (whose name I cannot recall) back in the late 60's early 70's. He was a former WWII German Soldier who had been awarded the Iron Cross. And every Class A formation he would come out with it on his uniform. And every formation their CSM would chew his ass for wearing an unauthorized award. And the Team Sergeant would commence to argue that the other soldiers from other countries were allowed to wear theirs so he should be allowed to wear his Iron Cross. He argued he had fought and beaten every soldiers home nation in the battalion so if they could wear the awards of their country, he could damn sure wear his. Of course the Team Sergeant knew he was going to loose, but my Commo Chief said the rest of the guys loved to hear the argument!
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Old 17 November 2015, 22:34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdogonroad View Post
This ought to be interesting. My former FIL, RIP, was originally with the unit that left Bragg with Aaron Banks, became 10th, and went to Bad Tolz in 52 or so. By ship no less. He wasn't what we would call SF today, during my day it was called a supply clerk. He had a fascinating year book (like a HS year book) with everyones photo in it that was in 10th at Bad Tolz. The coolest thing about it was that, I don't remember if anyone remembers getting SF guys from behind the curtain, ALL the guys faces from behind the curtain were fricken blacked out!!! I was totally awestruck. I would love to hear some of the old timers, the ones from that era that remain, tell their story on here. I do have a special place in my heart for SF, and have always been proud to serve them with 110%. Except Watts. He owes me a BJ. JK, my best friend in the world!
I point this out not to sharp-shoot, but out of respect for the man known as the Father of Special Forces. It is actually Aaron Bank, no s.
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Old 17 November 2015, 23:26
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No offense taken at all, sir! Thank you.
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Old 18 November 2015, 09:14
Devildoc Devildoc is offline
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Thank you all, for your responses. My mentor growing up retired from the Army in 1974, 15 of his 20 years in SF, so my knowledge is largely from his perspective, that of an NCO. The book I am reading is not kind on many officers of the 50s/early 60s, essentially saying they are dropped into many of their positions as "place-markers" (my word) in their careers in which they bide time to get to another unit to ensure upward mobility. I will point out that the officers in discussion are at company level and higher, and the book heaps praise on ODA commanders.

Thanks again...
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Old 18 November 2015, 09:44
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I didn't go through selection (didn't exist), I attended the SFOC in 1984, which with the exception of Phase II, Det Officers Branch, was the same as the enlisted guys.

During that time, I learned many lessons, I saw other CPT's defy orders and get relieved, I saw others quit the most difficult challenges and make General. My first team sergeant was a Son Tay Raider. In 1984, they held the same praise as the modern day unit that killed Bin Laden. He died of cancer at 63.

He used to tell me my job as a CPT was to tell the LTC what he wanted to hear, but when we were in the field, the boys would "Do what I say" I was fortunate enough to spend the next 6 years in that ODA environment, both on an ODA and at the school house.

On the last ODA with which I had the privilege to serve, I had more team time than every other member besides my Tm Sgt. I was lucky.

I to this day, tell young CPT's that they have to be the moral compass of that detachment, while understanding that when you think you have the best plan, there are 11 other ideas, most of them are better than yours. No matter what, you have to be first, in charge and responsible.

The worst thing that happened to SF was this onslaught of general officer positions. My First Bn Cdr, while reflecting to me about times gone past told me "As a CPT, I was trained to do assassinations, hell I planned and conducted them, now I can't even say the word..." He used to say the ultimate job in SF was commanding a Bn. No one dare tell you how to do your job. Now we have GO's that think it is cool to take a guys tab to make it appear that they can be tough, keep the wolf under control.

Leading Special Forces soldiers is a rare privilege. Commanding them at the Field Grade ranks is limited to very few and those who truly do it right, typically do not make general. Maybe that is the true blessing in disguise.

The more SF appears to change, the more it stays the same. As an officer one has the responsibility to understand that he is just like someone renting a car. Its not yours and never will be. But while you are driving, you are 100% responsible for its operation and well being.

I would have lived my life no other way.
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Old 18 November 2015, 10:05
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Fat Guy View Post
I didn't go through selection (didn't exist), I attended the SFOC in 1984, which with the exception of Phase II, Det Officers Branch, was the same as the enlisted guys.

During that time, I learned many lessons, I saw other CPT's defy orders and get relieved, I saw others quit the most difficult challenges and make General. My first team sergeant was a Son Tay Raider. In 1984, they held the same praise as the modern day unit that killed Bin Laden. He died of cancer at 63.

He used to tell me my job as a CPT was to tell the LTC what he wanted to hear, but when we were in the field, the boys would "Do what I say" I was fortunate enough to spend the next 6 years in that ODA environment, both on an ODA and at the school house.

On the last ODA with which I had the privilege to serve, I had more team time than every other member besides my Tm Sgt. I was lucky.

I to this day, tell young CPT's that they have to be the moral compass of that detachment, while understanding that when you think you have the best plan, there are 11 other ideas, most of them are better than yours. No matter what, you have to be first, in charge and responsible.

The worst thing that happened to SF was this onslaught of general officer positions. My First Bn Cdr, while reflecting to me about times gone past told me "As a CPT, I was trained to do assassinations, hell I planned and conducted them, now I can't even say the word..." He used to say the ultimate job in SF was commanding a Bn. No one dare tell you how to do your job. Now we have GO's that think it is cool to take a guys tab to make it appear that they can be tough, keep the wolf under control.

Leading Special Forces soldiers is a rare privilege. Commanding them at the Field Grade ranks is limited to very few and those who truly do it right, typically do not make general. Maybe that is the true blessing in disguise.

The more SF appears to change, the more it stays the same. As an officer one has the responsibility to understand that he is just like someone renting a car. Its not yours and never will be. But while you are driving, you are 100% responsible for its operation and well being.

I would have lived my life no other way.
That was an excellent read!
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Old 19 November 2015, 18:01
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TFG

Well stated

V/R

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Old 19 November 2015, 18:59
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I was the Operations Sgt for the SFOC from 81-83. Before we combined with the enlisted course, we had a selection phase in SFOC; the only in SWCS at the time. It was the first week of the course. We called it the "Hoffman Marathon". Basically it was the Army PFT, combat swim tests, 'sickeners" (things to piss the student off and make them quit), jumping with combat equipment, very long range navigation, and some other items. We weeded out about 10-20% of the US portion of the class. The ones that stayed for the second week were overall some pretty damn good officers.
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Old 19 November 2015, 20:42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Fat Guy View Post
I didn't go through selection (didn't exist), I attended the SFOC in 1984, which with the exception of Phase II, Det Officers Branch, was the same as the enlisted guys.

During that time, I learned many lessons, I saw other CPT's defy orders and get relieved, I saw others quit the most difficult challenges and make General. My first team sergeant was a Son Tay Raider. In 1984, they held the same praise as the modern day unit that killed Bin Laden. He died of cancer at 63.

He used to tell me my job as a CPT was to tell the LTC what he wanted to hear, but when we were in the field, the boys would "Do what I say" I was fortunate enough to spend the next 6 years in that ODA environment, both on an ODA and at the school house.

On the last ODA with which I had the privilege to serve, I had more team time than every other member besides my Tm Sgt. I was lucky.

I to this day, tell young CPT's that they have to be the moral compass of that detachment, while understanding that when you think you have the best plan, there are 11 other ideas, most of them are better than yours. No matter what, you have to be first, in charge and responsible.

The worst thing that happened to SF was this onslaught of general officer positions. My First Bn Cdr, while reflecting to me about times gone past told me "As a CPT, I was trained to do assassinations, hell I planned and conducted them, now I can't even say the word..." He used to say the ultimate job in SF was commanding a Bn. No one dare tell you how to do your job. Now we have GO's that think it is cool to take a guys tab to make it appear that they can be tough, keep the wolf under control.

Leading Special Forces soldiers is a rare privilege. Commanding them at the Field Grade ranks is limited to very few and those who truly do it right, typically do not make general. Maybe that is the true blessing in disguise.

The more SF appears to change, the more it stays the same. As an officer one has the responsibility to understand that he is just like someone renting a car. Its not yours and never will be. But while you are driving, you are 100% responsible for its operation and well being.

I would have lived my life no other way.

For an old guy you still have a few marbles rolling around up stairs
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Old 19 November 2015, 22:41
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Back in the late 80's in 7th Grp my Bn Commo Chief and the 1/7th CSM used to tell stories of their Team Sergeant in Bad Tolz (whose name I cannot recall) back in the late 60's early 70's. He was a former WWII German Soldier who had been awarded the Iron Cross. And every Class A formation he would come out with it on his uniform. And every formation their CSM would chew his ass for wearing an unauthorized award. And the Team Sergeant would commence to argue that the other soldiers from other countries were allowed to wear theirs so he should be allowed to wear his Iron Cross. He argued he had fought and beaten every soldiers home nation in the battalion so if they could wear the awards of their country, he could damn sure wear his. Of course the Team Sergeant knew he was going to loose, but my Commo Chief said the rest of the guys loved to hear the argument!
Initials GK? Sounds a lot like him.
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Old 20 November 2015, 15:02
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Originally Posted by The Fat Guy View Post
As an officer one has the responsibility to understand that he is just like someone renting a car. Its not yours and never will be. But while you are driving, you are 100% responsible for its operation and well being.
I've been trying to put these thoughts to words for years. And you said it. Thanks.
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Old 20 November 2015, 17:55
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Every solution contains within it the seeds of new problems. In my first years in SF (Perspective: I am an NCO who did two terms on active duty and continued till retirement in the Reserves and then Guard) officers who joined SF were largely sacrificing their careers. (Later, in the Guard: what careers?) Some joined because they loved the idea of Special Forces (and some of them came to love the reality). Some joined for more prosaic reasons. An officer of my acquaintance told me several of his cohort went SF to avoid an overseas tour. (Especially Korea. If you were levied to the 2nd ID in Korea, you could punch out by volunteering for SF). The O course was thought to be too easy and too tolerant of character deficiencies and honor code violations.

The solution to all this was: combining the courses for E and O; establishing SF branch. At the same time the SF tab was set up, in part because most officers did just one tour in SF, and they wanted a visible souvenir on their uniforms. (NCOs were also frequently levied out of SF for army warm-body jobs like recruiters, platform instructors in their basic branch schools, or drill sergeants. Well, that's not entirely fair to drill sergeants, but you get my drift).

Taken together, these changes brought many benefits, but they also brought the previously unknown scourge of officer careerism from Big Green into SF. (Indeed, in recent years, given the modeling of the stupid NCO Education System on the nearly-as-stupid officer ed. system, we've seen the rise of NCO careerism).

In 1979, if you were an officer who put in a 4187 for SF, you were doing it in the sure knowledge that your lifeline in the Army didn't continue into any region with stars. (And you were giving your odds of making Colonel in your basic branch a retrograde spin, too). By 1999, it was possible for a Courtney Massengale type to see SF as his fast track to below-the-zone promotions. The downside of having the many good Sam Damons stick around is that you had no way of disposing of the Massengales.

That was an unintended consequence of the changes of the 1980s, when Tracy was close to the flagpole and I was off in the north forty at Devens or overseas on a non-SF tour.

And almost anything we do to "fix" it now will bring new unintended consequences.
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Old 20 November 2015, 22:13
Opie62 Opie62 is offline
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[QUOTE=Hognose;1058522931]Every solution contains within it the seeds of new problems. In my first years in SF (Perspective: I am an NCO who did two terms on active duty and continued till retirement in the Reserves and then Guard) officers who joined SF were largely sacrificing their careers. (Later, in the Guard: what careers?) Some joined because they loved the idea of Special Forces (and some of them came to love the reality).

So True Hognose! Per my Branch Manager,I was supposedly an "up and coming" Signal Officer after leaving 7th Grp. When the first Gulf War started and DA sent out the request for qualified Officers to re-branch to SF I jumped at the chance to return (since my 3 prior attempts had been denied). Since my Branch Manager had served with me in the 7th he told me straight up "if you proceed with this it will be the kiss of death for your career. Your record will be wiped clean which will raise a red flag, you will not be promoted, you will most likely be one of those chosen in the planned RIF". Three years later it came true just as he said. But I enjoyed every single day I spent back in SF. When I got RIF'd, I went to the Reserves an got the chance to serve with more great soldiers. So as heart-breaking as it was to leave the SF world on Active Duty, it all worked out pretty well.

I think TFG nailed it with his perspective!

Longrifle, I still cannot recall the name of that Team Sergeant. But the 2 NCO's who told the story and often toasted the guy were Ed Barnes and Billy Phipps.
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Old 25 November 2015, 11:47
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In the early 80s, I was an enlisted guy in SF. BLUF, back then being an officer in SF was considered career detrimental. This was before SF was its own branch; consequently officers in SF had a “Basic Branch” to which they were assigned and competed; most were combat arms: IN, AR FA etc. So while they were spending 2-4 years in the Special Forces world (which most of the regular Army didn’t understand) their peers were doing “Real Army Jobs” commanding companies, and doing career progressing staff jobs BN S-1/3/4.

Keep in mind, the Army has a list of branch qualifying positions that officers in each grade and branch must complete to be considered competitive within that branch. An SF Detachment Commander wasn’t one of them. So when it came to promotion board time, Officers that spent time in SF were at a disadvantage.

The other problem was the lack of career progression in SF. Back then there were only 3 SF Groups (5th, 7th, & 10th). A typical SF BN had roughly 25 Captains (ODA Tm Ldrs, Co/BN Staff positions), but only 5 Major (O-4) positions (3x Co Cdrs, S-3 and XO), there just wasn’t enough positions for all the CPTs once they commanded an ODA. As a result, many returned to the regular Army, or got out.

Back in the 90s, when I came back as an Officer, some things had changed for the better; SF was its own career field, so SF officers competed against peers and SF now had a list of branch qualifying jobs. Additionally a few more branch qualifying positions opened up for SF officers: LNO, FAO etc. but the pyramid was still pretty steep for the key O-4 positions since you still had the same number of Captains competing. Remembering back, I estimate that roughly 30% of the Captains got out after a successful Detachment command. My experiences are 20+ years old now, I assume that it has gotten better.
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Old 25 November 2015, 12:30
Devildoc Devildoc is offline
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Thank you, Gentlemen, for the history lessons. I like to augment reading history with the first-person accounts on what it was like as it helps to fill in the gaps and personalize what was happening.
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